Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Requiem Mass...again

Today being Remembrance Sunday it was time to sing the Requiem Mass for the third time since September. Last Autumn we had a session on it with Sister Bernadette and Clare wrote down what she said here and here.

Since then I've sung it quite a few times with various combinations of people and on occasion bits of it on my own. The Institute for Christ the King have produced the best sheets to sing from here, which are as big and clear as clear can be and they even think to include the ferial tone for the preface dialogue, just in case anyone was going to forget. They couldn't really make it much easier, free downloads and all.

The present format is that the Choir sing the Introit, Kyrie, Sequence, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Communion and the responses at the end and then myself plus potentially others sing the Gradual, Tract, Offertory and Libera me. Everyone has lots to do and no-one has to get stressed. We have our easy to read booklets and as anyone who is involved in organising music for others knows, being able to reach into a cupboard and bring out all the music in one swift move is a great thing. I have to do the same at work all the time as I am in effect the librarian to my orchestras and I will tomorrow be checking that I have everything in order for a concert this week.

Anyway, having got the organisational aspects sorted as far as possible, the great thing is all that work is paid off in spades because it's always going to be the same. No time spent practising plainchant is ever wasted. No-one can come up to you afterwards and say it was a pity you didn't sing their favourite hymn. No-one can say it's a pity more people weren't singing, because actually they were and if they weren't, well that's entirely their choice; this is not an infants' assembly these are adults. You know you have just sung the music that all the composers of the great polyphonic Requiem Masses knew. You know that the children in the congregation will know the Dies Irae before they hear it in Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique and won't have to do everything backwards like I had to. You know that the fact that you have to sing the Gradual, Tract and Sequence one after the other means that you can't wimp out or think it's too much etc. The thought cannot enter your head because it just has to be so.

Having been more or less tortured for most of the time I have been involved in doing music in church, either by other people's freely given comments or by the fact that it was never even slightly clear exactly what you were really supposed to be aiming for - everyone singing very loudly seemed to be many people's unattainable goal - or by the fact that the music was rubbish, having all the music in the Liber Usualis and precise rules as to when and what to sing is bliss. And what music..

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1 comment:

Zephyrinus said...

This is the best collation of reasons for singing the Usus Antiquior Masses, in the manner which was extant for hundreds and hundreds of years, that I have read in forty years in the wilderness.