Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Merton College Choir at St. Peter's

From Vatican Radio, describing the Anglican Choral Evensong celebrated on Monday, March 13 in Rome:

An ecumenical milestone was marked in the Vatican on Monday as a traditional Anglican Choral Evensong was celebrated for the first time in St Peter’s Basilica.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of the Basilica, gave permission for the historic event during meetings with Archbishop David Moxon, Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

The renowned choir of Merton College, Oxford came to sing music written at the time of the Reformation, as well as contemporary compositions and well-loved Anglican hymns. . . .

Specifically, the choir sang works by William Byrd and used an historical Book of Common Prayer service:

Music by the great English composer William Byrd filled the basilica, as well as some more contemporary works, while the words of the liturgy and readings were those of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The Anglican News website points out that this musical exchange began with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

Merton College Choir followed in the footsteps of Westminster Abbey choir, which has sung previously in Rome with the choir of the Sistine Chapel – a collaboration that has grown out of closer ties between the two traditions, in particular following Pope Benedict XV1’s (sic) visit to London in September 2010.

The date was selected to be closest to the date of Pope St. Gregory the Great's original feast day of March 12, the date of his death in 604. Because that date so often falls in Lent, his feast was moved to September 3, the date of his episcopal consecration in 590. After Evensong, there was a procession to the tomb of St. Gregory. Of course, St. Gregory sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to Kent in 597.

Pope St. Gregory the Great, pray for us! St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!

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