Do you have this Tallis Scholars CD of Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere”? If not, have a listen to the excerpts on Amazon.com, and consider adding it to your sacred music collection. And read the Amazon.com reviews online where early music authorities, and new fans alike attest in touching ways to the transformative powers of the piece, which was written to be played and sung in the Sistine Chapel during Easter week in 1638. It is said that “Miserere” so impressed Mozart that he ran home and tried to copy it down (though no copies of his jottings exist).
The website Classical.net writes this about the services during which “Miserere” was performed:
“Allegri’s masterpiece was written sometime before 1638 for the annual celebration of the matins during Holy Week (the Easter celebration). Twice during that week, on Wednesday and Friday, the service would start at 3AM when 27 candles were extinguished one at a time until but one remained burning. According to reports, the pope would participate in these services. Allegri composed his setting of the ‘Miserere’ for the very end of the first lesson of these Tenebrae services. At the final candle, the pope would kneel before the altar and pray while the ‘Miserere’ was sung, culminating the service.”
I daresay if you have never heard the “Miserere” before, you might kneel too. I don’t want to say too much more about it. Just have a listen.
Here’s a list of Byzantine and Gregorian chants for Lent and Holy Week that I know you’ll enjoy also.