Choral Highlights: November 27, 2016 - November 26, 2017 (Cycle A)

Enjoy a taste of the choral music you will hear from St. Matthew's Schola Cantorum (Latin for "School of Singers") at the 10am and 11:30am Masses this Sunday, courtesy of St. Matthew's Office of Music Ministries.

November 26, 2017
Christ the King (Year A)

Prelude 11:30am Mass, Let the Peoples Praise Thee – William Mathias (1934-1992)

Mathias was a Welsh composer of primarily choral music for the Anglican Church. He wrote this anthem on commission for the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and it may very likely have had the largest audience for the premiere of a piece of music in history; 750 million people watched the wedding on television. The piece sets the text of Psalm 67 in a festive manner with quick flutter motives from the organ part and bright and rhythmically joyful choral sections befitting a feast in honor of Christ the King of the Universe.

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Gloria 10am Mass, Missa Tertii Toni – Costanzo Porta (1529-1601)

Porta was an Italian composer of the Venetian School. Born in Cremona, he began early studies there, but later worked under Adrian Willaert and alongside Claudio Merulo in St. Mark’s, Venice. After leaving Venice, he took a position at the Cathedral in Ravenna and is buried at the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. His musical style alternates between polyphony and homophony, with mild contrapuntal activity in the voices.

Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass, O Rex Gloriae - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 –1594)

This motet is taken from the composer’s collection Motecta festorum totius anni cum Communi Sanctorum, which was published in 1564 in Venice. The text for these motets was taken from the antiphons for the Office, primarily for the feast days of the saints. The piece is built upon the double imitation of motives through the four voices. The text of the motet was traditionally ascribed as the Magnificat antiphon for second vespers on the Feast of the Ascension: “O King of glory, Lord of all power, Who ascended to heaven on this day triumphant over all; Do not leave us as orphans, But send us the Father’s promise, The spirit of truth. Alleluia.” This text makes clear references to the Ascension themes and scriptures, but also has obvious resonance with today’s feast.

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Post-Communion 10am and 11:30am Masses, Let all the World in Every Corner Sing – R. V. Williams (1872-1958)

This piece is the fifth of the Five Mystical Songs by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and was written between 1906 and 1911. The work is for soloist, choir, and orchestra/organ and sets five poems by the metaphysical poet, George Herbert, the most famous of the set being The Call, now found in numerous hymnals. While all the movements of the work sing the praise of the Resurrection, the final "Antiphon" is the only one not to feature the soloist, perhaps following the suggestion of the text that the entire world proclaim Jesus as “God and King”

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November 19, 2017
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Prelude 11:30am Mass, O, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

Herbert Howells was a choral composer primarily for the Anglican tradition. He was born in Gloucestershire, and studied music at the Royal School of Music under C. V. Stanford, Charles Wood, and, most influentially, Hubert Parry. Finding inspiration as far back as Tallis, Howells continued the English choral tradition into the modern era, oscillating between spare chant-like motives, to poly-tonal and highly chromatic harmonic techniques. This motet is the first from his collection Four Anthems, which were written at the astounding pace of one each day while the composer was snowed-in with his wife at their Gloucester cottage.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10am and 11:30am Masses, Beati Quorum Via – Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)

Remembered now most famously for his vast oeuvre of choral motets for the Anglican tradition, the Irish composer C. V. Stanford was a dominant force against more modern compositional tendencies in the music of his contemporaries. He was particularly influential for the next generation of English composers including Gustav Holst, and Ralph Vaughan Williams, both of whom studied with Stanford. He spent formative years at the University of Cambridge before embarking to Germany to study in Berlin and Leipzig. He became particularly fond of the music of Brahms, and many of his works give homage to the great German romantic. This piece is taken from Stanford’s three motets, Op. 38, and musically it captures a gentle ambulatory movement in its moving lines of quarter notes that are ubiquitous in the piece. The text is from Psalm 128, which appears as today’s Responsorial Psalm.

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Post-Communion 10am Mass, Tu Pauperum – Josquin Des Prez (c. 1455-1521)

Josquin was considered the greatest of the European polyphonic composers prior to Palestrina. Very little biographically is known of his life. He was likely born in Hainaut, now modern day Belgium, may have studied for a brief time under Ockeghem, and worked in France for a time before traveling to Italy. This motet, based on a Latin text of unknown origin, is almost entirely homophonic, and rather than utilizing imitative counterpoint, has freely composed responses to the musical motives. The use of a variety of phrase lengths throughout the motet creates an elegant symmetry in the work, particularly when complimented by the metrical changes that also occur. The care of the worthy wife in today’s first reading from Proverbs is echoed in the sentiments of this text, when ‘she reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.’ This implied admonition for us all will be repeated in next week’s Gospel in a more direct and inescapable challenge.

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Post-Communion 11:30am Mass, Behold the Tabernacle of God – William Henry Harris (1883-1973)

Harris was English organist, conductor, and composer, renowned during his lifetime as a choir teacher. He was organist and choirmaster for Christ Church, Oxford, before being appointed to the Director of Music at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The text of this anthem is taken from the Antiphonary for the Sarum Rite, with the first phrase based on passages from the Book of Revelations. Compositionally, the work is reminiscent of an earlier generation of composers, particularly Stanford, and Charles Wood with whom Harris studied at the Royal College of Music. The text placed on this penultimate Sunday of the Church year makes clear that the end is coming quickly, with its sober warnings and also potent promises for those who stay awake and aware.

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November 5, 2017
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Preparation of the Gifts: Benedic, anima mea, Domino – Orlando di Lassus (1532-1594)

Lassus, along with Victoria and Palestrina, was one of the most famous Renaissance composers of the late polyphonic era. He was born in Mons, Belgium, and later studied in Italy where he came under the influence of Hoste da Reggio, the famous northern Italian composer of madrigals, before returning to the north. This motet is from his Sacrae Cantiones, which was published in Munich in 1585, and primarily sets Offertorio texts for the liturgical year. The brief text “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits; and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s” is from Psalm 102, the appointed Offertory chant text for this Sunday in the Graduale Romanum. It echoes themes of the first reading from the prophet Malachi urging us to bless and glorify God or risk voiding God’s covenant, and of the second reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians where Paul lists the many reasons why we are encouraged to give thanks to God unceasingly.

Post-Communion: Domine, non est Exaltatum – Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

This motet is taken from Schütz’s Cantiones Sacrae collection of 1625, which was written during the Thirty Years War while Schütz was under the service of Jean-George I, Elector of Saxony. The collection is dedicated to the Catholic prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, and the earliest editions were printed in Freiberg. The text sources vary from the Psalms and Song of Songs, to works from Bernard de Clairvaux and Martin Moller. Schütz wrote the motets for four voices with gentle continuo accompaniment supporting them. This particular motet’s text is from Psalm 130, “O Lord, my heart is not exalted, nor are my eyes raised too high. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too marvelous for me,” and has frequent use of imitative writing, as well as modal oscillations while remaining centered in d minor but concluding in the final two bars first in E major, then A major chords. The text can be seen as a commentary on today’s Gospel where we hear Jesus accuse the scribes and Pharisees of hypocrisy - doing “good deeds” only to be noticed. Today’s Gospel pericope concludes “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

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Post-Communion: Seigneur, je vous en Prie, from Quatre petites prières de Saint François d’Assise – Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Poulenc was a turn of the century French composer born in Paris. Although he was primarily self-taught, he did study piano with Ricardo Viñes beginning in 1914, and through Viñes was introduced to many contemporary musicians of his days, including the other member of Les Six . He composed over multiple genres including opera, orchestral, chamber and choral. This collection for four motets based on prayers by St. Francis of Assisi was written at the request of the composer’s cousin, Father Jerome Poulenc. The motets are composed for male voices, and feature extremely dense modern harmonic writing. We can imagine that the source of St. Paul’s affection for the community at Thessalonica found in today’s second reading may be Paul’s certainty of Christ’s unconditional love as described by St Francis 1100 year later in the text of this motet: “Lord, I pray, that the burning and gentle power of your love absorbs my soul and removes it from all that is beneath heaven, so that I may die of love for your love since you have chosen to die for love of my love.”

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October 29, 2017
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass, Exsultate Justi, Ludovico Viadana (c. 1560-1627)

This motet by the Italian composer Viadana sets the first three verses of Psalm 33. The text of the psalm praises God through song and instruments. The music refers to the instruments through a technique known as ‘text painting,’ e. g. the Harp or Cithara is depicted in a long melisma (series of many notes on a single syllable) of eighth notes. Besides writing numerous motets for the Mass and Office, Viadana was an early pioneer of the Basso Continuo, championing the technique for one of its benefits - to assist those who are singing the score upon first reading, or sight-singing.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light, Richard Proulx (1937-2010)

Richard Proulx, former Director of Music for Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, arranges the well-known hymn tune Houston in this three part choral motet. The text and tune are by Kathleen Thomerson, an American composer and organist. Proulx’s introduction to the piece utilizes fragments of the melodies found in the hymn, before through composing the three verses with modifications in the harmony. He also creatively uses contrapuntal effects through delayed entrances. Proulx was prolific, writing more than 300 works in more than five decades as a professional musician and composer. His compositional abilities were broad, spanning the realms of instrumental, choral, and mixed ensemble works.

Post-Communion 10am Mass, Fac Cum Servo Tuo, William Byrd (1538-1623)

This motet is from the collection Liber Secundus Sacrarum Cantionum, which was published in London in 1591. The text is taken from Psalm 118, verses 124-125. While the text does not appear as an antiphon in any known manuscripts, it may have been used as such in a now lost source. It may also have been commissioned as non-ritual music. The writing is imitative throughout, with frequent use of the perfect fourth and fifth intervals, giving the phrasing an angular and at times march-like aesthetic.

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Post-Communion 11:30am Mass, Ubi Caritas, James Biery (b. 1956)

James Biery is an American composer, organist, and choral director, and one-time Director of Music for the Roman Catholic Cathedral in St. Paul Minnesota. He sets this text, taken from the antiphons during the Foot-Washing ritual on Holy Thursday, in a richly romantic idiom with frequent harmonic usage of extended harmonies while remaining tonally centered. The phrasing is reminiscent of chant, and likely parts were inspired by Maurice Duruflé’s Quatre Motets Sur Des Thèmes Grégoriens.

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October 22, 2017
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Prelude 11:30am Mass, Come Let’s Rejoice – John Amner (1579-1641)

Amner was an English composer, principally associated with Ely Cathedral. He wrote several choral collections, including Sacred Hymnes (1615), from which this motet is taken. The phrases are constructed from brief imitative motives that quickly devolve into free counterpoint. The text is from Psalm 96, and is most commonly used as the opening psalm or Venite for Morning Prayer.

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Preparation of the Gifts, 10am and 11:30am Masses, Cantate Domino – Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)

Hassler was a German composer born in Nüremberg. He was one of the first composers from his country to study in Italy, specifically at the Venetian school under Gabrieli. Influences of Gabrieli can be seen in this motet in the oscillation of polyphonic and homophonic writing, the use of triple meter and hemiola, and echo effects between the voice parts. The motet sets two verses from Psalm 95.

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Post-Communion 10am and 11:30am Masses, Cantate Domino – Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

Although not born into a musical family, the German composer Schütz received training as a choirboy in Kassel before going to Italy to study under Gabrieli. Upon his return he succeeded Hassler as court composer for the Saxon court in Dresden. His style, while continuing in the tradition of his predecessors such as Praetorius and Hassler, develops elements of the Baroque, which would later be adopted and more fully developed by Buxtehude and Bach. The motet’s text is taken from the 149th Psalm.

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October 15, 2017
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Preparation of the Gifts,10am Mass, Ubi Caritas - Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978)

Ola Gjeilo (pronounced yay-lo) is a contemporary Norwegian composer. He has written primarily choral music, mostly on sacred texts, including ‘Sunrise Mass’ based on the Mass ordinary texts, as well as a popular setting of the traditional Christmas Eve text, O Magnum Mysterium. This Ubi Caritas motet seems to be inspired by the much-loved Duruflé setting composed a half century earlier, including chant-like phrases, homophonic part writing, and dense harmonic structures. The text is taken from one of the proper antiphons for the Washing of Feet rite from Holy Thursday.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, O Taste and See – Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

This gently undulating setting of a verse from the 33rd Psalm was commissioned for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. There are only two musical motives employed in the motet, demonstrated firstly by a soprano soloist, and then by the choir in imitative answering. The pentatonic scale (Do, Re, Fa, Sol, La) is predominates in the work, a feature of the English nationalist sentiment for which Vaughan Williams was known. This verse, which is typically associated with the Communion rite, is heard in the context of the parable of the King who welcomes all to his Son’s wedding banquet in today’s Gospel from Matthew.

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Post-Communion 10am Mass, Jesu Dulcis Memoria - Tomas Luis de Victoria (ca. 548-1611)

Jesu Dulcis Memoria is a hymn that was very likely composed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century Cistercian and Doctor of the Church. The opening phrase is often translated as “Jesus, the very thought of thee.” This setting has traditionally been attributed to the Spanish polyphonic composer, Victoria, though scholars question this authorship. The first verse is set in an intensely harmonically interwoven structure, expressing the poignancy of this text. The choral writing frequently utilizes chromatics and extended suspensions to create an intimate prayer to Jesus.

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Post-Communion 11:30am Mass, Love Bade Me Welcome - David Hurd (b.1950)

The text of this poem is by the English Metaphysical poet, George Herbert, and is has been an inspiration for many composers, including Judith Weir and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The poem is written as a dialogue between the welcoming Love (Jesus) and a hesitant and unworthy soul; a similar discourse occurs in today’s Gospel between the King and the wedding guests. The American composer, David Hurd, sets the text in a strophic hymn like setting, employing lush choral harmonies.

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October 8, 2017
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) 

Prelude 11:30am Mass and Post-Communion 10am Mass, Vinea Mea Electa – Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

The vineyard is the scene for two complementary parables from today’s reading. In the first reading taken from the prophet Isaiah, the parable envisions the vineyard as the house of Israel. It has been carefully cultivated to yield good fruit, but by harvest time, the grapes have grown wild. In the Gospel reading taken from St. Matthew, the vineyard has become the scene of violence and murder, as the landowner’s servants (prophets) and his son are beaten and murdered by the tenants. Poulenc’s brilliant motet, taken from his collection Quatre motets pour un temps de penitence, connects the two parables, where the vineyard of the first reading is accused of the tenant’s crimes in the Gospel. The motet is rich in the 20th century French choral idiom, although it is unusually diatonic for Poulenc.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass, Cibavit Eos – William Byrd (c. 1543-1623)

This motet by the Tudor-era William Bryd is taken from the composer’s 1607 Gradualia I, written for a clandestine Catholic community of England. The text is the Introit for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi taken from Psalm 81 and recalls God’s promise to feed us with the finest wheat and even honey from the rock. The motet has a bright, jubilant character that well expresses the , gratitude for God’s many blessings, particularly in the Alleluia section. Modally, the piece is Mixolydian, with hints of the diatonic major scale, prefiguring elements of Baroque era music that would flower in the next few decades.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, Father We Thank Thee - Claude Goudimel (c. 1505-1572)

The tune RENDEZ A DIEU is first found in a Strasbourg chant book. It was later taken up by Louis Bourgeois and, with some slight adaptation, was printed in the Genevan Psalter of 1551. The harmonization by Goudimel was published in Paris in 1564, less than a decade before the composer was murdered during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre along with other Huguenots. The text is taken from Bland Tucker’s translation of what some believe to be a first century Eucharistic Prayer found in the Greek Didache.

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Post-Commuion 11:30am Mass, Rejoice in the Lord Always – Anonymous

This anonymously composed motet from the middle of the 16th century is a standard of the English and Liturgical choral repertoire. The text is from the 4th chapter of Philippians (KJV), from which today’s second reading is also taken. While its authorship remains uncertain, the clarity of its counterpoint and textual sensitive use of interplay between polyphony and monophony suggest a well-trained Tudor-era composer, on the level of Tallis or Byrd. To hear a version, click below:

  

 

October 1, 2017
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Prelude 10:00am Mass, O Holy Spirit by Whose Breath, Julian Wachner (b. 1969)

This hymn concertato on the tune LASST UNS ERFREUEN, takes its text from a poetic translation of Veni Creator Spritus, written by John W. Grant. The instrumental interludes between the verses, as well as the choral accapella verse, demonstrate Wachner’s abilities in the use of harmonic language with a preexisting melody, as well as his unique idiom of post-modern American Romanticism. An unexpected descant on the final verse superimposes the tune OLD HUNDRETH on the primary melody. This final verse acts as a thematic bridge to the opening hymn in this Mass, which uses the same tune. The frequent references to the Holy Spirit found throughout the euchology (prayer forms) and the scriptural and musical elements of a Red Mass call on the Holy Spirit to bestow the gift of wisdom on those in the service of truth, justice, and fairness. This version of an earlier setting was adapted with the permission of the composer for use at the Midday Prayer celebrated with Pope Francis at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington, DC in September 2015.

To hear a setting using the text All Creatures of Our God and King, click below:

Entrance Hymn 10:00am Mass, The Old Hundredth Psalm Tune (All People that on Earth Do Dwell), Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Vaughan Williams composed this festive setting of Psalm 100 in 1953 for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The piece begins with a signature brass and timpani fanfare. This flourish is adapted from the composer’s Cantata The Hundredth Psalm. The fanfare reappears as the interlude before the final verse. After this iconic introduction, the hymn continues with all voices and instruments in unison, as if to propel and support the assembly’s voice in the strongest possible way. The second and third verses are with choir in the familiar four-part setting, assisting the assembly on verse two, and then singing without the assembly or instrumental accompaniment on verse three. Verse four is also a choir solo, but with the tenors now singing the melody (rather than the sopranos) in a faux-bourdon harmonization written by John Dowland in 1621. Vaughan Williams is considered the greatest English composer of the last century, writing for numerous genres and instruments. He studied at the Royal College of Music under the tutelage of Hubert Parry, whom the young Ralph idolized, and later at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is often classified under the Nationalistic Movement of the early 20th century that set about a rediscovery of folk and ethnic movement, although this category should in no way be considered his exclusive style. In terms of English Sacred Music, Vaughan Williams’ contribution is without parallel, as he was the primary editor of the 1920 English Hymnal. To this day, many of the tunes sung in Christian churches are either known through his arrangements, his discoveries within the English countryside, and even his own compositions.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am Mass, Veni, Creator Spiritus, Michael John Trotta (b. 1978)

Opening with a single voice quoting the Veni Creator Spiritus chant, the piece gently adds voices, always continuing in the chant rhythm. Although the melody of the chant is not preserved entirely, having the motives traded throughout the vocal parts gives the effect of the chant hymn being sung in its entirety. Trotta combined two texts for this motet: the well-known Veni Creator, Spiritus often attributed to Rabanus Maurus (9th century), and Veni Sancte Spiritus, (not the sequence by the same name), a short prayer found in a proper from the liturgy. The text sings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and implores third person of the Trinity to reside in the hearts of the faithful gathered. Michael John Trotta is an American choral conductor and collaborative composer, who has worked principally in the New York and Philadelphia music communities.

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Communion Antiphon 10:00am Mass, Come Holy Spirit, J. Michael Thompson (b. 1955)

J. Michael Thompson has created an English language alternatim setting of the Pentecost sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus, with a translation of the text by the late Peter Scagnelli, S.J. The men of the choir sing the odd verses of the sequence using the traditional chant melody alternating with the women who sing an original three-part harmonized setting of the even-numbered verses. Communion 10:00 AM, Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether, Harold Friedell (1905-1958) This poem was written by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), an Anglican priest and publisher who collaborated with Ralph Vaughan Williams on the 1906 English Hymnal. Continuing the themes associated with this Mass, the text petitions the Holy Spirit to be present when two or more people are gathered to pray. Harold Friedell was a teacher at Juilliard and Union Seminary, as well as a renowned organist and composer. He wrote in a dense contrapuntal style that utilizes modern frequently diatonic harmonies.

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Prelude 11:30am Mass, Call to Remembrance – Richard Farrant (c.1530-1580)

Richard Farrant was a Tudor-era English composer at residence in the Chapel Royal and later organist at St’ George’s Chapel, Windsor. Several motets which had been attributed to him have been since assigned to other composers by historians and musicologists. This motet is considered to be genuinely his. The text is taken from the 25th Psalm - today’s responsorial psalm - and beseeches God to remember his acts of mercy in the past, and to be merciful to us now. The music is frequently motivic and oscillates between f-minor and its mediant relation – A-flat major. While the piece begins in a minor key, the concluding cadence shifts to a major tonality, advancing confidence in the promise of God’s grace and mercy.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, Christus Factus Est – Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901)

Today’s second reading contains the familiar verse beginning Christus factus est, “Christ became obedient for us, even to death on a cross” - from an early Christian hymn found in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. The text is also designated as the gradual for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. Like the reference in the prologue to John’s Gospel (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”) it speaks of Christ’s existence as and with God prior to the events of the Gospels and the Incarnation. Today’s setting taken from one of Rheinberger’s later collections of choral motets (Opus 107). The setting begins slowly in f minor as the text recalls Christ’s death on a cross. The pace of the second part is a fugue whose text “Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him a name above all other names.” is much quicker continuing in joyful march-like motives.

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Communion Antiphon 11:30am Mass, Lord Jesus Christ Humbled Himself - Guilliemus Messaus (1589-1640)

The Flemish composer Messaus (Fr. Messeaux) spent nearly his entire life in Antwerp, first as a sacristan at St. Joris Church and then choirmaster for St. Walburgis. He is mostly remembered today for his Cantiones Natalitiae (Christmas Carols), many of which still appear in modern Dutch hymn books. Richard Proulx (Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago), created a metrical transcription of the Christus Factus est text from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and set his words to the Messaus harmonization of the Flemish tune known as Jeruzalem, gij schone stad (Jerusalem, you beautiful city).

Communion Hymn 11:30am Mass, I am the Living Bread, Leo Nestor

This work is framed in an antiphon - verses structure, with the text being taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John - The Bread of Life dialogue. One of the most successful elements of the work is the text setting, which utilizes irregular meters throughout to facilitate a natural speech rhythm. The work is in an Aeolian modal color, with chromatics being used sparingly for dramatic effect. Following the final antiphon is a homophonic setting of the astute and wondrous insight in a passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions, reflecting the particular way this nourishment allows those who receive the sacrament to be transformed into the body of Christ, rather than the usual way that food becomes absorbed as a part of our bodies.

Post-Communion Motet 11:30am Mass, He Comes to Us as One Unknown, John Ferguson (b. 1941)

John Ferguson is an American composer and organist known for his choral compositions and hymn arrangements. This motet pairs Hubert Parry’s hymn tune Repton (Dear Lord and Father of Mankind) with a 1982 text by English poet and Anglican bishop, Timothy Dudley-Smith. The opening line quotes Albert Schweitzer in his Quest for the Historical Jesus (London, 1910). Other scripture allusions are from Revelation 1:5; 1 Kings19; Luke 24:27; and 1 Peter 1:8. In today’s liturgy, it acts as a commentary on the second reading and demonstrates how Christ makes himself present to us in the smallest glimmers of creation, in our embrace of love, and in our suffering and death. It gives further interpretation to today’s first reading from Ezekiel and Matthew’s Gospel when the text ”He comes in truth when faith is grown; believed, obeyed, adored…” Ferguson uses re-harmonizations, descants, and contrapuntal writing to add interest and depth of meaning to the hymn tune to further enhance these verses.

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September 24, 2017
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prelude 11:30am Mass, Come My Way, My Truth, Harold Friedell (1905-1958)

The text of this motet comes from the Metaphysical poet, George Herbert (1593-1633), who in addition to writing also served as a member of parliament and as rector for a small country parish near Salisbury. This text has also been set by Vaughan Williams for his Five Mystical Songs, from which the well-known hymn The Call originates. The early 20th century American composer, Friedell, sets the text in a lush and slow harmonic language that evokes both pleading and contemplation. While the first verse reflects on the words of Christ, the second focuses on the Eucharist, and the third envisions the soul transformed by this sacrament - ‘Such a heart as joys in love.’ In today’s second reading from his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul speaks of this yearning to be with Christ even as he knows he continues to be called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am Mass, Simile est Regnum Caelorum, Cristobal de Morales (c. 1500-1553)

Morales was a Spanish composer from Seville and, prior to Victoria, was considered the most important composer of the Iberian Peninsula. In addition to numerous posts throughout Spain, he was employed in Rome under Pope Paul III, and brought back to Spain many techniques and styles that were being used at the Vatican during that time. This motet sets three verses from today’s Gospel of the vineyard owner and his laborers. Morales’ setting uses imitative writing, with strong influence of Palestrina and the Roman style. The first two verses are set polyphonically, with the final verse set homophonically, both emphasizing the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s plan for salvation ‘you too go into my vineyard’ as well as bring the work into its final cadence. To hear a version, click below:

Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, The Eyes of All, Jean Berger (1909-2002)

This motet by the German born Jean Berger sets verses 15 and 16 of the 145th Psalm. Berger fled Nazism in the 1930s, and settled in the U.S., teaching at various universities during the 50s-70s. His music is of an eclectic style, with French tendencies, German techniques, and American influences. The text continues the theme of today’s first reading, with those who seek the Lord having their prayers answered in due season. To hear a version, click below:

Communion 10:00am Mass, Jesu, Meine Freude, J. S. Bach (1685-1750)

Bach set Johann Crüger’s (1598-1662) hymn with choral interspersions between each verse forming a twenty minute opus, the longest and most well-known of the six motets (BWV 225-230). While the text of the chorale is by Johann Franck, the middle (choral) sections are setting of verses from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The work was thought to have been written for a funeral, though recent scholarship suggests otherwise despite the somber nature of the text and music. The work is also noteworthy for being one of the few pieces that utilize five voices. The text of the first two verses, which will be heard during today’s Mass, speak of the intimate relationship between Jesus and his followers, and pleads for Christ’s help in strengthening our resolve to avoid sin.

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Communion 11:30am Mass, The Call, Leo Nestor

The text of this motet setting is from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. The verses tell how Christians ought to lead their lives within the body of Christ. The work is a popular selection for ordinations, and was dedicated to Bishop William Lori on the occasion of his Episcopal Ordination. Nestor’s musical style is a mixture of French part writing—particularly Duruflé and Poulenc—with American harmonic language, creating dense and often richly moving choral works. The composer’s detail to text scansion is also noteworthy, as the meter changes frequently to accommodate irregular texts. The conclusion of the work sets the Latin text of the final verse in a chant accompaniment that is reminiscent of the composer’s Four Motets on Gregorian Themes.

To hear a version, click here.  

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 17, 2017

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am Mass,, Salvator Mundi, Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)

This motet is one of the cornerstones of the English polyphonic tradition. The text is taken from a Medieval Liturgy of the Hours (Compline, in this case) that centers around the event of the Cross. Tallis creates a dark and sublime web of interlocking voices, while reflecting on the steadfast depth of Christ’s love for us.

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Communion 10:00am Mass, O Sacrum Convivium, Giovanni Croce (1557-1609)

The text of this Eucharist prayer is taken from the Liturgy of the Hours for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and is often attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. Croce’s setting uses double imitative writing throughout the work, giving a sense of growth and fade that poignantly reflects on the brevity of our experience of this banquet at each Mass. Although the influence of St. Mark’s in Venice is felt in his writing, he nevertheless wrote in a more modest style than his contemporary, Gabrieli, and his music is often compared with the Roman school of Palestrina.

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Solemnity of St. Matthew Patronal Feast Observed at 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM Masses
September 17, 2017

Even though the Church will celebrate St. Matthew’s feast next Thursday, September 21, the Cathedral also celebrates its patron saint at this Sunday Mass (as well as at the 1:00 PM Spanish Mass).

Prelude 11:30am Mass, O Clap your Hands, Ralph Vaughan Williams, (1872-1958)

Vaughan Williams published this festive setting of Psalm 47 in 1920. The piece may be performed either with brass or organ accompaniment, and the vocal lines are imitative of brass writing in phrasing and doubling, particularly at the fifth; a musical nod to the line 'the sound of the trumpet.' Vaughan Williams is considered the greatest English composer of the last century, writing for numerous genres and instruments. He studied at Royal College of Music under the tutelage of Hubert Parry, whom the young Ralph idolized, and later studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is considered the founder of the Nationalist Movement in British music in the early 20th century that set about a rediscovery of folk and ethnic music, although this grouping should in no way be considered exclusive for the composer's style. In terms of English sacred music, Vaughan Williams’s contribution is without parallel. He was the primary editor of the 1920 English Hymnal and, to this day, many of the tunes sung in Christian churches are either his arrangements, his discoveries from the English countryside, or his own compositions.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, Os Justi, Anton Bruckner (1824-1896)

The epitome of the Cecaelian movement of 19th century Germany, Bruckner’s Os Justi is an incredibly dramatic and emotive motet which economically utilizes minimal material and resources. The lydian mode piece is without accidentals throughout, an aspect of the Cecaelian attempt to return to an earlier style of composition. The opening A section breathlessly builds toward a celestially bright and suspension-rich cadence that leads into a secondary fugal section before the recapitulation. The text, taken from Psalm 36 with a verse added from Psalm 89, praises the attributes of a saint such as the apostle Matthew, patron of civil servants, whom we honor today: his mouth speaks wisdom, his tongue speaks justice, God’s law is in his heart.

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Communion 11:30am Mass, Zion’s Walls, Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

This work is from the second set of Copland’s Old American Songs, published in 1952. The material is taken from a Revivalist Song which is often credited to John G. McCurry (1821–1886) and his Social Harp collection of shape note hymns. The tune is broken into two sections; the first utilizes triplets and dance-like motives, and second made up of dotted-quarter notes that more emphatically plead the case of the text. Copland interplays both themes together for the introduction of the work. The set of songs was first written for piano and soloist, and later adapted for orchestra by the composer. The choral arrangement is by Glenn Koponen.

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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 10, 2017

Prelude 11:30am Mass, O Come Let Us Sing, Anthony Piccolo (b.1960)

Anthony Piccolo is an American born composer who writes in primarily an English/Anglican musical style. He studied at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, before living in England for almost a decade where he sang and played with several choirs including Canterbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s London, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Many of his choral compositions recall the works of Gerald Finzi with a rich harmonic palate and expressive use of the organ and voice. This setting of the 95th Psalm, employs a ‘perpetual motion’ accompaniment in the organ that gives the piece a light, fluttering quality. The choral parts are written in a standard English style, with some similarities to Walton. Piccolo composed the piece for the Royal School of Church Musicians Canterbury Festival in 1980, while he was in- residence there. The text is known as the Venite and is used each day as the introductory Psalm to the Office of Reading, in addition to appearing as today’s Responsorial Psalm.

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am Mass, Oravi ad Dominum Deum Meum, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

This text is assigned as the Offertorio proper for this Sunday. Palestrina brilliantly sets these three verses from the Book of Daniel in subtle but rich harmonic language, and with great appreciation to the meaning of the text. The first phrase ‘I prayed to the Lord’ is gently set in an arched phrase, and passes between the voices, always avoiding alignment in the text until the first homophonic entrance on the words ‘I Daniel said.’ While seeming a superfluous reminder of the text’s author, Palestrina links the revelation his identity with the musical resolution, while strengthening the harmonic foundation under the text, as though the words take on a more profound significance in the author’s ownership of the prayer. The second section constricts the phrase’s intervals, creating tense passages to carry the text ‘harken to the prayers of your servant.’ The third phrase alters the modal composition of the piece dramatically from d minor, through F major, and then into a minor, all within four measures, as we feel the music brighten as it proclaims: ‘let your face shine.’ It is to be a short lived brightening, though. The conclusion of this section with the words ‘on your sanctuary’ quickly returns the piece to opening d minor section, a sobering reminder that the Church is of this world, and we can still only see God’s face dimly, as if in a mirror. The only five voice homophonic section follows, emphasizing the depth with which Daniel felt for these words: ‘look with forgiveness.’ The final words of the motet ‘on the invocation of your people O God’ fluctuate between the tonic and dominant keys of the motet, building with each phrase, until a culmination in the final plagal cadence, often referred to as an “Amen cadence.”

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass, If Ye Love Me, Richard DeLong (1951 - 1994)

Richard DeLong is an American composer who for many years worked as a Music Director in Plano, Texas. His harmonic language is diatonic with minor key inflections that place the works somewhere between Modal and Americana. His phrases are typically built on simple melodic constructions and frequent use of alternation between solo and choral voices. The text, taken from the King James translation of John’s Gospel, reminds us that our obligation to follow the law flows primarily from our love for God, not fear. By keeping the commandments, Christ promises the Apostles the arrival of the Holy Spirit (‘Comforter’ in this translation), the driving force for the foundation of the Church.

To hear a version, click here.

Communion 11:30am Mass, He Watching Over Israel, Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

This anthem is taken from Mendelssohn’s Oratorio Elijah, and directly follows the trio Lift Thine Eyes, acting as a response to the favor that is sought in the trio. The text of the chorus is taken from Psalm 121, and acts as a commentary on today’s first reading where the ‘watchmen’ is replaced with a loving ever-watchful protector. The work utilizes triplet figures throughout. Mendelssohn’s contrapuntal genius shows through in the recapitulation of the first section where motivic material from both A and B sections overlap each other with graceful fluidity. The coda of the piece features some of the richest choral harmonic writing of the 19th century, and we can hear precursors of Mendelssohn’s unfinished oratorio Christus (opus 97), in both the treatment of text and the harmonic palate.

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Communion 10:00am Mass, Venite, Exultemus, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562-1621)

This motet is taken from Sweelinck Cantiones Sacrae, which was published in 1619 in Catholic Antwerp, and contains Latin sacred works for five voices. The text is taken from the first three verses of the 95th Psalm, which also appears as the Responsorial Psalm in today’s Liturgy. Sweelinck’s influence on later German organists and composers is without parallel. In the first passages we hear the motives leaping through the parts in the same way that Praetorius and Buxtehude would later imitate. The five voices are often grouped two against three, in order to echo text and motives. The light, jubilant passages of the first two verses are contrasted with the third verse, which lengthens the rhythmic timing, creating sense of finality.

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) 
June 18, 2017

Prelude 11:30am, Ave Verum, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Poulenc was a turn of the last century French composer born of Parisian bourgeois parents. Although he was primarily self-taught, he studied piano with Ricardo Viñes beginning in 1914, and through Viñes was introduced to many contemporary musicians of his days, including other member of Les Six. He composed over multiple genres including opera, orchestral, chamber, and choral. This setting of the Ave Verum prayer was composed in 1952, around the same time as his Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël. The text, which is often attributed to Pope Innocent VI, speaks of Christ’s true presence in the eucharist, as well as connecting the sacramental sacrifice with Christ’s passion and death.

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Preparation 10:00 AM, Ego Sum Panis Vivum, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

This work comes from the composer’s second book of four-voice motets (Motectorum quattuor vocibus, Liber Secundus), published in 1581. The text is taken from the Bread of Life discourse found in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. In these verses, Christ declares himself to be bread provided by God and, unlike the manna in the wilderness, which only provided sustenance in this life, the bread Christ gives brings eternal life. The piece is set in a major tonality, which gives a sense of quiet peace to the listener. The voices utilize imitative entrances throughout the work, and some text-painting examples include the lengthy melisma on the word ‘desert’ suggesting our journey in this life, as well as a gentle descending motive on the word ‘from heaven’ to allude to Christ’s incarnation.

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Preparation 11:30 AM, Ave Verum, Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Elgar was a English composer best known for his Enigma Variations. His choral repertoire, while modest, contains two large scale oratorios of significant merit: The Dream of Gerontius, op. 38, and The Apostles, op. 49. This small motet was written in 1887 following the death of a friend of the composer’s father. The intention of the piece to be used at a funeral can still be found in the additional text in the coda of the work; ‘O Clemens, O Pie, O Dulcis Jesu, Fili Mariae.’ Despite Elgar’s Catholicism, which occasionally becomes apparent in his text choices, the composition is firmly of the English choral repertoire in style.

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Communion 10:00 and 11:30 AM, I am the Living Bread, Leo Nestor

This work is framed in a Antiphon - Verses structure, with the text being taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John - The Bread of Life Dialogue. The best element of the work is the text setting, which uses irregular meters throughout to facilitate a natural speech rhythm. The work is in an Aeolian modal color, with chromatics being used sparingly for dramatic effect. Following the final antiphon is a homophonic setting of a passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions, reflecting on the revitalizing and unifying process of the sacrament.

Post Communion 10:00, O Sacrum Convivium, James Biery (b. 1956)

James Biery is an American composer, organist, and choral director, and was Director of Music for the Cathedral in St. Paul Minnesota for over a decade. This motet uses a technique known a pedal point, in which the lowest voice sustains a single pitch for the duration of the work. The upper voices enter on this same pitch, but then expand into rich harmonies, culminating in a triumphant ‘Alleluia’ that then fades back into the stillness of the beginning. The text is a traditional Catholic prayer of unknown origin, though when it was added as a Magnificat Antiphon for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, it was attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas.


Trinity Sunday 
June 11, 2017

Prelude 11:30 AM and Preparation of the Gifts 10:00 AM, Duo Seraphim, Jacob Handl (1550-1591)

The text of this motet is taken from the Book of Isaiah, and it is used as a Matins Response for the Feast of the Trinity. This verse speaks of the glory of heaven through Isaiah’s vision, and it is one of the few descriptions of the place in the entire bible. The thrice-declared ‘holy’ is both a triune reference, as well as an archaic from of the superlative. This text is sung at every Mass as the first part of the Preface Acclamation as heaven and earth are united in sung praise of the divine. The composer, Handl, was born in Slovenia (then the Austro-Hungarian empire.) He traveled with the Viennese Court extensively through the empire as a Cistercian monk. He was choir master for several years to the bishop of Olomouc (Czech Republic), and died in Prague. His was greatly influenced by the Venetian style of Polyphonic writing, which utilized double choirs and echo effects.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30 AM, God So Loved the World, Bob Chilcott (b. 1955)

Chilcott is an English singer and composer of choral works. He was trained as a child in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and as an adult was a member of the King’s Singers for over a decade. This motet sets the famous John 3:16 text in a gentle and lush style. The Chilcott setting, while bearing some slight similarities to John Stainer’s more well known setting, nevertheless retains its individuality primarily through richer harmonies of a 20th century palate.

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Communion 10:00 AM, Honor, Virtus, et Potestas, Thomas Crecquillon (c. 1505 - 1557)

The text is taken from a Matins response for the Solemnity of Trinity, and may also have been used for the Solemnity of All Saints. Thiemo Wind, in his essay ‘Musical Participation in Sixteenth-Century Triumphal Entries in the Low Countries,’ cites this motet, among other Crecquillon compositions, as likely being used for ceremonial entries by Charles V. The motet is typically of the Franco-Flemish style of polyphony, and contains frequent chant motives and quotations.

Communion 11:30 AM, I Bind unto Myself Today, C.V. Stanford (1852-1924)

Charles Villiers Stanford was an Irish composer of Anglican Church music. He is most well known for his Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings, which are still sung to this day in many Episcopal and Anglican churches for evening prayer. He set C. F. Alexander’s masterful poetic version of this prayer in 1902, utilizes two pre-existing Irish hymn tunes; St. Patrick and Gartan. Due to the irregular stanzas present in the text, the hymn utilizes three separate metric schemes, making this hymn unique among the hymnic repertoire. Though we are not able to sing all the verses in its placement at this Mass, the thematic outline of the full hymn begins in the first verse by invoking the Trinity in a circular manner: we invoke the Trinity, through he power of the trinity - i. e. we allow ourselves to participate in it’s continuous act of participatory existence. The second verse details the acts of the mediator between us and the Trinity - i. e. the second person, Jesus - listing his actions as revealed through scripture. The third verse will recall the Te Deum prayer to many listeners, as the heavenly hosts, from Angels through Apostles, Patriarchs and Prophets, draw a picture of the hierarchies of heaven. The fourth verse, in brilliantly colored language, praises the natural as creation participates in the Trinitarian collective through its very being. The fifth verse is paean of God’s mercy and love to his children. The sixth and seventh verse utilize the second tune of the hymn, and the text is often known as the Lorica or Deer’s Cry. The eighth and final verse is a culmination of the previous verses, beginning with a repetition of the first verse, a detour to mention creation, (both natural and eternal), and finally a focusing in on the second person, by whom we participate in the Trinitarian Mystery, with a firm declaration: Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

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Sunday June 4, 2017 
Solemnity of Pentecost

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00 AM - Dum Complerentur, Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

Palestrina resists setting this motet in the strict imitative polyphony for which he is typically known, and instead uses homophonic phrases alternating between different groupings of the choir sections. This technique gives the piece a gentle undulating quality, calling to mind the wind blowing into the room at Pentecost. The text is from the book of Acts, and recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit with ‘Alleluias’ dispersed throughout the piece - often in more standard imitative polyphony, particularly at the end.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30 AM - Veni, Creator Spiritus, Michael John Trotta (b. 1978)

Opening with a single voice on the motive of the Veni Creator chant, the piece then gently adds voices, always continuing in the chant rhythm. Although the melody of the chant is not preserved entirely, having the motives traded throughout the vocal parts gives the effect of the chant hymn being sung in its entirety. Two texts are spliced together for this motet: The first being the Veni Creator, Spiritus, which we hear in the beginning (often attributed to Rabanus Maurus (9th century), and Veni Sancte Spiritus (not the sequence by the same name), a short prayer found in a Proper from the liturgy. The text sings of the works of the Holy Spirit, and implores for the Spirit to reside in the hearts of the faithful. Michael John Trotta is a New York based choral conductor and composer.

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Communion 10:00 AM - Factus est Repente, Crecquillon (c. 1505-1557)

The text is taken from the Book of Acts and is the Communion Proper for Pentecost Sunday. The Franco-Flemish composer, Crecquillon, sets the text in a solemn polyphonic style, emphasizing the significance of the event, as well as the dramatic occurrence of the Spirit’s descent. The opening line of the motet is written to give the effect of wind entering the room. The piece continues its dramatic drive through imitation and multi-voice entrances to conclude with a triumphant ‘Alleluia’ in a major tonality, perhaps to signify, for Crecquillon and us, the beginning of the Church and a new age.

To listen to an instrumental version, click below and begin at 1:06:

Communion 11:30 AM - O Lord, Give Thy Holy Spirit, Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)

This motet was written during the reign of Elizabeth I, and is one of the later and most expressive motets from Tallis oeuvre. It is set in a homophonic style with slightly delayed entrances and rhythmic deviation. The work’s mode is continuously at question, as accidentals are negated quickly as they travel through the voice parts. The text for this motet is taken from a 16th century Protestant prayer book called ‘Lidley’s Prayers,’ published following Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne and the reinstatement of the Edward IV prayer book. The prayer beseeches the Holy Spirit to send forth two of its seven gifts: understanding and fear of the Lord.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 14, 2017

Prelude 11:30am - The Stone Which the Builders Rejected, Gail Gillispie

Gillispie is a singer, composer, and lutenist based in the Chicago area, where she has conducted numerous choral groups specializing in music from the Renaissance. Her music is stylistically aligned with Palestrina and other Catholic polyphonic motet composers, with lines of text oscillating between homophonic and polyphonic textures, all framed within 16th contrapuntal theory. The text of this motet is from Psalm 118, which is the Psalm for Easter Sunday, and alludes to today's second reading from 1 Peter.

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am - Jubilate Deo Universa Terra a 5, G. P. da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

This motet is taken from Palestrina’s Offertorio totius anni, from 1593, and is a setting of the Offertory text for either Epiphany II or Easter V. The text is from Psalm 65, and speaks of both discipleship and praise for the goodness of God. The opening section - the joyful proclamation ‘Jubilate Deo universa terra’ - is curiously set in the Phrygian mode, more typically felt as somber in tone. The motet moves between polyphonic and homophonic sections, with fluid melismatic phrases, creating the effect of many voices ‘universa terra’ joining in the chorus of praise.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am - Sing Aloud unto God our Strength, Daniel Nelson

Daniel Nelson (not to be confused with the Swedish composer of the same name) was born in Colorado, and studied music at Bethany College and Indiana University. The motet sets text from the first three verses of Psalm 81, which is an exuberant acclamation of praise to God. The harmonic writing remains diatonically E minor in the first section, while in the second second section shifts into G sharp minor, a tertiary relationship that comes on rather abruptly before the third verse begins. The final portion of the piece resets material from the first section, but alters the tonality to provide for a more joyful ending in E major.

Communion 10:00am - Phillippe, qui videt me, Thomas Crecquillon (c. 1505-1557)

This motets sets a single line of Christ’s words to Philippe from todays Gospel with Alleluias dispersed throughout. The motet stays in simple meter for its duration, and employs imitative writing typical of the Flemish/Lowlands polyphonic style.

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Communion 11:30am - Come My Way, My Truth, Harold Friedell (1905-1958)

The text of this motet comes from the Metaphysical poet George Herbert (1593-1633), who, in addition to writing, also served as a member of parliament and as rector for a small country parish near Salisbury. The text has also been set by Vaughan Williams for his Five Mystical Songs, from which the well-known hymn The Call originates, and the first line of the poem comes from today’s Gospel reading. The early 20th century American composer, Friedell, sets the text in a lush slowly harmonic language, which evokes both pleading and contemplation. While the first verse reflects on the words of Christ, the second focuses on the Eucharist, and the third envisions the soul transformed by this sacrament - ‘Such a heart as joys in love.’ 


Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 7, 2017

Prelude 11:30am - God is Love, His the Care, arr. Andrew Carter (b. 1939)

The tune PERSONET HODIE is taken from the Scandinavian collection of hymns, Pies Cantiones, which was published in the 16th century, though the tune may have originated in Bavaria two hundred years earlier. It wasn't until the mid-19th century that the tunes found their way to John Mason Neale, and subsequently the English Hymnals. This arrangement was chorally set by the English composer, Andrew Carter, with text by the Anglican priest, poet, and pedagogue, Percy Dearmer. The text depicts God as the Good Shepherd whose evident grace and care for us is a model of the way we should treat one another.

To hear a festive hymn version of this piece from Liverpool R.C. Cathedral click below:

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am - Deus, Deus Meus, G. P. da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

This motet is taken from Palestrina’s Offertoria totius anni of 1593, and is designated for the Offertory chant of the fourth Sunday after Easter. It is striking as being one of the few motets from this collection to begin the motive in the Bass, which creates a much more subdued and somber affect, giving the impression of night just before the dawn. The phrase ‘ad te’ (to you) is set in an ascending fifth, as if raising our eyes in prayer. All phrases in this motet have the lower two voices drop out at points, removing the momentum of the line and creating a tranquility to reflect on the text. The setting of the extended concluding Alleluias retains the placid character of the preceding section - a marked contrast from the more typical treatment of motets of this period where the “Alleluia” conclusion is more an acclamation achieved through the use of changing meter and quicker pace.

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Preparation of the Gifts - 11:30am Surrexit Pastor bonus, Michael Haller (1840-1915)

Michael Haller, a German composer from the Bavarian region, was known as “the 19th century Palestrina.” He was a member of the Cecilian movement, which attempted to revive the Palestrina form of ecclesiastical music within a Germanic style. The text is set simply with little use of melisma and mostly homophonic writing.

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Communion motet 10:00am - Surrexit Pastor Bonus, Orlando de Lassus (c. 1532 – 1594)

The Franco-Flemish composer Lassus was one of the most famous composers of the Polyphonic era. In his motet writing, frequent use of text painting occurs: The opening phrase in each part ascends on the first line as it speaks of the Good Shepherd’s resurrection. The mode becomes brighter on mentioning the sheep of the flock; a nod to the simpler character of the redeemed sheep versus the more theologically dense lines of the motet. The third lines uses repeated notes to create momentum for the text that implies the motivation of the Shepherd’s actions. The final line is repeated three times – both for emphasis on Christ’s act of love, and possibly a reference to the Trinity. The Alleluia retains some of the pastoral style found earlier in the motet, and is densely imitated through the various voices before joyfully cadensing.

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Communion motet 11:30am - Paschal Lamb, Carl Schalk (b. 1929)

This motet takes an Easter themed text by J. Michael Thompson and sets it as a gentle lullaby. The poem alludes to Christ as the Shepherd and guardian of the sheep in the first verse, and then pleads for his grace and guidance in the second verse. The hymn-like structure of the motet is interrupted at the end with a repletion of the final few words in a growing and ascending choral cadence. The music is by the Lutheran author and composer Charles Schalk, who studied at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, and taught at Concordia College in Chicago.

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Third Sunday of Easter
April 30, 2017

Choral Introit 11:30 am - Now the Green Blade Riseth, John Hirten (b. 1956) 

John Hirten is a San Francisco based organist and composer of both sacred and secular music. The pairing of John M. C. Crum’s (1872-1958) poem with this anonymous French Carol has appeared in hymnals before, and it is now becoming popular to arrange in anthems. The text creates an analogy between the buried and risen Christ, and the dead wheat from which green blades grow. In the second verse, we hear of the doubt of the disciples ‘thinking that he’d never wake to life again.’

To hear a similar version: click below.

Preparation of the Gifts 10:00 am - Jubilate Deo omnis terra for Five Voices, G. P. da Palestrina (c. 1525-1594)

This motet is taken from Palestrina’s Offertorio totius anni, from 1593, and is a setting of the Offertory text for Epiphany. The setting is rather subdued for such a joyful text, with frequent employment of Hypo-Aeolian mode, giving a slight minor and unresolved quality to the motet, though the middle section is in a very striking major tonality. The text continues the Eastertide themes of rejoicing which characterize the season.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30 am - Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether, Harold Friedell (1905-1958)

This poem was written by Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), an Anglican priest and publisher of the 1906 English Hymnal in collaboration with Ralph Vaughan Williams. The text petitions the Holy Spirit to be present when two or more are gathered – today, a reference to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Gospel imagery continues in the allusions to the Eucharist in the final verse – “they knew him through the breaking of the bread.” Harold Friedell was a teacher at Juilliard and Union Seminary, as well as a renowned organist and composer. He wrote in a dense contrapuntal style that utilized modern yet frequently diatonic harmonies.

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Communion 10:00 am - Alleluia! Cognoverunt Discipuli, William Byrd (c. 1543-1623)

This motet by the Tudor-era William Bryd is taken from the composer’s 1607 Gradualia II, written for the clandestine Catholic community of England. Bryd frequently employs text painting in his works and this motet is no exception. The word ‘fractione’ (break) is treated in an abrupt and jagged manner. The second line ‘caro mea vero est cibus, et sanguis meus vero est potus’ (my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink), is set in three voices and creates more intimacy with the theological text. The word ‘manet’ (remain) is stretched over a long melisma of notes.

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Communion 11:30 am Jubilate Deo, László Halmos (1909-1997)

László Halmos was a 20th century Hungarian composer and choir director for the Cathedral of Gyór, as well as a teacher at the State Conservatory. In addition to choral music, he was a reputable violinist and one of the early members of the Hungarian Quartet. This motet, which sets three verses from Psalm 65, is composed in a ternary form, frequently alternating between women and men in a canon, giving the piece a buoyant and joyful effect.

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Second Sunday of Easter
April 23, 2017

Introit 11:30am and Communion 10:00am - Alleluia - Pawel Lukaszewski (b. 1968)

Pawel Lukaszewski is a well-known Polish composer. This motet sets the single hebrew word - which roughly translates as ‘Praise God’ - in a three part structure that gently undulates with harmonic and rhythmic color. The jubilant nature of the text reminds us of that we remain with this Sunday within the octave of Easter.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am and 11:30am - Quia vidisti me, Thoma - Luca Marenzio (1556-1599)

One of many themes associated with this Sunday in all three cycle of readings, is the theme of doubt and faith as demonstrated by the apostle Thomas in today’s Gospel. Christ’s words to Thomas are set in a joyful texture, which takes advantage of the bright major tonality with use of parallel sixths and tenths throughout the motet. The final Alleluia section is set in triple meter, and takes on a dance like character. The Italian composer Marenzio was most well known as a composer of madrigals and motets, and prior to Monteverdi was the greatest of the Italian madrigal composers.

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Communion 11:30am - This Joyful Eastertide, Dutch Carol

The melody for this carol comes from a popular Dutch love song ‘De liefde, voortgebracht door reyn geloof’ and found its way into the Dutch hymnals in the late 17th century (See David’s Psalmen, 1685, Amsterdam). The new text ‘Hoe groot de vruchten zijn,’ was written for this tune by the poet Joachim Oudaen. The pairing of text and music is quite well matched, particularly in the final line where the word ‘arisen’ is repeated four times on an ascending motive.

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Music for Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Evening Mass with Cardinal Wuerl
April 13, 2017

Prelude: Ubi Caritas 

Ola Gjeilo Ola Gjeilo (pronounced yay-lo), is a contemporary Norwegian composer. He has written primarily choral music, most of it based on sacred texts, including ‘Sunrise Mass’ based on the Mass ordinary texts as well as a setting of O Magnum Mysterium. This prelude motet seems to be inspired by the much-loved Duruflé setting composed a half century earlier, including chant-like phrases, homophonic part writing, and dense harmonic structures. The text is taken from one of the proper antiphons for the Washing of Feet rite for this first liturgy of the Paschal Triduum.

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Washing of the Feet: Mandatum Novum

Luke Mayernik Also known as ‘A Troparion for Holy Thursday’ the contemporary American composer Luke Mayernik sets this proper antiphon in an undulating, eastern-inspired choral framework, with English verses interspersed between each Latin antiphon. The chant-like verses take their text from the words of Christ to his disciples in tonight’s Gospel.

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Washing of the Feet: In the Heart Where Love is Abiding

John Barnard John Barnard is a contemporary English composer of choral motets and anthems as well as dozens of hymn tunes. This motet sets the Ubi Caritas chant, alternating between sopranos and full choir, as well as between unison and harmonic writing.

Preparation of the Gifts: Ubi Caritas and Meditation: Tantum Ergo
Maurice Duruflé

Despite being one of the greatest French composers of organ and choral music of the 20th century, Maurice Duruflé left behind a strikingly small output of music, mostly due to his rigorous perfectionism in the compositional process. He was Louis Vierne’s assistant organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris until being appointed titular organist of St. Étienne-du-Mont, a position he held until his death. This motet is taken from his set Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens, Op. 10, and was published in 1960. The motets are dedicated to Auguste le Guennant, a Gregorian chant scholar, and as the title implies, all are based, either through motive or phrase, on Gregorian chants. Both the Ubi Cartias and Tantum Ergo motets utilize the chant in its entirety, with the former employing alternation between subgroups of the choir in a homophonic texture, and the latter written in an imitative form with the women leading the chant and each voice subsequently entering into the harmonic texture.

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Communion Motet: Verbum Caro, Panem Verum

Paul French Paul French is an American composer and choral director, best known for conducting the William Ferris Chorale, as well as being Director of Music for Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Chicago. This modest motet sets one verse of Thomas Aquinas’ Pange Lingua hymn - a paean to the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist Sacrament. The motet is largely chant inspired, with references to ‘organum’ (a technique in which the chant is doubled at the fifth or other intervals), scattered throughout the work.

Transfer of the Sacrament: Jesu Dulcis Memoria - Tomás Luis de Victoria

Jesu Dulcis Memoria is a hymn, very likely composed by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century Cistercian and Doctor of the Church. The Spanish polyphonic composer, Victoria, sets the first verse in an intensely harmonically interwoven structure, expressing the poignancy of this text. The choral writing frequently utilizes chromatics and extended suspensions to create an intimate prayer to Jesus.

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Music for Passion Sunday
April 9, 2017

Introit 10:00am - Hosanna to the Son of David - Thomas Weelkes (1576 – 1623)

This intricately written motet for six voices oscillates between major and minor tonalities and utilizes various form of part-writing imitation throughout, moving between homophony and imitative writing at the half-measure, as well as double choir effect, where multiple voices imitate each other in succession. The English composer Thomas Weelkes was organist of Chichester Cathedral, and composed several books of anthems and madrigals. The text is the antiphon proper for this Sunday, and repeats the text uttered by the Jews as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The Hebrew word ‘Hosanna’ roughly translates to ‘we beg you to save,’ so in using it, the Jews were acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and their savior.

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Preparation of the Gifts - Pueri Hebraeorum - Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548 - 1611)

Victoria was the finest composer of sacred polyphony of the Iberian Peninsula. This gentle motet takes its text from the antiphons for the distribution of palm branches, and tells of the ‘Children of the Hebrews’ casting their cloaks on the ground to lay a carpet before Jesus as he entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. The opening motive contains a flutter of eighth notes, perhaps as of a vestment or cloak caught in the air as it falls to earth. The motet has as an almost glib character - possibly suggesting the fickleness of the faith of the people of Jerusalem, who at first hail Jesus as the Messiah, but soon allow him to be helplessly led to his unjust death.

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Communion 11:30 - The Mocking of Christ - Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 -23  - 1585)

The music (Third Tune) is taken from Tallis’ Bishop Parker’s Psalter, which was written to provide vernacular settings of the Psalter in the reformed English liturgy. The tune originally set the 2nd psalm (Why fum’th in fight). The music was later used as the source material for Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The Mocking of Christ is a poem by the English hymn writer and minister Fred Pratt Green. The poem is in three parts, and reflects on an aspect of the Mocking: the crown of the thorns, the purple cloak, and the scepter reed. A common line in each stanza, “They could not know, as we do now….” echoes Christ’s plea for forgiveness from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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Post-Communion Motet - Vexilla Regis - Anton Bruckner (1824 – 1896)

Vexilla Regis is a hymn written by Venantius Fortunatus in 569 to commemorate a relic of the true cross being brought to Poitiers in France; the hymn has been suggested for Good Friday, as well as The Exaltation of the Cross, throughout the ecclesiastical calendar’s history. The German Romantic composer, Anton Bruckner, sets the text in a highly emotive and chromatic atmosphere. The motet is loosely based in the phrygian mode, though it fluctuates frequently with its harmonic language.

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Music for the Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 2, 2017

Prelude 11:30am - O Christ You Wept - John Bell

This gentle funeral motet sets Bell’s tune, Palmer, as a homophonic hymn with a brief interlude between each verse. The text, by Graham Maule and the composer, tells us of Christ’s love for Lazarus and for all who pass away. The text also reminds us of the Resurrection to come, and, while mourning, to hope towards the eternal life.

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Kyrie 10:00am - Mass for Four Voices – William Byrd

This Mass was written in 1590s for the underground Catholic aristocratic community in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The setting employs closely aligned voice imitation, similar to the contemporary style of Continental Europe. An interesting motive within the Mass is the setting of the text ‘Christe Eleison’ with the majority of the voice entrances employing downward melodic fragments, suggesting perhaps the Christ’s willingness to humble himself in order to reach out to us in mercy.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10:00am - Confitebor Tibi Domine – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Palestrina sets the Offertory Proper for this Sunday in a typical Italian-Polyphonic-Post-Tridentine style. The text, taken from Psalm 119, is noteworthy for its two references with the word ‘life,’ which while not explicitly referring to the resurrection do add to the general theme of this Mass and the coming Great feast of Easter.

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am - Lazarus – Paul Nicholson

This text is taken from the Office of Matins for “Lazarus Saturday” in the Orthodox calendar, and was translated by J. Michael Thompson. Besides retelling the Gospel story, the text reminds us how much Lazarus was loved by Christ, and that the theme of raising the beloved is echoed in today’s Collect prayer that describes Christ’s sacrifice as motivated by love of the world. The motet is homophonically set with mild harmonic eccentricities through out, particularly toward the end.

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Communion 10:00am/11:30am - So Fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ – Heinrich Schütz

This motet is taken from Schütz’s Geistliche Chormusik collection, which was published in Desden in 1648. Although Schütz was German, he studied under Gabrieli in Venice, and there is a strong Italian influence on his style. The text is a calm prayer of desire for Jesus, and the peace found within. It speaks of being awakened by Christ’s call and being led to heaven after a period of sleep, much like Christ referred to the deceased child in Matthew 9:24, as ‘not dead, but asleep.’

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Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A) -  Laetare Sunday
March 26, 2017

Introit 10am Mass - Laetare Jerusalem

This entrance chant in the 5th mode takes its text from Isaiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1. The joyful character of the text hints at the joy of Easter soon to come. The opening motive on the word ‘Laetare’ is the same as the final motive on the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil, connecting the minor joy of this feast with the great joy of Easter.

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Prelude 11:30am Mass - Rejoice in the Lord – Anonymous

Rejoice in the Lord, Alway - This anonymously composed motet from mid-16th century England has been a standard of the English liturgical choral repertoire. The text from the 4th chapter of Philippians (KJV) shares the first word with today’s Introit text ‘rejoice’ or ‘Laetare’ from which this Sunday is named. While its authorship remains uncertain, the clarity of its counterpoint and textually sensitive use of interplay between polyphony and monophony suggests a well-trained Tudor-era composer on the level of Tallis or Byrd.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass – Erravi Sicut Ovis – Thomas Crecquillon (c. 1505 - 1557)

This simple and gentle setting of Psalm 196:176, recalls today’s responsorial Psalm 23, where God’s goodness and mercy are compared with that of a shepherd. The motet uses imitative counterpoint throughout for each successive vocal entrance, and prefigures the Palestrina polyphonic style. Crecquillon was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Lowlands and was a priest in the court of Charles V, though whether he ever ascended to the position of Chapel Master remains uncertain.

Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass – Illumine the Eyes of Our Hearts – Brent Weiland Weiland (1963 – 2015)

Brent Weiland was a Chicago based composer and music director. This motet uses an imitative technique between the men’s and women’s voice of the choir. The text speaks of Christ as the light of the world, and his healing of the blind man from today’s Gospel.

Post-Communion Motet 10am Mass – Ave Verum – Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)

Poulenc was a French composer and pianist. Although primarily self-taught, he studied piano with Ricardo Viñes beginning in 1914, and through Viñes was introduced to many contemporary musicians of his day, including the other members of Les Six . He composed over multiple genres including opera, orchestral, chamber, and choral. This setting of the Ave Verum prayer was composed in 1952, around the same time as his Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël.

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Post- Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Open Thou Mine Eyes – John Rutter (b. 1945)

This motet is based on a poem by Lancelot Andrewes, who was bishop of Chichester in the 16th century. It was set in 1980 by the English composer John Rutter as a commission by the Texas Choral Director’s Association. It is written in a very gentle and simple style, with an opening motive being explored by various vocal arrangements with limited harmonic interaction.

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Third Sunday of Lent (Year A) - The First Scrutiny
March 19, 2017

Prelude 11:30am Mass - Restless is the Heart – Bernadette Farrell (b. 1956)

This motet, by the British Catholic composer Bernadette Farrell, takes its text from two sources; the antiphon being a prayer of St. Augustine, and the verses from Psalm 90. The motet has become a popular selection for Catholic funerals and Remembrance Services with its calm emphasis on finding rest in God and on the transitory nature of life. Augustine’s prayer is dramatized by the Samaritan woman’s interaction with Christ at the well, as depicted in today’s Gospel. Christ promises that her longing will be satisfied when she discovers and drinks from the source of the life-giving water that will never run dry.

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Kyrie 10am Mass - Missa Quarti Toni – Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611)

Although the Spanish counter-reformation composer Victoria wrote numerous Mass settings based on chants, secular tunes, and even his own compositions, this Mass setting uses original motivic elements. The name – Quarti Toni or Fourth Tone – is derived from the Ecclesiastical modes of chant, in which the Hypo-Phrygian scale (B, C, D, E, F, G, A) is the fourth in number following the two Dorian modes and Phrygian. The flatted second degree of the scale in this mode gives the mode its uniquely dark and twisted sound, and can be heard throughout in this setting of the Kyrie.

Preparation of the Gifts and Communion 10am Mass - Sicut Cervus / Sitivit Anima Mea– G.P. da Palestrina (1524-1594)

This setting of the first verse of Psalm 42, demonstrates the post-Trent musical style of the Italian Renaissance composer Palestrina. It was published in 1584 in the 2nd Book of Four Voice Motets. “As the deer longs for living waters, so my soul thirsts for you, O God.” The imagery of the deer longing for a running stream is presented as a reflection on today’s Gospel. The second part of this motet, which is not often sung, sets verses 2 and 3 from Psalm 42 and continues the idea expressed in the Communion Antiphon of the water of Christ which satisfies. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’”

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Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass - Like as the Hart – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

This motet is the most famous of Howells’ Four Anthems published in 1943, and a standard of the English choral repertoire. His rich and lush harmonic palate subtly expresses these first two verses of Psalm 42: the longing and thirst of the deer or ‘hart’ as it was translated in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, with its double-entendre alluding to our own ‘hearts.’ The anthem is in a ternary form with verses 1 and 2 of the psalm depicting the thirsting soul that longs for God and wonders when it will be satisfied. The 2nd section of the anthem speaks of the soul considering its own sadness and despair. The first section is then brought back with a descant characteristic of Howells, accompanying the primary motive. The setting of the final word God may be the most poignant, as the peaceful E major sonority is pierced repeatedly by a flatted 6th, evoking a sense of transformation, until the final cadential progression reinforces the celestial E major in a faint foreshadowing of the soul’s home in heaven.

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Communion Motet 11:30am Mass - There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy – Music: Calvin Hampton (Setting: Ken Berg) Text: Frederick Faber

Two themes in today’s scriptures are called to mind in this relatively modern hymn tune setting paired with a text by the prolific 19th c. English poet Frederick Faber. The text speaks of the immeasurable mercy of God and likens it to the “wideness of the sea.” That same bountiful mercy is revealed in the Gospel for this Sunday. Jesus approaches the woman at the well with compassion and offers her life-giving water that will never be exhausted. We will sing only four of the original thirteen stanzas of this poem found in Faber’s Hymns (London, 1862). This hymn is a staple of Christian worship, but is most often sung to the Dutch folk tune In Babilone. Calvin Hampton (1938 -1984) took up the challenge to create a fresh rendering of the hymn, composing a new tune with an undulating accompaniment that effectively evokes the movement of waves at sea. The tune name St. Helena is given in honor of a community of Episcopalian women active in his parish church (Calvary Episcopal, Gramercy Park, NYC) called the Order of St. Helena. Ken Berg, of Birmingham, AL, composed the choral setting heard in today’s liturgy.

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Second Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2017

The Gospels for the second Sunday of Lent in all three synoptic Gospel cycles of the Lectionary tell the story of the Transfiguration. The related themes are the source for many of the choral choices for the two morning choral Masses at the Cathedral this week.

Prelude 11:30am Mass – Tabor’s Light - Ken Macek and J. Michael Thompson

LINDEN is a hymn tune composed by Ken Macek, who leads a contemporary group of Catholic musicians at Atlanta’s Christ the King Cathedral. It was arranged chorally by fellow Georgian native, Paul Tate, with a keyboard setting by Keith Kalemba, Westminster Choir College alumnus, and WLP senior editor. J. Michael Thompson’s text is a poetic retelling of the Transfiguration narrative from today’s Gospel, and the title ‘Tabor’s Light both refers to the Mountain Tabor where the Transfiguration took place, as well the concept of ‘Uncreated Light’ which manifested both to the apostles James and Peter, as well during the conversion of Paul.

Kyrie 10am Mass – Mass for Five Voices - William Byrd

Along with the Masses for Three and Four voices, the Five Voice Mass was composed in the 1590s for the clandestine Catholic community during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Along with the Gradualia from the early 1600s, these choral works allowed the celebration of the Roman Rite Mass, as it would have been understood by the continental missionary priests that were journeying to England. The Mass is set in a polyphonic Tudor style featuring imitative entrances, often spaced in close adjacencies.

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Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass - Meditabor in Mandatis - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

This setting of the offertory text for the 2nd Sunday of Lent by Palestrina was published in his collection Offertoria Totuis Anni in 1593, and set the standard for continental Catholic composers following the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent. The text, taken from Psalm 119, while not reflecting the scriptures of the day, does echo the collect for this Mass: “We have been commanded to listen to the words of Christ, may those words feed us and purify our sight, so that we may see His true glory. “

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Preparation of the Gifts - 11:30am Mass - Before Your Crucifixion, O Lord - Paul Nicholson

This motet by the Chicago-based composer Paul Nicholson uses a Transfiguration text from the Byzantine Rite. The setting alternates between Mixolydian and Dorian modes, and predominantly features open fifths in its part-writing, giving an Eastern character to the choral sound.

Communion 11:30am Mass - Be Thou my Vision - William Culverhouse

This text is a poetic translation by Eleanor Hull for the 1912 English Hymnal, based on the Irish hymn ‘Rop tú mo baile.’ The text was paired with the Irish tune SLANE, in 1919 and continues to be sung to that tune. The arranger of this setting, William Culverhouse, is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Maryland, and was director of the Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral from 2000 to 2008. He now heads the Choral Music Department of Earlham College in Richmond, IN

Post-Communion 11:30am Mass - O Nata Lux - Morten Lauridsen

Morten Lauridsen is a contemporary American composer, primary of choral music. This motet is taken from his work Lux Aeterna, which was composed during the illness and death of the composer’s mother. His compositional technique is one that reduces harmonic language to chordal structures that contain unresolved 7th and 9th suspensions, which creates for many an effect of tranquility. The text comes from an office hymn at Lauds for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

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First Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2017

Prelude 10am and 11:30am Masses – Schaffe in Mir Gott - Johannes Brahms

The late-German Romantic composer Johannes Brahms composed this setting of three verses from Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 51 (this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm) in 1860 as part of his Opus 29, Zwei Motetten (Two Motets). The work is divided into three unique sections, each one corresponding to a verse of the Psalm. The first section, which speaks of our desire for forgiveness and redemption, is set in rich, enveloping harmonic texture that captures the peaceful, yet eternal longing for the infinite goodness and mercy of the Creator. The second section is more animated, expressed in a chromatic fugal section. The notion of being abandoned by God, is ominously suggested. The third section, not performed this Sunday because of its length, reassures the soul by beginning with the word troeste (comfort), and initiates a harmonic and textual intermezzo that leads into an uplifting finale, where the light-hearted choral treatment rejoices in the freudige Geist (joyful Spirit) that God sends to uphold his people.

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Preparation of the Gifts Motet 10am Mass

“The Lord will overshadow you with his pinions, and you will find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will encompass you with a shield.” Psalm 91, verse 4-5. The First Sunday of Lent is unique in that the text for both the Offertory and Communion chants use the identical verses of Psalm 91. This unusual choice is even more noteworthy as it is the same citation used by the devil in today’s Gospel to tempt Jesus to test God’s constancy and steadfastness. 10:00am G.P. da Palestrina (1525 -1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of principally sacred music and the best-known 16th century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been considered the epitome of the genre. His setting is taken from the collection Offertoria Totuis Anni from 1593. This polyphonic motet uses lengthy phrasal imitation and weakened cadential arrangements, creating an uninterrupted effect through the text.

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Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Scapulis Suis 

Robert Kreutz (1922-1996) was a 20th century American composer of liturgical music. Mr. Kreutz studied composition at the American Conservatory in Chicago and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is best known for his hymn collaboration with Omer Westendorf in their Gift of Finest Wheat, composed for the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia during the US Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Kreutz sets these two verses of Psalm 91 in a modern aesthetic with expressive word painting as in the opening gesture where voices are successively layered, one upon the other, as feathers are layered to create a bird’s wing.

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Preparation of the Gifts Motet 11:30am Mass – Hide Not Thou Thy Face - Richard Farrant

Richard Farrant was a 16th century English composer, and member of the Chapel Royal for twelve years before taking the position of organist for St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. This motet quotes verses of Psalm 27, and is set in a declamatory/homophonic style in which the text is sung at the same moment in all parts, as opposed to a polyphonic style, such as that heard in the Palestrina selection at the 10:00am Mass today. The text pleads to God that he might reveal his merciful face toward us, even as we expose ours sin and selfishness and admit to our unworthiness to receive his mercy.

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Post-Communion 10am Mass – Miserere Mei, Deus - Alonso de Tejeda

De Tejeda was a 16th century Spanish composer, and succeeded Alonso Lobo at the Cathedral of Toledo as its Chapel Master. His setting of Miserere, unlike Gregorio Allegri’s more famous setting, uses only the first three verses of Psalm 51. It bears similarities to Antonio Lotti’s setting written a century later. The part writing is closely imitative, to the degree that one part may still be on one syllable of a word while another part begins the imitation. The text is taken from this Sunday’s responsorial Psalm, and reminds us of the redemptive power of God’s mercy for the sinner.

 

Post-Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Adam Lay Ybounden - Joel Martinson

Joel Martinson (b. 1960) is a contemporary American composer and currently serves as Director of Music and Organist for Transfiguration Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. The anonymous 15th century carol ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ has become associated with the Service of Lessons and Carols as it is traditionally paired with the first lesson from the Book of Genesis, which is today’s first reading. The text speaks of the curse that befell humans from Adam’s fall “four thousand years” before Christ’s coming. The carol is also an exposition of the notion of the ‘felix Culpa’ or ‘happy fault’ relating to the early Christian understanding of the fall and curse of Adam as a cause for joy, for without them, the redemption that Christ brings would have been superfluous. Martinson composes with a rich harmonic palate, and the motet recalls Warlock’s setting of this carol.


Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2017 ~ 12:10pm Mass

The choral motets 
The themes reflect the readings of the day and the season of Lent. We hope that their use in the liturgy inspires the assembly to a more profound entrance into this season of charity, fasting and penance.

Ash Wednesday marks the end of the Winter Ordinary Time hiatus for the Schola Cantorum. The Cathedral’s principal choir will sing each Sunday from the first Sunday of Lent through June 18, the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ.

Distribution of Ashes: Emendemus in Melius – William Byrd
This motet is from the collection Cantiones Sacrae, 1575. The motets in this set were composed by Byrd and Thomas Tallis and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. Emendemus in Melius is unique in Byrd’s catalogue for its ubiquitous homophonic part writing. The first part of the motet is conservative in its harmonic language, with minor flourishes at the ends of phrases interrupting the calmness. Near the end of part one, the lines become more declamatory, as the singers sing Hear O Lord, and have mercy. The second part, whose text implores God to help us and deliver us, permits more dissonance than in the first, including an extremely modern moment on the word nominis (name) where the partial harmonies of A minor and B flat major occur at once. The text is taken from the Matin’s Responsory for Lent I, and also appears as an option for the Distribution of Ashes in the Missal.

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Preparation Motet: Wash Me Through and Through - Peter Hallock
Peter Hallock is an American composer and organist, and was the Choirmaster/Organist for Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral from 1951-1991. His musical style is strongly reminiscent of mid-century English composers such Benjamin Britten and Vaughan Williams, though without the pastoral ‘shire-esque’ sound of Gerald Finzi or Percy Granger. This processional piece alternates verses of two psalms: 130 (Out of the depths I cry to Thee…)and 51 (Have mercy on me, O God, in your loving compassion…). Psalm 130 appears in a simple chant form scattered throughout the piece, while Psalm 51 is set harmonically and alternates between speech rhythm and metered sections, evoking Gregorio Allegri’s famous setting of Psalm 51, Miserere.

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Communion Motet: Peccantem Me – Cristobal Morales
The Spanish composer Morales was the most highly regarded composer of the Iberian Peninsula prior to Tomás Luis de Victoria. This motet is taken from a collection of ‘freely composed’ pieces, that is, not based on a pre-existing motive. The text is from the Office for the Dead, and is the Response to the seventh reading from the book of Job.:

“Sinning daily and not repenting, the fear of death disturbs me. For in hell there is no redemption. Have mercy on me, O God, and save me. God, by your name save me, deliver me in your strength.”

Just prior to this text’s appearance, Job has lamented the abyss of his sinfulness and reflects on chastisement and hopelessness:

15:13-15 “If I wait, the grave is my house; I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, ‘You are my father’; to the worm, ‘You are my mother and my sister.’ And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? It shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.”

Morales’ text painting should be noted in two instances. First, the opening two voices on the word peccantem (sin) devolve from a consonant octave into a dissonant minor seventh, creating an impression of the darkly confining nature of sin. Second, despite the austere text and musical setting, Morales closes the piece on a major chord, perhaps expressing confidence in the hopeful response to the entreaty salva me (save me).

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Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2016

The motets for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are the same for the Mass in Latin at 10am and the Mass in English at 11:30am (see below).

Of additional musical interest this weekend, the Cathedral Parish of St. Matthew the Apostle commissioned J. Michael Thompson to create a new hymn text (below) on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood of His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl at the 11:30am Mass. This new text was written with references to the following scripture passages Acts 20:17-18. 28-32.36; II Corinthians 4: 1-2, 5-7; II Timothy 1 6-11; and I Peter 4: 7-11. The tune assigned for the text is DARWALL’S 148th, also sung with the text Rejoice! The Lord is King. The Washington Symphonic Brass will be joining the Schola Cantorum to enhance the music for the festivities.

Preparation Motet: Rorate Caeli
This lush setting the Introit text for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was primarily inspired by the Quatre Motets Sur Des Thèmes Grégoriens, by Maurice Duruflé. Like the Duruflé settings, the chant melody is given prominent position in the work, with original music given secondary and complimentary roles. The opening word of this Introit gives the name to this Sunday, and the text source is from the book of Isaiah. It is also used as a versicle in the Liturgy of the Hours during Advent. Leo Nestor's setting is in a romantic idiom, with a broad scheme of variety in color and choral texture. The primary allusion of the text is of the arid land depicting a people parched waiting for the clouds to open and provide life-giving water, just as their souls desiccated with sin and despair wait for the long-foretold Savior.

To hear a version, click below:

Communion Motet: Ecce Virgo Concipiet
As with many texts assigned to liturgies in the final days of Advent, the original source is the book of the prophet Isaiah. William Byrd's musical treatment reflects the simplicity and innocence of Mary, and reserves harmonic color for the word Emmanuel, either reflecting the paradox of 'God with us' or foreshadowing his suffering and death on a cross. The motet is from his collection Gradualia I (1605), which was likely written for the beleaguered Catholic community still attempting to express its faith in Protestant England during the reign of James I.

To hear a version, click below:

  


Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2016

The 10am Preparation Motet: Benedixiste Domine

This motet is taken from Palestina’s Offertoria totius anni secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae consuetudinem, 5vv, published in Rome in 1593. The text, which is the prescribed Offertory text for this Sunday, comes from the 85th psalm, and despite the hopeful language of God’s mercy and forgiveness, Palestrina sets it in the rather somber aeolian mode. Despite the darker color of tone, the motet is filled with rich text-painting. The opening motive, which speaks of God’s blessing on the earth, is a gentle descending line in each of the voices. The 2nd section, which concerns the captivity of Jacob, is abundant in using the minor 2nd interval, emphasizing a feeling of being trapped. Finally, he reserves major tones for the final phrase, and on the text remisisti - released/forgotten, one feels a relaxation and resolve of the tension present in the first two/thirds of the motet. To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Preparation Motet: Rejoice in the Lord, Alway 

This anonymously composed motet from mid-16th century England has been a standard of the English liturgical choral repertoire. The text, from the 4th chapter of Philippians, appears as the Introit today and as the second reading on this Sunday in Year C. It is from the first word of this Introit (gaudete - rejoice) that Gaudete Sunday receives its name. While its authorship remains uncertain, the clarity of its counterpoint, and textual sensitive use of interplay between polyphony and monophony suggests a well-trained Tudor-era composer, on the level of Tallis or Byrd. To hear a version, click below:

The 10am Post-communion motet: Gaudete Omnes

This motet was composed by the Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and published in 1619 in his collection Cantiones sacrae. The very opening motive with its flutter of 8th notes which is then repeated in each voice, set the joyful tone and character of this motet. When the text calls on us to ‘enter his presence with singing’ the meter becomes compound and imitates a dance. The final alleluia section with its plethora of acclamations and imitation/echo effect, can give the impression of the limited voices of a choir being joined by the heavenly multitude. To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Post-communion anthem: Angelus ad Virginem

This anthem is by the British composer Andrew Carter (b. 1933.) The setting is based on a popular medieval carol, whose text is a poetic version of the Hail Mary and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Probably Franciscan in origin, it was brought to Britain by French friars in the 13th century. It is said to have originally consisted of 27 stanzas, with each following stanza beginning with the consecutive letter of the alphabet. Surviving manuscripts may be found in a c. 1361 Dublin Troper (a music book for use at Mass) and a 13th or 14th century vellum Sequentiale that may have been connected with the Church of Addle, Yorkshire. Its lyrics also appear in the works of John Audelay (perhaps a priest, he definitely spent the last years of his life at Haughmond Abbey, where he wrote for the monks), in a group of four Marian poems. It appears in Geoffrey Chaucer's Miller's Tale, where the scholar Nicholas sings it in Latin to the accompaniment of his psaltery: And over all there lay a psaltery Whereon he made an evening's melody, Playing so sweetly that the chamber rang; And Angelus ad virginem he sang; And after that he warbled the King's Note: Often in good voice was his merry throat. To hear a version, click below: