The Messe pour Notre-Dame
is a fusion of Cochereau transcription and Briggs’ own compositional voice. ‘About 15% is based on some wonderful Cochereau improvisations for the Feast of the Assumption in 1962’, he says. ‘I transcribed them from an unedited reel-to-reel recording made in Notre-Dame that day by Fred Tulan, a well-known American organist and great friend of Pierre. You can hear—in the ‘Domine Deus’ section of the Gloria and introductions to the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei—Cochereau’s incredible invention and ravishing harmonies. I’ve tried to make the link into my own music as imperceptible as possible, but it is for others to say if it’s successful or not!’.
Messe pour Notre-Dame was indeed conceived specifically for the great Parisian cathedral and its mighty 1868 Cavaillé-Coll organ. The choir it was written for was an English one, however—commissioned by Neil Shepherd and the choir of Keynsham Parish Church, near Bristol, they performed it with Briggs in Notre-Dame on 28 July 2002. What a magnificent gift to that most endangered musical species of the early twenty-first century, the English Parish Church Choir.
from notes by Meurig Bowen © 2010