A year of blogging

It isn’t, strictly speaking, this blog’s first birthday yet, but with today’s post we’ve now covered a whole liturgical year. To celebrate, here’s a Word Cloud (from the splendid Wordle web site) covering a whole year’s posts. Click to enlarge.

Palm Sunday (2010)

Entrance Hosanna Filio David (Plainchant & T.L. de Victoria, c. 1548-1611)
All Glory Laud and Honour
Psalm Ps 21 (John Ainslie)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your Mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts Stabat Mater Dolorosa (G.B. Pergolesi, 1710-1736)
Sanctus Mass XVII
Acclamation Missal Tone: When we eat this bread
Amen Missal Tone
Agnus Dei Mass XVII & Missa Brevis (Antonio Lotti, c. 1667-1740)
Communion Father, if this cup (Stephen Dean)
Recessional My song is love unknown

Some of the hymns for Palm Sunday choose themselves. I can’t imagine not singing All glory, laud and honour during the procession into church after the blessing of palms. If we hadn’t had a choir piece at the preparation of the gifts, I’m sure we’d have had Ride on, ride on in majesty. And our recessional hymn every year is My song is love unknown. The words, written by Samuel Crossman in 1664, vividly recount the Passion narrative, and coupled with John Ireland’s beautiful melody, it’s one of my favourite hymns. As the verses unfold, we move from addressing our Lord as Saviour, Prince and King, to the simple claim: this is my friend. For me, the phrase brings the events of Holy Week into inescapable close-up.

Our brightest musical gem today was the haunting opening movement of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, sung beautifully by the women of the choir. I wonder what masterpieces the composer might have created, if he had lived beyond the age of twenty-six?

5th Sunday of Lent (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Lord Jesus, think on me
Kyrie (Dinah Reindorf)
Psalm Ps 125 (Romuald Simpson)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake (attr. John Hilton, d. 1608)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Unless a grain of wheat (Bernadette Farrell)
Recessional Praise we our God with joy

An odd fact about some of the best known Tudor anthems in English is that their authorship is unknown. In our music library, both This is the day and Rejoice in the Lord alway are filed under “Anon, 16th c.”. Lord, for thy tender mercy’s sake, which is filed under the name of John Hilton the elder, probably ought to be in the same category. It is usually attributed either to Hilton or to Richard Farrant, but as far as I can tell both attributions first appear at least a hundred years after the piece was written, and there’s no good reason to believe either.

Whoever the composer, this well-known and much-loved setting of a text from Prayers commonly called Lydley’s prayers published in 1568 is a simple and heartfelt prayer for help in meeting today’s Gospel message of forgiveness and repentance.

Special mention today for Anthony our magnificent organist, who had eye surgery a few days ago and yet played faultlessly—and mainly from memory!—this morning.

4th Sunday of Lent (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Our Father, we have wandered
Kyrie Mass of the Creator Spirit (Ed Nowak)
Psalm Taste and See (Richard Proulx)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts I will arise and go to my Father (Robert Creighton, 1636-1734)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII & Missa Brevis (Antonio Lotti)
Communion Lord, your love has drawn us near (Stephen Dean)
Recessional Praise my soul, the King of heaven

We were joined today by Revd Canon Gilly Myers, Canon Precentor at Manchester Cathedral. She gave a short address after Communion, talking about her work, and about her hopes for her church and for the future of ecumenical relations. By coincidence the choir sang a piece by Robert Creighton, who was a remarkably long-lived Canon Precentor of Wells Cathedral. His setting of the prodigal son’s penitent words provided a simple but direct vehicle for the text, in the form of a three-part canon (at varying intervals) between soprano, alto and bass, plus the tenor part supplying missing harmonies. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography almost glows with praise (but doesn’t quite manage it): As a composer of church music he was not markedly inferior to many of his professional contemporaries.

For the Psalm we took Richard Proulx’s setting, and slimmed it down by removing the organ interludes, and the last verse (which doesn’t feature among those selected in the Lectionary for today). This transformed it effectively from a thoughtful and somewhat meandering processional piece (which has worked well for us during Communion) into a more tightly focused, and still musically interesting, responsorial Psalm setting.

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Attende Domine
Kyrie Mass for John Carroll (Michael Joncas)
Psalm Ps 102 (Geoffrey Boulton Smith)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts The Crown of Roses (P.I. Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII and Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Forget not what God has done (Marty Haugen)
Recessional How great thou art (Carl Boberg, tr. Stuart K. Hine)

The arrangement by the late Richard Proulx of the Lenten penitential hymn Attende Domine sets Latin and English versions of the refrain, interspersed with verses in English. The men of the choir sang the Latin refrain, and everyone responded with the English one; the women’s voices supplied the verses in between. It felt like it worked well: sometimes when the people aren’t given enough to do, they seem reluctant to join in at all; but the strong refrain in this piece made it feel as though the assembly was being given a proper and dignified role, even if it was a limited one.

Tchaikovsky’s Legend tells of the young Jesus being crowned with thorns grown from the roses lovingly tended in his garden. It fitted, after a fashion, with the parable of the fig tree in today’s Gospel reading. It’s the kind of piece the choir thrives on: ample scope for drama and pathos, in a musical setting that, with simplicity and directness, tells a story. I think we did it justice.

To judge from internet discussions, the hymn How great thou art arouses a certain amount of strong feeling over the theology implicit in the words sent him to die. I don’t think the words really amount to heterodoxy from a Catholic perspective. In any event, it was clear that it was a song much loved by our singing assembly. Lex orandi, lex credendi notwithstanding, an old friend of mine said to me recently: it doesn't always make sense to dissect hymn texts right down to the bare bones. Sometimes images and metaphors are just that.

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year C, 2010)

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Entrance Be still for the presence of the Lord (David Evans)
Kyrie Mass for John Carroll (Michael Joncas)
Psalm Ps 26 (Paul Inwood)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Prayers of Intercession Lord, in your mercy (mcb)
Preparation of the Gifts Thou knowest, Lord (Henry Purcell, 1659-1695)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Mass XVII & Missa Aeterna Christi Munera (Palestrina)
Communion Eye has not seen (Marty Haugen)
Recessional Immortal, Invisible

Plainchant, Palestrina, Purcell, Marty Haugen, Paul Inwood, Michael Joncas… A normal Sunday at Salford Cathedral.

Memorial Service for Maggie Jones

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Hymn Praise my soul, the King of heaven
Reading (Anne Kirkbride) Wisdom 3:1-9
Poem (Malcolm Hebden) When I have fears (Noël Coward)
Jon Christos & Jenny Williams Panis Angelicus (César Franck)
Tribute (Tony Singleton)
Poem (Sue Nicholls) If I should go before you (Joyce Grenfell)
Caroline Fields I’m going to see you today (Joyce Grenfell)
Tribute (William Roache)
Hymn I vow to thee, my country
Poem (Anthony Cotton) I’m free (Linda Jo Jackson)
Jenny Williams Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton)
Jon Christos & Jenny Williams Ave Maria (Franz Schubert)
Hymn Faith of our Fathers
Jon Christos & Jenny Williams You raise me up (Rolf Løvland and Brendan Graham)
Leos Quartet Sheep may safely graze (J.S. Bach)

The cast and crew of Coronation Street, and two hundred-odd fans of the programme, came to pay tribute to the life of Maggie Jones who played the inimitable Blanche Hunt. I’m afraid I’m not enough of a Corrie watcher to have recognised all the famous names who were there. (But I did once explain acoustic spectrograms to Anne Kirkbride on Songs of Praise.)

There was a rich and varied programme of hymns, songs, poems and reminiscences. The pick of the crop was William Roache’s tour d’horizon of Blanche’s best put-downs over the years, part of a heartfelt tribute to a character (Maggie, I mean, rather than Blanche) it’s clear they miss.

There were prayers and a blessing too, led by Fr Tony. The choir had a limited role to play, in leading the hymns and (I suspect our chief purpose) giving the celebrant someone to process in and out with. Our ample reward was to rub shoulders with the stars over refreshments afterwards.