Skip to content

Hymn: God of Mercy and Compassion

March 16, 2011

This coming Sunday we’ll sing a particularly beautiful hymn, though, unlike in the recording below, we’ll leave the organ out.  I’m not sure who’s singing here, but it’s well done.  Perhaps you might familiarize yourself with this music before Sunday so that you can sing it all the more confidently.

Ordo musicae, Lent II

March 16, 2011

March 20, Lent II:


Hymn:  The Glory of These Forty Days (Erhalt Uns, Herr; harm. J.S. Bach)

Asperges:  chant

Propers from the Graduale Romanum

Claudio Monteverdi Messa dalla Cappella

Credo I

Offertory:  Attende Domine

Communion motet:  Oliver Hayes:  Audi benigne Conditor

Hymn:  God of Mercy and Compassion (Au Sang Qu)


This week’s polyphonic motet comes from the composer Oliver Hayes, who writes in Birmingham, England.  Visit his page on ChoralWiki.


Ordo musicae: Lent I

March 16, 2011

March 13, Lent I:


Processional Hymn:  Lord, Who throughout These Forty Days (St. Flavian)

Asperges:  chant

Propers from the Graduale Romanum

Mass Ordinary:  Pompeo Cannicciari:  Missa Phrygia

Credo I

Offertory motet:  S.S. Wesley:  Si iniquitates

Communion motet:  Audi, benigne Conditor (chant)

Closing hymn:  Today is the Accepted Time (Breslau)


Pompeo Cannicciari was the successor to Alessandro Scarlatti at the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.  He has written this Missa Phrygia in the so-called stile antico, that is the sacred polyphonic style as opposed to the contemporary Baroque style.  All the same, this piece has some interesting moments which give away its true age, harmonic and melodic elements which simply would not appear in a genuinely Renaissance piece.  Perhaps it was his intention only to recall the works of Palestrina and others and not to imitate them.  Imitators, such as the Caecilians in the 19th century, are usually failures, after all.  Cannicciari has left us a lovely, demur piece of music which is perfect for the mood in Lent.

The last hymn is a translation of the Latin text Nunc tempus acceptabile by Kathy Pluth, a church musician in Virginia.  A number of her works have been published, and I’m quite happy to have worked with her, writing some melodies to go with some of her original hymn texts.  With this text, we sang the tune Breslau, which most people associate with Take Up Your Cross.  I think  Kathy’s work gives great testimony that a text does not have to be ancient, Victorian, or undecipherable to be noble and acceptable for the liturgy.  Visit Kathy’s blog here.


Ordo musicae: Quinquagesima

March 5, 2011

Prelude:  Kenneth Leighton:  Rockingham

Hymn:  Soul of Jesus, Make Me Whole (Anima Christi)

Asperges (chant)

Propers from the Graduale Romanum

Hassler Missa Secunda

Credo I

Communion motet:  Byrd:  Ave Verum Corpus

Closing Hymn:  Immortal Love (Bishopthorpe)

Postlude:  J.S. Bach:  O Mensch, bewein dein’ Suende gross


During Lent, which begins next week, the organ is silenced.  Technically it can be used to support the singing, but with a good choir this is unnecessary and undesirable, in my opinion.  In any case, solo organ cannot be used, with the exception of Laetare Sunday—the Fourth Sunday of Lent.  Yet there is a great treasure chest of organ music for Lent which should not go unheard, and not all of it fits the lightened mood of Laetare Sunday.  The best solution, it seems to me, is to play some Lenten-themed music the week before, when we have already assumed something of a penitential posture anyhow.

I have included Kenneth Leighton’s setting of Rockingham (the tune most often associated with “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”) and J.S. Bach’s O Mensch, bewein dein’ Suende gross (O Man, bewail thy Great Sin).  Leighton was mentioned on these pages earlier in the week, but Rockingham is not quite as crunchy as the other pieces I discussed.  Its lilting rhythm and close harmonies create a fittingly anxious mood for the subject of the hymn melody.  Bach’s O Mensch is one of the most beloved pieces of the organ repertoire.  The solo voice features what is known as a coloratura, i.e., a florid elaboration on a melody.  Here you can hear the chorus from a performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion sing the melody, unadorned.   Notice how much the opening line resembles the beginning of the famous tune Lasst uns erfreuen (“All Creature of Our God and King”).  Now that you’re familiar with the basic melody, listen to the organ piece and see if you can figure out the rationale for the coloratura melody.  Don’t be afraid to use your imagination; the more of that, the better.  This particular chorale is most fitting, it seems, for Ash Wednesday, so we got it within four days, which isn’t too bad.


Ordo musicae: Sexagesima

March 4, 2011

February 27, Sexagesima:

Palestrina Missa Brevis

Villa-Lobos Pater Noster


Blest are the Pure in Heart (Franconia)

Come, Labor On (Ora Labora)

On the organ:

Flor Peeters:  Aria

Buxtehude:  Praeludium in G Major

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a Brazilian composer, one of many from Latin America who, present and past, has given civilization beautiful music to contemplate.  His Pater Noster dates from 1950, so I suppose it can be considered a mature work, though perhaps these distinctions detract unnecessarily from the valid vibrancy of youth.  In his book What to Listen for in Music, the American composer Aaron Copland says that Villa-Lobos had a feeling for the lushly colorful, and I agree.  Villa-Lobos’s music is, at moments, downright voluptuous.  It reminds me in many ways of Poulenc and some of the other French masters of the 20th century.  The story of his development makes for quite a tale, but it is not unusual for composers’ lives to become encrusted in legend, even of the autobiographical sort.

The tune Ora Labora, which we sang for the last hymn, was written by T. Tertius Noble, one of the great English-American organists who ended up at St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York.  Written in the warm and toasty key of A-flat major, the melody of this hymn is disjunct but still tuneful.  Along with the Villa-Lobos, it shows the heights of creativity that were being reached in the early-mid 20th century, a creativity which has not ceased to this day, all the artistic controversies notwithstanding.

Ordo musicae: Septuagesima

March 4, 2011

February 20, Septuagesima:

Mass XI

Franco:  Circumdederunt me

Ave Regina Caelorum (Solemn)


As fades the Glowing Orb of Day (Bow Brickhill)

Oft in Danger, Oft in Woe (University College)

On the organ:

Jean Langlais:  Prelude au Kyrie

J.S. Bach:  Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten

The Mass Ordinaries in the Gregorian chant repertoire are really quite splendid, and they don’t really get enough “air time,” so to speak, since in most cases a “chant Mass” means either the Missa de Angelis or the Ferial Mass for Advent and Lent.  Mass XI, the Mass for the Sundays throughout the year, is truly among the best, particularly the Sanctus, which, if interpreted sensitively, has a quiet energy that reminds me of that line from Wisdom about the souls of the just “darting about as sparks through stubble.”

Ordo musicae: Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

March 4, 2011

February 13, 6th Sunday after Epiphany:

Palestrina Missa Brevis

Josquin O Salutaris


Alleluia, Songs of Gladness (Dulce Carmen)

Sing Alleluia Forth in Duteous Praise (Martins)

On the organ:


Boellmann Toccata