"Over a long a protracted evolution, and forged by overwhelming tragedy, Missa Solis - Requiem for Eli has become a profound expression not only of grief, but also of joy and celebration of the life of my beloved son Eli, whose life was cruelly taken some weeks before his 22nd birthday." - Nigel Westlake
Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli has its origins in an ancient Italian ode to the Sun, O Sol, almo immortale:
My joy is born Every time I gaze at my beautiful sun But my life dies When I cannot look at it, For the very sight is bliss to me. O Sun, immortal life-giver Do not hide, for I know That when I am unable to see you Life could not be worse.
In the year 2000 it was suggested to Nigel Westlake by filmmaker John Weiley that he incorporates this text into his score for his IMAX film Solarmax. The film featured images of the sun’s furious surface and a narrative that probed mankind’s relationship with the sun from the perspective of scientific, historical and religious viewpoints. Westlake’s brief was to compose music to support the massive imagery, recent scientific research and weighty metaphors contained within the film.
In 2008, within weeks of finishing a 25-minute first draft, Nigel Westlake’s life was completely shattered by the sudden death of his 21-year-old son Eli.
Many things, including music, completely lost their relevance and meaning for Nigel. All plans went on hold, future work prospects were postponed or cancelled and Missa Solis lay idly on the desk for a year. When Westlake eventually saw the potential to further expand upon Missa Solis in a way that might somehow reflect the enormity of his loss, he pondered the parallel between the words ‘sun’ and ‘son’. Here lay the blueprint for Eli’s requiem.