Polyphony and Tenebrae for Holy Week
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Polyphony and Tenebrae for Holy Week
Being red-lighters, one of the hardest weeks of the year to get through is Holy Week. How we miss all the ceremonies and singing! Here are some links to some beautiful sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant for Holy Week.


Excerpt from The Easter Book by Fr. Francis X. Weiser (*see note below), pp. 100-101

“… The Miserere is often sung by a choir at the Tenebrae services. The most famous for this psalm is the composition by Gregorio Allegri (sixteenth century) [#1]. It consists of a double chorus for eight voices, was written for the papal choir during Holy Week, and was kept unpublished by order of the popes to reserve this music for exclusive use in the Sistine Chapel. So it remained until 1769, when Leopold Mozart brought his fourteen-year-old son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, from Austria to Rome to hear the music of the Holy Week services in the papal chapel. The youthful genius was so thrilled with the Allegri Miserere that on returning to his lodgings he wrote out the entire eight-part chorus from memory. The following day father and son returned to the Tenebrae service carrying the boy’s manuscript, in order to check what he had written from memory. Only a few notes of the music needed correction. This prodigious feat was brought to the attention of the reigning pope, Clement XIV, who sent for father and son. The Mozarts feared that the Pope would be indignant at the plagiarism implied in the boy’s act, but His Holiness praised him highly, and forthwith ordered the publication of the Miserere for the whole world to enjoy. Since then, throughout the Christian world, to hear this great masterpiece sung is one of the most moving experiences of Holy Week.

Every year during these services in the Sistine Chapel the papal choir performs the “Lamentations” by Palestrina [#2], one of the most majestic pieces of sacred music ever written. Another choral piece by Palestrina is the beautiful Improperia (Reproaches) [#3], first heard in 1560, a work of great tenderness and solemnity. There are other musical compositions inspired by the “Reproaches,” notably that of Victoria [#4], the great rival of Palestrina…."


See HERE for links to this beautiful Holy Week music.
"So let us be confident, let us not be unprepared, let us not be outflanked, let us be wise, vigilant, fighting against those who are trying to tear the faith out of our souls and morality out of our hearts, so that we may remain Catholics, remain united to the Blessed Virgin Mary, remain united to the Roman Catholic Church, remain faithful children of the Church."- Abp. Lefebvre
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