Friday 5 November 2010

First Masses of Term

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We have now sung in Blackfriars, for the LMS Oxford Pilgrimage, in St Birinus in Dorchester, for a parish requiem, and in SS Gregory & Augustine's, Woodstock Road, for All Souls
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The Pilgrimage Mass was in honour of Blessed George Napier, and before the Archbishop of Birmingham, who blessed a plaque in honour of the martyr whose fourth centenary it was. As well as singing at Mass, we sang the Te Deum, the Litany of the Saints and the Litany of Loreto on the procession, and at Benediction afterwards. Our polyphonists sang an unusual Ordinary, Nicholas Ludford's 'Missa inclina cor meum', and a motet by William Byrd, 'Miserere mei'.

At Dorchester we had a training day with Nick Gale, the Director of Music at St George's Cathedral in Southwark (ie the Catholic one!). We had a session with him before and one after lunch, and then sang a Requiem, again with polyphony. Nick Gale has his own approach to chant which will take time for us to absord and make our own fully, but was a fascinating day which had instant results. Nick's approach, based on the Graduale Triplex, is very much focused on the text (paying attention to the length of syllables in the text, as well as stressed syllables), attention to the dominant note (usually the 'reciting note'), and certain features of the neumes brought out in the Triplex. This all involves stressing and slightly lengthening certain notes, in ways which overlaps with, but is quite distinct from, the editorial suggestions found in the standard editions of the chant. Above all it rejects the rythmical system of 'twos and threes' created in the early 20th Century by some scholars, which attempts to bring the chant more into line with modern music.

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We were lucky in our timetabling because we sang the Requiem again a few days later at SS Gregory & Augustine, allowing us to consolidate what Nick Gale had taught us. The next challenge is for us to apply his principles to a new set of propers.

At Dorchester and SS Gregory & Augustine's the polyphonists sang the Requiem of Antoine Brumel (c1460-?1512/3): Kyrie, Sequence, Sanctus, and Agnus.

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