By Sr. Fidelis
This coming weekend, the Gloriae Dei Cantores will be performing Duruflé’s Requiem in the Church of the Transfiguration. Some might be wondering, why mention this in a Gregorian Chant Blog? Because Duruflé used the original chant melodies from the Missa pro defunctis, or the Mass for the Dead. Many of them appear in their entirety, while others contain snippets of the original chants. Woven together with his lush harmonies and accompaniment, these melodies take on a beauty and suppleness that truly retains the integrity of the original chants! One of the greatest examples of this is in the Sanctus – a simple and syllabic chant, based on 3 notes with upper and lower neighbor pitches. The accented syllable, San–ctus, is given a single note, while the second, or unaccented syllable of the word, has two notes. This gives a sense of loft and lift, both to the word and to the melody. We refer to this as the “lifted accent” on the word. The accent in Latin is light and high, not stressed as it is in English. Listen to this simple Sanctus and Benedictus from the Mass of the Dead. And if you have a chance, listen to a recording, or better yet, a live performance this weekend of Duruflé’s Requiem, to hear how he transforms this simple melody into a spiritual feast!