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Duke Vespers Ensemble Releases First Commercial CD

A reception Oct. 23 celebrates the album’s release

The Duke Vespers Ensemble performs in Duke Chapel. The group has released a new CD recorded live in the chapel.
The Duke Vespers Ensemble performs in Duke Chapel. The group has released a new CD recorded live in the chapel.

The Duke Vespers Ensemble has released its first commercial CD, “Membra Jesu Nostri.”

The live recording from Duke Chapel features the choir performing “Membra Jesu Nostri Patientis Sanctissima,” a Baroque-era piece by German composer Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707). (Listen to an excerpt.)

A reception to celebrate the release of the new CD takes place in the Duke Chapel basement lounge at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, following the evening’s choral vespers worship service. Drinks and pastries with a German theme will be served. The event is free and open to the public.

The CD can be purchased from MSR Classics and


“‘Membra Jesu Nostri’ is an intensely emotional and personal work, and a landmark in German sacred music,” said Brian Schmidt, conductor of the Duke Vespers Ensemble and assistant conductor at Duke Chapel. “We hope this recording captures both Buxtehude’s genius and the piece’s powerful depiction of the text.”

Translated as "The Suffering Limbs of Our Holy Lord Jesus," the composition is a reverent meditation on the limbs of Jesus’ body on the cross. It is sung in Latin in seven cantos, or sections, and features combinations of solo and trio voices, in addition to choir and orchestra parts.

The CD jacket includes original paintings by artist Robyn Sand Anderson, which were commissioned for the performance. The seven acrylics represent the seven parts of Jesus’ suffering body referenced in the music. The original paintings will be hung in the Chapel’s nave beginning Easter Sunday.

The 17th century composer Buxtehude was also an acclaimed organist whose work influenced Johann Sebastian Bach. His “Membra Jesu Nostri” is considered the first major composition from a Lutheran in the oratorio musical form.

The Duke Vespers Ensemble is a chamber choir based at Duke University Chapel, consisting of approximately 20 members from the Duke and Durham communities. The group leads candlelit worship services every Thursday during the academic year, as well as a popular All Hallows Eve Service.

The MSR Classics label published the CD and the GRAMMY award-winning studio Soundmirror engineered and produced the album. A video recoding of the live performance is available here. ###