The world’s most adept sacred choir, Voces8, is back in 2022 with a full-scale Requiem Mass. The work marks an evolution of Mass settings, as it combines the timeless Latin text of the Catholic Mass with English-language poems by American lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri. The work, titled Requiem Novum, has some of the most tonally beautiful melodies ever put to paper.
Requiem Novum is a genuine masterpiece, composed by Swedish conductor Mårten Jansson, who matched the beauty of the Mass in his music. The composition almost feels like an oratorio at points, with orchestral embellishments providing the mind with the distinct impression of stage blocking. These “action” moments almost always lead the chorus to a building moment that is shiver-inducing when the choir sings all together.
On the Voces8 website, Jansson commented of the music:
“I have also always preferred beautiful music to atonal music and that is surely the reason why the most part of my music is more on the sad side – but what a dream it would be to be able to create beautiful music that’s bubbling over with joy! My compositions consist of almost only sacred music. This is to express my own faith but also my appreciation and respect for the timeless texts that have been used for centuries after centuries.”
Voces8 puts on a stupendous showing, supported by the English a cappella group Apollo5 and the Voces8 Foundation Choir. The strings were adeptly provided by the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Voces8 Director Barnaby Smith.
Some of the pieces, like “Pie Jesu,” are sung completely unaccompanied. In this hymn. featured above, Voces8 and Apollo5 put their a cappella prowess on full display. The combination of these talented singers makes a strong argument for the continued value of unaccompanied sacred choral music in the 21st century.
“Pie Jesu” was incredibly impressive, but the work’s new treatment of the “Kyrie” is breathtaking. We were left speechless by the somber tones that gradually build through the whole piece until the music erupts into full swing around the middle. Here, the male voices take precedence in almost a reflection of how the female voices owned the “Pie Jesu.”
The poems by Silvestri are interspersed between each of the traditional Mass sections. Rather than responses to each of the Mass sections, however, they seem to be reflections on the Latin text. “Cry Not in Anguished Voices” for example, aptly follows the Kyrie, with faithful lyrics and a jubilant arrangement. Similarly, “Dies Irae” is fittingly followed by “On That Day of Weeping,” a quiet solo piece that juxtaposes the cacophony of the preceding tune.
Voces8 knew they were sitting on a hit and they were so confident that they actually released a radio edit of their “Sanctus.” This is the first time we’ve ever heard of a sacred album including a radio edit, and it can only feed its potential to be an immensely successful crossover hit. Hear their “Sanctus” below and look forward to hearing it on the radio too.