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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Funerals, the Dies Irae and Guilty Pleasures

I am, "behind the scenes," involved in the planning of several versions of Catholic funerary rites, in both cases the person with actual family authority knows nothing of the requirements and has enlisted my aid with the proviso that no one else knows I have been consulted.

In one case, to my great surprise, I learn that the decedent, a nun in the heady immediate post-VC II days would have wanted Gregorian chant, (I had always assumed she would have been a banjos and tambourine type,) indeed, the liturgical mess of the times may have played a part in her departure from the convent.
I had to explain to her godson that he might have a shot at getting the parish pastor and music director to agree to the propers in some form, but that the Dies Irae, which he was very keen on, was no longer an official part of the Mass, that some priests might allow it to be inserted as an Offertory chant.

In scouting hymn texts for one of the other liturgies I read through several older threads about funeral programming on the CMAA forum, and found a link to a wonderful "mediation on a lost treasure," that is, the Dies Irae, by a Mons. Pope.
Don't know how I missed it at the time, was that the year we actually moved? No matter.
Well worth the read.

I loved his point that yes, the poetry is about Judgment, but ultimately, even more so, it is about MERCY.

And then, apropos of nothing, except my local PBS station that broadcast a Live in HD From the Metropolitan Opera, or rather, broadcast all BUT THE LAST TEN MINUTES OF IT!!!!!!!! (Arghhh!) I was rooting around on Youtube and came across and listened to Jonas Kaufmann singing Ingemisco from the Verdi Requiem a time or two.

Or four.

A poster on another Kaufmann offering on Youtube refers to him as a "guilty pleasure," and I know what he means.
His technique seems so different from anything else I've ever heard or ever, really imagined as "good", his placement even within a single phrase so varied, the extravagance of his shifting of register to another -- can it be right?

But it is so effective. And his diction and the intensity and precision of his emotional expression is beyond compare.
Music aficionados often joke that the Manzoni Requiem was Verdi's "greatest opera."
Well, why not?  did he ever have a more superb libretto, or heartbreaking subject for any opera?

Maybe the most moving expression of penitence I've ever heard.
I groan as a guilty one,
and my face blushes with guilt;
spare the supplicant, O God.
You, who absolved Mary Magdalen,
and heard the prayer of the thief,
have given me hope, as well.
My prayers are not worthy,
but show mercy, O benevolent one,
lest I burn forever in fire.
Give me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
placing me on your right hand. 

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