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Music at St Machar’s Cathedral

St. Machar Cathedral.

Music for March 26th.2017

Introit: Now is the healing time decreed    Pairs Gradual (1685)

Now is the healing time decreed For sins of heart and word and deed, When we in humble fear record The wrong that we have done the Lord.

Who always merciful and good, Has borne along our wayward mood, Nor cut us off unsparingly In our so great iniquity.

Therefore with fasting and with prayer, Our secret sorrow we declare, With all good striving seek his face, And lowly-hearted plead for grace.

Cleanse us, O Lord, from every stain, Help us the gifts of grace to gain, Till with the angels, linked in love, Joyful we tread thy courts above.

We pray thee, Holy Trinity, One God, unchanging Unity, That we from this our abstinence May reap the fruits of penitence. Amen

Anthem: Kyrie eleison (Mass in Four Parts)   W.Byrd (1540-1623)

Lord have mercy upon us; Christ have mercy upon us; Lord have mercy upon us.

Offertory Motet: Sanctus     W. Byrd

Holy,Holy,Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.

Communion Motet: Agnus Dei    W.Byrd

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us; Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

The Music

The Introit is an ancient Latin hymn dating from the twelfth century or even earlier.  It is set to music from the Paris Gradual in the late 17th century with a tune that reflects the regular metre of the hymn.

The Anthem, Offertory and Communion motets make up three movements of the Ordinary parts of the Mass for Four Voices by the English Tudor composer William Byrd.  This was one of three settings that Byrd made towards the end of his life

published in the mid 1590s. Why these works were written is not recorded, but they represent a wonderful flowering of Renaissance polyphony, very much after the style of Palestrina, but with an added harmonic resonance characteristic of the English school. Though the restrained Kyrie is beautifully crafted in its four individual voices, the Sanctus is a more dramatic piece, working up to a concluding climax ‘hosanna in excelsis’.  The Agnus Dei, as the Kyrie, is a superb example of a strictly written four-voice texture.  There is a remarkably poignant use of dissonance at the words – ‘dona nobis pacem’ (grant us peace) – shared with all four voices at the close of the movement.

Music before the Service:

Chorale Prelude: Durch Adams Fall    G.P.Telemann(1681-1767)

Crux Fidelis (Expressions no.20)       Naji Hakim (b.1955)

Music at end of the Service:

Contrapunctus no.5 (The Art of Fugue)  J.S.Bach(1685-1750)

The music before the Service comprises a Chorale Prelude by Telemann and a richly harmonic paraphrase of an ancient Latin antiphon by the present organist of La Sainte Trinity in Paris.  The Telemann Prelude places the Chorale at the top of the texture with each phrase introduced by a preview of the tune turned into two-part counterpoint.  The piece by Hakim uses the saturated harmonic palette of Messiaen to create a meditation on

the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.

The fifth fugue from The Art of Fugue by J.S.Bach uses both the original and the inverted versions of the theme in close proximity, answering with consecutive ‘voices’.  This fugue is particularly notable for its use of strettos – when an answering voice enters before the first one has finished – creating a denser texture in contrast to the more open texture of the episodes.


(RBW March 2017)