Cathedrals and Composers – Sacred music for worship in “that place”

Cathedrals and Composers – Sacred music for worship in “that place”

The very nature of a cathedral draws us “in and away”

in from our daily world and away to a place yet to come-a place from which we draw inspiration beyond ourselves, spiritual refreshment for the days in which there is little, creating a “well of beauty” to which we may return again and again as we need.

Along with that overwhelming awe created visually by these spaces, the music associated with these places and, indeed inspired by them, also lifts from the everyday and routine  - giving us a momentary glimpse into our “home yet to come” and, like its visual counterpart, creates for us ribbons of choral sounds, often intertwined with the instrumental voice of the church – the organ – which we may then take back into daily activities as a beloved friend with whom can sing and dance during our many days here.

For over thirty years, the internationally acclaimed choir, Gloriae Dei Cantoreshas frequently turned to the music inspired by these great cathedrals and their composers to create what is nothing less than a vast archive of recorded, living experience of these places, their people, their history, and the lives God saw fit to place within them.

Indeed, the musical roots of Gloriae Dei Cantores, are sunk deep into and spring out again from Gregorian chant as the choir is from a modern Benedictine CommunityThe Community of Jesus in Orleans, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.  The Church of the Transfiguration, the basilican style church at the Community of Jesus, is featured in the book Places of Light, written by Gernot Candolini and Jennifer Brandon and published under the Mount Tabor Books series by Paraclete Press.

Many (if not all, at some point in their history) of the cathedrals in this extraordinary collection knew “the voice of chant” and, as you read, you might want to experience those sounds simultaneously. When you turn to the exquisite pages inviting you into St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, take a moment to bring up choral works of Mozart, who was married in this cathedral and spent at least a year in 1781 living in Vienna. (Even legend says that it was here that Mozart first listened to the works of Bach and was heard to exclaim “Ah, a composer from whom I can finally learn!”)

Of course, the great Basilica of St Peter in Rome gave rise to one of the great masters of masters of Renaissance polyphonic (many-voiced) choral works – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Or, if you turn to the breath-taking pages of Washington National Cathedral, listen to the choral works of Leo Sowerby, who, second only in symphonic fame to Aaron Copland in the mid-twentieth century, was the founding director of the College of Church Musicians within the walls and auspices of our nation’s cathedral. Sowerby set a standard for all aspects of church music through his own work and that of his students – particularly during the 1960s – an era which saw the closure of many church music programs across the country. And, when looking through the pages of The Church of the Transfiguration, perhaps you might want to listen to Psalmody as so many of the Old Testament images are contained within them.

It was the German poet Goethe who said the best architecture is “silent music.” Perhaps this book and these recordings will give you an opportunity to step into each cathedral and both see and hear that space come alive through sacred music “for worship in that place.”


JOIN US TODAY!  June 17th | 1pm ET — Embark on a virtual pilgrimage through the great cathedrals of the world with Places of Light: The Gift of Cathedrals to the World. Authors Gernot Candolini and Jennifer Brandon share powerful stories connected to the sacred spaces featured in their book, and invite us to explore the architectural and artistic elements that make these churches what they are.  Click here to register.


Friday, August 7th | Summer Retreat with Msgr. Timothy Verdon—The Art of Prayer. Click here for more information, and to register. 

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