Concert: A Requiem Mass for Charlemagne

28 January 2014, King's College London Chapel

This concert was performed by members of the King's College London Choir, under the direction of the late lamented Dr David Trendell. We are immensely grateful to David for choosing the music and organising the concert with his customary generosity and good humour.

DT: The first two pieces we’ll be singing are from the plainsong proper of the mass for the dead: the introit, and then the gradual. The introit is a fairly short and fairly straightforward bit of chant; the gradual is more complex and longer, with some of the melisma I talked about earlier, particularly on the last syllables of phrases.

We depart from the requiem mass for the next three pieces. The first is an Alleluia: ‘Alleluia excita domine potentiam’. This, again, shows a highly melismatic chant, so lots of notes on one syllable. And then we will sing an early example of a sequence, which is basically a text added by Notker based on this Alleluia chant – it’s not exactly on the chant but it’s very close to the Alleluia chant. And then finally we’ll sing a later sequence, again by Notker, and this became the more common form, whereby one line is sung first by one pars, one set of singers, and the next line is sung to the same music by the second group of singers. And this formed the basis of what was to become an extremely opulent, very important form of the sequence through the middle ages. First of all, the Alleluia.

We return now to the requiem mass. We’ll start with the Offertory, which is one of the most complicated chants of the service, then followed by the Sanctus (which is in a very simple style compared to some of the chants, such as the gradual, which we heard earlier), and then followed by the Agnus Dei, a simple and communion chant, ‘Lux aeterna’.

The requiem mass ends with one of the most beautiful chants in the whole requiem – so we finish this little concert with the final chant, the ‘In Paradisum Deducant Te Angeli’.