I am singing for a funeral next week, in a quartet – and although these are sad occasions, it is wonderful to be able to sing some beautiful music, and of course in such a charged setting. While re-acquainting myself with Byrd’s Ave Verum I found myself listening to the CD our group made in 2013, and I was reminded of the power of words plus music. I know, why would I need reminding?
Nevertheless I feel moved to post a link to the recording, at least of this track – a piece by Thomas Weelkes, an interesting character who was organist and director of music at Chichester Cathedral back in the day (the early 16th century), a troubled soul and not a ‘star name’ perhaps, but a composer of some wonderful music.
I sang on this recording but now I listen to it, it has its own life, and it strikes me yet again how the combination of music and words is so, so powerful. I can’t listen to the bass entry at 2.10 without my eyes pricking with tears. See what you think.
The words are from the bible, the book of Samuel, when King David sends his son Absalom into battle, asking that he be protected from the front line, but Absalom meets a terrible accident (worthy of Thomas Hardy) whereby his hair gets caught in the branches of a tree and he basically is hanged to death. David is brought the news and it’s heartbreaking.
“When David heard that Absalom was slain, he went up to his chamber and wept. And thus he said: Oh, my son! Absalom my son. Would God I had died for you.”