Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Vexilla Regis: A Hymn for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

A few years ago, I was commissioned to write a motet for the Sleepy Hollow Schola Cantorum for Palm Sunday. What we ended up with can be found here and here. Those are the first and last verses, respectively, of an alternatim setting for male voices of the Vexilla Regis, a hymn not only for Passiontide but also for the upcoming Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I present it here for your consideration for use on that feast, should you be having a sung Mass that day.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind.

1. I have only posted the first and last verses. The other odd-numbered verses are set to the same music as the first verse; one need only fill in the words. (Confession: those middle verses have gone missing thanks to my right-brained style of "organization.")

2. When I set this, I unknowingly used an unusual setting of the text from the 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum, rather than the more standard text which appears in the Liber Usualis. As this piece is not a liturgical Proper (at least in the Mass), this is only a small consideration. But feel free to make changes in the text.

3. Someone has alerted me that the text is changed slightly for the September 14 Feast. "Joy" is inserted somewhere. I shall search after the exact nature of this and post an update. In the meantime, if someone knows without looking it up, please post a comment.

4. I understand that this setting makes quite the demand on the range of the choir, not only in the polyphony but in where the chant would then lie as well. This was originally written for a professional schola, hence my freedom to do that. Of course, in some situations an adjustment of the key could mitigate problems of range.

5. Remember that, in all things, I am a technological idiot. (I like it that way, too.) So, I was using rather a limited program to set this piece. Hence, the "Amen" at the end of the final verse should not be rendered as it appears, but rather in Gregorian chant rhythm. That is not actually a triplet. No mensuralist interpretations are allowed here;)

I hope you find this little piece to be somehow edifying. Feel free to copy, sing, or record this piece to your heart's content, if you find it worthy of such treatment. Just be sure to list the composer's name in the appropriate places:)

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: