Deborah Roberts - director
The 10-voice mass for St Michael: Dum sacrum mysterium by Robert Carver.
Also including music by Robert Johnson, and works from the Wode Psalter by David Peebles, John Angus, Andrew Kemp and Thomas Tallis
St Paul's Church, West Street Brighton
Sunday 29th April 2018
St Michael weighing souls
Ignored for far too long, the music of the Scottish Renaissance is beautiful and also has a fascinating history. Most of Robert Carver’s music did not survive, but what does shows him to have been a composer of extraordinary richness who favoured complex textures and deep sonority. His 10-voice mass Dum sacrum mysterium is based on a chant for the feast of St Michael and All Angels:
While John beheld the sacred mystery, Michael the archangel sounded the trumpet. Forgive, oh Lord our God – Thou who openest the book and loosest the seals thereof.
Composer and musicologist John Purser has written a fascinating article on Carver and explains why he would have written a mass in 10 parts for this particular feast. He writes:
Those of you unfamiliar with Carver’s mass might like to listen to a recording by the Scottish choir Cappella Nova on You Tube
...’the ten parts of Carver’s Mass represent the nine orders of angels, and the tenth lost order (led by Lucifer) is replaced by the voices of men. This has not only a wonderful suggestion that man can share in the heavenly chorus, but actually supposes that what we are listening to is the heavenly chorus.’
An earlier composer from pre Reformation Scotland, Robert Johnson, not to be confused with the later, English, composer, was a monk at Scone Abbey in Perthshire. His music was well enough known in England to have been copied into several important English manuscripts.
Our programme will also feature music from post Reformation Scotland, and in particular from a collection known as the Wode Psalter. Thomas Wode, had been a monk prior to the Reformation of 1560. He later became a clergyman in the new church of Scotland but retained his love of music and put together a comprehensive collection of the Psalms in metrical settings that in many ways resemble the collection Thomas Tallis composed for Archbishop Parker in Tudor England. There were harmonisations by Scottish composers such as David Peebles and Andrew Kemp, but he added more. For as had happened during the English Reformation under Henry VIII, in Scotland also, many music books belonging to the Catholic rite were destroyed. Wode was responsible for saving much Latin texted music by non -Scottish composers such as, Lassus Palestrina and Tallis from destruction by including them in this collection… lest, as he wrote in one of his annotations:
'I cannot understand bot musike sall pereische in this land alutterlye …'
Page from the Carver Choirbook