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St. Augustine wrote: “If we sing together, we sing for the heart.” What a nice way to introduce the Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal and their music director Gilbert Patenaude. On this new CD, they perform the most beautiful works of the sacred music repertoire, among them: Franck’s Panis angelicus, Busto’s Ave Maria and oeuvres by Saint-Saëns, Verdi and Brahms. An album which will bring inner peace, a celestial peace.

Chorus est consensio cantantium,” Saint Augustine wrote in his Psalm 149 in the fourth century. This Latin expression could be translated as “The choir is a group of people singing together” but also as “The choir is a mutual agreement among singers.” It could also be interpreted as: “If we sing in a choir, we sing for the heart.” According to reference material, the word choir is derived from the Latin corona (crown, the position of the choristers while singing) or concordia (to sing psalms together, it is necessary to unite one’s forces) or from the Greek ????, joy or happiness. One thing is certain: the choir unites souls in a movement of universal bearing. After all, “those who assemble to sing combine what is best in them,” the essayist Pierre Lasserre asserted.

Choral singing, most likely emerged many centuries ago as a spontaneous organization and can be considered one of the earliest social institutions. Already, 3000 years BCE, choral music played an important role in religious ceremonies, and in Persia children learned about the exploits of the gods and illustrious men through singing. Saint Paul used to urge the faithful to open their hearts to God through psalms, hymns and canticles. Soon young voices were instilled with these demonstrations of faith, as writings from the middle of the sixth century testify. In fact, in 789 Charlemagne insisted on the need to teach “musical notation, singing, arithmetic and grammar.”

Here we’ll hear a piece from the 16th century, Victimae paschali laudes by Tomás Luis de Victoria, which celebrates the glorious resurrection of Christ. During the baroque period, probably no one was able to master the art of treating voices so naturally as the Venetian composer Antonio Lotti, organist and maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s Basilica.

The 19th century remains outstanding for its choral music, which progressively acquired a status of major importance. It is therefore not surprising that composers such as Cesar Franck (and his well-known Panis angelicus), Camille Saint-Saëns, Johannes Brahms and Giuseppe Verdi should have dedicated some of their most inspired works to choruses.

Particularly critical of his own works, Maurice Duruflé, on the other hand, has left us only some 30 works, among which are his compelling Requiem and these Four Motets, based on motifs from Gregorian chant, which he transformed by juxtaposing complex modal harmonies.

Saint Basil used to speak of the power of song “to unite peoples in the symphony of a single chorus.” This movement has lost none of its relevance today, as Javier Busto‘s Ave Maria shows. In the future, as in the past, great composers will continue to dedicate to choruses works that are in turn intimate, majestic, moving, and above all profoundly human.

© Lucie Renaud
Translation : Annie P. Prothin

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