Music for the Sixth Sunday of Easter — May 17, 2020
Messe cum jubilo (Opus 11): Kyrie – Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986)
As I have noted here previously, Maurice Duruflé was an introspective and highly self-critical musician. As a result, he only published fourteen works in his lifetime. As a boy, Duruflé was a chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, and the choral plainsong tradition at Rouen became a strong and lasting influence. He completed the Messe cum Jubilo for baritone chorus, solo baritone, orchestra and organ in 1966. The work gets its name from the plainsong Mass upon which it is based, Mass IX “Cum Jubilo”, a setting traditionally used for feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Duruflé scored three versions of the “Cum Jubilo”: the original version for full orchestra (1966), a version with organ solo accompaniment (1967), and a reduced orchestral version (1971).
Duruflé uses two ways of enhancing the Gregorian text, either entrusting it to the baritone choir, while the orchestra (organ) is limited to the enrichment of a modal background, or the orchestra (organ) is prominent with the plainchant, the voices developing the material on the basis of the chant. In this way the work becomes somewhat of a dialogue between choir and organ. It happens to be the favourite Mass setting of PJ Janson, our Assistant Organist, who plays its accompaniment so beautifully. The tenors and basses of the St. James’ Choir would have sung this work at Mass last Sunday, May 10, as a means of honouring Our Lady in this special month.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
If ye love me – Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
The life of Thomas Tallis is a mirror of the musical effects of the Reformation in England. He served in the Chapel Royal for some forty years, composing under four monarchs with widely differing religious practices. Tallis was among the first to set English words to music for the rites of the Church of England, although most of his vocal music was written in Latin. A composer of great contrapuntal skill, his works show intense expressivity and are cast in a bewildering variety of styles.
During the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) it was mandated that services be sung in English, and that choral music be brief and succinct – “to each syllable a plain and distinct note.” If Ye Love Me is the classic example of these new English anthems: mainly homophonic, but with brief moments of imitation. Like many early Anglican anthems, it is cast in ABB form, the second section repeated.
Much loved by choirs, this motet is a setting of the first three verses of today’s Gospel reading from John 14. Our choir would have sung it this Sunday as the communion motet. The text here is taken from William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible, which was in common use in the Church of England during the English Reformation, a passage in which Jesus tells his disciples of his impending death and ascension, but at the same time reassures them – and us! – with the promise of the Holy Spirit.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another Comforter,
that he may ‘bide with you forever;
E’en the Sp’rit of truth.