See & Hear
Music “has the power to lead us back … to the Creator of all harmony, creating a resonance within us which is like being in tune with the beauty and truth of God, with the reality which no human knowledge or philosophy can ever express” (Pope Benedict XVI, Castel Gandolfo, September 4, 2007). We are pleased to share audio and video of the Basilica musicians’ year-round contributions to beauty in the Liturgy as they help visitors and pilgrims to enter that reality.
Watch & Listen to the Choir of the Basilica
Timor et tremor
“Timor et tremor” is a six-voice motet by Orlando di Lasso (1532–1594), a Franco-Flemish musician who also spent time in Rome, most notably working as the choirmaster of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. He preceded Palestrina in this role by only two years, but the two never met. This motet’s text is taken from several psalms, and it is most appropriate for the Lenten season. The first line translates to “fear and trembling have taken hold of me”, but the text continues on to ask the Lord to comfort us, for He is our refuge and strength.
Pierre de Manchicourt’s “Caro mea vere est cibis” is a motet for five voices, set to the text of the Alleluia verse for the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Manchicourt (c. 1510–1564) served as choirmaster of the Flemish Chapel under King Philip II of Spain during the Spanish Golden Age. Though the text itself is for a specific feast, this motet may be sung on any day when the readings focus on the Eucharist, chiefly Holy Thursday, when the Church commemorates the Institution of the Eucharist.
Corpus Christi Communio
At the solemn choral Eucharist, the Choir of the Basilica sings the Entrance Antiphon (Introit) and the Communion Antiphon (Communio). This setting of the Communio text for the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ was composed for unison voices—sung here by the men of the choir—by the Basilica’s very own Director of Music, Dr. Peter Latona (b. 1968). The resident Choir of the Basilica is privileged to premiere and regularly perform sacred music composed by the Director of Music and the Associate Director of Music.
At the close of each day, the Church bids the faithful to offer prayers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. Four antiphons are used for this purpose: “Alma Redemptoris Mater”, “Ave Regina Cælorum”, and “Salve Regina”. Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) composed this setting of the antiphon sung during the Easter season, “Regina Cœli”, for the amateur women’s choir he founded in Hamburg. Born to a Lutheran family, Brahms composed extensively in German, and this was one of only four Latin texts that he set to music. “Regina Cœli” is sung here by the upper voices of the choir.
One of the most beloved polyphonic pieces of all time is Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s motet “Sicut cervus”, a setting of Psalm 42. The soul’s thirst for the living God, which is quenched by the waters of baptism, is serenely yet fervently expressed in this piece, originally sung as part of the Easter Vigil liturgy. It is now often used when Psalm 42 is appointed for the day. Palestrina (1525–1594) was a prolific composer of Renaissance polyphony who served as the choirmaster of the Cappella Giulia of St. Peter’s Basilica and sang for a time in the Sistine Chapel Choir.
See & Hear the Beautiful Carillon Bells
The bells from the Knight’s Tower call the faithful to prayer and announce significant events in the life of the Church. The Basilica’s campanile houses a 56-bell carillon, a gift of the Knights of Columbus. The bells are rung each hour, prior to Mass, and at the Angelus. Visitors can also listen to carillon recitals each Sunday at 2:30 pm while walking around the grounds of the Basilica.
Get to know the bells from the Knights Tower that play such an important role in the life of the Church.