For around the last thousand to 1200 years, one of the most well-known of all Gregorian chants has been the "Requiem Aeternam," the entrance chant from the Mass for the dead. As the most frequently said Mass of the year, it became familiar and even today most Catholics will have at least heard this chant as a spoken prayer: "Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him." A relatively simple chant, it gives the funeral Mass it's name "Requiem." Most major classical composers wrote a setting of the "Requiem" Mass, drawing inspiration from the many beautiful prayers of the Requiem. (Mozart's happens to be my favorite piece of music ever.) Every funeral Mass is a "Requiem" Mass, and yet at most Requiems, you no longer hear this "Requiem" chant, even though the Church still officially endorses this practice.
A few years ago I started introducing a sung Requiem chant in English at the funerals I play at my parish. In the modern Catholic Funeral, there is ample time to do so. Prior to this, for years I watched the priest and ministers recess in silence toward the back of the church to meet the casket. After the prayers, I would play the entrance hymn. At funerals with an Urn in front of the altar, I would sing the entrance hymn until they reached the front. There would be prayers, and then I would watch in silence again as the priest moves from the front of the altar to his chair. Now I sing the following English setting of the entrance antiphon instead of silence in those places, and it is meaningful and beautiful:
I then also started singing the communion antiphon before or after the hymn, which is similarly beautiful.
These settings are from the official simplified chant book of the Roman Rite called the Graduale Simplex, as transcribed from the Latin by Aristotle Esguerra. Click here to download the SATB/ORGAN parts in modern notation with verses.
Requiem Chants SIMPLEX
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