On Sunday I went to see my girlfriend’s mother sing at a Presbyterian Church in Purcellville, Virginia. FYI- Purcellville is a very small town. Her chorale performed Mozart’s Requiem with an orchestra of perhaps 8 plus an organist. This was a wonderful example of amateur music making. Truly. They were all there because of a deep and abiding love of music and the making of music. The spirit in that church was wonderful. I hadn’t heard this piece in way too long. It is a spectacular piece of music. As with all of Mozart, there are no unnecessary notes. All the notes are in the right spots. Everything fits. His work is composition of amazing efficiency. And it is amazingly effective. You know this when you hear it performed in a country church in Purcellville VA. It was not necessary to have a monstrously large chorale or a bigger, better orchestra. The music simply works. It works because it is perfectly written. Every note, every line, resides squarely in every player’s and every singer’s sweet spot.
I also had not heard a piece sung in Latin in a while. It struck me that having the Latin mass as the libretto provides me with comforting, plain vanilla syllables that come with a built-in importance… or spiritual weight. So often in choral music, if the composer chooses a text in English, one ends up trying to hear and understand the words. that effort usually takes away from the music. Using the standardized Latin mass neatly sidesteps this part of the choral equation. You get nearly meaningless ( unless you actually speak Latin) syllables that magically have a profundity infused into them. Meaning without explicit understanding ( this pretty much sums up my religious experiences) . This allows the listener to apply his full attention to the astonishing architecture of Mozart’s music. This also made me understand the loss many Catholics felt after Vatican II when the Latin mass went toodle-oo.
Hats off to the noble music makers of Purcellville Virginia. The music moved me. And your love of music moved me.