Thursday, December 03, 2020

Polyphonic Masses Sung by The Davey Consort in England

After seeing our recent post about the patronal feasts of the Schola Sainte-Cecile in Paris, reader John Murphy wrote in to let us know about another church and choir that are now posting their Masses on a regular basis on YouTube. The church is St Birinus in Dorchester-on-Thames, England, about 50 miles west of London, a beautifully preserved neo-Gothic gem, one of the first Catholic churches to be built in England after the restoration of the hierarchy. It is home to a choir called The Davey Consort, which was founded by composer and conductor Ryan Wigglesworth, and soprano Sophie Bevan in 2017, and named for John Davey, who commissioned the building of the church in 1849. (More information about the Consort and its goals is given below.) This Saturday, the church will celebate the Mass of its Patron, St Birinus; as you can see in videos, all the texts of the Mass are shown on the screen as they are said to help people follow along.
It is always inspiring to hear the great repertoire of Catholic sacred music used in the liturgy for which it was composed, and we congratulate the clergy and the choir at St Birinus for their efforts. Here are a couple of examples of their recent Masses: the First Sunday of Advent, featuring the Missa Ad Te Levavi by Philippe de Monte, Ad te levavi by Palestrina of the Offertory, the William Byrd’s Vigilate as the Communion motet.
On the feast of All Saints, the choir sang Palestrina’s Missa Eripe me, and two motets by Byrd, Iustorum animae at the Offertory, and O quam gloriosum at the Communion.

On the last Sunday of the year, which was also the feast of St Cecilia, Patron Saint of Musicians, the choir sang the Missa Petra sancta and De Profundis by Palestrina, O beata Dei Genitrix by an anonymous Portuguese composer, (Pedro de Cristo?) and a motet for St Cecilia, Cantantibus organis by Cipriano de Rore.
Mr Murphy, who is the chair of The Davey Consort CIO, writes to say, “A large part of the Davey Consort’s musical endeavour has revolved around transcribing from manuscripts works by neglected composers of the 16th and 17th century. Another aspect is to restore organ music composed for use in the Mass to its proper setting. Much of this oeuvre is long neglected and hasn’t reached a large concert audience, simply because the pieces were designed to be played during the Last Gospel.

We have commissioned an organ from Master Builder Bernard Aubertin, which we hope to have installed next year. For a very small church like St Birinus, this has been an immensely bold undertaking. The object is set a standard of excellence to inspire others at a parochial level; to provide ideas upon with others may draw; and ultimately a tool for education of clergy and laity. We seek to ensure that chant, polyphony and organ music, all realized together harmoniously, are once again enshrined in the Mass which provided their original inspiration. Once the organ is installed we can turn towards creating funding for musical scholarships. What greater honour can there be in restoring Sacred Music performed at the highest level, to its proper setting in the Holy Mass? The future of the Church rests of this mission - to recall the world to Divine Service of the true worship of God in the Sacrifice of the Mass.” Feliciter!

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