söndag 6 maj 2012

Excellent Catholic music in Göteborg sometimes

The quality of music in the Catholic church is remarkably variable. The singing is shared between several local choirs, supplemented by visiting ones. The singing is generally of a high standard. This is a good arrangement as it allows plenty of preparation and takes off the pressure of having to produce something every Sunday. One of the features of the Swedish liturgy is the widespread use of traditional Gregorian tunes, but set to Swedish. Music written for Latin texts can be used for Swedish translations with little adaptation required, which is not the case with English. However, the sound of the language is very different, with more consonants, mixed vowels and some back-of-palate sounds specific to the language. During the Easter Triduum, much of the liturgy was in Swedish sung to the Gregorian tunes.

There is a bit of a fashion to sing in English, which probably should not be happening in the context of a Catholic liturgy, but works by the earlier composers such as Tallis are perfectly acceptable. As always, more problematic are some the twentieth century composition, whether they are the difficult material written from the 1920s onwards, or the English settings with banal words and music in the popular idiom, written more recently. A visiting choir last week, from Oslo were competent singers but their choice was questionable - a rendering of something that sounded as if it had been turned out by a composer who had earned his livelihood from writing jingles for 1960s TV commercials.

On the other hand, there is the local Gossekör, a junior group, who are consistently good. A couple of weeks ago they sung music by Byrd and Palestrina, but unfortunately it was a concert performance of music that really belonged in the liturgy, where it would have gone down much better. Today they did everything right with a rendering of a Haydn Mass setting that would have done credit to the London Oratory, and an English piece by an Elizabethan composer at the Communion.

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