Trinity Sunday (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty
Kyrie Taizé Kyrie I
Gloria Coventry Gloria (Peter Jones)
Psalm Ps 8 (Sebastian Wolff)
Gospel Acclamation Salisbury Alleluia (Christopher Walker)
Creed Credo III
Preparation of the Gifts A Hymn to the Trinity (P. I. Tchaikovsky, 1840-1893)
Sanctus, Acclamation A, Amen German Mass (Franz Schubert, arr. Richard Proulx)
Agnus Dei Hurd Mass (Bob Hurd)
Communion God beyond all names (John Bell) & Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas (chant)
Postcommunion Tibi Laus (Orlande de Lassus, c. 1532-1594)
Recessional Holy God, we praise thy name

Trinity Sunday marks a return to the misleadingly-named Ordinary Time in the Sunday liturgical cycle (though of course strictly it resumed last Monday), and our musical fare changed accordingly. Bob Hurd’s Lamb of God goes nicely with Richard Proulx’s adaptation of Schubert’s Deutsche Messe, and Jacques Berthier’s Kyrie might have been written to precede Peter Jones’s now-venerable setting of the Gloria.

Tchaikovsky wrote four settings of the Cherubic Hymn from the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom. A short hymn of five lines plus the Alleluias, it comes in the Orthodox liturgy at a point corresponding to the Preparation of the Gifts in the Roman Mass. Russian settings usually have a slow and elaborate treatment of the first four lines, and then a separate, more animated last line, with the alleluias following. We sang the English version by W.G. Rothery published in 1906, which amplifies the text to fill the verses (of Tchaikovsky’s setting No. 1 in F) with less repetition and melisma than in the Slavonic original. Rothery’s inspiration seems to have been the Te Deum, with the image of the saints and martyrs joining with the angels to sing Holy, holy, holy. Our final hymn, too, was a Te Deum, and the opening hymn painted the same picture of the angels and saints singing the Trinity’s praises.

Pentecost, 2010

Entrance O Spirit All-embracing
Gloria from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Psalm Ps 103 (David Saint)
Gospel Acclamation Pentecost Sequence (arr. Richard Proulx); Easter Alleluia
Rite of Confirmation Breathe on me, breath of God (Evelyn Brokish)
Spirit of God (Bernadette Farrell)
Veni Sancte Spiritus (Taizé)
Preparation of the Gifts Hymn to the Holy Spirit (Randolph Currie)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Communion Spirit of the living God & Psalm 103 (John Ainslie)
Recessional Come Holy Ghost

Evelyn Brokish OSF, the internet reveals, is a Franciscan nun living and working in Highland, Indiana in the USA: a golden jubilarian this year, she combines her musical ministry with that of sweet shop proprietor and purveyor of her creation, the ChocoNutty Trio. Her Breathe on me, breath of God clothes an adaptation of the familiar hymn text in a prayerful chant-like setting with a recurring refrain. It worked well as a gentle accompaniment to the procession of the candidates in today’s rite of Confirmation.

We followed it with Bernadette Farrell’s Spirit of God, having begun our celebration with the powerful and beautiful O Spirit, all embracing, with words by Delores Dufner OSB, to the music of Gustav Holst’s Thaxted. The final verse runs

Come, passion’s power holy, your insight here impart,
And give your servants lowly an understanding heart
To know your care more clearly when faith and love are tried,
To seek you more sincerely when false ideals have died:
For vision we implore you, for wisdom’s pure delight;
In prayer we come before you to wait upon your light.

Are all the best songs to the Holy Spirit written by women, I wonder?

We had the traditional chant melodies for the two great Pentecost hymns. Randolph Currie’s choral anthem sets the chant melody Veni Creator Spiritus with Latin and English words, and then, surprisingly and skilfully, puts the two together in canon. We sang the sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus in its dancing 6/8 guise, in Richard Proulx’s effervescent arrangement. Both the texts came up a second time too, the latter accompanying Jacques Berthier’s meditative ostinato refrain, and the former in Thomas Tallis’s hymn setting, with which our celebration ended on a properly joyful note.

The Ascension, 2010

Entrance Praise him as he mounts the skies
Gloria from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Psalm Ps 46 (Shaun MacCarthy)
Gospel Acclamation Easter Alleluia (chant)
Preparation of the Gifts New praises be given
Sanctus, Acclamation D, Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion I will see you again (Psallite)
Postcommunion Ascendo ad Patrem (G. P. da Palestrina, c. 1525-1594)
Recessional Alleluia, Sing to Jesus

James Quinn SJ, who died in April at the age of 90, was a prolific writer of fine hymn texts. Among his best known perhaps are Day is done, but love unfailing and Forth in the peace of Christ. Like the latter hymn, Praise him as he mounts the skies reworks a familiar traditional hymn, in this case offering an alternative Ascension Day text to Charles Wesley’s Hail the day that sees him rise; one perhaps with greater theological depth too?

Palestrina’s five-part motet Ascendo ad Patrem is a serene reflection on our Lord’s ascension, and the promise of his Spirit. Angelic alleluias in elaborate counterpoint give way to momentary, arresting bursts of homophony at crucial places in the text: especially mittam vobis Spiritum veritatis (I will send you the Spirit of truth), with repeated articulation of the word Spiritum by several of the voices at once. The piece leads us nicely on to next Sunday’s great feast of Pentecost.

Feast of St. Matthias, apostle and martyr, 2010

Friday, 14 May 2010

Entrance Ecce Sacerdos (Edward Elgar, 1857-1934)
Christ is made the sure foundation
Kyrie Missa de Angelis (Mass VIII)
Gloria Missa de Angelis
Psalm Ps 112 (mcb/Steel)
Gospel Acclamation Easter Alleluia (chant)
Preparation of the Gifts My soul proclaims the Lord my God
Sanctus, Acclamation A, Amen Missa de Angelis & Missal tones
Agnus Dei Missa de Angelis
Communion Come to me (Martin Barry/Diane Murden)
Ave Verum Corpus (William Byrd, c. 1540-1623)
Postcommunion O Bread of Heaven
Recessional Hail Queen of Heaven

The cathedral was packed with priests and people for a farewell visit from Bishop Mark Davies, of these parts, recently appointed as Coadjutor Bishop of Shrewsbury. We greeted him and Bishop Terence with Elgar’s Ecce Sacerdos. It’s a delightfully understated and thoughtful setting – surprisingly so for Elgar – of what could simply be a moment of bombast. I’d have felt much less comfortable greeting the new Bishop with Bruckner’s version, trombones and all.

The feast of St Matthias perhaps isn’t at all a bad day to greet someone summarily appointed to high office. The responsorial psalm from the Lectionary gave us pause for thought at the planning stages: should we stick with the Lectionary response The Lord sets him in the company of the princes of his people, or go with the response appointed for this psalm when it occurs on a Sunday (the twenty-fifth in Ordinary time of Year C) Praise the Lord, who raises the poor? We stuck with the response of the day, but we still had to sing the verse

From the dungheap he raises the poor
to set them in the company of princes.

The lesson, I'm sure, was not to take any of it too personally.

Many of the musical choices were those of Bishop Davies. The people sang the Missa de Angelis with gusto, showing that it’s by no means extinguished from popular memory.

Credit, finally, to the new bishop, in his priestly days a refusenik from the celebrant’s sung role, but now counting the requirement to sing among the responsibilities of office. And turning out, what’s more, to have a fine singing voice.

6th Sunday of Easter (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Christ is made the sure foundation
Gloria from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Psalm Ps 66 (Cumberland/Forrester)
Gospel Acclamation Easter Alleluia (chant)
Preparation of the Gifts Let nothing trouble you (Bernadette Farrell)
Sanctus, Acclamation D, Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Communion My peace (Taizé) & Ps 84(85) (Murray)
Postcommunion If ye love me (Thomas Tallis, c. 1505-1585)
Recessional Come down, O love divine

To mirror our Lord’s promise of peace in today’s Gospel reading, we had Jacques Berthier’s My Peace, interspersed with the psalm verses speaking of peace in Ps 84(85). Bernadette Farrell’s setting of words from St Teresa of Avila fitted well with our Lord’s words Do not let your hearts be troubled from the same Gospel reading.

Both the Gospel reading and today’s communion antiphon recall the promise that the Father would send the Spirit, and so our closing hymn looked forward to Pentecost in two weeks’ time.

The second reading, from the book of the Apocalypse, described the heavenly Jerusalem and its foundations, and this prompted the choice of our opening hymn.

As with last week’s This is the Day, it was nice to be able to play around in rehearsal with the tempo of Tallis’s beautiful If ye love me. We settled on a slower pace than I’ve taken it in the past, which made for challenges of breathing and phrasing, but heightened the piece’s serene intensity, especially on the final word truth, sung to its arresting bare fifth chord.

5th Sunday of Easter (Year C, 2010)

Entrance Bring to the Lord a glad new song (Perry/Parry)
Gloria from Beneath the Tree of Life (Marty Haugen)
Psalm Ps 144 (Martin Hall)
Gospel Acclamation Easter Alleluia (chant)
Preparation of the Gifts A new commandment
Sanctus, Acclamation D, Amen Spring Sanctus (mcb)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion I am the vine (John L. Bell) & Ps 80 (Laurence Bévenot)
Postcommunion This is the Day (anon, c. 1600)
Recessional Christ triumphant

It’s ironic that (at least as far as I’m aware) there aren’t very many good congregation-friendly settings of the text of today’s entrance antiphon from Psalm 97: Sing to the Lord a new song.

A couple of years ago I took the instruction literally, and we sang Darlene Zschech’s Shout to the Lord, which we hadn’t done before. I don’t think we could get away with that every time, though, and this year, as last, we sang Michael Perry’s excellent reworking of Parry’s Jerusalem. Are there any other settings of this text you’d recommend?

I’d never heard of Osbert Parsley until I saw his name as a suggested composer of the more usually anonymous 16th century anthem This is the Day. I’m still not convinced it isn’t a prank.