Why do Anglocatholics love Palestrina?

The old joke that Anglocatholics say is that Palestrina was the music at the original Last Supper. Which begs the question, why is Palestrina considered the defacto music for Anglocatholic churches?

I'm not a musical student so I get confused when people tell me about the musical brilliance of Palestrina.
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Comments

  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    I love Palestrina too, but I can’t answer your question because I’m not an Anglo Catholic.

    Meanwhile here’s a link to a fine performance by Voces8 of a setting by Palestrina of the Magnificat.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    Because he’s perfect, obviously. :smile:

    Seriously, I don’t really know the context for the question - IME he is simply one of many Renaissance composers that Anglo-Catholic choristers* like singing. I think part of the reason is that his better known pieces carry a lot of bang for the buck - they’re not impossibly difficult to sing, but they are very effective musically.

    (*Guilty, m’lord, at least by 2021 standards)
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    I love Palestrina too, but I can’t answer your question because I’m not an Anglo Catholic.

    Meanwhile here’s a link to a fine performance by Voces8 of a setting by Palestrina of the Magnificat.

    I wish I could sing like that. Not to mention memorize like that…
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Some do. Some don't.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    All may, none must, some should…
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Even nonconformists, pagans and papists love Palestrina😜
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited July 15
    Sadly, not enough of them. And when did you last hear a Palestrina anthem in a nonconformist church, never mind a full service setting?
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Not all that long ago in the Hunter Baillie Memorial ( Presbyterian) church here in suburban Sydney.

    You’d have more chance of hearing Palestrina in a nonconformist shack here than you would at St Andrew’s Cathedral!
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    IME nonconformist churches and chapels are quite resistant to singing in Latin as part of worship, and many do not have forms of service which would sit comfortably with a full setting.
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    In my experience those Anglo Catholic churches with choirs - the minority let me say, the typical AC church being a back streets affair - it is Mozart's Sparrow Mass that is over exposed.

    I'd settle for Byrd
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Quite so and the majority of RC churches would not either, especially as in the Novus Ordo of the Mass both Gloria and Sanctus are regarded as congregational rather than choral movements.

    However a Latin anthem ( or motet, call it what you like) may sometimes be heard and appreciated in a nonconformist setting.

    Mind you “chapels” in Oz are uncommon, and so called mainly by Brethren and the (increasingly rare) Elim Pentecostals
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Not all that long ago in the Hunter Baillie Memorial ( Presbyterian) church here in suburban Sydney.

    You’d have more chance of hearing Palestrina in a nonconformist shack here than you would at St Andrew’s Cathedral!

    Decades since we were there, but from memory the acoustics would be about right. Sadly, you're all too right about St Andrew's.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    why is Palestrina considered the defacto music for Anglocatholic churches?

    Is it? not in any AC church I've attended. Personally I prefer Victoria or Byrd.

  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Depends on the choir, but 9/10 yes agree.
  • My wife used to teach at a church school in London. As my own church didn't provide one, we always went to their Christmas Ever 'midnight' service.

    The church had a strong musical tradition and a good choir, so the Director of Music always essayed an anthem (or was it canticles?) by Victoria. These should have been lovely, and on "normal" Sundays may well have been. But, at Christmas, half his forces were always absent, so the whole thing fell flat (or sharp, or both at the same time). Not good.

    I also remember another church, "somewhere in England", whose Director of Music had previously worked at a cathedral. All too often the music he decided upon was just that little bit too difficult for the choir and the services were quite painful. I wish he'd cut his coat according to his musical cloth!
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Our faithful group of lovely pensioners can't really sing a line in unison, sometimes. Getting them to do harmonies in Latin would be wild - like Messiaen, Stockhausen and (if I brought my sax) Archie Shepp, all at once :smile:
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    now you see that's the 1/10 I want to listen to
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    where 1/10 could also end up as the time sig
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    why is Palestrina considered the defacto music for Anglocatholic churches?

    Is it? not in any AC church I've attended. Personally I prefer Victoria or Byrd.

    You are English. Tastes vary across the world

  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    There are choirs and choirs. For many years I sang in both Roman and Anglo-catholic ( unpaid, parish) choirs ( admittedly one RC choir at the cathedral in Western Sydney) and we did pretty bloody well. The traddy Triddies in Sydney ( even if they verge on the cultic) have at least 2 parish choirs who likewise do well.

    Don’t judge all RC parish choirs by your experience.

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Our faithful group of lovely pensioners can't really sing a line in unison, sometimes. Getting them to do harmonies in Latin would be wild - like Messiaen, Stockhausen and (if I brought my sax) Archie Shepp, all at once :smile:

    Then why are they presuming to inflict what they do on other people?
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    There are choirs and choirs. For many years I sang in both Roman and Anglo-catholic ( unpaid, parish) choirs ( admittedly one RC choir at the cathedral in Western Sydney) and we did pretty bloody well. The traddy Triddies in Sydney ( even if they verge on the cultic) have at least 2 parish choirs who likewise do well.

    Don’t judge all RC parish choirs by your experience.

    Yes there are exceptions. But the rule is that parish choirs are more about members desire to perform than the congregations joy in hearing them.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    Sojourner wrote: »
    why is Palestrina considered the defacto music for Anglocatholic churches?

    Is it? not in any AC church I've attended. Personally I prefer Victoria or Byrd.

    You are English. Tastes vary across the world

    Indeed, but I was answering the question, which was 'why is it considered the default?' not 'why is it considered the default in some places?' so surely 'is it? because it isn't here' is a valid answer?
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    The lack of congregational joy may well reflect both the tastes and musical experiences of said congregations

    I was astonished at how 2 RC congregations reacted to the new experience of choirs singing chant and polyphony; the response was overwhelmingly positive
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Our faithful group of lovely pensioners can't really sing a line in unison, sometimes. Getting them to do harmonies in Latin would be wild - like Messiaen, Stockhausen and (if I brought my sax) Archie Shepp, all at once :smile:

    Then why are they presuming to inflict what they do on other people?

    The congo may well appreciate the effort

  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited July 15
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Our faithful group of lovely pensioners can't really sing a line in unison, sometimes. Getting them to do harmonies in Latin would be wild - like Messiaen, Stockhausen and (if I brought my sax) Archie Shepp, all at once :smile:

    Then why are they presuming to inflict what they do on other people?

    The congo may well appreciate the effort

    I was going to say.

    I used to sing in a G&S society. We also did concert formats for all sorts of groups, mostly attended by elderly members of the community. We had one member who, well, she could hold a tune, but to my ears wasn't exactly wonderful. Her approach to tuning was that if the desired note was somewhere in the three semitone vibrato it was close enough. Think of violin bow and saw.

    Ironically (but totally without irony on her part) one of her standards was "I want to sing in Opera". (https://youtu.be/ReSlfsw5iJY)

    The audiences we got at these places loved her.

    Similarly, I think you will probably find that the sort of congregation that musters up a group of pensioners who can't quite manage unison as a choir probably doesn't have many members who would find that a problem.

    I understand where you're coming from; I've seen comments on forums along the lines of "can you recommend some anthems for our choir? We can't do most of the ones we've got because our tenors can't go above an E", which rather stretches the definition of "tenor", but...
  • TheOrganistTheOrganist Shipmate
    Why like Palestrina? Because its easy!
  • SojournerSojourner Shipmate
    And gorgeous
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    There are choirs and choirs. For many years I sang in both Roman and Anglo-catholic ( unpaid, parish) choirs ( admittedly one RC choir at the cathedral in Western Sydney) and we did pretty bloody well. The traddy Triddies in Sydney ( even if they verge on the cultic) have at least 2 parish choirs who likewise do well.

    Don’t judge all RC parish choirs by your experience.

    Yes there are exceptions. But the rule is that parish choirs are more about members desire to perform than the congregations joy in hearing them.
    Not at all my experience (in the Southern US).

  • Where are these Anglo-Catholic churches singing Palestrina?

    None round here - we've hardly got past Dom Gregory Murray...

    I reckon you're more likely to find Palestrina being sung, in a liturgical setting, in a Cathedral. Ours seems to prefer 19thC French composers, though they do sing a mean Haydn or Mozart Mass now and then.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Why like Palestrina? Because its easy!

    Its like Mozart .... sounds simple, looks easy, really really hard to do well.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    Where are these Anglo-Catholic churches singing Palestrina?

    Pusey House 1-2 times per term (ish). But they have a paid choir.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    There are Anglo-Catholic parish churches (eg St Mary Magdalene in Toronto) that have based the solemn mass liturgies around Gregorian chant and Palestrina works very well in the context of this basic liturgical sensibility.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Marsupial wrote: »
    There are Anglo-Catholic parish churches (eg St Mary Magdalene in Toronto) that have based the solemn mass liturgies around Gregorian chant and Palestrina works very well in the context of this basic liturgical sensibility.

    Hope they do the chant in Latin. Gregorian chant in English is like the result of an attemped mating of a goldfish and a porcupine. An abomination. Apart from one or two simple psalm tones it involves GBH being committed either to the chant or to the stresses of English.
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    It would probably work better in Latin, but we have become accustomed to plainchant in English in this part of the world.

    I am told than in early days everything was sung in English, even Palestrina and the like. I think that would have been very strange.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Personally I find anything sung in Latin a profound turn-off, whether by Palestrina or anyone else. Furthermore, inserting bits of sung Latin into a vernacular liturgy breaks the flow of the service and turns solemn words into the impression of a mere musical interlude in a way that singing the same words in a tongue understanded of the people doesn't.

    Because the stress pattern of Latin intonation really isn't very similar to English, I'm also not that convinced that trying to sing Latin chant in English works that well either. It's why, if one must chant, I much prefer Anglican chant to faux-medieval ones.

    But then I'm not Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism has no feel good resonances for me.

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Personally I find anything sung in Latin a profound turn-off, whether by Palestrina or anyone else. Furthermore, inserting bits of sung Latin into a vernacular liturgy breaks the flow of the service and turns solemn words into the impression of a mere musical interlude in a way that singing the same words in a tongue understanded of the people doesn't.

    Because the stress pattern of Latin intonation really isn't very similar to English, I'm also not that convinced that trying to sing Latin chant in English works that well either. It's why, if one must chant, I much prefer Anglican chant to faux-medieval ones.

    But then I'm not Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism has no feel good resonances for me.

    Thats the thing, anglican chant is desjgned to fit the stresses of English which are different from Latin. Not anglo-Catholic either ..... but I'll leave that one right there.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    Although I sing in a small and demanding early music choir, I tend to avoid churches with choirs.
    If the choir’s bad or even mediocre it will ruin a lot of good music and/or sing utter crap; if all members of the choir are expert, either the choir’s views really dominate the worship or it’s an absolutely massive church with quite an elite congregation, so I’d then avoid the church for those reasons.
  • KarlLB wrote: »
    Sojourner wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    I would rather rip my own ears off than listen to a parish choir sing Palestrina.

    Our faithful group of lovely pensioners can't really sing a line in unison, sometimes. Getting them to do harmonies in Latin would be wild - like Messiaen, Stockhausen and (if I brought my sax) Archie Shepp, all at once :smile:

    Then why are they presuming to inflict what they do on other people?

    The congo may well appreciate the effort
    Similarly, I think you will probably find that the sort of congregation that musters up a group of pensioners who can't quite manage unison as a choir probably doesn't have many members who would find that a problem.

    Karl hits the nail on the head. And - when people want to serve - let them serve. It might scare people off, but where we are - I don't think it really matters for a gracefully dying black church on a council estate which makes the news now and again. But we do have a good, very faithful organist (God preserve her) and we do really like a congregational sing, because we are Methodists. And (I've mentioned this here before) the elderly Caribbean congregation gets let off the more Guardian-y new-hymn end of the new hymn book for cultural reasons. Which suits me (white, from Essex, 30 years younger) just fine :smile:
  • MarsupialMarsupial Shipmate
    edited July 15
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Enoch wrote: »
    Personally I find anything sung in Latin a profound turn-off, whether by Palestrina or anyone else. Furthermore, inserting bits of sung Latin into a vernacular liturgy breaks the flow of the service and turns solemn words into the impression of a mere musical interlude in a way that singing the same words in a tongue understanded of the people doesn't.

    Because the stress pattern of Latin intonation really isn't very similar to English, I'm also not that convinced that trying to sing Latin chant in English works that well either. It's why, if one must chant, I much prefer Anglican chant to faux-medieval ones.

    But then I'm not Anglo-Catholic and Anglo-Catholicism has no feel good resonances for me.

    Thats the thing, anglican chant is desjgned to fit the stresses of English which are different from Latin. Not anglo-Catholic either ..... but I'll leave that one right there.

    I've done both, and both have their up and downs, but personally a diet made up entirely of Anglican chant is not my thing. There are some brilliant settings out there (Howells Ps. 121 and 122 come to mind, as does Bairstow Ps. 67), but IME they are the exception rather than the rule.

    If anyone is curious about how the plainchant psalm tradition was Englished in Canada the resource is the red Canadian psalter (1963), edited by Healey Willan. Willan was one of the architects of the liturgy at SMM Toronto, along with the rector at the time, Griffin Hiscocks. He was also on the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto and one of the first Canadian composers of any significance.

    There used to be a strong tradition of competent amateur Anglican church choirs in Canada, but it has been under stress for decades, along with much else in the Anglican and musical worlds. I am huge fan of professionally performed early choral music, but I worry about the long-term viability of the professional side of this as its amateur side dies out.
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    why is Palestrina considered the defacto music for Anglocatholic churches?

    Is it? not in any AC church I've attended. Personally I prefer Victoria or Byrd.

    I am not an attender at AC churches so I have never heard of it.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I would consider myself an Anglo-Catholic and don't know what Palestrina is 😳
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited July 15
    Pomona wrote: »
    I would consider myself an Anglo-Catholic and don't know what Palestrina is 😳

    It's a cold cured meat product, often eaten on rye bread.
  • For those of you who dont know about Palestrina, his Missa Brevis:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tku8ceGJ4dk

  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Latin anthems are pretty unusual in English AC churches in my experience, I've only encountered them at large cathedral services - and even then only once or twice.

    Honestly, I don't think your average churchgoer who attends an AC church would be able to tell you who composed the music or even that it's not just some kind of default music that gets sent to churches with the service booklets. In my experience only cathedrals actually mention who the composers are. I think music culture - NOT the music itself - is representative of a pretty huge cultural barrier within AC churches (and for many of us, the music is not the central feature of church).
  • I would expect the kind of fussy A-C with an interest in the minutiae of tat to also be likely to enjoy renaissance polyphony. I'm not sure you can generalize to the wider population, though.

    I'm surprised at
    Pomona wrote: »
    Honestly, I don't think your average churchgoer who attends an AC church would be able to tell you who composed the music or even that it's not just some kind of default music that gets sent to churches with the service booklets. In my experience only cathedrals actually mention who the composers are.

    though - every hymn book in use at my TEC shack prints the name of the composer, and we always print the names of the composers of the anthems and other sacred music in the service sheet. In my experience, that's pretty normal. Are you talking about a context where you have the music printed, but don't have a composer identified, or a context where the organist just plays something and the people sing the responses along to it?
  • TelfordTelford Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    Pomona wrote: »
    I would consider myself an Anglo-Catholic and don't know what Palestrina is 😳

    It's a cold cured meat product, often eaten on rye bread.

    How very jocular
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    In England most congregational books are words-only. No music is printed, nor composers. Only the choir, and one or two musical people are likely to use a music hymn book, and trebles/sopranos may have melody-only copies.
  • Pomona wrote: »
    Latin anthems are pretty unusual in English AC churches in my experience, I've only encountered them at large cathedral services - and even then only once or twice.

    When I happened to be in Edinburgh at the time of the annual Gaelic Eucharist the choir sang in Latin. I'm not sure whether this was due to a lack of Gaelic choral mass settings or limited time for the choir to learn them without massacring the pronunciation.
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