Monday Musical Moment: Introit for Holy Week

Justin Langham   -  
Good morning and happy Monday!
Today begins a special time in the Christian calendar, Holy Week. Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday, beginning the week-long journey commemorating Jesus’ death and resurrection. From a musical perspective, I always look forward to this time of year because there are few occasions for which more beautiful and moving pieces of music have been written than Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions and Easter Oratorio, both Haydn and Dubois’s Seven Last Words, and of course Handel’s Messiah are among countless other works composed throughout the centuries to vividly depict the scenes and emotions for Christians all over the world during Holy Week, and I am looking forward to sharing them with you in the services this week.
Good Friday is one of my favorite services during the year. It may not be a joyous occasion like Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday, but I find it has a deep meaning, and with it, you guessed it, incredibly powerful music. During the Good Friday service this Friday at 7pm in the Sanctuary, the chancel choir First UMC Missouri City, along with a professional string ensemble, will present a variety of music to capture the meaning of the occasion, such as works by Durufle, Handel, Haydn, and Moses Hogan. It will truly be a special service and I hope you make plans to join us.
For today’s music, I would like to share a wonderful performance of one of the pieces the choir will perform on Friday, the first part, or Introit, from Maurice Durufle’s Requiem in D Minor. The piece is written in three sections and the melodies are chant-like and the accompaniment by strings and organ is flowing and calming, fitting for the text Requiem eternam, which means “eternal rest.” The music eventually slows down, coming to a literal rest before moving on to the next movement.
You’ll notice that this recording features an all-male chorus, with youth and boys singing the alto and soprano parts, which offers a rarely heard, yet beautiful sound. This practice stems from centuries of tradition all the way back to the Renaissance period, or roughly the years 1400 to 1600, when women were not allowed to participate in liturgical music. However, our wonderful women’s section at First UMC will lend their beautiful voices throughout the services this week, including on this beautiful movement!
The Introit movement is around 4 minutes in length, but I highly recommended listening to the entirety of this powerful work. If you would like additional listening, our very own Houston Chamber Choir won their GRAMMY for their fantastic recording of all Durufle’s choral works.
I hope this music brings you a moment of calm reflection as we enter Holy Week.