Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Perfect Joy of a Forbidden Sequence

This past weekend, the choir Ancient Voices under the direction of Dr. William Parberry at the University of Pennsylvania here in Philadelphia treated us to a wonderful, well-sung concert of Advent and Christmas music.

Dr. Parberry's selections always seem to have in mind the liturgical cycle, and this truly enriches the concertgoer's experience, since he can incorporate this experience into his spiritual life. Here is the program as it was presented at the Saturday evening concert in Paoli, PA:

Benedicta es caelorum regina (11th century chant; a sequence in use until Trent)

Cristobal de Morales: Missa Benedicta es caelorum regina

Vetus abit litera (anonymous conductus from the 12th century)

Ave Maria (anon., 15th c.)

Richard Smert: Nowell, Dieu vous garde

Walter Lambe: Nesciens mater (a truly fascinating piece)

Francisco Guerrero: Ave, virgo sanctissima

William Byrd: Hodie Christus natus est

As noted, Benedicta es caelorum regina is a sequence which, like most sequences, is now banned. I noted to Dr. Parberry after the concert that it was nice to hear a banned sequence every now and then, and that Catholic musicians (some of us, at least) are still angry about their removal from the liturgy.

Ancient Voices is boldly carrying the torch of early music while most churches have dropped the ball. (I can think of only a few churches in this great city--an educated guess would be about five of various denominations--that continue to promote the traditional music of the Church.) Some might lament that, for the most part, one must attend a concert to hear such music in a live setting. But I submit that we should be encouraged by these endeavors. Perhaps, whenever church music really gets straightened out, we'll look back on all of this and be thankful to groups like Ancient Voices who kept this music alive during the high tech Dark Ages of the late 20th century. What is more, many college students are being exposed to this great repertoire.

If you live anywhere near Philadelpha, get to know Ancient Voices.

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