The Rite of Election (2010)

Opening Hymn The Church’s one foundation
Responsorial Psalm Your love is finer than life (Marty Haugen)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Enrolment Take, O take me as I am (John L Bell)
After the Election of the Catechumens Who calls you by name (David Haas)
Welcome of Candidates In the Lord (Taizé)
After Welcome of Candidates Prayer of St Richard of Chichester (Malcolm Archer) — choir
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Recessional Hymn O praise ye the Lord

The music for today’s packed and happy celebration followed the pattern we’ve laid down over the last few years. The opening hymn surely can’t be bettered, with its second verse beginning Elect from every nation, though we’ve rung the changes with various hymns of praise and thanksgiving for the recessional. David Haas’s Who calls you by name, too, is irresistibly appropriate for this occasion, and the assembly responded well to the call-and-response refrain, which I made time to rehearse with them before the celebration began.

John Bell’s Take, O take me as I am offers a more contemplative reflection on the call to which today’s candidates and catechumens were responding:

Take, O take me as I am
Summon out what I shall be
Set your seal upon my heart
And live in me.

and Malcolm Archer’s extremely Rutterish setting of the well-known prayer of St Richard, including the words May we know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly was a prayer that could be offered not just for today’s protagonists, but for everyone there today, and the whole pilgrim Church.

1st Sunday of Lent (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Led by the Spirit (Bob Hurd)
Kyrie Mass of the Creator Spirit (Ed Nowak)
Psalm Ps 90 (Peter Smedley)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts Emendemus in Melius (William Byrd, c. 1540-1623)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion On eagles’ wings (Michael Joncas)
Recessional Guide me, O thou great redeemer

A change in musical scenery can be a useful means of emphasising the changing liturgical seasons. For Lent we’ve got a chant Mass setting, new to our assembly. I led them through the Sanctus before the beginning of Mass, but reassured them they’d have another five weeks or so to get the hang of it. Actually I expect it will take longer – we’d sung Mass XI (Missa Orbis Factor) in Lent for two or three years before it really felt as though our singing assembly had taken it to heart.

To keep a good balance between ancient and modern, we had my arrangement of Michael Joncas’s On eagles’s wings, which sets Psalm 90(91), from which today’s responsorial Psalm and one of the Communion antiphons are drawn. The choir sang the verses (with two-part harmony for the women’s voices in verse 3) and the people joined in the refrains (with the choir adding SATB harmonies). It’s a song I like very much.

Lenten Gospel acclamations with a text such as Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ can be used effectively to acclaim the Gospel after it has been read as well as before, and we used James Walsh’s Praise to you, O Christ in just this way.

Ash Wednesday (2010)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Entrance Lord Jesus, think on me
Psalm Ps 50 (Stephen Dean)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Imposition of Ashes Lord, Cleanse my heart (Psallite)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Miserere Mei (Antonio Lotti, c. 1667-1740)
Recessional Our Father, we have wandered

We sang the opening chorus from Lotti’s first setting of Psalm 50(51), dating from 1706. It’s just a fragment of the complete work, but with moments of drama in the alternation between counterpoint – especially the overlapping discords at the beginning, recalling the composer’s more famous Crucifixus – and the block harmonies in the final imploring phrase dele iniquitatem meam.

Lord, cleanse my heart has a simple repeated ostinato refrain and verses for cantor, once again from Psalm 50(51). We began simply, with a unison refrain accompanied by the organ, and the choir then added harmonies busked from the organ part. The organ dropped out as the choir joined the end of the procession, singing as they went, and the cantor stayed at the front of the church declaiming the psalm verses. I thought it worked rather well, though by the end, as often happens when the music is simple but beautiful, the members of the assembly seemed to prefer participation in the prayer through listening rather than joining in. I don’t think it mattered.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Be not afraid (Bob Dufford)
Kyrie Kyrie II from Paschal Mass (Alan Rees)
Gloria Glory to God in the Highest (John L Bell)
Psalm Ps 1 (Paul Inwood)
Gospel Acclamation Sing a New Song (John L Bell)
Preparation of the Gifts The Kingdom of God is justice and joy
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Community Mass (Richard Proulx)
Agnus Dei Mass of Christ the King (mcb)
Communion This is the Bread (Psallite)
Postcommunion The Beatitudes (Bob Chilcott)
Recessional Tell out, my soul

The Beatitudes again this week, this time St Luke’s version as recounted in the Sermon on the Level Ground, as Fr Frank called it in his homily. (He reckoned St Matthew had better PR people working for him.)

Verse 3 of Bob Dufford’s Be not afraid is a good, if abbreviated fit for Luke's text (like Luke it talks of the poor rather than the poor in spirit, for instance). Like a few songs of the St Louis Jesuits, its textual merit – putting the words of scripture into the mouths of the singing assembly, at a time when this was still a new and revolutionary idea – is offset by the lack of editorial polish in the published musical arrangement. But it’s a strong tune, once you iron out the unfriendly semiquavers and the homespun awkwardness of the part-writing. My arrangement smooths out the rhythms to nothing shorter than a quaver, and has SATB harmony that I’d like to think would make it past the GCSE examiners.

Bob Chilcott’s choral setting, this time of St Matthew’s version, is a very different kind of piece, encapsulating the paradoxes of the text in a dramatic and colourful miniature. The music reaches a climax of power and pathos in the words –

Blest are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

and then subsides into a peaceful and serene conclusion on the repeated word Blest.

I liked our Communion song from Psallite, setting verses from the same psalm (77(78)) as today’s antiphon. We took the refrain much slower than the indicated metronome mark, and this gave the piece a bit more time to gain momentum as prayer. Unusually for a Psallite piece, only three verses of the psalm were included; three more would have worked nicely for our Communion procession.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Come let us sing for joy (Marty Haugen)
Kyrie Kyrie 2 from Community Mass (Richard Proulx)
Gloria Glory to God in the Highest (John L Bell)
Psalm Before the angels (Daniel Bath)
Gospel Acclamation Sing a New Song (John L Bell)
Preparation of the Gifts Here I am, Lord (Dan Schutte)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Community Mass (Proulx)
Agnus Dei Take and Eat Communion Rite (Michael Joncas/Gary Daigle)
Communion Come to me (Martin Barry/Diane Murden)
Postcommunion Cantique de Jean Racine (Gabriel Fauré, 1845-1924)
Recessional Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty

Marty Haugen’s Come let us sing for joy is a hymn setting of Psalm 94(95), the source of today’s entrance antiphon. It’s a good assembly-friendly tune, though not one particularly well known to our own assembly. To make up for it, we had Dan Schutte’s well-loved Here I am, Lord at the preparation of the gifts. Ideally the verses should be sung by a cantor rather than by the whole assembly, but everyone knows it too well to be silent during the verses, and hopefully no-one is too confused about the two different voices speaking in the text.

We had two songs about the angels – our closing hymn echoing Isaiah’s vision from the first reading, and Daniel Bath’s very fine setting of the responsorial psalm, in a Gospel style tinged with African rhythmic influences.

With the beatitudes as well, in our Communion song, there was an abundance of scriptural sources for today’s music, though nothing to match the theme of unworthy discipleship which preoccupies both Isaiah and St Paul in today’s first two readings. I’m not sure I know of anything that exactly covers that angle. Suggestions?