I am a deeply religious person. I also love music. I find things in both that are moving, often in ways that I cannot explain and I love that about both. However, it is often difficult to find intersections of the two. Most modern “church” music is dull and plodding and can feel more like penance than the full spectrum of worship.
Vigilate!, subtitled English Polyphony in Dangerous Times, is an exception. This collection of compositions from Elizabethan English composers (William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Thomas Morley, Peter Philips, Robert White and Thomas Tomkins) is profoundly emotional, perhaps because the composers were writing in a time and place of religious persecution and upheaval, but also because the album is that rare modern recording of centuries old music that does justice to both the past and present, or more importantly, finds the common themes across time. Between them, the composers worked during the Tudor period up through the English Civil War, often operating in the gray areas between Catholicism and evolving Anglicanism. The intensity of the religious fervor of these men is brought to life in this modern rendering as a reminder that faith is not always easy, but it is beautiful in a way that defies understanding from those who would have it be easy. The same can be said of music. Polyphony often has beauty that defies comprehension. It is a far cry from “three chords and the truth,” but Truth abounds in these pieces nonetheless.
The Monteverdi Choir here act as evangelists of both timeless faith and Renaissance music in a way that can appeal to listeners who are not necessarily comfortable with either.
Released: August 2014