The Mass of Chrism (2011)

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Opening HymnChrist triumphant, ever-reigning
KyrieKyrie Eleison from Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Gloriafrom Mass for John Carroll (Michael Joncas)
Responsorial PsalmI will sing for ever of your love (mcb)
Gospel AcclamationPraise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Procession of the OilsO Redeemer (Paul Ford/mcb)
Preparation of the GiftsLove Divine (Howard Goodall)
Sanctus, Acclamation A, AmenMass XVIII (in English) & Missal tones
Agnus DeiMass XVIII (in Latin) & Missa O Quam Gloriosum (T.L. de Victoria 1548-1611)
CommunionO Lord, I will sing of your constant love (Christopher Walker)
Sitivit Anima Mea (G.P. da Palestrina, c.1525-1594)
Now we remain (David Haas)
Recessional HymnMy song is love unknown

I chose our entrance hymn, to John Barnard’s very fine tune Guiting Power, because of the fourth verse:

Priestly King, enthroned for ever high in heaven above!
Sin and death and hell shall never stifle hymns of love.
which seemed a good match for the entrance antiphon for today’s celebration:
Jesus Christ has made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father: glory and kingship be his for ever and ever. Amen.

It was a gamble, in that the hymn isn’t necessarily one well-known to Catholic congregations. I tested the water during my five-minute rehearsal with the people before Mass, and found that, yes, at least ten people present (out of nearly a thousand) knew it well enough to sing along with me. It’s amazing what you can achieve in five minutes with a willing singing assembly, though, and we still just about managed to shake the rafters during the entrance procession.

The Mass XVIII Sanctus, with words in English, was another cautious experiment: since this is the melody we are encouraged to have at the core of our repertoire when the new Missal translation comes in, I thought I’d try it out on this occasion, in a version as close as possible – barring the words power and might in place of hosts – to the version coming in later in the year. The aim was to plant a seed or two for the future, and also to find out how good a simple chant setting like this might be at uniting a disparate congregation on a grand occasion.

I was disappointed, I have to say. In this celebration in the past we've used settings that were unfamiliar to the congregation before the event – Richard Proulx's Community Mass, or my own Spring Sanctus, for instance – and they've worked well, the melody and the meter seeming to persuade the assembly to sing an unfamiliar setting with commitment. The chant setting in comparison seemed to fall short of that target, leaving me more doubtful than perhaps I was of the merit of a simple chant version as the essential core repertoire for people’s acclamations.

But you never know: the simplest tunes can be given real strength through the familiarity that turns them into old favourites. Perhaps it won’t take long.

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