Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dies Irae for All Souls

All Souls falls on Sunday this year for parishes celebrating the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, and this presents a wonderful opportunity to introduce Dies Irae to a new generation. It might be used as a Sequence in a parish where the spirit of Summorum is especially vibrant but there is no parish in which it couldn't be sung during the offertory time.

New scholas will appreciate this piece, which has such a wonderful history and amazing text. It is of medieval origin and has inspired composers for many hundreds of years. Most people today know it from the scene in Amadeus in which Mozart is composing on his last breath. Catholics for hundreds of years couldn't imagine a Requiem or All Souls without it; now it is lost on most everyone -- one sign of a nearly infinite number of signs of what has been lost.

As with all such pieces, the chant is syllabic and can be best presented as sung alternating between high and low voices, with the switch occurring at the double bar.

Here is some history from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Here is the full sheet music.

And here is a youtube of the chant (but the fancy rhythm stuff is not necessary, and not even desirable).

And here it is as interpreted by Verdi:

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: