As many of you know, Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, New Jersey, has offered a special Assumption Mass for the past 14 years. It started with a threefold intention: first, to praise God and honor Our Lady on this most magnificent feast; second, to thank God for the establishment of Mater Ecclesiae, the foundation of which back on October 13, 2000 was truly a miracle; and third, to use some of the greatest music in the history of the world where it was meant to be used, in the Sacred Liturgy.
This Friday, August 14, at 7:00 PM, the Fifteenth Annual Assumption Mass, in the Extraordinary Form, will be offered at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr Timothy McDonnell gathers musicians from across the Philadelphia region each year and forms the Ars Laudis Festival Orchestra and Choir.
The purpose of this post is to highlight some of the music that will be used. Of course, the Propers of the Mass are the Gregorian Chants assigned to the feast, which are the foundation of all the music for the liturgy. The Ordinary is the Schopfungsmesse, by Luigi Gatti, after Haydn’s The Creation. Dr McDonnell writes in the Assumption Booklet, “Regarded as one of his finest compositions, Franz Josef Haydn’s Oratorio The Creation is a touchstone in the sacred Choir repertoire. Sometime after 1800, Luigi Gatti, then the chapel master and priest at the cathedral in Salzburg, produced a version of Haydn’s celebrated Oratorio using the text of the Latin Mass. This adaptation brings all the energy and lyricism of Haydn’s magnum opus to the liturgical context. The work is known for the vigor of its choral passages, the strong character of the arias, and for the suppleness of the line throughout. The original text of the sacred Oratorio draws on biblical and literary sources to tell the story of Genesis. Recast with the Latin text, the work conforms the power of its expressiveness to the shape of the liturgy.”
Dr McDonnell continues, “his practice of reworking a piece with another text is called contrafactum, and it is not an uncommon tradition in church music. Many chants and motets were cast with new texts as the circumstances required. In fact, the neo-Gregorian chants that were composed for the Assumption Mass after its definition as dogma in 1950 are contrafacta. The introit, Signum magnum, for instance, is a reworking of the introit of the Common of One Martyr, In virtute tua.”
During the Offertory of the Mass the choir will sing the Salve Regina by Francis Poulenc.
During the reception of Holy Communion three motets will be sung: the first, O Quam Suavis, by G.B. Cesena - Hail, Lord Jesus Christ, blessed King, praise of the angels, glory of the saints, vision of peace, undivided Deity, true man, flower and fruit of the Virgin Mother; the second, Vidi speciosam by Felice Anerio; and the third, the five part Assumpta est Maria, by Palestrina.There will also be some instrumental works by Tommaso Albinoni.
It is a tradition at the Assumption Mass to always begin with the Hymn, O Sanctissima, and to end with The Hail Holy Queen. Both hymns have been magnificently arranged for Organ and Brass Choir by Dr McDonnell.
Friday night will be a night of magnificent praise of God and honor and love expressed to Our Lady, by some of the greatest music ever written by human beings, in the place where it belongs. AMDG.