Pärt and Psalm 100, 17 April 14

Image The Oriana Chorale; artwork Dan Sanderson. Click to enlarge

For those interested in sacred songs that you will probably never hear at South Woden, The Oriana Chorale will sing music of some interest at Wesley Uniting Church on Thursday 17th April (‘Maundy’ or Holy Thursday) at 7:00 pm. Their notice says:

The principal work will be Arvo Pärt’s 1990 Berlin Mass. The sections of the Mass will be interspersed with a capella and accompanied pieces by composers ranging from J.S. Bach, Schütz and Lotti to Eric Whitacre, Thompson and Górecki.

It’s not just personal involvement that inspires me to draw this to your attention, but some familiar themes appearing in this blog, works by Pärt and Schütz in particular with the additional appearance of favourite J S Bach!  And if you don’t know Eric Whitacre, you probably should.

IMG_3096Pärt’s Berliner Messe

Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) is perhaps the most performed exponent of modern minimalist modal music in the tradition of the Gregorian chant.  (See also a previous post on the modern chant.)

The mass follows the standard liturgical sections of the ordinary – but that’s about the end of the standard and ordinary. Here’s an example of the Kyrie sung by the Estonian Chamber Choir – Arvo is an Estonian after all.

Psalm 100

Of the interspersed pieces, I mention the psalm setting by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) not only because it’s a sung psalm, but because it’s a classic example of the emergence of antiphonal performance in polychoral writing. Schütz was a prominent 17th century composer and organist in Dresden and Venice – the multiple choir lofts in San Marco’s Venice was an inspiration for two-choir arrangements. He set all the Psalms of David amongst his many works. It’s the double-choir treatment with antiphonal or at least imitative entries that make this work exciting as the German text urges:

Jauchzet dem Herren alle Welt (Make a joyful noise unto God all the world)

The J S Bach selection, Der geist hilft BWV 226, is also scored for two choirs and instruments, the text being from Romans and Luther.


  1. Thanks to the male voice quartet who presented Spanish songs on 30 March, Psalm 23 and Santo santo. Rich sounds and deep thoughts to grace our gathering. Then also to the ladies who provided the harmonies, ostinato and echo responses for Out of the depths last week; your contributions were much appreciated.
  2. Maundy Thursday, by the way, is a term used particularly in the Anglican church and England, other countries and churches using Holy Thursday or other terms. The name apparently comes from the Latin ‘mandatum novum’, the first words of a text from John, ‘A new commandment I give to you’.

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