Friday, February 22, 2013

Catholic College Provides Choir for the Extraordinary Form at a Local Parish

In what we hope will be a regular occurrence, the choir of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire provided the choir for Sunday Mass at a local parish, St Patrick's, Nashua, NH. It was the First Sunday of Lent in the Extraordinary Form.

This was a great experience for the choir. My observation is that it was great for the college to be doing something in cooperation with a local church - there is a tendency for students sometimes to lead a life as though marooned within a self-enclosed social bubble. This is why also we visit the local veterans' hospital, in Manchester, NH, and sing Vespers there on a regular basis. Having this opportunity to sing the Mass really seemed to motivate the students to work hard and pull together. The response of the parishioners was positive We weren't perfect by any means, but this was a great start I think and we hope to keep improving as we go on. Nevertheless, it was good enough for inspire one kind person to hand me a generous donation for the college choir so that it might encourage us to keep coming!

 We sang at the invitation of Fr Kerper, the pastor at St Patricks and we are very grateful for how graciously the resident choir, which normally does an excellent job, allowed us to support the music at the church. The college has enjoyed a long connection with the parish. The college's longest standing chaplain, Fr Healey, is resident at the church. The Mass we sang was composed by a German, Blasius Amon, in the 16th century – Missa Super ‘Pour ung Plaisir’. Our director, Dr Thomas Larson, did his usual and put his cell down amongst us in the choir stall and came up with these recordings. I had never heard of Blasius Amon before Tom introduced this to the choir, but it is a great Mass for a choir to learn polyphony on. Relatively simple, but still very good to listen to. I hope these recordings give a sense of it. As usual, remember this is an amateur choir recorded on a very simple piece of equipment. Below are the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei from the Mass.

I would draw your attention also to the Communion antiphon and psalm mediation. The antiphon is in the traditional plainchant, in mode III, as proscribed. The psalm is sung to the harmonised mode III tone composed by myself and harmonised by our Composer-in-Residence, Paul Jernberg.

For the offertory mediation we sang the Stabat Mater Dolorosa. I don’t have a recording of this, but we based what we did on a You Tube video I found recorded by a Norwegian choir, Consortium Vocale Oslo, I reproduce that for you. They have altered the rhythm slighly from what I am used to - those who know it will hear immediately. Also, they have a gentle organum drone going on underneath. Tom and I listened to this and Tom recognised that at various points they had not just one, but two organum drones going on (very subtly applied). So this is how we sang it: we sang the first verse in unison, in the second with the tenors and some altos singing an organum note corresponding to the very first note of the melody. The third we introduced in additional bass organum drone on a note a fourth lower. Then we started the cycle again. This has a powerfully contemplative effect. As Tom says - organum done well give a huge return for relatively little effort!

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