Tag Archives: Frank Martin

A Greater Coming Together

Tonight, as they say, is the night: by which I mean, tonight’s the first rehearsal in which both the Chamber and Cecilian Choirs will come together to sing the ‘Agnus Dei’ from the Frank Martin ‘Mass for Double Choir.’

I can’t articulate how exciting this prospect is, the chance to realise the full sound of the piece for the first time since we started learning it in individual choirs; this will be the first opportunity for us all to hear it properly.

There’ll be some problems, not least of which is a logistical one: some people sing in both choirs, and I’ll probably have to do some juggling in order to make sure each of the lines is strong, a fact made all the more problematic when the score sometimes divides each part into two; at several points, the texture blossoms into a rich, sonorous ten-part sound.

There’ll also be the challenge of arranging the choirs together, not just for the ‘Agnus Dei’ but also for the two other pieces we’re performing as a combined ensemble: Tallis’ If Ye Love Me and, to end the programme in cheerful manner, Dowland’s Fine Knacks for Ladies. I hope to have sopranos on each outer side, altos arranged across the middle, tenors on each outer side of the back row, and basses in the middle. It will be interesting to see if this works – as well as discovering if we can actually all fit into the performance space in this fashion, a fact we won’t be able to discover until we rehearse on the day, a scant two hours before the concert…

That’s not going to be a problem. I hope!

All of a piece: Martin’s ‘Mass for Double Choir’ on-line

If you’ve not heard Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir, then you should have: and now you can hear it on-line, in a live performance being streamed over on Q2 (click on the ‘play’ icon to launch).

The Latvian National Choir gave a performance as part of the Lincoln Centre’s inaugural ‘White Light Festival.’ There are also pieces by Arvo Pärt and the wonderful Veljo Tormis as well.

Frank expression: Martin

A deeply religious composer, Martin kept the manuscript to the Mass hidden for nearly forty years, feeling that the piece represented such a personal expression of belief that it should not be made public. It remained unperformed until 1963; Martin died in 1974.

Click here to visit the Q2 page: you won’t be disappointed.