Monday 20 April 2009

Brumel's Earthquake Mass

On Saturday I joined a group of singers in Cambridge to give a scratch performance of Antoine Brumel's Earthquake Mass. It sounds an unlikely event, given that the mass is a substantial work in 12 parts, but having spent the day rehearsing we managed a very creditable performance of the work.

The piece gets its name because Brumel uses the plainchant Antiphon from Lauds for Easter which includes the bit from St. Matthew's Gospel about the veil of the temple being rent and the earth quaking. Brumel uses a lot of canonic effects so that the work sound tremendous. Rather curiously, the majority of parts lie in the tenor range. The soprano parts are low. The counter-tenor and tenor parts are all pretty much in the same range and the bass parts, for the most part, lie high. So instead of using 12 parts to cover a wide vocal range, Brumel uses 12 parts to create an amazing wodge of sound in the middle of the choral range.

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