Gregorian Chant from the Vatican
St Peter was the rock; but those echoes are something else! They magnify and multiply, set a halo upon each voice, turn the sopranos into handbells while the deep bass becomes a 12-ton king of the belfry. Gregorian chant makes friends with it; Palestrina’s polyphony, stable in its harmonies, takes care to placate it. The motets with double or treble texts play a kind of hide-and-seek with it, confounding those who would comprehend the Word as though it were the language of the school-room or the counting-house, and leaving them, as their rock, the ‘Veritatem’ which the less loquacious third voice has been insisting upon all along.
Mary Berry’s Schola Gregoriana brings colour and good cheer to the Feast of St Peter. Their recital opens (it would seem too much to say ‘explodes’, but the first sounds are certainly quite dramatic) with resonant affirmation. They have a mighty deep bass in Jeremy White, and he is the first to set the echoes stirring in the introductory chant. The four men’s voices, sounding like an army, join in the pilgrims’ hymn O Roma nobilis, and a solo voice then recalls the recruitment of the brothers and fishermen, Peter and Andrew, by the Sea of Galilee. A delightfully recurring episode enters the programme with the ‘Alleluia’s for two sopranos. Ruth Hilton and Olive Simpson have the clearest, loveliest voices in the world (such is the blessed effect of the Vatican upon them); and their interventions are like the lighting of candles. The whole celebration ends with the splendour of Palestrina’s six-part motet, all lights ablaze as the keys of the kingdom are conferred upon the fisherman.
A handsome booklet further commends the disc, its cover showing a fine, clear reproduction of Perugino, whose Christ hands over the keys to a kneeling Peter, while the world gets on with its dancing and gaming in the background.'