Choral Highlights

Enjoy a taste of the choral music you will hear from St. Matthew's Schola Cantorum (Latin for “School of Singers” at the 10am and 11:30am Masses, courtesy of St. Matthew's Office of Music Ministries.

Past Choral Highlights

Visit our past choral highlights archive for music from previous Sundays in the current liturgical year (Cycle C) and going back to 2016.

March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Approaching Holy Week

As we approach the holiest week of the year, the Schola Cantorum draws from a rich and varied palette of choral music, including renaissance motets from 16th century Italy, Germany and England, and 18th century America, as well as music from modern composers from Scotland and Chicago.

Even though the Schola Cantorum will not be providing its customary musical leadership this Sunday, we’d like to share some of the music that we planned to sing for your own reflection and meditation. Couple this with reading the scripture of the day and your own personal prayer or reflection with your family at home. For your daily prayer life we also recommend either a digital or print version of the excellent Give Us This Day prayer resource.

You may wish to begin or end your reflection with this prayer:

Merciful God, you showed your glory to our fallen race by sending your Son to confound the powers of death.
Call us forth from sin’s dark tomb.
Break the bonds which hold us, that we may believe and proclaim Christ, the cause of our freedom and the source of life, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, holy and mighty God for ever and ever.

10am Mass Kyrie, from Mass for Five Voices - William Byrd (1539 – 1623)

Byrd’s Masses for Three, Four, and Five Voices were composed between 1592-1595 for clandestine Catholic communities in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Along with the “Gradualia” from the early 1600s, these choral works made possible a sung celebration of the Roman Rite Mass, as it would have been celebrated by the continental priests who journeyed to England to preside at liturgies. The Mass is set in a polyphonic Tudor style featuring imitative entrances, often spaced in close adjacencies.

To hear a version of the entire Mass, click below:

10am Mass Preparation of the Gifts, “Confitebor Tibi Domine” – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594)

Palestrina set the Offertory Proper for this Sunday in a typical Italian-polyphonic-post-Tridentine style. The text is from Psalm 118: “I will praise you, O Lord, with my whole heart; deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and observe your word; revive me according to your word, O Lord.” The motet begins with a confession of praise but is characterized musically as a calm meditation. Palestrina then memorably treats the two variances of the word ‘life,’ – “vivam” and “vivifica me”– with particular energy and interest. In this Fifth Sunday of Lent in the Year of Luke, the reflection has a particular resonance with the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where we hear Paul acknowledge that every other pursuit he may have followed in the past cannot compare to life in Christ and observing Christ’s word in the hopes of attaining the promise of eternal life.

To hear a version sung by the Schola in rehearsal last year, click below:

11:30am Mass Prelude, O Christ you Wept – John Bell (b. 1949)

This gentle funeral motet sets Bell’s tune, Palmer, as a homophonic hymn with a brief interlude between each verse. The text, by Graham Maule and the composer, tells us of Christ’s love for Lazarus and for all who pass away. The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus (at this Mass for the Third Scrutiny) reminds us not only of Christ’s promise of eternal life, but also that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human in sharing our grief at the loss of friends and loved ones. That belief will be announced again next week in the Passion Sunday second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, where “Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

To hear a version, click below:

11:30am Mass Preparation of the Gifts, Lazarus – Paul Nicholson

This text is taken from the Office of Matins for “Lazarus Saturday” in the Orthodox calendar and was translated by J. Michael Thompson. Besides retelling the Gospel story, the text reminds us how much Lazarus was loved by Christ, and that the theme of raising the beloved is echoed in today’s Collect prayer, which describes Christ’s sacrifice as motivated by love of the world. The motet is homophonically set with inventive modern harmonic language throughout. Nicholson is Director of Music at Saint Clement Church in Chicago and is a distinguished accompanist, vocal coach, composer, conductor, and singer. Before Your own death, O Lord, You raised from death Lazarus, who was four days dead, and You have shaken the dominion of death. Through this one man whom You loved, You have foretold the deliverance of all from corruption. We therefore worship You and cry: Blessed are You, O Savior; have mercy on us!

To hear a version, click below:

11:30am Mass Communion Antiphon, When Jesus Wept -- William Billings (1746 – 1800)

William Billings is considered America’s first composer of choral music. He was committed to strengthening congregational singing and was associated with a movement to pursue those ends in New England churches. This brief canon about the incarnate Jesus expressing his grief and mercy is particularly poignant as a commentary on the (Year A) Gospel today.

To hear a version sung by the Schola in rehearsal last year, click below:

11:30am Mass Communion Motet, “So Fahr Ich Hin Zu Jesu Christ” – Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672)

This motet is taken from Schütz’s Geistliche Chormusik collection, which was published in Dresden in 1648. Although Schütz was German, he studied under Gabrieli in Venice, and there is a strong Italian influence on his style. The text is an expressive prayer of desire for Jesus, and the peace found within. It speaks of being awakened by Christ’s call and being led to heaven after a period of sleep, mirroring today’s Scrutiny Gospel where Jesus commands his friend Lazarus to come out of the tomb where was laid three days earlier. We live in the hope of that call as well.

To hear a version, click below: