The following comes from a September 5 press release issued by St. Ann Choir.
In observance of its fiftieth anniversary, the St. Ann Choir will sing William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 751 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301 on Sunday October 6, at the 12:00 noon Mass. A reception follows the Mass.
All are invited to join the celebration of the St. Ann Choir’s unique achievement: Fifty years of continual performance of Gregorian chant and polyphony in weekly liturgies.
The St. Ann Choir began singing the music for the traditional cycle of the Church year at Sunday Masses in 1963, before radical changes to Roman Catholic liturgy and music occurred after the Second Vatican Council.
By its perseverance in continuing to sing this music to this very day, the choir has made a unique contribution to the preservation of what the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy called “a treasure of inestimable value.” The weekly inclusion of this music as part of the liturgy, where it belongs, has allowed people to experience it as a living form instead of as a mere academic discipline.
“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.” — Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium §112
The choir is directed by Stanford Professor William Peter Mahrt, who is also president of the Church Music Association of America and editor of the journal Sacred Music. Mahrt joined the choir as a Stanford graduate student shortly after it began under the leadership of the late William Pohl, and Mahrt became its director when Pohl took an academic job in another state.
Mahrt: “Our choir started one year before the language changed [from Latin to the vernacular]—if we had tried to start one year later, we might not have been able to do it.”