Every now and then I hear the Old Latin Mass described as a somber affair. Many think only dirges are sung and that everything is quite subdued. Granted a low Mass can be rather quiet as the Priest whispers much of the Mass. But a sung Mass in the Old Rite (Extraordinary Form) can be quite elaborate, especially if the Choir sings in polyphony (harmony). Some of the greatest music in history was composed during the Renaissance in a form known as Renaissance Polyphony. It is a kind of harmonic singing that features four or more independent melodies sung simultaneously in rich harmony. Much of this Church music was written in Dance Time such that you can almost dance to it!
Enjoy this brief video of the Angus Dei (try not to tap your toe) and perhaps you’ll see what I mean. The song was recorded at the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis – one of the most beautiful Churches in the Country. (See photo above). The text is Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem (Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace). Enjoy a beautiful sample of Renaissance Polyphony.