In the contemporary liturgical age, musical settings of the Credo are scarce. The Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition has gone a considerable way to changing the liturgical ethos that spurned the sung Credo by adapting the melodies of Credos I and III to the English text of the Creed. Chanted Credos should (in Latin in the first instance), and might one day again, be commonplace.
What, however, about the great repertory of polyphonic, orchestral and other choral settings of the Credo, amassed throughout the ages? The current General Instruction seems to prevent such settings being used liturgically, as it mandates the Credo being sung by the whole congregation together, or alternatim (but not by the choir alone, in contrast to the Gloria).
A musical setting of the Credo might actually bring alive that faith which the congregation is professing. In Easter Time, does the Paschal Mystery resonate more when the Creed is merely recited, or when a setting like the following is sung? I think particularly of the words Crucifixus etiam pro nobis, sub Pontio Pilato; passus et sepultus est. Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas.
Are we depriving ourselves of a possible source of spiritual nourishment by preventing that which previous generations held dear (and which, in the final analysis, can only serve to support and illuminate the themes conveyed by the text)?
The cathedral is perhaps one of the most well known in the world, Notre Dame de Paris. Whatever might otherwise be said about the music at Notre Dame's Masses on Sundays and during the week, one cannot but admire that on Sundays, a fully chanted Mass is sung:
I have long held the view that, regardless of other Masses at a cathedral or parish church (solemn sung with chant and polyphony, said Mass, vernacular Mass with hymns and modern settings of the Ordinary), one Mass should be a fully chanted Mass - the people singing their parts (responses to the dialogues, Mass Ordinary, etc), the choir its part (Propers from the Graduale, otherwise supporting the congregation sing their parts), and the celebrant chanting his parts. A nine o'clock Mass would be ideal - with Masses either side being, say, no music and chant/polyphony (or hymns and moderns congregational settings of the ordinary) respectively.
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John ...
This is part one of the St. John Passion, provided to assist priests, deacons, cantors and choirs to learn how to sing the Passion on Good Friday. It also happens to be one of the most sublime recordings of chant ever made - the cadences when the narrator introduces the words of Christ are particularly well sung. I urge you to buy one of the Naxos CDs which has this chant on it: In Passione et Morte Domini: Gregorian Chant for Good Friday or Ultimate Chant.
There are very good English arrangements to be found.
Video of one such English version from St Mary's Cathedral on 29 March 2013 (with the crowd's parts being sung to an arrangement of T. L. de Victoria):
And another version, Latin, with the original Victoria setting for the crowd:
Also for Good Friday - the Improperia. This is Victoria's setting, sung by the Choir of Men & Boys of St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York under the direction of John Scott. Recorded live on Good Friday 2011.
Palm Sunday is nearly upon us. Where will you attend and what will the music be like? In Sydney, people tend to make a bee line for St Mary's Cathedral if they seek excellence in sacred music. Other places include St Francis of Assisi, Paddington, and the cathedral of the neighbouring diocese of Parramatta. Scholas are being established at some other churches too.
For those who missed last Sunday's programme For the God Who Sings on Australia's ABC Classic FM, including roughly half of the music on the new Westminster Cathedral Choir CD Miserere, you can listen to the programme again by clicking here - a great opportunity to "try before you buy"! Available for another 25 days as at writing.
I've also just noticed that this week's programme (for broadcast on 24 March 2013 at 10.30 pm) has another track from Miserere - the Guerrero Ave Virgo Sanctissima.
We give thanks for Benedictus XVI. We give thanks for a short conclave. We pray for Franciscum to the Lord Jesus that as the new Holy Father he has the physical and mental strength "to govern the barque of Saint Peter and
proclaim the Gospel" (abdication speech of Benedictus XVI), and that his Holiness proves to be "a humble and holy, orthodox,
creative and courageous" (Bishop Egan of Portsmouth at his Episcopal ordination) Bishop of Rome, "one fashioned after the Lord's Own" (ibid). We pray too that the liturgical renewal under the previous pontificate continues, responsible (at least in part) as we are sure it is for the upsurge in vocations (both being necessary elements in furthering in God's name the social justice work of which the new Holy Father - admirably - is so ardent a champion).
The ambivalence of the joy of welcoming a new Pope mixed with a certain anxiety about how the Church will confront its most urgent problems is perhaps aptly reflected in the current liturgical season
and in that other season characterised by a certain spiritual and liturgical reserve, mindful at all times that "the work of Christ and the Church never regresses, but
always progresses" (speech by Benedictus XVI, 2012) but also that that progression can be, and arguably is at present, "hard and bitter agony" (Eliot).
Continuing the Isaiah theme
Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum. A theme of the Papacy of Benedictus XVI, which it is hoped the new Holy Father continues and develops.
Sydney is extremely lucky to have not one, but two excellent classical music radio stations - ABC Classic FM (the public broadcaster) and Fine Music 102.5 (a community radio station formerly known as 2MBS FM).
On the former this Sunday evening 17 March 2013 at 10.30 pm is a programme of lenten music, the bulk of which will be taken from the new CD of the incomparable Westminster Cathedral Choir - Miserere (which I briefly reviewed as part of this earlier post). The parts that will be played are:
A Sequence for Lent at Westminster Cathedral
Choir of Westminster Cathedral; Peter Stevens/Martin Baker
Miserere mei, Desus
Emendemus in melius
Missa Emendemus in melius: Kyrie
Missa Emendemus in melius: Agnus Dei
Audi, benign conditor
In spiritu humilitatis
A Sequence for St Joseph at Westminster Cathedral
William Gaunt, br; Choir of Westminster Cathedral; Peter Stevens, o/Martin Baker
Iustus ut palma
Mass IX 'Cum iubilo': Kyrie
No offence to BBC Radio 3, but all they could manage to play from Miserere when they reviewed it during the course of a three hour programme was a thirty second excerpt from the Malcolm Miserere mei, Deus, followed by a meagre one sentence comment about the singing. Poor form.
Tune in to 92.9 FM in Sydney to hear the broadcast of this superbly sung liturgical music. For other frequencies, click here. Listen online here.
Of course, do not forget to purchase the CD afterwards. My favourite online shop is the UK Presto Classical. If in Sydney, drop into Fish Fine Music, or if in Melbourne Thomas' Music (I have no affiliations with any of these businesses). If in London, try the Cathedral's own gift shop, Gramex or HMV Oxford Street, if it is still there :-(. (I have watched in horror as classical music shops in Sydney and elsewhere have disappeared. First the superb HMV Pitt St Mall closed. Its extensive classical music stock was purchased by the department store Grace Bros, now Myer, which also had a dedicated classical music room, until that too vanished into thin air. Then Michael's Music Room at Town Hall Station shut its doors, followed by one of the two Fish Fine Music shops. The classical music shop in Manuka, Canberra, whose name escapes me, also closed recently - I discovered this one morning after Mass at St Christopher's Cathedral - a wine bar is now in situ. Support the remaining independent classical music shops, otherwise they shall all disappear for good!)
Our local libraries are doing their part to disseminate excellent music - this picture from Stanton Library in North Sydney, close to my humble abode, where the procurement officer has fine taste:
In fact, you should be able to spot three other Westminster Cathedral Choir CDs in the photo as well. All the libraries that I have visited in northern Sydney have extensive classical music collections, and perhaps the biggest collection is to be found at the music library of the Sydney Conservatoire de Musique, part of the unrivalled University of Sydney (although situated right near the celebrated Sydney harbour, the Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden).
A special mention must also go to Hyperion Records - how wonderful that a record company takes the time and risk to publish such important music. Hyperion has lenten liturgical music well covered now, in Latin and English. Here is St Paul's Cathedral Choir singing the Lent Prose from the New English Hymnal (the Latin original Attende, Domine featuring on Miserere) on the CD Passiontide at St Paul's: