In Memoria / The Clerks' Group
Medieval Songs of Remembrance


AS&V “Gaudeamus” CD GAU 362

Gregorian Chant from the Requiem Mass
1. Introit. Requiem aeternam

Johannes de SARTO (fl. c.1430-40)
2. Romanorum Rex

English (early/mid. 15th century)
3. Gloria

Guillaume DUFAY (c.1397-1474)
4. Ave regina coelorum

Jean OCKEGHEM (c.1420-1497)
5. Mort tu as navré
on CD GAU 215, OCKEGHEM. Missa Au travail suis et al.
Lucy Ballard, Torn Raskin, Jonathan Arnold, Robert Macdonald

English (early/mid. 15th century)
6. Credo

JOSQUIN (c.1455-1521)
7. Absolve quaesumus

Jacob OBRECHT (1457/8-1505)
8. Mille quingentis
on CD GAU 341, OBRECHT. Missa Missa sub tuum praesidium et al.
William Missin, Lucy Ballard, Chris Watson, Matthew Vine, Edward Wickham, Robert Macdonald

9. Nymphes des bois

10. Pater noster/Ave Maria
on The Josquin Companion (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Rebecca Outram, Lucy Ballard, Tom Raskin, Daniel Norman, Edward Wickham, Robert Macdonald

Pierre de LA RUE (c.1452-1518)
11. Cueurs desolez

12. Que vous madame
on CD GAU 306, JOSQUIN. Missa Malheur me bat et al.
Lucy Ballard, William Missin, Chris Watson, Edward Wickham

Heinrich ISAAC (1450/55-1517)
13. Quis dabit capiti meo aquam?

Gregorian chant from the Requiem Mass
14. Gradual. Requiem aeternam/In memoria


The Clerks' Group
Edward Wickham

Ruth Massey, Lucy Ballard - alto
Chris Watson, Tom Raskin - tenor
Edward Wickham, Jonathan Arnold - bass

Produced by David Wright, Gemini Sound and Adrian Peacock
All tracks except:
(5, 10) - Jonathan Freeman-Attwood,
(8, 12) - David Trendell

Engineered by David Wright, Gemini Sound
Recorded at The Chapel of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge, 2-3 September 2006
All tracks except: (5, 8, 10, 12) - St. Andrew's, West Wratting
February 1999 (5), - February 2003 (8), July 1998 (10), March 2001 (12)

Designed by Studio B, The Creative People
Cover photograph by Kevin Russ, courtesy of
Photographs of The Clerks' Group by Colin Turner

Sanctuary Classics


“In memoria aeterna erit iustus: ab auditione mala non timebit”. As so often in the Gregorian liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, the meaning and implication of this statement has changed in the process of its translation from the Book of Psalms to the Requiem mass. In Psalm 112 (or 111 in the Vulgate numbering), its two clauses appear in two separate, albeit consecutive, verses. “The righteous man will never be moved: he will be remembered for ever. He is not afraid of evil tidings; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord”. The suggestion here is that the evil tidings are of a worldly nature: a bereavement or loss of property, perhaps. But through the elision of the verses — “The righteous man will be remembered forever: he is not afraid of evil tidings” — we are transported into the theology of the-after-life, of purgatory and judgement. “Mala” in this sense refer to the rulings of the Eternal Judge on the Last Day; and in this context, “memoria” is no longer passive — it entails acts of commemoration, manifestations of piety towards the dead facilitated by monetary bequests.

One would expect to find in the will of any well-to-do personage of the Middle Ages some kind of donation to a church, monastery or convent, in return for which the dead would expect prayers, Requiem masses or some such liturgical act to be performed for the benefit of his soul. The especially pious, and those whose careers had been spent within church institutions, might make specific requests in such endowments: for certain candles to be lit on certain feast days, particular antiphons to be sung or — a common feature in the wills of musicians — extra food and wine to be given to the singers on the anniversary of the benefactor's death.

The will of the great Guillaume Dufay is a fine example of how, for a career musician and cleric, the spiritual impulse is expressed through provision for the ecclesiastical community. He asks for the choirboys to pray for him (for he was once one of them), he provides for the performance of his own polyphonic Requiem mass, and even specifies that the motet Ave regina coelorum be sung at his death bed. The text of this sophisticated motet, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, had been customised for the occasion, and includes the poignant petition, “Miserere supplicant Dufay” set with music of unprecedented directness and pathos. Unfortunately for the dying Dufay, a fellow canon at Cambrai Cathedral happened to pass away a little earlier on the same fateful day in 1474 and the staff, busying themselves with arrangements for the obsequies, overlooked Dufay's request. Thus Dufay went to meet his maker without the melodious accompaniment of the choir.

The will of Josquin Des Prez follows a similar pattern to that of Dufay. He endows at his local church of Condé-sur-l'Escaut a weekly ‘Salve’ service (in honour of the Virgin Mary and featuring the chant antiphon Salve regina) and asks that his motet Pater noster/Ave Maria be sung every year in front of his house, as part of the annual town procession. Nothing in the text or construction of this finely woven six-voice motet suggests the specific function of commemoration: rather, it forms part of a centuries-old tradition of providing for the greater adornment of already existing liturgical texts and practices. ‘Death music’ in this sense need not be gloomy. The Gloria and Credo movements included in this recording — extracted from an English mass which survives only fragmentarily — surely owe their existence to such an endowment. The cantus firmus tenor line which quotes the Introit of the Requiem mass tells us this. But this is not an overtly mournful or contemplative mass: indeed, the Lydian mode of the Requiem chant underpins a polyphony which to our modern ears sounds bright and extrovert.

The same is true of Romanorum Rex, dating from around the same time, and which employs the same Requiem tune, albeit embedded within the vocal texture rather than underpinning it. This motet, honouring the death of Albrecht II, King of the Romans (the traditional title for a successor to the Holy Roman Emperor) operates both as a celebration and commemoration of a political leader, and as a record of the singers in his employ at the time. De Sarto lists himself, a musical autograph reinforcing the declaration of pious duty which is the motet's raison d'être.

Romanorum Rex is self-conscious in other ways. Its structure, adopting a somewhat old-fashioned technique of isorhythmic organisation by which rhythmic patterns are repeated at different speeds throughout the piece, is mindfully clever. And it is around the middle of the 15th century that we find composers of musical memorials indulging a growing taste for the consciously artful and the self-referential, matching the development in humanist literature of topoi in which Classical and Christian heavenly hosts rubbed shoulders, entertained by the likes of Rhetoric and Music. Mort tu as navré — Ockeghem's lament on the death of Binchois in 1460 — is an early example of a genre which finds its most affecting expression in the famous Nymphes des bois, a lament on the death of Ockeghem in 1497, Josquin setting a text by Molinet in which nymphs and goddesses mourn the old man's passing, while the Requiem tune — a fine thread of Christian orthodoxy — is stitched unnoticed into the exquisite raiment.

In Nymphes, Josquin darkens the naturally sunny disposition of the Requiem tune (noted earlier) by transforming it into the minor, Phrygian mode, and thus creates a sound-world which we more readily associate with the solemn. It is a gesture which he must have copied from Obrecht's Mille quingentis, composed to commemorate the death of Obrecht's father, the Ghent City trumpeter Guillermus Obrecht, in 1488. However, unlike Nymphes des bois, in which Josquin and his fellow singer-composers seem to kneel reverentially at the tomb of their “bon père”, in Mille quingentis Obrecht fils seems more intent upon blowing his own trumpet than celebrating his father's talent for the instrument. The archaic pretensions of the text (probably written by Jacob) and the reference to himself as Orpheus-like, reminds one of the eulogist at a memorial service who uses the word “I” far more than etiquette permits. In Absolve quaesumus, a motet honouring an unspecified deceased — but likely to be for Obrecht who died in 1505 — Josquin by contrast opts for a traditional, undemonstrative text.

The laments so far mentioned have all employed elements of the Requiem Introit; Pierre de la Rue's Cueurs desolez is unusual in its use of another section of the Requiem mass, the sequence Dies irae. The text, probably by Jean Lemaire — a poet at the court of Emperor Charles V's regent in the Netherlands, Margaret of Austria — is thought to honour the death of Jean de Luxembourg in 1508, though the work as a whole reflects the general mood of lugubrious piety which pervades the secular music emanating from Margaret's court, a repertory which includes also Josquin's Que vous madame. In its use of the text “in pace inidipsum”, Que vous madame is related to a complex of works — possibly all laments, either specific or general — of which the most notable example is Isaac's Quis dabit capiti.

This funeral motet for Isaac's employer Lorenzo de Medici (d.1492), sets a text by the Milanese court poet Angelo Polizano. Again set in the doleful Phrygian mode, Quis dabit capiti is the quintessential humanist lament, a powerful mix of sacred and secular references and techniques. Again music is invoked — the music of the nymphs and of Phoebus — but the work concludes in despair, as the power of music, which has articulated the sentiments and ambitions of commemoration since pre-history, retreats. All is mute, all is deaf.

© Edward Wickham, 2007