Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ordination of Fr. Lawrence Lew OP - Music, Video & Cake!

MacMillan manuscript

Mindful of Pope Benedict's emphasis on beauty in the sacred liturgy, and of his encouragement of artists to put their talents at the service of the Church and her worship, I wished my Ordination Mass on 17 September 2011 to be an occasion for beauty after the heart of our Holy Father. With this in mind, I invited the lay Dominican composer, James MacMillan, with whom I've had tutorials in music and liturgy, and with whom I am friendly, to write a motet for the Mass (autograph score shown above).

The resulting piece is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and James named it 'I am your Mother'. It is offered to Our Lady as a votive of thanksgiving for her motherly care and protection in nurturing my priestly vocation, and for delivering me unscathed from a serious coach accident on the eve of her feast (12 December) in 2010. The text of the motet consists of an English translation of the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego in 1531, together with a 14th-century Latin antiphon from the Dominican Gradual, traditionally sung at Vespers on the octave day of the feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. MacMillan used this chant (shown below) as a cantus firmus sung by the basses. In the Mass it was sung during and after Holy Communion. The video below is a live recording from the Ordination Mass of this motet. The audio quality is not the best, unfortunately...

Two choirs sang in this Mass. One was comprised of a Choir of friends who sang the polyphony, and the other was a Schola of singers from the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. The latter sang the Mass Ordinary from the (Roman) Missa cum Iubilo, as well as the propers for a Votive Mass of Christ the Eternal High Priest. The polyphonic pieces included the beautiful 9-voice 'Gloria' from Victoria's Missa pro victoria, and Victoria's 'Veni Creator' verses which were sung in alternation with the chant verses during the vesting; this year is the 400th anniversary of his death.

Nicholas Kenworthy-Browne, who has long helped conduct the choir at Blackfriars Oxford, and who is a film composer based in Los Angeles, composed a 4-voice setting of the Gradual text, 'Spiritus Domini super me', which was followed by the Gregorian chant 'Alleluia' sung by the Schola. Two Dominican Cantors led the Litany of Saints in Latin, and also intoned the Dominican 'Salve Regina' sung as a recessional before Boëllmann's 'Toccata' from his 'Suite Gothique' resounded at the end of Mass.

Hymnody is very much loved in this country, and so three hymns were also included for appropriate moments in the liturgy but without displacing the Gregorian chant propers. After the Introit, Howells' "All my hope on God is founded" was sung. During the Offertory, we sang St Patrick's Breastplate ("I bind unto myself") with the choir singing the "Christ be with me" verses acapella, and after the Communio, the hymn "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" was sung.

Thus in this Mass there was a weaving together of chant, polyphony and metrical hymns sung by Choir, or Schola, or two Dominican Cantors, or the entire congregation.

The choir very much enjoyed singing MacMillan's new motet, which marries chant with his distinctive musical style, full of lilting triplets and passion. The two texts, and thus, the chant and polyphonic music are in dialogue: the Latin chanted antiphon is a prayer to Our Lady (sung in the Bass cantus firmus line with the Schola), and her tender response is sung by the other three parts of the Choir. The piece will be published by Boosey & Hawkes, and it is hoped that it will be taken up by choirs as part of the modern repertoire of Marian anthems.

As for the cake afterwards... There were four, but observant readers will notice the Ordination cake decorated by one of the Dominican brothers, which appears in the video below.

Texts: Listen, put it into your heart, most little of my sons:
Let nothing frighten or grieve you,
let not your heart be disturbed,
do not fear any sickness or anguish.
Am I not here, who am your Mother?
Are you not under my protection?
Am I not your health?
Are you not happily within the folds of my mantle,
held safely in my arms?
Do you need anything more?
Let nothing else worry you, disturb you

And the Latin antiphon (shown above), in translation:
Holy Mary, most tender of virgins, receive the constant prayers of your little servants: raise up the fallen, correct the wayward, strengthen the trembling, comfort the faint-hearted: so that we may ever offer praises to you whom we honour as the Mother of the Most High God.

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