The Chant Café
February 10, 2014
The Catholic Church’s vast heritage of sacred music, which has been kept alive for years by university music faculties and commercial publications rather than being a living presence in our Catholic churches, received two quite different expositions in Washington, DC this weekend.
On Saturday evening in the Basilica of the National Shrine, the Shrine’s resident professional choir joined with the vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire to sing Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, an extensive piece which Seraphic Fire has recorded previously. The music was in every way stunningly beautiful, filling the vast space with unbelievable harmonies and overtones. The great choruses were beautiful, but perhaps even more of an aural treat was provided by small groups, duets and trios. The physical space was used to great effect, most notably on the charming call-response hymn Audi coelom. It was a start-to-finish celebration of the human voice, in praise of God and the Blessed Virgin, and hopefully the prolonged standing ovation will be some small encouragement for this sort of enormous effort to be repeated in the future in our outstanding Catholic music programs.