Sunday, 12 October 2014

Westminster Cathedral Choir sings Victoria's Requiem with fervour and finesse

The occasion is the solemnity of All Souls, 2011. The setting is Westminster Cathedral. The music for the Mass is Victoria's Requiem (from Officium Defunctorum 1605), sung by the Cathedral Choir under Master of Music Martin Baker. The celebrant is Fr Alexander Master, the Cathedral's Precentor. BBC Radio 3 broadcast the service.

I was going to wait until All Souls to share this video, uploaded to YouTube only yesterday. But it demands immediate attention. First, because of the remarkable singing of the choir. The choir recorded the Victoria Requiem in 1987 (under David Hill), and that remains a benchmark recording. However, the singing in the above video is just that much more polished, refined, and exquisitely phrased.  Secondly, because the Mass is such a splendid example of sung liturgy that it serves as a model to all others. The singing of Fr Master is, well, masterful. It helps to have a fine signing voice, like the Reverend Father evidently has. But more important is to be completely at ease with your own Rite's tones - ditto for Fr Master in terms of the execution of a given tone, although not in terms of choice. (This is a wholly pedantic observation in the circumstances, but when you sing the simple tone for the Preface - which is quite correct for Masses for the Dead - why not consistently use this tone for the Mysterium Fidei, the Doxology, and the orations?)

Also, the BBC presenter got a little muddled when translating Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis, referring to "perceptual" light. But kudos to the BBC for still broadcasting such occasions. This really is a great service to the Christian population, but also more widely in the sense that it promotes Britain's choral tradition.

On a practical note, I would encourage priests around the world to use this as a training tool for singing the All Souls Mass on 2 November.