In our first couple of meetings in January, we launched straight away into preparing for Tenebrae. This year, we are working on one of the most compelling musical works for Holy Week - and that is the "Miserere" by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652).
A number of stories have contributed to the mystique surrounding this work. The first is that the Pope of the time placed a prohibition on its use outside of the Sistine Chapel. Church regulations also forbade its transcription - and the prohibition called for excommunication for anyone who sought to copy the work.
The other intersecting story involves the twelve-year-old Mozart. In 1769, young Wolfgang and his father embarked upon a tour of Italy - and they happened to arrive in Rome just in time for Easter. Like any visitor, they visited St Peter's, and they heard the famous "Miserere" sung in the Sistine Chapel. Upon arriving back at his lodging that evening, Mozart sat down and wrote out from memory the entire piece. On Good Friday, he returned with his manuscript, to hear the piece again - and make a few minor corrections.
Not to downplay Mozart's amazing memory and ear, but the piece is repetitive and has many places where the voices sing the same pattern and the same harmony recurs. Its greatest demand is that it calls for a soprano who can sing a high C - and over the next two weeks, we will see if any of our female students have the nerve to try this out.
The tenors, of course, are not happy that I am restricting this particular part to females only....
Malcolm V. Edwards
Malcolm Edwards was born in Halifax, England and emigrated to Canada in 1967. He is a graduate of Sheffield College of Education (UK), Trinity College of Music, London, the University of Lethbridge, the University of Montana and has done further graduate work at the University of Northern Colorado. He taught music in junior and senior high school for twelve years in southern Alberta before joining the University of Calgary as a Professor of Music Education in 1980. He retired from the university after thirty-one years of service in 2011. In the community he was affiliated with the Youth Singers of Calgary for 21 years directing the Act Three and Senior divisions. In his retirement, he is now employed as an Adjunct Professor of Music at St Mary’s University, as the Artistic Director of the Calgary Men’s Chorus and as the Senior Choir Director at St John’s Choir Schola. He has held leadership positions within the Alberta Choral Federation, the Association of Canadian Choral Communities, served on the Board of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and is active as a choral adjudicator and workshop leader in schools and churches. He is the recipient of two awards from the Provincial Federation – one in recognition of advocacy in arts education and the second in recognition of exemplary service to choral music within the Province of Alberta. In 2004 he received recognition from the national body (ACCC) for twenty-five years of service to the Canadian choral community.