3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A, 2011)

Entrance Your love is finer than life (Marty Haugen)
Sprinkling Rite Springs of Water (Marty Haugen)
Psalm O that today (Chris O’Hara)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Preparation of the Gifts Sitivit anima mea (G.P. da Palestrina, c.1525-1594)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Come to me and drink (Bob Hurd)
Recessional Guide me, O thou great redeemer

Today’s readings and propers contained a host of images of thirst, drinking, springs and water. The Communion antiphon was from John 4:13:

Whoever drinks the water that I shall give him, says the Lord
will have a spring inside him, welling up for eternal life.

Bob Hurd’s Communion processional song sets a similar image from later in St John’s Gospel (7:37-38):

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.
Let anyone who believes in me come and drink. As scripture says, from his heart shall flow streams of living water.

We sang the verse citing this image, and those adapted from verses of Psalm 42:

My soul is thirsting for God,
the living God;
when can I enter and appear
before the face of God?

My tears have become my bread,
by day, by night,
as they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

These same verses were also the text of Palestrina’s serenely beautiful motet, the second of a pair with the more familiar Sicut Cervus. The challenge in rehearsal was not to let the beauty of the music completely veil the haunting sadness of the words.

2nd Sunday of Lent (Year A, 2011)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Entrance Remember your mercy, Lord (Paul Inwood)
Kyrie Mass XVII
Psalm Ps 32 (Alan Rees)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Preparation of the Gifts Averte faciem tuam (from Miserere Mei by Antonio Lotti, c. 1667-1740)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Here is my servant, here is my Son (Psallite)
Recessional Immortal, Invisible

Today’s Entrance antiphon came from Psalm 24(25):

Remember your mercies, Lord,
your tenderness from ages past.

We sang Paul Inwood’s very fine setting, with choral verses (setting the Grail translation of the psalm text) and a people’s refrain. The extended refrain and the organ interludes make it a good processional song.

The Communion antiphon,

This is my Son, my beloved,
in whom is all my delight: listen to him.
echoing the Gospel story of the Transfiguration, was a new element in the 1970 Roman Missal, so I shouldn’t have been surprised not to be able to find a polyphonic choral setting. We sang the setting by the Psallite composers, combining a prayerful adaptation of the antiphon text with verses from Isaiah. The latter were an unwieldy object for chanting, but presented the choir with a good test of coordination and clear diction.

Another instalment of Lotti’s Miserere, to follow the section we sang for Ash Wednesday. This time we sang from Averte faciem tuam (turn your face from my sins) to Et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam (and my mouth shall declare your praise). The episodic character of the setting, meandering from verse to verse with nothing in the way of recurring thematic material, gives it a restless, even shapeless feel, but the strength of the pleading in the declamatory final verse of today’s excerpt (beginning Domine, labia mea aperies (Lord, open my lips)) gave the piece its character.

The Rite of Election (2011)

Opening Hymn The Church’s one foundation
Responsorial Psalm Teach me, O God (Chris Walker)
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 Always in your presence (Philip Jakob)
After Welcome of Candidates A Clare Benediction (John Rutter)
Prayers of Intercession Miserere Nobis from Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Recessional Hymn Praise to the holiest

A packed celebration like last year’s, this year for the first time with eight candidates for admission to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The music was the usual mix of the contemplative and the uplifting. For me, the musical highlight was probably the whole assembly enthusiastically taking up the refrain of Chris Walker’s Teach me, O God. On an occasion like this, the words have especial significance for so many present:

My heart delights
to follow your ways,
to follow your ways to the end.

1st Sunday of Lent (Year A, 2011)

Entrance Led by the Spirit (Bob Hurd)
Kyrie Mass XVII
Psalm Ps 50 (Stephen Dean)
Gospel Acclamation Praise to you, O Christ (James Walsh)
Preparation of the Gifts Emendemus in Melius (William Byrd, 1540-1623)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Mass XVII
Agnus Dei Mass XVII
Communion Not on bread alone are we nourished (Psallite)
Recessional Lead us, heavenly Father, Lead us

We introduced the Sanctus and Agnus Dei of Mass XVII last year, and this year we’re adding the Kyrie. A major traffic snarl-up meant that our principal celebrant arrived very late, and this gave us longer than usual to run through items with the congregation before the start of our celebration. So the chant items felt fairly secure by the time we sang them during the Mass.

From Psallite, Not on bread alone are we nourished adapts the text of the Communion antiphon from Matthew 4:4, setting it to the tune Picardy (Let all mortal flesh keep silence), with the voices in the refrain in canon, interspersed with chanted verses from Psalm 18(19). I thought it was a very effective setting, succeeding in establishing an atmosphere of prayer, while being readily accessible to our willing singing assembly.

Ash Wednesday (2011)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

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 kept to the same musical choices as last year, with the exception of the Lotti. Last year we sang the opening verse, and since then we've tackled the whole piece. Altogether it was on the long side for the ritual moment of the Communion procession, so we sang a truncated version. The piece is episodic in character - a through-composed setting with different music for every verse, and a regular alternating pattern of atmospheric counterpoint and declamatory block chords. It wasn’t easy, though, to find a place to stop that didn’t feel like ending in the middle. Cutting to the last verse (which, musically speaking, does feel like a proper ending) wasn’t altogether convincing either, with the text turning from penitence to, well, bullocks. We settled on

Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam:
et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may thrill.

9th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 2011)

Entrance Christ is made the sure foundation
Kyrie Kyrie Eleison from Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Gloria Missa Ubi Caritas
Psalm Ps 30 (Martin Hall/A Gregory Murray)
Gospel Acclamation Here in our Midst (Peter Jones)
Preparation of the Gifts The Lord bless you and keep you (John Rutter)
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Assisi Acclamations (Nick Baty)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion I am the true and living bread (Martin Barry/Diane Murden)
Postcommunion Litany to the Holy Spirit (Peter Hurford)
Recessional Glorious things of you are spoken

It was harder than I expected to find songs and hymns reflecting the image in today’s readings of God our rock. From Psalm 94(95), there’s the line Hail the rock who saves us. We sang a setting of this psalm for our Entrance song four Sundays ago. Today we tried out a hymn which, to my knowledge, we haven’t sung before: John Newton’s Glorious things of thee are spoken (in the Celebration Hymnal for Everyone version with modernised pronouns), with the line On the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake your sure repose? Our opening hymn Christ is made the sure foundation touched on the same theme.

For this the last Sunday before Lent, we had two fairly sunny choral items: firstly, John Rutter’s The Lord bless you and keep you, in which the line The Lord make his face to shine upon you echoed the last verse of the responsorial psalm; and secondly Peter Hurford’s Litany to the Holy Spirit.

The latter was chosen with both of today’s Communion antiphons in mind:

I call upon you, God, for you will answer me;
Bend your ear and hear my prayer.


I tell you solemnly, whatever you ask for in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours, says the Lord.

The words are the first three stanzas of Robert Herrick’s (1591-1674) prayer in verse about last things. Peter Hurford’s charming melody might be thought an incongruous vehicle for Herrick’s rather morbid supplications, but the end result is an uplifting focus not on death and judgement, but on the reassurance of trust in the Holy Spirit, the comforter.

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A, 2011)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Entrance All my hope on God is founded
Kyrie Kyrie Eleison from Missa Ubi Caritas (Bob Hurd)
Gloria Missa Ubi Caritas
Psalm Ps 61 (Martin Hall)
Gospel Acclamation Alleluia Mode 2 (Plainchant)
Preparation of the Gifts Seek ye first
Sanctus, Acclamation, Amen Assisi Acclamations (Nick Baty)
Agnus Dei Lamb of God II (mcb)
Communion In God alone (Taizé) & Ps 127 (Bévenot)
Postcommunion Quaerite primum regnum Dei (W.A. Mozart)
Recessional Lord, for tomorrow and its needs

Today’s Gospel reading gave us some memorable phrases, not least of which was

Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be gven you as well.

We found two contrasting musical settings, firstly in the well known modern hymn setting (in yet another fine choral arrangement from the RSCM collection Sing with all my soul), and then in the polyphonic setting by the young Mozart.

He wrote it at the age of fourteen, as part of the entrance examination for the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna. Legend says that it took him a mere half an hour of the allotted three hours. Although at least one critic maintains that the outcome shows the young composer’s failure to master an unfamiliar idiom, to my ear Mozart’s genius transcends the straitjacket, and gives us a little gem that looks forward to, say, the Clarinet Concerto rather than backwards to Palestrina. At any rate, that’s how we tried to sing it.

The unifying theme behind the first reading, the Psalm and the Gospel reading was encapsulated in the psalm response: In God alone is my soul at rest. Both our entrance hymn and our Communion processional song reflected on these words.

Also in today’s Gospel, the words

So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself

prompted the choice of an old favourite for our recessional hymn.