WASHINGTON —Washington National Cathedral delivers an inspiring start to its Holy Week with “In Paradisum: Duruflé’s Requiem and Poulenc’s Motets” on Palm Sunday, April 2 at 4 p.m.


The concert program includes Francis Poulenc’s “Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence” and “Sept répons des ténèbres,” and Maurice Duruflé’s “Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens” and “Requiem,” all performed by the Cathedral Choir, with soloist Laura Choi Stuart, soprano. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased at https://cathedral.org/concerts.

As two of Paris’ greatest 20th century composers, Poulenc and Duruflé pioneered new forms of musical expression within the Catholic Church. Duruflé, whose “Requiem” is built exclusively on the Gregorian Mass for the Dead, created a thoroughly modern expression of an ancient music form. Poulenc took inspiration for his four motets from Scripture, particularly texts used during Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

“While Duruflé was fortified by his faith, Poulenc was challenged by his,” said Canon Michael McCarthy, Cathedral Director of Music. “Unlike the embrace of the `Requiem,’ there is a disquiet within Poulenc that manifests in a more jagged musical syntax. Pleading and anger are juxtaposed, often quite starkly, leaving the listener in a place of uneasy resolution.”

Duruflé’s “Requiem” encourages deep reflection on the human experience and the ultimate mystery of death. Many consider it to be Duruflé’s greatest achievement. A work conceived for a lofty Gothic space, Washington National Cathedral offers a unique perspective of the “Requiem” not unlike being in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.

Each movement of Poulenc’s “Sept répons des ténèbres” recalls a different scene from Holy Week Scripture, including Jesus in Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the crucifixion of Jesus, his death, and burial. The piece inspires reflection prior to the celebratory Easter Sunday.

“The mystery of faith is a very personal,” McCarthy said. “As humankind continues to build monuments to faith, that slim space between heaven and earth is where, for me, the mystery resides untouched and untouchable. Duruflé and Poulenc, in their different ways allow a glimpse of that space, in the most transforming way.”


Amanda Sweet | Bucklesweet


 About Washington National Cathedral

Grounded in the reconciling love of Jesus Christ, Washington National Cathedral is a house of prayer for all people, conceived by our founders to serve as a great church for national purposes.