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Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 09 June 2009 14:09

Mary Beth Newkumet of Life After Sunday sent me a draft of the online version of LAS small group process that they are planning to make available - for free! - online soon.

And one of the links for the first topic, Wonder, was this magnificent video. The music is Gregorio Allegri's Miserere sung by the King's College Choir of Oxford. Ten minutes of pure praise.

And there is a wonderful story behind the music:

The "Miserere" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri is a setting of Psalm 51 (50) composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during the Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week. At some point, it became forbidden to transcribe the music and it was only allowed to be performed at those particular services, adding to the mystery surrounding it. Writing it down or performing it elsewhere was punishable by excommunication.

The Miserere is written for two choirs, one of five and one of four voices. One of the choirs sings a simple version of the original Miserere chant; the other, spatially separated, sings an ornamented "commentary" on this.

Although there were a handful of supposed transcriptions in various royal courts in Europe, none of them succeeded in capturing the beauty of the Miserere as performed annually in the Sistine Chapel. According to the popular story (backed up by family letters), the fourteen-year-old Mozart was visiting Rome, when he first heard the piece during the Wednesday service. Later that day, he wrote it down entirely from memory, returning to the Chapel that Friday to make minor corrections. Some time during his travels, he met the British historian Dr Charles Burney, who obtained the piece from him and took it to London, where it was published in 1771. Once published, the ban was lifted and Allegri's Miserere has since become one of the most popular a cappella choral works now performed.

Mozart was summoned to Rome by the Pope, only instead of excommunicating the boy, the Pope showered praises on him for his feat of musical genius.

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