MusicNotes Mar 17-18

March 17-18

Prelude- What Wondrous Love is This, American Folk Hymn, arr. Arnold B. Sherman

This lovely setting of the familiar hymn will be presented this week by the MaryRingers, our advanced handbell choir. This piece is meant to set the tone for Mass, as its solemn, meditative mood invites us to bring our hearts closer to God. This piece also helps set the tone for the second half of Lent and the Triduum, during which we will be singing this hymn often. The traditional American hymn, which I will write about more in the next few weeks, tells of the greatest love of all time, God's love for His people, so strong that He gave us his Son that we may have eternal life. Sherman's arrangement invokes a variety of tonal colors, employing chimes and mallets. Arnold Sherman, out of Tyler, Texas, is an accomplished composer and clinician of handbell music.    

AnthemGod So Loved the World, John Stainer (1840-1901)

The text for this anthem comes directly from this weekend's Gospel lesson. This well-known Gospel verse is set very colorfully and dramatically by Stainer for a capella voices. The entire movement (which is an excerpt from Stainer's oratorio, The Crucifixion), is based on the single verse, John 3:16, but uses dynamics and unexpected harmonies to highlight the drama of the text. Stainer, hailed by colleague Sir Arthur Sullivan as a genius, was a well-known British composer and organist at the time and contributed a great deal to Anglican music. However, his music is not often performed today, with exception to The Crucifixion, which Stainer himself called "rubbish." It seems that the world disagreed with him, as this anthem became one of the most popular pieces in the history of sacred choral music. 

Postlude- Kyrie, fugue sur les jeux d'anches (from Messe pour les paroisses), François Couperin (1668-1733)

This French Baroque piece is based on a Kyrie chant tune, and serves to remind us as we leave Mass that we belong to God, and that it is our prayer for Him to come to our hearts, to grant us mercy, and to renew and restore our spirits. The piece comes from his Messe pour les paroisses (Parish Mass), a staple of French Baroque organ repertoire. It is a short fugue, played on the jeux d'anches, or reed stops of the organ, to give it a particular tonal color. Couperin was one of the most important composers of organ and harpsichord music of this period, and he served as organist at the church of St. Gervais in Paris, before becoming organist and court composer for Louis XIV. I studied this particular piece several years ago with organist Marie-Claire Alain, the world's current authority on the performance of French music from this period.   

Some musical changes in Lent-

Instrumental music will not be played during Lent, except for on this Sunday, Laetare Sunday. It is appropriate for instruments to remain silent during Lent, except to accompany singing. For Laetare Sunday (fourth Sunday of Lent), also known as Rose Sunday, instrumental music is acceptable. Laetare comes from the Latin for "rejoice," and is a mid-Lent time of relaxation from the Lenten stricture, as the hope of Easter now comes into sight.

Dialogues/Acclamations/Litanies- English Plainchant and Kyrie orbis factor

To help signal the transition to the new season, we will be singing a different set of Mass parts during Lent (Kyrie, Gospel Acclamation, Holy, Memorial Acclamation, Lamb of God). The words will be the same, but most of the tunes will come from the plainchant found in the new Missal, and, for the Gospel Acclamation, the Gregorian chant tune to the Kyrie orbis factor. The melodies will be simpler and shorter than the ones we were using in the last season, but they will help us focus on the words and remind us to come closer to God; to simplify our lives in ways that allow God to work through us. Chant can sometimes seem foreign to our ears. It sounds very different from every other kind of music we hear on a regular basis, but it also forms the backbone of the history of Catholic music and is an important part of our tradition. When sung with heartfelt joy and reverence, chant can be quite beautiful and powerful, and it can bring us deeper into prayer.

Will Buthod
Director of Music
Church of St. Mary
(918) 749 2561, ext 120
1347 E. 49th Pl.
Tulsa, OK 74105

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