The English word “chord” derives from Middle English “cord”, a shortening of “accord” in the original sense of “agreement” and later “harmonious sound”.

Chords are formed when three or more musical notes are played together. (Two’s an interval, three’s a chord). There are complex laws of harmony that determine which notes work well together, and the result can be discordant, sad, sweet, jazzy, triumphal, mystic, psalmic or many other moods. It depends on what the composer wants to evoke in the listener, and that is the point. Music is a powerful form of emotional communication. As a piece of music progresses through various chord structures, the listener is brought on an emotional odyssey which intertwines with the meaning of the lyrics. The response is highly individual, and depends on the listener’s emotional history and balance.

I was very powerfully moved on listening to the Eric Whitacre piece published the other day, and thought I should find out more about how it was done. I have no musical training or background, and only know what I like. My ears were opened like never before.

Choral polyphony requires no technical instrumental skill, just lots of practice and teamwork. Even bass drones like me have a part to play in swelling the sound, or rattling the rafters. I think it should be encouraged in Catholic Church music right down to the parish level, and not just left to the professionals, or those who love the sound of their own voice.

There’s a lot of choir work in Heaven. We should all start training now.

Please consider the comments section below to be open season for the posting of links to beautiful a cappella Christian choral music. The best links may form the basis of  future posts.


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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11 Responses to Chords

  1. Biltrix says:

    Sublime! Beautiful piece! Thanks for posting it and for the accompanying article.

    At your invitation, I want to share one of my all time favorites Tomas Luis de Victoria, Popule meus (a.k.a., “The Reproaches”). Always makes me weep on Good Friday, every time. I also love it for the Byzantine-ish style, which is not as typical of Vitoria as his Palestrina style polyphony pieces are, and for the interplay of Greek and Latin. The Hagios Theos is the mercy prayer that is very popular for Orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholic Christians: Holy God, Mighty God, Immortal God, Have Mercy on us. So deep in meaning and rich in expressing God’s love for us, fallen creatures. (I love this piece!)

    This particular version integrates a solo part that I had not heard performed before. It’s a nice touch, adding more variation to an already diversified piece.

    Thanks again and have a blessed Lenten journey, with Christ!


  2. golden chersonnese says:

    You appear to be a burrito with a modern ear, brother.

    If you like Whitacre, you would probably like Lauridsen:


  3. golden chersonnese says:

    More Lauridsen, dear Burrito, since you asked (well, sort of)?

    The alumni Choir of the 402 year-old (Dominican) Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, Manila.


  4. golden chersonnese says:

    Oops! And now for the Philippines and Lauridsen, not Vietnam.


  5. golden chersonnese says:

    Dear Brother Burro, where art thou?

    For our Roman Pontiff Emeritus, His Holiness Benedict XVI. I think that this was the gist of his final address to us, his flock: To serve is to reign.

    Fr Christopher Willcock, a Sydney-born priest of the Australian Jesuit province, is a theology professor at the Jesuit Theological College in Melbourne (and elsewhere). He is also a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium in composition and a well regarded composer for church and concert hall (and for Hyacinth-type religious musical soirees, like this piece perhaps) – so not to be confused with that ex-chap of the Portsmouth diocese. Besides, I’ve known him for over 30 years.

    (teresa and Brother Burro, please let us know what you think of it. Just the thing for our Pontiff Emeritus, I think.)


  6. golden chersonnese says:

    Alessandro Striggio’s 40 part Ecce Beatam Lucem, said to have inspired Tallis’ 40 part Spem in Alium.

    Music here:

    Click to access Striggio_Ecce_beatam_lucem_FS_PML.pdf


  7. golden chersonnese says:

    Translation of “Ecce Beatam Lucem” (above):

    Behold the blessed light,
    behold eternal goodness,
    you throng of the elect, praise God and His Son
    who is equal to the Father; praise the splendour of the deity.
    Benign power and majesty are seen everywhere.
    The dazzling splendour of the sun
    is matched by you, the moon,
    and by the stars shining brightly in their great glory.
    O how such eternal nourishment feeds holy minds!
    Mercy and love are here, and always have been;
    here is the eternal fount of life.
    Here the Patriarchs and Prophets, here David,
    King David the bard,
    singing and playing instruments still praise eternal God.
    O honey and sweet nectar, O blessed place!
    This delight, this peace, this goal, this mark
    draw us from here straight to Paradise.


  8. golden chersonnese says:

    Brother Burrito, I’m hazarding a guess you’ll like this one:


  9. golden chersonnese says:

    The young Norwegian, Ola Gjeilo.


  10. golden chersonnese says:

    Brother Burrito, we couldn’t let Good Friday pass without the “O vos omnes” from Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories :

    O all ye that pass by the way, attend, and see if there be any sorrow like to my sorrow. (Lamentations 1:12)


  11. golden chersonnese says:

    Chords is it, Brother Burro? Here’s 10 whole hours of chords, as a matter of fact:


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