3rd Sunday of Easter (B), 2009

Entrance This Joyful Eastertide
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Psalm Ps 4 (Walsh)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Farrell)
Preparation of the Gifts Now the green blade riseth
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Haugen)
Communion Touch me and see (Psallite)
Postcommunion A Song of the Light (Simon Lole)
Recessional Lord enthroned in heavenly splendour

Our Eastertide musical fare sets a lighter tone than the things we sang during Lent and Holy Week. Liam Lawton's Mass of the Celtic Saints probably isn't typical 'Cathedral' music, but it's an assembly-friendly setting that deserves to be more widely known. What's more, the brightness of the 6/8 in D major in both the Gloria and the Sanctus gives them a spring-time feel that fits well with the Easter season.

There's a broader aim too, in our commitment to the inclusivity of our musical programme. It's only a few weeks since we were singing Mass XVIII and Missa Orbis Factor every Sunday. Having plainchant as part of our eclectic mix, means, I hope, that members of our community don't see the chant as something aesthetically rarefied and unreconstructedly backward-looking. Rather, the chant is part of our everyday language of musical prayer. That's chant 'for the rest of us', I like to think.

A Song of the Light by Simon Lole (formerly Master of Music at Salisbury Cathedral) sets an elegant translation of the evening prayer Phos Hilaron (Hail, Gladdening Light). With the original text's reference to the stars craftily changed (by us) to a reference to the rising sun, it makes for a beautiful piece for a Sunday morning in Easter time! It chimed well with today's Psalm response: 'Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord'. Simon Lole's text begins: Light of the world, in grace and beauty; mirror of God's eternal face; transparent flame of love's free duty: you bring salvation to our race.

What we did: 2nd Sunday of Easter (Year B), 2009

Had the weekend off. A well-deserved rest all round!

The Mass of Chrism 2009

Opening HymnBring to the Lord a glad new song
KyrieMissa Orbis Factor
GloriaGlory to God in the Highest (John Bell)
Responsorial PsalmI will sing for ever of your love (Barry)
Gospel AcclamationGospel Acclamation 2 for Lent (Foster)
Procession of the Oils, O Redeemer (Ford/Barry)
Preparation of the GiftsHear my Prayer, O Lord (Purcell)
Sanctus, Acclamation, AmenCommunity Mass (Proulx)
Agnus DeiMass XVIII & Missa super Laudate Dominum (Lassus)
CommunionOculi Omnium (Charles Wood, 1866–1926)
O Lord, I will sing of your constant love (Walker)
Soul of my Saviour
Recessional HymnGuide me, O thou great redeemer

The annual Mass of Chrism has several purposes: the blessing of the oils, the renewal of priestly commitment and a kind of grand gathering of all the diocesan family. We make a festive occasion of it, with the choir at full strength, our splendid six piece brass ensemble Celebration Brass adding to Anthony's masterful demonstration of what our Makin organ can do, and music chosen to bring the best out of the enormous congregation.

This year we began with Michael Perry's hymn text Bring to the Lord a glad new song, a stirring re-working of Psalms 149 and 150 to the tune of Parry’s Jerusalem. As the sounds died away (not that there's any reverberation to speak of with the Cathedral so full), Bishop Terence said he could hear the quilismas bouncing off the roof.

O Redeemer is the traditional hymn for the procession of the oils on Maundy Thursday. My setting uses the very fine translation by Paul Ford (one of the Psallite composers) from his collection By flowing waters. The people's refrain has the same harmonies, more or less, as Pachelbel's Canon, and the brass arrangement explores the similarity.

One of our tasks in making music at the cathedral is to serve as a role model for parishes. Over the years I've tried to find settings of the Eucharistic Acclamations for this occasion that people might (metaphorically) take away and use in their own parishes. This year we sang Richard Proulx's Community Mass, which to my mind deserves to be commended, especially to parishes still using substandard settings from thirty-odd years ago that don't respect the liturgical text.

All that and (on the one hand) Purcell, Lassus and Charles Wood, (and on the other) Chris Walker, John Bell and Martin Foster too. And plainchant. And Soul of my Savour! For me, getting the mix right is part of getting it right in general.

What we did: Easter Sunday 2009

Entrance Jesus Christ is Ris’n Today
Gloria Glory to God in the Highest (John Bell)
Psalm This is the Day (mcb)
SequenceVictimae Paschali Laudes (Greene)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Farrell)
Preparation of the Gifts Surrexit Christus (Taizé)
Sanctus, Acclamation (D), Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Haugen)
Communion Confitemini Domino (Taizé) & psalm 117 (Bévenot)
Postcommunion Haec Dies (Lodovico Viadana, c. 1564-1645?)
Recessional (i) Go in the peace of Christ, Alleluia (chanted)
(ii) Battle is o’er

The line Never tiring be our choiring always cracks me up…

What we did: The Easter Vigil 2009

The Service of LightLumen Christi (chanted)
After 1st reading (Genesis 1)Send forth your spirit (Dean)
After 2nd reading (Exodus 14-15)I will sing to the Lord (Boulton Smith)
After 3rd reading (Isaiah 55: come to the water)With joy you shall draw water (Hurd)
After 4th reading (Ezekiel 36: I shall give you a new heart)Like the deer (mcb)
GloriaMass of the Creator Spirit (Nowak)
Easter Alleluia + Psalm 117Plainchant, verses by Paul Inwood
Litany of the SaintsGélineau/Kelly
Blessing of the FontSprings of Water (Haugen)
SprinklingVidi Aquam (Victoria)
Preparation of the GiftsChristus Resurgens (Lassus)
Sanctus, Acclamation, AmenMissa Ubi Caritas (Hurd)
Agnus DeiMissa Ubi Caritas (Hurd)
CommunionHow can I repay the Lord (Dean)
DismissalGo in the peace of Christ, Alleluia (chanted)
Final HymnThine be the Glory

The Easter Vigil is a musical banquet, and I'd like to think we had something for every taste, from Victoria and Lassus to Paul Inwood and Bob Hurd. Christus Resurgens is a juggernaut of a piece, at least it was the way we did it: brimming with Easter joy, with the organ doubling the voices. The text is that of the New Testament reading from Romans 6: Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Marty Haugen's Springs of Water, in tandem with Victoria's Vidi Aquam, seem to cover all the bases. We left out the verse mentioning bogs (in the Haugen; I don't think Victoria has any).

Bob Hurd's With joy you shall draw water sets the refrain from Isaiah 12, but has another text for the verses. So we used Bob's refrain, but had the cantor chant the text from Isaiah in between, using a melodic line that echoes the refrain. It worked well.

What we did: Good Friday 2009

PsalmFather, into your hands (Boulton Smith)
Gospel AcclamationChristus factus est (Anerio)
Veneration of the CrossThis is the wood of the cross (Missal tone)
Jesus, remember me (Taizé)
Miserere Mei (Allegri)
CommunionAve Verum Corpus (Byrd)
Soul of my Saviour

By our standards a fairly "choral" liturgy. The Miserere isn't strictly a canonical text for the Veneration of the Cross, but other psalm texts are, and psalm 50(51) is certainly appropriate for Good Friday. In years when we don't sing the Allegri we sing a setting of the Reproaches.

Ave Verum and Soul of my Saviour both link the blessed sacrament and the passion in a way that's perfect for the Good Friday liturgy: Christ's body, broken for us then and now.

The simplest things can be the most moving. Last year, for all the choral riches, the most appreciative feedback from members of the congregation was for Jacques Berthier's Jesus, remember me. You never can tell what's going to kindle prayer.

What we did: Maundy Thursday 2009

Opening Hymn When I survey the wondrous cross
Gloria Mass of the Creator Spirit (Nowak)
Responsorial Psalm The Blessing Cup (Walker)
Gospel Acclamation A New Commandment
Washing of Feet If there is this love among you (Barry/Murden)
Preparation of the Gifts Ubi Caritas (Duruflé)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Missa Orbis Factor, Missal Tone: Christ has Died, Missal Tone
Agnus Dei Mass XVIII
Communion (i) O Sacrum Convivium (mcb), (ii) Ubi Caritas (Hurd)
Procession (i) Pange Lingua (plainchant), (ii) Stay with me (Taizé)

To my mind the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Maundy Thursday has a subdued and thoughtful feel to it. Partly this is because in Salford we have the Mass of Chrism on the morning of the same day, and that's always a joyful and colourful occasion. The evening celebration inevitably has a more contemplative mood by comparison. In Bishop Kelly's time (until 1996) it also had a "family" feel to it - he liked to point up the similarities with the Passover Seder, and had children come up to ask the ritual questions as to why we had gathered, and so on. The music was tailored to match, and to some extent you can still see the traces. A New Commandment, for instance, is a very down-to-earth setting of the Gospel Acclamation, though just right as far as the text is concerned. Chris Walker's psalm setting, Bob Hurd's Ubi Caritas and my own and Diane Murden's If there is this love (just published by GIA :-)) all add a similar gentle and accessible feel.

The chant items, on the other hand, connect us with tradition, as is fitting for such an important celebration. We've used the Sanctus from Missa Orbis Factor during Lent for the past three or four years. It's a beautiful setting - to my ear far more elegant and moving than the more familiar chant setting of the Missa de Angelis, for instance. And Pange Lingua more or less chooses itself as the piece of music for the procession to the altar of repose.

What we did: Palm Sunday 2009

Entrance (i) Hosanna Filio David (Plainchant & Victoria) (ii) All Glory Laud and Honour
Psalm My God, My God (Alan Smith)
Gospel Acclamation Gospel Acclamation 2 for Lent (Foster)
Bidding Prayers Lord, in your Mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts O Vos Omnes (Giovanni Croce, 1557-1609)
Sanctus Missa Orbis Factor
Acclamation Missal Tone: Christ has Died
Amen Missal Tone
Agnus Dei Mass XVIII & Missa Aeterna Christi Munera (Palestrina)
Communion Father, if this cup (Dean)
Recessional My song is love unknown

The Victoria setting of Hosanna Filio David works well at the beginning of the Palm Sunday liturgy. Experience shows that it's a difficult moment to get the assembly to sing, and I'm not sure I really know of any congregation-friendly settings of this text that are up to much musically. The Victoria is quite a bouncy piece, so it makes for a fairly arresting beginning, and is just right for singing out of doors! I preceded it with the chant setting of the same text this year to make something more substantial out of it. Holy Week always seems to me a good time to include connections to our chant heritage, since there are so many memorable pieces that come up at this time.

Alan Smith's psalm setting is one I like a lot - we rarely sing unaccompanied settings of the Responsorial Psalm, but on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, with the Passion narrative coming up, it seems like the right thing to do. Alan's psalm is in one of the volumes of Music for the Mass, but we use the choral arrangement of the verses, which I picked up a few years ago at a meeting of the SSG Composers' Group.

Martin Foster's setting of the Lenten Gospel Acclamation text Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ appears in Laudate, and has verses for every Sunday in Lent. I think I wrote to him to ask for verses for Palm Sunday and the Mass of Chrism, and he very kindly obliged. We've found that the refrain works very effectively as a response, post-Gospel, to the priest or deacon's This is the Gospel of the Lord as well.

Stephen Dean's Father, if this cup is a very pleasing new discovery this year from Laudate. In recent years we've sung David Haas's Now we remain, but I was glad to find a song that uses the text of the Communion Antiphon in the assembly's sung refrain. There are dramatic verses (sung in unison) for choir or cantor too.

A new blog

Welcome! This blog will keep a record of musical activities at St John's Cathedral, Salford - what we've been doing and what's coming up, and some thoughts on the musical planning process. Hopefully in time there will be some ideas and resources that might be of help to parish musicians too. Things will grow slowly, so keep coming back to check. For now, if you look in, leave a note to say you've found this blog. It will encourage us to keep adding to the content!