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  • by Mary Barton

A Song So Beautiful It Was Banned!

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

It seems to me there is a hand guiding history, even music history, and bringing things to light. Out into the open. Preserving. Exposing.

Some of the most beautiful music the world has ever known might never have been known were it not for seemingly trivial “coincidences”.

Take, for example, the song that was so beautiful, it was banned. Banned outside the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, that is, by order of the Pope! Its publication punishable by ex-communication. Its beauty doomed to the ears of a select few! An act of preservation resulting in the world's deprivation for over 100 years! What could possibly bust it out of its prison?

Well, when two of those ears happened to belong to boy-wonder Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart … Yes, fourteen-year-old Mozart, on tour in Italy, happened to hear the glorious song while attending an Easter-week service at the Sistine Chapel and was so awestruck, he transcribed the entire work from memory that very day! The song's majesty would descend upon those ears once more during the Chapel's Good Friday service, enabling Mozart to hear a few glitches in his transcription and thus perfect it. And the rest, as they say, is history!

What was this masterpiece so beautiful no other place on earth was deemed fit to host its sounds? Gregorio Allegri’s setting of Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus (Have Mercy on me, Oh God)

The piece is truly mesmerizing and the intermittent soprano solo … well, you’ll see! Or rather, hear! One can at once both understand why some felt no other walls on earth worthy of its sound, and also ponder the "coincidence" that released it to the world.

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