Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Requiem Mass

The first Sung Mass of the academic year took place on Saturday. It has been blogged about here and here. Our professional coach Adrian Taylor gave us a practice session before and directed us during the Mass itself.

The occasion of the Requiem was the 10th Anniversary of the death of Damian Coughlan, who died while an undergraduate at St Benet's Hall. It was the occasion for a reunion between many St Benet's alumni who were Damian's contemporaries, along with many members of Damian's extended family. It was organised by Matthew Doyle, Damian's half-brother.

The traditional Sung Requiem is one of the glories of Western culture. Not only is it a supreme work of religious art, but it has inspired more polyphonic settings than any other Mass. Indeed, it is the only Mass whose propers have regularly been set to new music - i.e. not just the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, but, in Mozart and Verdi and so many other composers' works, you find the Inroit, Gradual, Tract and Sequence, and Communion. The Sequence, the unforgetable Dies Irae, makes vivid the Church's teaching on the Last Things in a heartfelt plea for forgiveness:

You who forgave Mary [Magdalen],
and heard the plea of the thief [Dismas]
have given hope to me also.

The author is thought to have been Thomas of Celano, a disciple of St Francis of Assissi. (For more information see here and here.)

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