Choral Highlights

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year A) -  Laetare Sunday
March 26, 2017

Introit 10am Mass - Laetare Jerusalem

This entrance chant in the 5th mode takes its text from Isaiah 66:10-11 and Psalm 122:1. The joyful character of the text hints at the joy of Easter soon to come. The opening motive on the word ‘Laetare’ is the same as the final motive on the Alleluia at the Easter Vigil, connecting the minor joy of this feast with the great joy of Easter.

To hear a version, click below:

Prelude 11:30am Mass - Rejoice in the Lord – Anonymous

Rejoice in the Lord, Alway - This anonymously composed motet from mid-16th century England has been a standard of the English liturgical choral repertoire. The text from the 4th chapter of Philippians (KJV) shares the first word with today’s Introit text ‘rejoice’ or ‘Laetare’ from which this Sunday is named. While its authorship remains uncertain, the clarity of its counterpoint and textually sensitive use of interplay between polyphony and monophony suggests a well-trained Tudor-era composer on the level of Tallis or Byrd.

To hear a version, click below:

Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass – Erravi Sicut Ovis – Thomas Crecquillon (c. 1505 - 1557)

This simple and gentle setting of Psalm 196:176, recalls today’s responsorial Psalm 23, where God’s goodness and mercy are compared with that of a shepherd. The motet uses imitative counterpoint throughout for each successive vocal entrance, and prefigures the Palestrina polyphonic style. Crecquillon was a Franco-Flemish composer of the Lowlands and was a priest in the court of Charles V, though whether he ever ascended to the position of Chapel Master remains uncertain.

Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass – Illumine the Eyes of Our Hearts – Brent Weiland Weiland (1963 – 2015)

Brent Weiland was a Chicago based composer and music director. This motet uses an imitative technique between the men’s and women’s voice of the choir. The text speaks of Christ as the light of the world, and his healing of the blind man from today’s Gospel.

Post-Communion Motet 10am Mass – Ave Verum – Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963)

Poulenc was a French composer and pianist. Although primarily self-taught, he studied piano with Ricardo Viñes beginning in 1914, and through Viñes was introduced to many contemporary musicians of his day, including the other members of Les Six . He composed over multiple genres including opera, orchestral, chamber, and choral. This setting of the Ave Verum prayer was composed in 1952, around the same time as his Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël.

To hear a version, click below:

Post- Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Open Thou Mine Eyes – John Rutter (b. 1945)

This motet is based on a poem by Lancelot Andrewes, who was bishop of Chichester in the 16th century. It was set in 1980 by the English composer John Rutter as a commission by the Texas Choral Director’s Association. It is written in a very gentle and simple style, with an opening motive being explored by various vocal arrangements with limited harmonic interaction.

To hear a version, click below:

 


Third Sunday of Lent (Year A) - The First Scrutiny
March 19, 2017

Prelude 11:30am Mass - Restless is the Heart – Bernadette Farrell (b. 1956)

This motet, by the British Catholic composer Bernadette Farrell, takes its text from two sources; the antiphon being a prayer of St. Augustine, and the verses from Psalm 90. The motet has become a popular selection for Catholic funerals and Remembrance Services with its calm emphasis on finding rest in God and on the transitory nature of life. Augustine’s prayer is dramatized by the Samaritan woman’s interaction with Christ at the well, as depicted in today’s Gospel. Christ promises that her longing will be satisfied when she discovers and drinks from the source of the life-giving water that will never run dry.

To hear a version, click below:

Kyrie 10am Mass - Missa Quarti Toni – Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611)

Although the Spanish counter-reformation composer Victoria wrote numerous Mass settings based on chants, secular tunes, and even his own compositions, this Mass setting uses original motivic elements. The name – Quarti Toni or Fourth Tone – is derived from the Ecclesiastical modes of chant, in which the Hypo-Phrygian scale (B, C, D, E, F, G, A) is the fourth in number following the two Dorian modes and Phrygian. The flatted second degree of the scale in this mode gives the mode its uniquely dark and twisted sound, and can be heard throughout in this setting of the Kyrie.

Preparation of the Gifts and Communion 10am Mass - Sicut Cervus / Sitivit Anima Mea– G.P. da Palestrina (1524-1594)

This setting of the first verse of Psalm 42, demonstrates the post-Trent musical style of the Italian Renaissance composer Palestrina. It was published in 1584 in the 2nd Book of Four Voice Motets. “As the deer longs for living waters, so my soul thirsts for you, O God.” The imagery of the deer longing for a running stream is presented as a reflection on today’s Gospel. The second part of this motet, which is not often sung, sets verses 2 and 3 from Psalm 42 and continues the idea expressed in the Communion Antiphon of the water of Christ which satisfies. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’”

To hear a version, click below:

Preparation of the Gifts 11:30am Mass - Like as the Hart – Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

This motet is the most famous of Howells’ Four Anthems published in 1943, and a standard of the English choral repertoire. His rich and lush harmonic palate subtly expresses these first two verses of Psalm 42: the longing and thirst of the deer or ‘hart’ as it was translated in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, with its double-entendre alluding to our own ‘hearts.’ The anthem is in a ternary form with verses 1 and 2 of the psalm depicting the thirsting soul that longs for God and wonders when it will be satisfied. The 2nd section of the anthem speaks of the soul considering its own sadness and despair. The first section is then brought back with a descant characteristic of Howells, accompanying the primary motive. The setting of the final word God may be the most poignant, as the peaceful E major sonority is pierced repeatedly by a flatted 6th, evoking a sense of transformation, until the final cadential progression reinforces the celestial E major in a faint foreshadowing of the soul’s home in heaven.

To hear a version, click below:

Communion Motet 11:30am Mass - There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy – Music: Calvin Hampton (Setting: Ken Berg) Text: Frederick Faber

Two themes in today’s scriptures are called to mind in this relatively modern hymn tune setting paired with a text by the prolific 19th c. English poet Frederick Faber. The text speaks of the immeasurable mercy of God and likens it to the “wideness of the sea.” That same bountiful mercy is revealed in the Gospel for this Sunday. Jesus approaches the woman at the well with compassion and offers her life-giving water that will never be exhausted. We will sing only four of the original thirteen stanzas of this poem found in Faber’s Hymns (London, 1862). This hymn is a staple of Christian worship, but is most often sung to the Dutch folk tune In Babilone. Calvin Hampton (1938 -1984) took up the challenge to create a fresh rendering of the hymn, composing a new tune with an undulating accompaniment that effectively evokes the movement of waves at sea. The tune name St. Helena is given in honor of a community of Episcopalian women active in his parish church (Calvary Episcopal, Gramercy Park, NYC) called the Order of St. Helena. Ken Berg, of Birmingham, AL, composed the choral setting heard in today’s liturgy.

To hear a version with the original unison setting, click below:


Second Sunday of Lent
March 12, 2017

The Gospels for the second Sunday of Lent in all three synoptic Gospel cycles of the Lectionary tell the story of the Transfiguration. The related themes are the source for many of the choral choices for the two morning choral Masses at the Cathedral this week.

Prelude 11:30am Mass – Tabor’s Light - Ken Macek and J. Michael Thompson

LINDEN is a hymn tune composed by Ken Macek, who leads a contemporary group of Catholic musicians at Atlanta’s Christ the King Cathedral. It was arranged chorally by fellow Georgian native, Paul Tate, with a keyboard setting by Keith Kalemba, Westminster Choir College alumnus, and WLP senior editor. J. Michael Thompson’s text is a poetic retelling of the Transfiguration narrative from today’s Gospel, and the title ‘Tabor’s Light both refers to the Mountain Tabor where the Transfiguration took place, as well the concept of ‘Uncreated Light’ which manifested both to the apostles James and Peter, as well during the conversion of Paul.

Kyrie 10am Mass – Mass for Five Voices - William Byrd

Along with the Masses for Three and Four voices, the Five Voice Mass was composed in the 1590s for the clandestine Catholic community during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Along with the Gradualia from the early 1600s, these choral works allowed the celebration of the Roman Rite Mass, as it would have been understood by the continental missionary priests that were journeying to England. The Mass is set in a polyphonic Tudor style featuring imitative entrances, often spaced in close adjacencies.

To hear a version, click the link below:

Preparation of the Gifts 10am Mass - Meditabor in Mandatis - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

This setting of the offertory text for the 2nd Sunday of Lent by Palestrina was published in his collection Offertoria Totuis Anni in 1593, and set the standard for continental Catholic composers following the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent. The text, taken from Psalm 119, while not reflecting the scriptures of the day, does echo the collect for this Mass: “We have been commanded to listen to the words of Christ, may those words feed us and purify our sight, so that we may see His true glory. “

To hear a version, click below:

Preparation of the Gifts - 11:30am Mass - Before Your Crucifixion, O Lord - Paul Nicholson

This motet by the Chicago-based composer Paul Nicholson uses a Transfiguration text from the Byzantine Rite. The setting alternates between Mixolydian and Dorian modes, and predominantly features open fifths in its part-writing, giving an Eastern character to the choral sound.

Communion 11:30am Mass - Be Thou my Vision - William Culverhouse

This text is a poetic translation by Eleanor Hull for the 1912 English Hymnal, based on the Irish hymn ‘Rop tú mo baile.’ The text was paired with the Irish tune SLANE, in 1919 and continues to be sung to that tune. The arranger of this setting, William Culverhouse, is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and the University of Maryland, and was director of the Schola Cantorum at the Cathedral from 2000 to 2008. He now heads the Choral Music Department of Earlham College in Richmond, IN

Post-Communion 11:30am Mass - O Nata Lux - Morten Lauridsen

Morten Lauridsen is a contemporary American composer, primary of choral music. This motet is taken from his work Lux Aeterna, which was composed during the illness and death of the composer’s mother. His compositional technique is one that reduces harmonic language to chordal structures that contain unresolved 7th and 9th suspensions, which creates for many an effect of tranquility. The text comes from an office hymn at Lauds for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

To hear a version, click below:


First Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2017

Prelude 10am and 11:30am Masses – Schaffe in Mir Gott - Johannes Brahms

The late-German Romantic composer Johannes Brahms composed this setting of three verses from Martin Luther’s translation of Psalm 51 (this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm) in 1860 as part of his Opus 29, Zwei Motetten (Two Motets). The work is divided into three unique sections, each one corresponding to a verse of the Psalm. The first section, which speaks of our desire for forgiveness and redemption, is set in rich, enveloping harmonic texture that captures the peaceful, yet eternal longing for the infinite goodness and mercy of the Creator. The second section is more animated, expressed in a chromatic fugal section. The notion of being abandoned by God, is ominously suggested. The third section, not performed this Sunday because of its length, reassures the soul by beginning with the word troeste (comfort), and initiates a harmonic and textual intermezzo that leads into an uplifting finale, where the light-hearted choral treatment rejoices in the freudige Geist (joyful Spirit) that God sends to uphold his people.

To hear a version, click below.

Preparation of the Gifts Motet 10am Mass

“The Lord will overshadow you with his pinions, and you will find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will encompass you with a shield.” Psalm 91, verse 4-5. The First Sunday of Lent is unique in that the text for both the Offertory and Communion chants use the identical verses of Psalm 91. This unusual choice is even more noteworthy as it is the same citation used by the devil in today’s Gospel to tempt Jesus to test God’s constancy and steadfastness. 10:00am G.P. da Palestrina (1525 -1594) was an Italian Renaissance composer of principally sacred music and the best-known 16th century representative of the Roman School of musical composition. He had a lasting influence on the development of church music, and his work has often been considered the epitome of the genre. His setting is taken from the collection Offertoria Totuis Anni from 1593. This polyphonic motet uses lengthy phrasal imitation and weakened cadential arrangements, creating an uninterrupted effect through the text.

To hear a version, click below.

 

Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Scapulis Suis 

Robert Kreutz (1922-1996) was a 20th century American composer of liturgical music. Mr. Kreutz studied composition at the American Conservatory in Chicago and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is best known for his hymn collaboration with Omer Westendorf in their Gift of Finest Wheat, composed for the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia during the US Bicentennial celebration in 1976. Kreutz sets these two verses of Psalm 91 in a modern aesthetic with expressive word painting as in the opening gesture where voices are successively layered, one upon the other, as feathers are layered to create a bird’s wing.

To hear a version, click below.

 

Preparation of the Gifts Motet 11:30am Mass – Hide Not Thou Thy Face - Richard Farrant

Richard Farrant was a 16th century English composer, and member of the Chapel Royal for twelve years before taking the position of organist for St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. This motet quotes verses of Psalm 27, and is set in a declamatory/homophonic style in which the text is sung at the same moment in all parts, as opposed to a polyphonic style, such as that heard in the Palestrina selection at the 10:00am Mass today. The text pleads to God that he might reveal his merciful face toward us, even as we expose ours sin and selfishness and admit to our unworthiness to receive his mercy.

To hear a version, click below.

 

Post-Communion 10am Mass – Miserere Mei, Deus - Alonso de Tejeda

De Tejeda was a 16th century Spanish composer, and succeeded Alonso Lobo at the Cathedral of Toledo as its Chapel Master. His setting of Miserere, unlike Gregorio Allegri’s more famous setting, uses only the first three verses of Psalm 51. It bears similarities to Antonio Lotti’s setting written a century later. The part writing is closely imitative, to the degree that one part may still be on one syllable of a word while another part begins the imitation. The text is taken from this Sunday’s responsorial Psalm, and reminds us of the redemptive power of God’s mercy for the sinner.

 

Post-Communion Motet 11:30am Mass – Adam Lay Ybounden - Joel Martinson

Joel Martinson (b. 1960) is a contemporary American composer and currently serves as Director of Music and Organist for Transfiguration Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas. The anonymous 15th century carol ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ has become associated with the Service of Lessons and Carols as it is traditionally paired with the first lesson from the Book of Genesis, which is today’s first reading. The text speaks of the curse that befell humans from Adam’s fall “four thousand years” before Christ’s coming. The carol is also an exposition of the notion of the ‘felix Culpa’ or ‘happy fault’ relating to the early Christian understanding of the fall and curse of Adam as a cause for joy, for without them, the redemption that Christ brings would have been superfluous. Martinson composes with a rich harmonic palate, and the motet recalls Warlock’s setting of this carol.


Ash Wednesday
March 1, 2017 ~ 12:10pm Mass

The choral motets 
The themes reflect the readings of the day and the season of Lent. We hope that their use in the liturgy inspires the assembly to a more profound entrance into this season of charity, fasting and penance.

Ash Wednesday marks the end of the Winter Ordinary Time hiatus for the Schola Cantorum. The Cathedral’s principal choir will sing each Sunday from the first Sunday of Lent through June 18, the Feast of The Body and Blood of Christ.

Distribution of Ashes: Emendemus in Melius – William Byrd
This motet is from the collection Cantiones Sacrae, 1575. The motets in this set were composed by Byrd and Thomas Tallis and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. Emendemus in Melius is unique in Byrd’s catalogue for its ubiquitous homophonic part writing. The first part of the motet is conservative in its harmonic language, with minor flourishes at the ends of phrases interrupting the calmness. Near the end of part one, the lines become more declamatory, as the singers sing Hear O Lord, and have mercy. The second part, whose text implores God to help us and deliver us, permits more dissonance than in the first, including an extremely modern moment on the word nominis (name) where the partial harmonies of A minor and B flat major occur at once. The text is taken from the Matin’s Responsory for Lent I, and also appears as an option for the Distribution of Ashes in the Missal.

To hear a version, click below:

Preparation Motet: Wash Me Through and Through - Peter Hallock
Peter Hallock is an American composer and organist, and was the Choirmaster/Organist for Seattle’s St. Mark’s Cathedral from 1951-1991. His musical style is strongly reminiscent of mid-century English composers such Benjamin Britten and Vaughan Williams, though without the pastoral ‘shire-esque’ sound of Gerald Finzi or Percy Granger. This processional piece alternates verses of two psalms: 130 (Out of the depths I cry to Thee…)and 51 (Have mercy on me, O God, in your loving compassion…). Psalm 130 appears in a simple chant form scattered throughout the piece, while Psalm 51 is set harmonically and alternates between speech rhythm and metered sections, evoking Gregorio Allegri’s famous setting of Psalm 51, Miserere.

To hear a version, click below:

Communion Motet: Peccantem Me – Cristobal Morales
The Spanish composer Morales was the most highly regarded composer of the Iberian Peninsula prior to Tomás Luis de Victoria. This motet is taken from a collection of ‘freely composed’ pieces, that is, not based on a pre-existing motive. The text is from the Office for the Dead, and is the Response to the seventh reading from the book of Job.:

“Sinning daily and not repenting, the fear of death disturbs me. For in hell there is no redemption. Have mercy on me, O God, and save me. God, by your name save me, deliver me in your strength.”

Just prior to this text’s appearance, Job has lamented the abyss of his sinfulness and reflects on chastisement and hopelessness:

15:13-15 “If I wait, the grave is my house; I have made my bed in the darkness. I have said to corruption, ‘You are my father’; to the worm, ‘You are my mother and my sister.’ And where is now my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it? It shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.”

Morales’ text painting should be noted in two instances. First, the opening two voices on the word peccantem (sin) devolve from a consonant octave into a dissonant minor seventh, creating an impression of the darkly confining nature of sin. Second, despite the austere text and musical setting, Morales closes the piece on a major chord, perhaps expressing confidence in the hopeful response to the entreaty salva me (save me).

To hear a version, click below:


Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2016

The motets for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are the same for the Mass in Latin at 10am and the Mass in English at 11:30am (see below).

Of additional musical interest this weekend, the Cathedral Parish of St. Matthew the Apostle commissioned J. Michael Thompson to create a new hymn text (below) on the occasion of the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood of His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl at the 11:30am Mass. This new text was written with references to the following scripture passages Acts 20:17-18. 28-32.36; II Corinthians 4: 1-2, 5-7; II Timothy 1 6-11; and I Peter 4: 7-11. The tune assigned for the text is DARWALL’S 148th, also sung with the text Rejoice! The Lord is King. The Washington Symphonic Brass will be joining the Schola Cantorum to enhance the music for the festivities.

Preparation Motet: Rorate Caeli
This lush setting the Introit text for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was primarily inspired by the Quatre Motets Sur Des Thèmes Grégoriens, by Maurice Duruflé. Like the Duruflé settings, the chant melody is given prominent position in the work, with original music given secondary and complimentary roles. The opening word of this Introit gives the name to this Sunday, and the text source is from the book of Isaiah. It is also used as a versicle in the Liturgy of the Hours during Advent. Leo Nestor's setting is in a romantic idiom, with a broad scheme of variety in color and choral texture. The primary allusion of the text is of the arid land depicting a people parched waiting for the clouds to open and provide life-giving water, just as their souls desiccated with sin and despair wait for the long-foretold Savior.

To hear a version, click below:

Communion Motet: Ecce Virgo Concipiet
As with many texts assigned to liturgies in the final days of Advent, the original source is the book of the prophet Isaiah. William Byrd's musical treatment reflects the simplicity and innocence of Mary, and reserves harmonic color for the word Emmanuel, either reflecting the paradox of 'God with us' or foreshadowing his suffering and death on a cross. The motet is from his collection Gradualia I (1605), which was likely written for the beleaguered Catholic community still attempting to express its faith in Protestant England during the reign of James I.

To hear a version, click below:

  


Third Sunday of Advent
December 11, 2016

The 10am Preparation Motet: Benedixiste Domine

This motet is taken from Palestina’s Offertoria totius anni secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae consuetudinem, 5vv, published in Rome in 1593. The text, which is the prescribed Offertory text for this Sunday, comes from the 85th psalm, and despite the hopeful language of God’s mercy and forgiveness, Palestrina sets it in the rather somber aeolian mode. Despite the darker color of tone, the motet is filled with rich text-painting. The opening motive, which speaks of God’s blessing on the earth, is a gentle descending line in each of the voices. The 2nd section, which concerns the captivity of Jacob, is abundant in using the minor 2nd interval, emphasizing a feeling of being trapped. Finally, he reserves major tones for the final phrase, and on the text remisisti - released/forgotten, one feels a relaxation and resolve of the tension present in the first two/thirds of the motet. To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Preparation Motet: Rejoice in the Lord, Alway 

This anonymously composed motet from mid-16th century England has been a standard of the English liturgical choral repertoire. The text, from the 4th chapter of Philippians, appears as the Introit today and as the second reading on this Sunday in Year C. It is from the first word of this Introit (gaudete - rejoice) that Gaudete Sunday receives its name. While its authorship remains uncertain, the clarity of its counterpoint, and textual sensitive use of interplay between polyphony and monophony suggests a well-trained Tudor-era composer, on the level of Tallis or Byrd. To hear a version, click below:

The 10am Post-communion motet: Gaudete Omnes

This motet was composed by the Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, and published in 1619 in his collection Cantiones sacrae. The very opening motive with its flutter of 8th notes which is then repeated in each voice, set the joyful tone and character of this motet. When the text calls on us to ‘enter his presence with singing’ the meter becomes compound and imitates a dance. The final alleluia section with its plethora of acclamations and imitation/echo effect, can give the impression of the limited voices of a choir being joined by the heavenly multitude. To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Post-communion anthem: Angelus ad Virginem

This anthem is by the British composer Andrew Carter (b. 1933.) The setting is based on a popular medieval carol, whose text is a poetic version of the Hail Mary and the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Probably Franciscan in origin, it was brought to Britain by French friars in the 13th century. It is said to have originally consisted of 27 stanzas, with each following stanza beginning with the consecutive letter of the alphabet. Surviving manuscripts may be found in a c. 1361 Dublin Troper (a music book for use at Mass) and a 13th or 14th century vellum Sequentiale that may have been connected with the Church of Addle, Yorkshire. Its lyrics also appear in the works of John Audelay (perhaps a priest, he definitely spent the last years of his life at Haughmond Abbey, where he wrote for the monks), in a group of four Marian poems. It appears in Geoffrey Chaucer's Miller's Tale, where the scholar Nicholas sings it in Latin to the accompaniment of his psaltery: And over all there lay a psaltery Whereon he made an evening's melody, Playing so sweetly that the chamber rang; And Angelus ad virginem he sang; And after that he warbled the King's Note: Often in good voice was his merry throat. To hear a version, click below:


Sunday, November 20, 2016
Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

This weekend marks the confluence of many liturgical streams. It is the 34th and final Sunday of Ordinary Time and therefore the end of the Church year. Additionally, it is the Feast of Christ the King and the conclusion of the extraordinary Year of Mercy. This weekend also will see the annual White Mass for those who are differently-abled, celebrated by Auxiliary-Bishop Mario Dorsonville at 10am Mass in English. The Rector of the Cathedral will celebrate the closing Mass for the Year of Mercy at the 5:30pm Sunday Evening Mass, with Rev. Thomas Kesicki, S.J. as the homilist. At this Mass, our RCIA candidates also will be anointed.

The Hymn for the Year of Mercy will be sung as the communion hymn at all musical Masses this weekend. The text of the refrain is also the motto of the Year of Mercy: Misericordes Sicut Pater – Merciful, as the Father is Merciful.” Each of the verses includes the same recurring response: “In aeternum misericordia eius – his mercy is forever.” To discover more about this hymn and to hear a version, click here.

The text of the 10am Preparation Motet: O Rex Gloriae, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 –1594) was traditionally ascribed as the Magnificat antiphon for second vespers on the Feast of the Ascension: “O King of glory, Lord of all power, Who ascended to heaven on this day triumphant over all; Do not leave us as orphans, But send us the Father’s promise, The spirit of truth. Alleluia.” This text makes clear references to the Ascension themes and scriptures, but also has obvious resonance with today’s feast. The 10am and 11:30am postcommunion motet: Let all the World in Every Corner Sing is the fifth of the Five Mystical Songs by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958), written between 1906 and 1911. The final "Antiphon" is very different from the first four songs. It is a triumphant hymn of praise sung either by the chorus alone or by the soloist alone. To hear a version, click below:


Sunday, November 6, 2016
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time  

The 10am Preparation Motet: O Quam Gloriosum takes its text from the Book of Revelation, and was traditionally ascribed as the Magnificat antiphon for vespers on the solemnity of All Saints. The motet was so popular in its lifetime,  that the Spanish composer, Tomás Luis de Victoria (c.1548-1611), composed an entire 'imitation Mass' (Missa O Quam Gloriosum) based on its motives. The text relates to the Gospel in testifying against the Sadducees, that there is indeed a heaven, where the saints follow the lamb in glory. One can also hear in the words, quocumque ierit, a resonance with the first reading of today’ Mass in which we find the story of the mother and her seven sons who were led like lambs to be slaughtered for their beliefs. 

To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Preparation Motet: From the Ends of the Earth, was composed by the prolific American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000). The text, from Psalm 61, speaks of the believer’s prayer towards God, and the depth of trust in the creator. The musical style of the piece is a unique blend with French harmonic language, English choral writing, and occasional hints of Armenian exoticism.  

To hear a version, click below:

The 10am Post-communion motet: Beatus Vir by the German Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612), sets the first three verses of the first Psalm and speaks of the reward of the righteous man. Although not overtly resurrection or afterlife in tone, one can infer the line 'bear fruit in due season' to the afterlife. There is also a nod towards the concept of eternity in the line 'like a leaf that shall not wither.' The motet comes from Hassler's Cantiones Sacrae, published in 1591.  

To hear a version, click below:

The 11:30am Post-communion anthem: The Lord is My Shepherd, is by the American composer Thomas Matthews (1915-1999). Matthews was born in Utica, NY, and began his musical studies under Norman Coke-Jephcott, before continuing to St. John the Divine where he found himself in the tutelage of T. Tertius Noble, Channing Lefevre, and Lynwood Franam. This motet is probably the most well known of his nearly thirty choral anthems. Like the Victoria O Quam Gloriosum, Psalm 23 expresses one of the recurring themes associated with the November feasts that call to mind those who have gone before us in death but look with confidence to everlasting life.


Sunday, October 30, 2016
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The Preparation Motet for the 10:00am Mass in Latin, Laudate Dominum by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 –1594), comes from a collection of works the Italian composer published in 1593 entitled: Offertoria totius anni secundum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae consuetudinem. The text of this motet from Psalm 134, resonates with the themes of today’s first reading from the book of Wisdom, especially in these lines: “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. The verses of the motet take up the same themes with the lines: omnia quaecumque voluit, fecit in coelo et in terra, For whatever he wished, He has made in heaven and on earth.” The text is also prescribed for Lent IV, whose Gospel in Year B is the source of today’s Gospel Acclamation. 

To hear a version click below:  

The Preparation Motet for the 11:30amMass, God So Loved the World, takes its text from the Gospel Acclamation this day, John 3:14. The words remind of us the depth of God's love for us, and the degree to which God desires that we be reconciled and saved. Bob Chilcott (b. 1955) is an English composer, who sang at King's College as a boy treble, before attending university there. He was a tenor member of the King's Singer for twelve years, and currently resides in England.  

To hear a version, click below: 

The Communion Motets at the 10:00am and 11:30am Masses, Justorum Animae, both quote the text, from the book of Wisdom, “The souls of the just are in the in hands of God, and no torment shall touch them.” This text is usually used as the Offertory on All Saints, celebrated on Tuesday of this week. The setting at the 10:00 Mass is by the Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus (1530 – 1564), and is written in the later polyphonic style, similar to Palestrina. The 11:00am Mass setting is by the Irish born, English composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852 - 1924), and comes from this collection of three motets, Op 38. This set was composed in the 1890s, and dedicated to Allan Grey and the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge.  

For a version of the Lassus, click here:

For a version of the Stanford: click below:


Sunday, October 23, 2016
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

The prelude at the 11:30am Mass is one of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) most beloved motets, and one of the most famous choral pieces of the last century. It was written for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth the II, and received its premiere in 1953 at Westminster Abbey. It bears all the striking characteristics of Vaughan William's music; folk inspired melodies, economical use of motivic material, and harmonic choral writing inspired from the Anglican tradition. The text is from Psalm 34, today's responsorial psalm. The prayer encourages us to trust in God's grace and goodness, as did the tax collector in today’s Gospel.  

The 10am Mass motet at the Preparation of the Gifts, Laetentur Caeli, quotes Psalm 96, which is also heard as the responsorial psalm at Midnight Mass of Christmas, with its text speaking of the advent of a just judge, and of creation rejoicing. The German composer Hans Leo Hassler (1564 – 1612) frequently utilizes a technique known as text painting. Notable examples in this motet are the sparcity of voices on the word for heaven, suggesting something ethereal and weightless, while all voices are used when speaking of the earth, creating something heavier. Later these elements are interposed as Christ the mediator unites heaven and earth together. Another example occurs when the motet describes the sea, with each voice entering in a stepwise succession, creating the effect of waves;  likewise,  when depicting fields, the 16th note flurries leave a feeling of the wind blowing through the grass. 

The 11:30am Mass motet at the Preparation of the Gifts is the fourth movement from Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897)  Ein Deutsches Requiem. The text, psalm 84, speaks of the joy of heaven, the peace of praising God in his dwelling place, and the soul’s longing for its return. The first section and recapitulation of the piece written in a lilting three, with gently descending chromatics, creates a tone that is dreamy, and otherworldly, at times. In the middle section, when speaking of the longing of the soul for heaven, the tone becomes more urgent, only to resolve again as we hear the descending melody from the beginning (God's grace being poured on earth), ushering us back into our contemplation of God's dwelling place.  

The 10am Mass Communion motet, Domine non sum Dignus, sets the words of the good centurion, who out of humility and faith, requested that Jesus not enter his house, but to only say the word for healing. These words are also said at every Mass before the reception of communion, reminding us to take on the attitude of the humble tax collector, who understood that we can never merit God’s grace and mercy, but must simply accept the free gift.  For the second part of the piece, Tomás Luis da Victoria (1540 - 1613)  adds the lines:  Have mercy on me, for I am weak; heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.  

The 11:30am Mass Communion motet, O How Amiable, is the second piece this morning from the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was composed for the 1934 Abinger Pageant and quotes Psalms 84 and 90.  It speaks of our longing for the courts of the Lord, a place of shelter, safety and rest. It also asks God to bless and prosper the work we do in His name.  In the tradition of a German cantata, the piece ends with a verse of the hymn St. Anne, which may have likely been sung by all present as a closing song of  the pageant. 


Sunday, October 16, 2016
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The 10am motet for the preparation of the gifts, Ad Te Levavi Oculos, by G.P. da Palestrina takes it’s text from the 122nd Psalm; I lift up my eyes to you, who dwells in heaven. This action, of lifting one’s eyes, is reflected in the opening ascending motive of the chant, and continues to create a lithe and dance-like polyphony for the first section of the piece. The second part begins with the 3rd verse of the psalm, have mercy on us, O Lord, and the character of the piece dramatically becomes more solemn and penitential in nature. Besides recalling the text of today’s Responsorial Psalm today, I lift up my eyes to the mountains, whence shall help come to me, the theme also reminds us of the widow in the Gospel who persevered in her petition to the judge, and set an example of our own prayer lives; constantly directly toward God.

To hear a setting, click below: 

The 11:30am motet at the preparation of the gifts, The Eyes of All, by the German born Jean Berger, sets verses 15 and 16 of the 145th psalm. Berger fled Nazism in the 1930s, and settled in the U.S., teaching at various universities during the 50s-70s. His music is an eclectic style, with French sensibilities, German techniques, and American influences. The text continues the theme of today’s Responsorial Psalm and Gospel, with those who look towards the Lord, having their prayers answered in due season.  

The 10am Communion motet is one of the cornerstones of the English polyphonic tradition. Thomas Tallis' Salvator Mundi creates a dark and sombre web of interlocking voices, reminding us of the perseverance and depth of our savior's love for us; as Christ endure the Passion and Cross, how long do we endure in prayer to him. 

The 11:30am Communion motet calls to mind today’s Gospel in which Jesus expresses to his disciples the necessity for them to pray always.  Of all the prayers that come to the lips of Christians of every ecclesial community, the Lord’s Prayer is by far the most common. Notre Père is Parisian composer and organist Maurice Duruflé’s final composition. It was originally commissioned as a piece for the assembly, but later modified to include a four-part unaccompanied mixed choir. 

To hear a setting, click below:


Sunday, October 9, 2016
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

10am Mass

Estote Fortes

This rarely performed motet by the late renaissance Italian composer Luca Marenzio (1553 – 1599) quotes a text associated with feasts of Apostles and Martyrs. It call upon believers to be courageous when confronting evil, and thereby gain eternal life. Marenzio is most famous for his madrigals, and his influence among composers throughout Europe, especially England, was quite significant.

Laudate Nomen Domini

This general motet of praise taken from Psalm 112 is set by English renaissance composer Christopher Tye (c. 1500-1572.)

To hear a setting, click below:

11:30am Mass

Sing Joyfully

This exuberant anthem based on Psalm 81 is one of the last anthems of the English renaissance composer William Byrd (1543-1623.)  This jubilant hymn of praise is now, and at the time, was one of his most popular, especially for its vivid word painting, illustrated most convincingly in the treatment of the phrase “Blow the trumpet in the new moon.”  Byrd remained Catholic even throughout the turbulent English history when his family was subject to intermittent persecution.  He was a student and later business partner of the Thomas Tallis and taught many other composers, including Thomas Morley and Peter Philips.

To hear a setting by a Washington based ensemble, click below:

I Know the Lord ‘s Laid His Hands on Me

This African-American Spiritual by Richard Kent is a confession of faith in the power of the Lord’s touch. It captures the acknowledgement of the Samaritan leper who was cleansed by Jesus in today’s Gospel.  Of the ten who were cleansed, only one returned to thank Jesus and glorify God in his amazement and gratitude. 


Sunday, October 2, 2016
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

10am Mass, Annual Red Mass

Much of the music for the Red Mass supports and interprets the principal theme of the Mass; the invocation of the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and to inspire those in the legal community to be imbued with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

We Rely on the Power of God

The first Choral Introit by Richard Hillert, borrows much of its text from Paul’s letter to Timothy which we hear as today’s second reading. Paul's exhortation to proclaim the faith with courage, in cooperation with God’s grace, is given a triumphant treatment by Hillert. The text also reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives of public ministry, ‘a spirit of strength, and of love, and of wisdom’ - virtues which are highlighted in this Red Mass.

To hear a setting, click below. 

 

Spiritus Domini Replevit Orbem Terrarum

The second Choral Introit is taken from the Solemnity of Pentecost. This chant, based on Wisdom 1: 7, reminds us that Christ’s promise to send an advocate has been fulfilled, and the Spirit of God knows and understands the deliberations of people in every culture and language.

Veni Creator Spiritus

The motet at the Preparation of the Gifts has two textual sources, the hymn of the church (Veni Creator Spiritus) attributed to Rabanus Maurus (776-856 AD) and the sequence for Pentecost, (Veni, Sancte Spiritus). Both prayers are paeans to the power and works of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but also invocations, inviting the Spirit further into our works both public and private.  Michael J Trotta isolates the opening line of the chant, before developing the chant motives through a warm harmonic texture.

The Sequence of Pentecost

J Michael Thompson sets Peter J Scagnelli’s translation of the Golden Sequence, in a piece which combines western Gregorian chants, with Eastern chant inspired homophonic sections. The piece alternates the men and women of the ensemble between these two styles as they sing through the sequence which praises the Spirit's actions in our world, and in our lives. 

O Come, Let us Sing unto the Lord

As a hymn of thanksgiving, Psalm 95 is given a joyful setting in Anthony Piccolo’s exuberant anthem. The organ accompaniment, which flutters in quick and virtuosic passages, contrasts the linear and legato lines of the choral parts.

11:30am Mass, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

O Lord, Increase my Faith

The Communion Motet for this Mass, which quotes the Gospel, was for many years attributed to Orlando Gibbons, but is now believed to be the work of Henry Loosemore (d.1670.)

To hear a setting, click below.

 


Sunday, September 25, 2016
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

10am Mass, Preparation of the Gifts

Super Flumina quotes Psalm 136 and recalls the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites, and their despair while along the river remembering their homeland. The text also emphasizes the plight of those without a home or homeland, such as Lazarus in Gospel, whose “home” was the outside the door of the rich man. Palestrina’s setting of the text is hauntingly minor in tonality and evocative in describing the plight of  those who long to be free and at home.

11:30am Mass, Preparation of the Gifts

Ubi Caritas is a chant from the Washing of Feet ritual on Holy Thursday. The text bids us to live a life that cares for one another with sincere hearts, and thereby invite Christ to dwell among us as we imitate his selfless and unconditional love. This setting is by contemporary liturgical composer, James Biery.

10am Mass, Post-Communion Motet

Beati Quorum Via is taken from Stanford’s three motets, op. 38. It captures a gentle ambulatory movement in its successive lines of quarter notes that are so characteristic of this piece. The peaceful quality of this setting of Psalm 119, characterizes the inner peace of those, who, unlike the rich man, seek the law of the Lord and put the needs of others ahead of their own earthly gains. To hear a setting, click below.

 

11:30am Mass, Post-Communion Motet

O Frondens Virga is a contemporary setting of a chant by St. Hildegard of Bingenwhose feast was celebrated on September 17.The text prays that we may be free of evil habits (such as ignoring the plight of the poor among us). This setting by Drew Collins takes Hildegard’s monophonic chant, and sets it within both homophonic and polyphonic musical elements. To experience another setting of this same chant, click below.

  


Sunday, September 18, 2016
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

10am Mass

Preparation of the Gifts:  Salvator Mundi, G. P. da Palestrina

Communion Motet:  Jesu, Meine Freude, J. S. Bach

Sunday, September 18, 2016
Solemnity of St. Matthew, Patronal  Feast Observed at 11:30am and 1pm Masses 

11:30am Mass 

Prelude  and Psalm
Even though the Church will celebrate St. Matthew’s feast next Wednesday, the Cathedral also celebrates its patron saint at this Sunday Mass (as well as at the 1pm Spanish Mass). The Choral prelude at this Mass is a particularly festive setting of Psalm 47.  ‘O Clap your Hands’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams is an acclamation of praise to God, especially today, in thanksgiving for Matthew’s willingness to accept Christ’s invitation to come and follow him. The celebration of an Apostle (such as St. Matthew) carries with it an aspect of discipleship as Christ gave the instructions to ‘Go and teach all nations’ before ascending to Heaven. This commission is affirmed in the Psalm for today ('Their message goes out through all the earth'). For a recorded version of the Vaughan Williams, click below.

Preparation of the Gifts
The epitome of the Cecilian movement in 19th century Germany, Bruckner’s Os Justi is an incredibly dramatic and emotive motet which economically utilizes minimal material and resources. The lydian mode piece is without accidentals throughout, an aspect of the Cecilian attempt to return to an earlier style of composition. The opening a section breathlessly builds toward a celestially bright and suspension-rich cadence which leads into secondary fugal section before the recapitulation. The text, taken from Psalm 36 with a verse added from Psalm 89, praises the attributes of a saint such as the apostle, and patron of civil servants, who we honor today: his mouth speaks wisdom, his tongue speaks justice, God’s law is in his heart. For a recorded version of the Bruckner, click below. 

Post-Communion Motet
The communion motet was composed by local composer Leo Nestor, former head of Sacred Music at the Catholic University in DC. It is an emotive and harmonically lush style. The text is taken from the first chapter of Ephesians, and is Paul’s command to the people of Ephesus, and to us, as to how we are to lead our lives. It also recollects the Gospel of this day, when Christ called St. Matthew to be his disciple. 


Sunday, September 11, 2016
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The motets for the 10am and 11:30am Masses on Sunday, September 11, sung by the Schola Cantorum, emphasize the mercy of God toward a penitent sinner.  

The 10am Communion motet expounds God's love and desire for the return and salvation of the sinner. The Spanish composer Alonso Lobo utilizes subtle suspensions, giving the impression of the ever-longing father's desire for the reunion. 

The 11:30am chorale prelude 'Have Mercy on me O God' by the late Tudor composer Thomas Tomkins, sets the text of psalm 51, which the psalmist composed after his transgression (II Samuel, 11). 

This theme of contrition and return is re-echoed in the Gospel parable of the prodigal son. The 10am Offertory motet by the Flanco-Flemish Thomas Crecquillon, sets the text of the petition of the penitent son towards his merciful father, in a liltingly humble line of choral writing.  

The 11:30am Offertory from the Polish composer Felix Nowowiejski is a romantic setting of the tradition lenten antiphon: 

Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo: ne in aeternum irascaris nobis.
Spare, O Lord, spare your people: do not hold your anger towards us eternally.

This text, adapted from the book of Joel, appeals toward the penitent's petition to a merciful father in a harmonically rich and profound musical setting. To listen to a recorded version of this motet, click below.