Friday, 2 April 2010

Holy Saturday Tenebræ Cancelled


Owing to complications brought about by three days of no electricity in the Cathedral, we have with regret taken the decision to cancel Holy Saturday Tenebræ. Our sincere apologies to those of you who had intended to come. Next year, God willing...

The Schola was grateful to receive permission to bring some of the marvellous liturgy of the Great Week back to St Mary’s Cathedral this year. From early February we had been arranging additional practices in an attempt to learn all the music for Tenebræ. This quickly proved to be an impossibility, given the sheer amount to be learnt (the total duration of these Tenebræ, where Vigils and Lauds are chanted together without a break, over the three days of the Triduum amounts to some eight hours of chanting): antiphons, psalms and responsories combine to imbue these great offices with more drama that in all the operas ever penned by man.

The very name, Tenebræ, derived most probably from the Good Friday responsory, “Tenebræ factæ sunt” (although some scholars differ on this), had a certain relevance this year, given that from the Tuesday until Good Friday morning the Cathedral had been completely without electric power supply. (Purists might add that the relevance would have been all the greater had not the 1955 reform of the Liturgy introduced by Pope Pius XII stipulated that Tenebræ, instead of being anticipated on the night before, should now take place on the morning of the day itself!) Shadows are not seen as clearly in daylight, but the overwhelming culminating effect of nigh on three hours of uninterrupted chant on each of three successive days, I would venture to say, leaves one with more than just an inkling of the enormity of what took place over those three days of Our Lord’s Passion. As for the cantors, I can vouch for us all when I say that the physical effect cannot be much different from that of running a marathon! We were delighted that Fr Brendan Gerard FSSP, in Edinburgh to assist Fr Emerson over Easter, was able to be present with us as officiant for the two days when we were able to chant this great office: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The Schola’s thanks are also due in no small measure to Mark Hamid, who at very short notice set about applying his carpentry skills and coming up with a magnificent Tenebræ Hearse, without which we could not in all conscience have gone ahead with the solemnity we managed to achieve.