Géry de Ghersem was born in Tournai in 1573, he spent several years as a choirboy Tournai Cathedral's choir and then was chosen as one of the fourteen boys to sing in the Capilla Flamenca arriving in Madrid on June 28th 1586 he served first as a cantorcillo and then as a cantor under the direction of Philippe Rogier. Rogier died in 1596 requesting in his will that Ghersem publish five of his Masses. De Ghersem asked for and received funding for this project from Philip II (d 1598) and Philip III and Rogier's five Masses were duly published accompanied by Ghersem's own setting of the Mass Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima under the resounding title of "Missae Sex Philippi Rogerii Atrebatensis sacelli regii phonasci musicae peritissimi, & aetatis suae facile principis, ad Philippum Tertium Hispanarium Regem. Matriti ex typographia Regia, MDXCVIII".
Ghersem's Missa Ave Virgo Sanctissima is, as you might expect, based upon Francisco Guerrero's wildly popular motet of the same name. We're fortunate to have it as it's the only one of de Ghersem's works to have survived in its complete form the catastrophic earthquake and fires that afflicted the Portugese Royal Archives in the 18th-century. I wish more of his work had survived because the Mass is a thing of wonder and beauty. It's a seven-part setting, marvellously sonorous, that takes the canon at the unison between the two upper voices found in Guerrero's model as its starting point and brings it further by using canons in every movement with the sole exception of the 'Crucifixus'. If you're not familiar with Guerrero's motet I wrote about it last Friday. You'll find the Mass and a live performance of Guerrero's motet by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral under Martin Baker broadcast live from Westminster during Vespers on October 8th 2014 below. Enjoy :-).
Click here to listen to the music and read the rest of the posting ...