Thursday, November 19, 2009

Survey: Which Requiem Mass is the Greatest?

Dear John Rutter,

Of course today, I say your requiem is best, for I have heard live at my own church.

But there are so many wonderful Requiems out there, and I have rattled on about them many times.

My surveys don't usually gather many participants (sadly), so this time I decided to join with a survey that someone else is successfully conducting and simply report their results here.

To vote for your favorite requiem mass, go here. Vote in the little yellow and blue box on the left. Someone who is interested can learn lots about requiems at that site, including yours, Mr. Rutter.

What I enjoyed about hearing the requiem in church was that it wasn't a show. We followed the piece through the service of worship. That is what it is about, and I would enjoy worshiping this way every single week, though I understand why choirs might resist. Even one full mass per year demands an inordinate amount of rehearsal.

But oh, it is so worth it. My favorite moment was when I found myself on my knees waiting to be served the Eucharist. It is such a beggarly moment each week, acceding to reality. And that was when your Agnus Dei broke upon my heart.

After the service, I chatted with one of the sopranos about the difficulty of singing this piece because the time signature keep changing from 4/4 to 2/4 to 3/4.

But it was not that brought me to tears, on my knees, as I received the body and blood of Jesus Christ. (Listen round about minute 3:20 and following.) It was not the drum, drum, drum, drum of the typany. It was not the critical blare of the brass. Or yes, yes it was that of course, partly. But more, it was the truth of those words:

"Whom may I seek for succour, whom may I seek for succour, whom? Agnus Dei, qui tollis pecatta mundi. Yes, in the midst of life, we are in death, but you are the resurrection and the life."

So, John, I don't really know who has written the best of the requiem masses, but I do know this: My soul is touched by this music that celebrates not death, but the life that rises from the death we experience in this life.


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