MONTEVERDI VESPERS

Friday, March 19, 2010
Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph

Lesser Feasts and Fasts describes what little we know of Joseph in this way:

In the face of circumstances that distressed even a man of such tenderness and obedience to God as Joseph, he accepted the vocation of  protecting Mary and being a father to Jesus. He is honored in Christian tradition for the nurturing care and protection he provided for the infant Jesus and his mother in taking them to Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, and in rearing him as a faithful Jew at Nazareth. The Gospel according to Matthew pictures Joseph as a man of deep devotion, open to mystical experiences, and as a man of compassion, who accepted his God-given responsibility with gentleness and humility.

Joseph was a pious Jew, a descendant of David, and a carpenter by trade. As Joseph the Carpenter, he is considered the patron saint of the working man, one who not only worked with his hands, but taught his trade to Jesus. The little that is told of him is a testimony to the trust in God which values simple everyday duties, and gives an example of a loving husband and father.

O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up Joseph to be the guardian of thy incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

7:30 PM

 

Friday, March 19 at 7:30 pm

This feast consisted principally of Music . . . so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so superexcellent, that it did ravish and stupefy all those strangers that never heard the like. . . . I was for the time even rapt up with Saint Paul into the third heaven.

So commented the English writer Thomas Coryat in 1611, after hearing a Vesper service at the Church of San Rocco, Venice in 1608. We do not know exactly what music he heard, but his description could well be applied to the sumptuous Vespro della beata Vergine (Vespers of 1610) of Monteverdi, with their opulent sonorities, dramatic and emotional effects, innovative harmonies, and beautiful melodic lines. One of the great landmarks of western music, the Vespers of 1610 reveal Monteverdi as a consummate master of both the old and the new, mixing styles and influences to create a masterpiece of the sacred repertoire.

In this masterpiece, Monteverdi blends the newer baroque practice with the musical styles of the Renaissance to set the Psalms, Litany and Magnificat of the Vespers service. The result is music that is both dramatic and sublime and which is further enhanced by the exceptional acoustics of Saint Thomas Church. His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, England’s leading early wind ensemble, and Concert Royal Strings accompany the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys in a performance of Monteverdi’s powerful Vespers, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the work’s publication.