PALM SUNDAY 25th MARCH 2018 at 6.30pm
Purcell Music for Queen Mary
Poulenc Litanies à la Vièrge Noire
Langlais Missa Salve Regina
with Bridgewater Sinfonietta
Lux eterna: eternal light. The phrase is part of the ritual blessing of the dead: May they rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon them. It is a message of hope, and is the title of a concert of four works which, though they essentially remind us of the season of Lent and of Christ’s death which follows, also remind us of the hope that his death brings.
PURCELL’S FUNERAL SENTENCES are indeed a lament – written as part of the music for the funeral of Queen Mary II in 1695, moving and beautiful, they have Purcell’s typical use of emotive and unusual vocal harmony to create tension and resolve it peacefully.
Very different are POULENC’S LITANIES À LA VIÈRGE NOIRE. Written for women’s voices only, the piece is a cry from the heart for help and protection to the black virgin of Rocamadour. Poulenc wrote the Litanies after a visit to the shrine proved a life-changing experience. He wrote: ‘A few days earlier I’d just heard of the tragic death of my colleague … As I meditated on the fragility of our human frame, I was drawn once more to the life of the spirit. Rocamadour had the effect of restoring me to the faith of my childhood. The same evening of this visit to Rocamadour, I began my Litanies à la Vierge noire… In that work I tried to get across the atmosphere of “peasant devotion” that had struck me so forcibly in that lofty chapel.’ It is indeed a cri de coeur, all the more effective for being written for high voices.
In strong contrast is the MISSA SALVE REGINA OF JEAN LANGLAIS. Langlais was a prolific composer who became blind as a child, despite which he made his name as an organist, following in the footsteps of César Franck as organiste titulaire at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. This missa brevis (a short mass without the Creed) is written for men’s voices in three and occasionally four part harmony, with a single unison line for the “Assemblée” – the congregation – sung by the upper voices. Plainsong melodies feature prominently, but enlivened and made even perhaps a little rustic, with much use of parallel fifths and octaves. The overall effect is of a twentieth-century twist on early mediaeval organum, which is plainchant melody with at least one added voice to enhance the harmony.
The fourth work IS DURUFLÉ’S beautiful REQUIEM, which also has its origin in plainsong chant, this time that of Rouen Cathedral where as a child he was placed as a chorister. It is probably the most famous of Duruflé’s works, and one of a relatively small number that survived his rigorous editing and rejection. Reminiscent in some ways of Fauré’s famous work, this version of the Requiem Mass includes the Pie Jesu, Libera me and In Paradisum of the burial service but omits the Dies Irae, making it altogether a calmer and more meditative work to finish the concert on a tranquil note.
Tickets cost £14 in advance
They are available from choir members
Through this web site (see our future concert page)
From Brown and Merry, 124 High Street.
Tickets on the door will be £16
To find out more about our events and how to purchase tickets, see our future concerts page.
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