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Cathedral Choir will present Mozart’s ‘Solemn Vespers’

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

The following story appeared in the May 27 Idaho Catholic Register.

By Emily Woodham

Staff Writer

The choir of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Boise is presenting Mozart’s Vesperae so-lennes de confessore (“Solemn Vespers for a Confessor”) at the Cathedral on Saturday, June 11, at 7 p.m.

Last year, the Cathedral choir performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Théodore Dubois for the Cathedral’s centennial celebration. Due to the success of last year’s concert, Morvant decided to present Mozart’s work to the community this year.

“This is not a concert. It’s a liturgy,” said Dr. Raphael Morvant, music director and organist for the Cathedral. The community is invited to prayerfully participate during the Solemn Vespers.

“I view aesthetics as a spiritual dimension in music,” he said. “We have choirs who do beautiful music because it helps open our hearts and puts us more in a spiritual and contemplative state.”

The community can actively listen and pray Mozart’s psalm settings in the Vespers, just as it participates and prays actively by listening to the Eucharis-tic prayers in Mass, Morvant said. Those who attend are also invited to sing the antiphons, prayers and hymns that are a part of Vespers.

“Sacrosanctum concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from Vatican II, mandated that cathedrals and large churches should preserve the musical treasures of the Church,” Morvant said. In keeping with the Constitution, Morvant uses traditional Catholic music on a regular basis at the Cathedral. Presenting larger and more classical works from the Church to the community is also a part of following those mandates, he said.

Vespers are a part of the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours. The liturgy is comprised of sets of prayers and psalms said at different hours of the day. Vespers are prayed in the evening. In a church setting, vespers are usually presided by a priest or deacon. In large church settings, the prayers and psalms are often chanted antiphonally between a choir and congregation.

Mozart’s “Solemn Vespers” was written in 1780 for Salzburg Cathedral in Austria. It includes parts for a priest or leader, the congregation, a choir and four soloists. The Vespers comprise five psalms (Psalms 110, 111, 112, 113 and 117) and the Magnificat, the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Gospel of St. Luke. According to music historians, the final psalm, Psalm 117 is the most celebrated of the pieces from the Solemn Vespers.

These vespers are set apart with its designation “for a Confessor.” Historians think that it was meant to be prayed on the Feast Day of St. Rupert of Salzburg, who was also known as “St. Rupert the Confessor,” for his gift for bringing consolation to penitents.

Dr. Morvant is playing the organ and directing the choir. Father Mariusz Majewski, rector at the Cathedral, is presider. The soloists are Christie Bell, soprano; Naomi Spinelli, alto; John Mauldin, tenor; and Jeffrey Sappala, bass.

“I think this is a great opportunity for outreach to the community,” Morvant said. “It’s an evangelization opportunity. Anyone can come and pray.”

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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