November 2021

De profundis

Victoria  Officium defunctorum
Music and readings for Remembrance

Silence – a sonnet for Remembrance Day (Malcolm Guite)
Victoria Taedet animam meam
De profundis (Psalm 130)
Victoria Introit, Kyrie
The Bright Field (R.S. Thomas)
Victoria Gradual, Offertory
Peace (George Herbert)
Victoria Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Communion
Be near me when my light is low (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
Victoria Versa est in luctum
Bring us, O Lord God (John Donne)
Victoria Libera me

St Stephen’s, Rochester Row

Gilly French, Helen Prentice, Helena Bickley-Percival, Catharine Robinson,
Kevin Walsh, Manvinder Rattan, Iain Butler, William Nicholson, Solly Hardwick

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) was the greatest Spanish Renaissance composer and one of the leading figures of church music.  After 21 years in Rome and his ordination in 1575, he became chaplain to the Dowager Empress Maria in Madrid; he remained at the royal convent of the Barefooted Nuns of St Clare, first as choirmaster and later as organist, until his death 24 years later.  His music, characterised by a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal, ranks with the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance.

His Officium defunctorum (Office for the Dead) of 1605 includes his second Requiem Mass and commemorates the widowed empress, who had died two years previously.  It is set for six voices, SSATTB, and is widely regarded as one of the most magnificent choral compositions of the literature.  Bruno Turner describes it as having a refined and dignified austerity ‘shot through with passionate conviction; it glows with extraordinary fervour within a musical and spiritual atmosphere of serenity’.  The Missa pro defunctis is accompanied by extra-liturgical music: the motet Versa est in luctum (My harp is turned to mourning), the Responsorium, Libera me, for the Absolution which follows the mass, and a lesson from Matins, Taedet animam meam (My soul is weary of life), a bleak text from the Book of Job.  The music is interspersed with the proper plainsong intonations and verses, with the plainsong also paraphrased in the polyphony, usually the second soprano part.

Malcolm Guite (b. 1957) is an English poet, singer-songwriter, priest and academic.  His stated aim is ‘to be profound without ceasing to be beautiful’.

Lesson: Taedet anima mea
Taedet animam meam vitae meae,
dimittam adversum me eloquium meum,
loquar in amaritudine animae meae.
Dicam Deo: Noli me condemnare:
indica mihi, cur me ita iudices.
Numquid bonum tibi videtur,
si calumnieris, el opprimas me,
opus manuum tuarum,
et consilium impiorum adiuves?
Numquid oculi carnei tibi sunt:
aut sicut videt homo, et tu vides?
Numquid sicut dies hominis dies tui,
et anni tui sicut humana sunt tempora,
ut quaeras iniquitatem meam,
et peccatum meum scruteris?
Et scias, quia nihil impium fecerim
cum sit nemo, qui de manu tua possit eruere.

My soul is weary of my life;
I will let go my speech against myself,
and express the bitterness in my soul.
I shall say to God: Do not condemn me,
but show me why Thou judgest me in this manner.
Shall it seem a good thing to Thee
to cheapen me and oppress me,
the work of Thine own hands,
and to support the schemes of the wicked?
Are Thine eyes of flesh?
Dost Thou even see only as men do?
Is Thy life like the life of men,
and do Thy years pass like the days of men,
that Thou shouldst enquire after my iniquity,
and investigate my sins?
Surely Thou knowest that I have done no wrong
and there is no man that can deliver me from Thy hand.

Motet – Versa est in luctum
Versa est in luctum cithara mea,
et organum in vocem flentium.
Parce mihi, Domine,
nihil enimsunt dies mei.

My harp is turned to mourning,
and my music into the voice of those that weep.
Spare me, O Lord,
for my days are as nothing.