Pentecost, 2009

Entrance O Spirit All-embracing
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Psalm Send forth your Spirit (Paul Wellicome)
Sequence Holy Spirit, Lord of Light (Edward Caswall) – chant
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Bernadatte Farrell)
Rite of Confirmation (i) Come Holy Spirit (Loh I-to, 1936-)
(ii) Veni Creator Spiritus (Tomás Luis de Victoria, 1548-1611)
(iii) Come Holy Spirit 2 (Stephen Dean)
Preparation of the Gifts Wisdom, Come Softly (Martin Barry and Diane Murden)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Communion Spirit of the living God & Psalm 103 (John Ainslie)
Recessional Come Holy Ghost, creator, come

For a special occasion, our usual rich and varied musical banquet. Victoria’s Veni Creator alternates polyphonic verses with verses from the familiar chant setting. We had chant for the Sequence too, though in previous years we’ve also sung the arrangement by Richard Proulx, which clothes the chant melody in a jaunty 6/8 with parallel fifths between the voices.

Come, Holy Spirit, which we sang during the Rite of Confirmation, is a haunting short piece by the Taiwanese ethnomusicologist Loh I-to, consisting of simple ostinato lines for three voices in what in Western music would be called the phrygian mode. The voices enter one by one and the piece’s sense of brooding mystery rises and then ebbs away, conjuring a vivid sense of the Spirit hovering over the chaos. The piece comes from the GIA collection Sound the Bamboo, a compilation of hymns and other sacred music from Asia, of which Loh was also the general editor.

For the Communion procession we alternated repetitions of Spirit of the Living God with verses from psalm 103. The same psalm verses appear in Paul Wellicome’s Send forth your Spirit. This is an unusually lusty sing for a responsorial psalm setting! But no less effective for all that. The rafters shook.

The Ascension, 2009

Entrance Christ Triumphant
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Psalm Ps 46 (Shaun MacCarthy)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Bernadatte Farrell)
Prayer of the Faithful Regina Caeli (chant)
Preparation of the Gifts Hail the day that sees him rise
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Communion My Peace (Taizé) & Ascendit Deus (chant)
Postcommunion God is gone up with a merry noise (William Croft, 1678-1727)
Recessional Alleluia, Sing to Jesus

For the Communion procession we’re singing Jacques Berthier’s My Peace interspersed with chant verses from the short responsory for the office of Terce: Ascendit Deus in Jubilatione. This means that on Sunday we’re singing the same text in three different guises: as well as this Latin version, we’re singing Shaun MacCarthy’s exhilarating setting of the Responsorial Psalm, which sets the Grail text God goes up with shouts of joy to verses that flash past in a flurry of alternating 7/8, 8/8 and 3/4, and William Croft’s God is gone up with a merry noise.

Croft succeeded his teacher John Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey in 1708 (it says in Wikipedia). His verse anthem is in a different style from our usual choral fare, with two majestic choruses flanking a perkier verse for six-part semichorus. In recent years we've sung Palestrina’s Ascendo ad Patrem. The Croft piece makes for a sparkling alternative to Palestrina's more sedate and stately vision of our Lord ascending.

A sung Marian antiphon in place of reciting the Hail Mary after the prayer of the faithful. It's May, after all.

6th Sunday of Easter (B), 2009

Entrance Speak Out (mcb)
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Psalm Ps 97 (Peter Smedley)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Bernadatte Farrell)
Preparation of the Gifts A new commandment (Susan Sayers/Malcolm Archer)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Liam Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Communion Lord, your love has drawn us near (Stephen Dean)
Postcommunion If ye love me (Thomas Tallis, c. 1505–1585)
Recessional Come down, O love divine

Four different pieces reflecting on the theme of God's love, to go with the multiple references in today's scripture readings. Both the Archer and Dean pieces offer a simple, thoughtful and singable refrain for the assembly, and verses for cantor or choir. Tallis's If ye love me sets the text of today's Communion antiphon, and the final hymn links the same ideas of divine love and God's Spirit.

My own Speak Out is an attempt to set today's entrance antiphon (plus the psalm verses from the Gradual) to a boisterous tune that takes up the idea of a voice of joy. It's mostly in 4/4, but there's some skipping around in alternating 5/4 and 3/4 as well, and we were treated to some fiery improvisation along the same lines from Anthony at the end of the song, while Fr Tony incensed the altar and the children processed out for their own Liturgy of the Word.

Home Sweet Home

Here are a couple of recent photos of where we hang out on Sunday mornings, courtesy of a reluctant tenor.

5th Sunday of Easter (B), 2009

Entrance Bring to the Lord a glad new song
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Psalm Ps 21 (Walsh)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Farrell)
Preparation of the Gifts Christo Resurgenti (François Couperin, 1668–1733)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Haugen)
Communion I am the vine (Bell) & Psalm 79(80) (Bévenot)
Postcommunion This is the Day (anon. c. 1600)
Recessional O Praise ye the Lord

The refrain from John Bell's I am the Vine is based on the same text as this Sunday's Communion antiphon (John 15:5). Psalm 80 also talks of a vine:

God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see
Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted

and the two go together well. The idea of marrying the Communion antiphon with this psalm text comes from Psallite, as far as I can tell, but for the music for the psalm verses I've chosen a chant setting by Laurence Bévenot.

More Easter jubilation in the choral items this week: the Couperin is a model of 18th century elegance, while the anonymous This is the Day is almost fanfare-like in its repeated resounding declarations that we will rejoice.

Organ Re-voicing

After speaking with Makin organs today, James Harker the principal organ voicer has kindly agreed to come to the cathedral next week and look at re-voicing some of the stops. The organ's voicing has not been altered since it was installed in 2002, and it seems it's time to have a look at revamping some of the specification. The areas I think most in need of this attention are the solo reed stops (in particular the pontifical trumpet, which could do with sounding more..well pontifical!!) The tuba itself is very fat and could do with maybe being a bit less hearty. Other voices come to mind as well. The great Clarabella is very woolly, and doesn't really add anything to the blend. As there is also a stopped flute, having another 8' flute stop as well seems a little redundant. The swell oboe could do with being quietened, and the swell cornopean could be souped up a little. The mutations on the choir also should be a little more subtle, as their use does tend to throw the choir off key quite easily. Finally the pedal reeds could be brought out a bit more. As any organist knows, these are the jewel in the crown of any good instrument!

On another note, we shall soon have a proper cover for the organ to protect it against the elements. As many of you know, the organ was damaged not long ago by rain water which seeped into the console from the roof, and caused no end of problems, which were finally resolved with an insurance claim! Let's hope the cover will prove to be an effective barrier against any deluge that might be brought down upon it from the heavens!!

4th Sunday of Easter (B), 2009

Entrance All people that on earth do dwell
Gloria Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Psalm The stone which the builders rejected (Farrell)
Gospel Acclamation Eastertide Gospel Acclamation (Farrell)
Preparation of the Gifts The Lord is my Shepherd (Rutter)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass of the Celtic Saints (Lawton)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Haugen)
Communion Now we remain (Haas)
Postcommunion Surrexit Pastor Bonus (Michael Haller, 1840–1915)
Recessional Hail redeemer, King divine

Plenty of sheep-related material for Good Shepherd Sunday, including rousing hymns at the beginning and the end (We are his folk, he doth us feed, and for his sheep he doth us take on the one hand, Shepherd-King o'er mountain steep, homeward bring the wandering sheep on the other). There was also John Rutter's The Lord is my Shepherd, and Surrexit Pastor Bonus by Haller, with its text from today's Communion antiphon.

Haller was a leading German member of the Cecilian movement, which aimed in the late nineteenth century to restore church music to its supposedly pristine repertoire of plainchant and Renaissance polyphony. The compositions which resulted were mainly backward looking, and are now largely forgotten, but Haller's piece is a charming combination of Renaissance counterpoint and Romantic expression. The mischievous might point out a certain similarity with the nuns' chorus (Morning Hymn and Alleluia) at the beginning of The Sound of Music, but I certainly wouldn't. And besides, the latter is set in an Austrian abbey in 1938, so what else would they have been singing except the music of the Cecilians?

Bernadette Farrell's Gospel acclamation has a refrain with simple singable dignity, but the verses to my mind don't have the staying power to serve well for all the Sundays in Easter time. So we're singing the lectionary verses to a four-part chanted tone, sandwiched by the refrain. Seems to work.