Aleteia

Young adult choir revives the sacred music of the Renaissance

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The Brébeuf Virtual Choir is one of the best we’ve seen recording during the pandemic.

It’s been a relatively short time since the world pandemic began, but virtual choirs have become such a popular way to share choral music that it’s hard to think of a time without them. During the COVID-19 crisis, virtual choirs have been an invaluable resource for performers and fans of sacred music, allowing singers to continue to hone their crafts and the faithful an outlet to hear great church music from their homes.

Now, there’s another great virtual choir that is focused solely on the monumentally beautiful music of the past. The Brébeuf Virtual Choir only opened their YouTube channel three months ago, but they already have a dozen recordings of beautiful a cappella music, from the Gregorian style to the polyphony of the Renaissance.

In late July, they released a recording of “Victimae Paschali Laudes” by the Renaissance composer Philippe Verdelot. Although he was born in France, Verdelot spent much of his life studying music in Italy, and is often called the “Father of the Italian madrigal.” Madrigals were one of the earliest forms of secular music, which drew from the polyphonic style of sacred music. One of the main things to look for in madrigals is the use of counterpoint, which is when multiple unique melodic lines weave around each other to create alternate chords.

Jeff Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed drew our attention to a musical analysis of Verdelot’s work by Father Adrian Fortescue, a 19th-century Roman Catholic priest from England, who was an influential composer in his own right. Fr. Fortescue wrote of “Victimae Paschali Laudes”:

Certainly the clanging melody (like the blare of trumpets) is one of the very finest pieces of plainsong we have. It seems the perfect musical expression of Easter. And its immemorial connection with the words makes it almost incredible that anyone should ever want to replace it by a modern composition. The changing metre, occasional rhyme, and picturesque text of the “Victimae paschali” make it a most characteristic example of a sequence.

For more recordings from The Brébeuf Virtual Choir, click here.

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