Lectio Divina Set to Music:
Brahms’ German Requiem

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I have written elsewhere about music as another road to adoration, but in this post I’d like to focus on music as a way to illuminate Scripture.   My wife and I attended a performance of Brahms “Ein Deutsche Requiem” recently, done by a local choral group and a local collection of orchestral talent.   It was magnificent!  A few weeks earlier  I had happened to run into one of the members of the choral group, a member of our Church, and had talked about the forthcoming performance.  He had said thinking about it gave him “goose bumps”.    I got them too listening to the stirring Second Movement (the Youtube clip above is of a performance directed by von Karajan of that movement;  the quote at the heading, 1 Peter 1:25 is the text for that).

Reading through the program, I was struck by how much the Scripture texts from the Old and New Testaments were enhanced by the music;  perhaps one might think of it as “Lectio Divina” in a musical context.  And I’ll mention another movement from the Requiem that moved me greatly, looking forward as I am to my tenth decade.  Here is a video clip of this by the Newfoundland Symphony–I should know who the baritone is, I think I’ve seen him in one or two operas, but I can’t place the name; the text is Psalm 39:4-7:

One other thing struck me, looking at the audience: the Lutheran church where the concert was held was packed almost to capacity, but the median age of the audience was probably close to 60–very few young people. I remember way long ago when I attended elementary school (a public school out west) we had music sessions at least once a week–classical mostly (I remembered how all the kids started laughing when the William Tell Overture was played, the theme song for “The Lone Ranger”).

Alas, the younger generation (and here I give myself away–I’m thinking of those under 50) have no taste for classical music. Hence the decline of liturgical music and the use of hymns accompanied by drums and guitars, hymns that are the essence of banality.  Oh well, there will be heavenly choirs, and maybe even some in Purgatory for me to listen to.

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