Lenten Evensong and Mozart's Litaniae Lauretanae


On Sunday, March 4th at 5:00 p.m., the choir will lead our traditional Lenten Evensong, a musical offering that nurtures our Lenten journey. This year, the choir will be singing Mozart's Litaniae Lauretanae, a beautiful five-movement setting of the Loreto Litany, composed in May of 1774 while Mozart, at age 18, was still living in Salzburg.

The Loreto Litany is one of several Marian litanies that had begun to appear in the 12th century that extols the virtues of the Virgin Mary. Many of the early Marian litanies were intended for private use with a multitude of repetitive verses. Gradually these texts were shortened and used in services of public devotion. The tragedies of pestilence and epidemics that plagued 15th century provided the opportunity for these litanies of devotion to be used in penitential processions. The earliest printed copy of the Litany of Loreto appeared around 1558 in Germany. The earliest setting of this text to music was by Constano Porta, the choirmaster of the Basilica of Loreto in Venice around 1575. In 1613, Pope Paul V (1550-1621) ordered that the Loreto Litany be sung in every morning, evening, Saturday, vigil and feast in honor of the Madonna at the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore in Rome. This tradition soon took hold in other churches in Rome.

Mozart's setting employs all but a handful of lines of this lengthy litany. Beginning with a Kyrie and concluding with an Agnus Dei, the interior movements musically describe Mary as "Mother of divine grace, Mother most pure, most amiable, most merciful, and most faithful..." in addition to "Queen of angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and confessors...". Make a point of experiencing some of Church's most powerful sacred texts set by the musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.