MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Thinking about Hurricane Katrina led us to a song called "Requiem" by Eliza Gilkyson. She wrote it last winter after the Asian tsunami hit.

Ms. ELIZA GILKYSON (Songwriter): We were all just glued to the television, all of us, you know, watching these horrific events unfold. And almost immediately, there was a benefit where a lot of major stars did a fund-raiser on television. And I remember I watched the fund-raiser and I was touched by people stepping forth and asking for help and donations. But at the time, I was really struck with the actual music that they were playing. I felt it was so disconnected to the event, and somehow I was inspired to write something that would connect us actually in a more visceral way, to create a vehicle for grieving for the tsunami.

(Soundbite of "Requiem")

Ms. GILKYSON and Ms. DELIA CASTILLO: (Singing in unison) Mother Mary full of grace, awaken. All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken, taken by the sea. Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy. Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy. Hear our groanful plea. Our world has been shaken, we wander our homelands forsaken.

BLOCK: The song is called "Requiem." Did you always imagine this song in this way, as a hymn, almost a--I don't know. It's not a dirge, but it's a lament, I suppose.

Ms. GILKYSON: Yes, I did. Actually, my first intention was to write it like a Mass, and I actually looked into writing it in Latin. I even tried different female deities. I looked at different Muslim deities and different Christian deities, different Indian, you know, Buddhist deities. But I kept coming back to Mary. It just didn't feel right for me as a Westerner to be singing to a deity that I wasn't familiar with. And it seemed right since she's sort of the Western archetype of compassion, and that's the energy that I wanted to invoke.

(Soundbite of "Requiem")

Ms. GILKYSON and Ms. CASTILLO: (Singing in unison) Mary, fill our glass to overflowing. Illuminate the path where we are going. Have mercy on us all. And ...(unintelligible) our fires burning, each flame to your mystery returning.

BLOCK: Now we're hearing two voices here. This is you on the lower part...

Ms. GILKYSON: Mm-hmm.

BLOCK: ...and your daughter, Delia Castillo, up above.

Ms. GILKYSON: Mm-hmm. I did write it for two voices, and really specifically her voice because she's got this gorgeous pure soprano. I can't even hit those notes. So I liked the idea of the innocent younger woman balanced with a sort of little more world-weary older woman's voice, and there's a lot of mother-daughter love in that recording. I think that there's something of that that conveys.

(Soundbite of "Requiem")

Ms. GILKYSON and Ms. CASTILLO: (Singing in unison) In the dark, my (unintelligible) up your shattered dreamers, make them hope. Oh, Mother Mary, find us where we've fallen out of grace. Lead us to a higher place.

Ms. GILKYSON: I think people here in this country, because of what's happened in New Orleans, have been wanting to find songs that address what this country is going through right now.

BLOCK: When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast a little more than two weeks ago, did you find yourself thinking more about "Requiem," thinking about that process and how you had written this song?

Ms. GILKYSON: I did think about it. I thought, `Wow, you know, once again, there's this need to grieve,' and that there--I was grateful that there was--that I had a piece of music that could offer that prayer and that option for consolation of some sort and some sort of image of compassion. I was glad that I had a song that could address it. It's been a sad time for everyone.

BLOCK: Eliza Gilkyson, thanks for coming in.

Ms. GILKYSON: Thank you.

(Soundbite of "Requiem")

Ms. GILKYSON and Ms CASTILLO: (Singing in unison) ...let us see your gentle place, Mary.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: The song "Requiem" by Eliza Gilkyson, from her CD titled "Paradise Hotel." You can hear the song in full at our Web site, npr.org.

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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