Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Great New Recording of the Requiem Chants

For some years, Massachusetts-based hymn expert Peter Meggison has been working to keep classic devotional hymns alive by commissioning new recordings of them. Having made over a dozen sessions with choirs and small ensembles, he distributes the songs on CDs and on the web. Most of the music on the site is from the era 1850-1950, and represents popular hymns sung at Catholic Masses and devotions in America and England.

This summer he collaborated with conductor and organist Michael Olbash to offer something different. Instead of late-Victorian hymns in English, the aim was to present a once-familiar sound from the traditional Mass itself: the sound of the Latin chants of the Requiem Mass, sung with organ accompaniment. A choir of 11 met for an afternoon in St. John Church in Clinton, Massachusetts in June to perform the music, and it is now available on the project’s website.

The recording begins with the Subvenite, which is sung as the body is brought into the church, and concludes with the Libera me, the ninth responsory of the Office of the Dead, which is sung as the coffin is sprinkled with holy water and incensed before being taken to the cemetery, the ceremony known as the Absolution. Between them are all of the Gregorian parts of the Mass, the regular antiphons, plus the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus dei. The choir is a strong group of men’s voices, really giving a very nice example of how Gregorian chant can and should be done, with a sober organ accompaniment (written by Achille Bragers) that works very nicely with, and never overpowers, the choir. (Cross-posted from Chant Café.)

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