Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lamentations and Strepitus: Tenebrae

Today is the Wednesday of Holy Week, and is sometimes called "Spy Wednesday" in reference to Judas Iscariot plotting with the Sanhedrin to turn Jesus in for 30 pieces of silver. Liturgically, the Masses for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week are unexceptional. The office of Tenebrae, the vigil/Matins celebration of darkness uses extinguished candles, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the strepitus, loud noises to represent the earthquake mentioned in the Gospels after Jesus died on the cross, to prepare for the Holy Triduum.

Thomas Tallis famously set the Lamentations in two versions, while the versions of Robert White and William Byrd are less well known.

Unfortunately (lamentably?), there does not seem to be a CD with the Tallis, Byrd, AND White versions for comparison. Magnificat recorded Byrd and White on Where late the sweet birds sang, while the Oxford Camerata recorded Talls and White on their disc of Lamentations! Dating on these compositions places them in Elizabeth's reign--yet they are written in Latin. Humanist that she was, the queen allowed Latin to be used in the liturgy at Court, at Oxford, and at Cambridge, since it would be understood in those venues.

Here is a recording from Magnificat of part one Thomas Tallis's setting of the Lamentations:

And here is a recording of the strepitus at the end of Tenebrae:

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