By the mystery of Your holy incarnation; by Your holy nativity . . . Good Lord, deliver us!
— from The Litany
On the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, many of the Faithful hear the following Introit: “Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness.” As Advent turns to Christmas and expectation to fulfillment, many of us will hopefully take time to sing, pray, and meditate on the following ancient responsory for Matins on Christmas Day:
+ In all time of our tribulation . . . in the hour of death; and in the day of judgment:
Help us, good Lord. +
— From The Litany
Faithful readers of “Lifted Voice” may recall that I recently began an occasional series entitled “Rescuing the Requiem,” which explores musical settings of selected texts from the historic Mass for the Dead (the Requiem) that are fitting in a Lutheran context, especially the Kyrie and the Sanctus. In the present issue, I wish to share with the good reader two settings of the Sanctus that are accessible to the capable parish choir and organist, both from prominent French composers, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) and Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986).
Come, Philip, let us sing the 46th Psalm.
— Martin Luther to Philip Melanchthon
Last year in this column (October 2016), we examined the contents of the first Lutheran hymnal, “The Eight-Song Book.” As Lutherans (and many others) now celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (31 October 2017), it seems fitting to conduct a brief historical survey of the best known hymn of Martin Luther (1483-1546), “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity;
in the hour of death; in the day of judgment: Help us, good Lord.
— from The Litany
The traditional title of the ancient Mass for the Dead is “Requiem,” which hails from the first word of the Introit for this occasional Mass, “Rest (requiem) eternal grant to them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine on them.” Readers who are not of the Roman Catholic faith may be a bit surprised to encounter a column on a musical setting of the Requiem from a Lutheran writer, but we must be cautious not to throw out the “Lutheran baby” with the “Medieval bath water.” The text of the Requiem omits the Gloria and the Creed, alters the Agnus Dei to include prayers for the dead, and includes numerous texts on the final judgment that are curiously devoid of the Gospel. Two sacred texts remain intact, however, which overlap with the traditional “Sunday” text of the Mass: the Kyrie (“Lord, have mercy”) and the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy”). These texts have inspired composers through the centuries, leaving a veritable treasure trove in our ecclesiastical back yard. Welcome to the first installment of our occasional “Rescuing the Requiem” series, which seeks to extract and explore excerpts from the Requiem repertoire, beginning with the Kyrie of the Requiem of Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986).
Mozart shows us the kind of music we might hope to hear in heaven.
But it is Bach, making music in the Castle of Heaven, who gives us the voice of God—in human form.
— John Eliot Gardiner
In the final movements of The Mass in B-Minor by J. S. Bach (1685-1750), the composer intentionally contrasts large choruses with more intimate arias, with a miniature chiasm around the Benedictus:
Only the last two movements remain to be considered in this, our final installment of “B Minor Basics”: the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) aria and the Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace) chorus.
In [this confession of faith] we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ,
by God’s grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith …
— Formula of Concord
On June 12th, the church commemorates the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), which formulated the doctrine of the Trinity and the two natures in Christ. J. S. Bach (1685-1750) was one of countless composers to set the Nicene Creed to music as part of a setting of the entire Mass. Please join me to explore the first three movements of Bach’s setting of the Nicene Creed in his Mass in B-Minor, which focus on God the Father and God the Son.
To Your Royal Highness I submit in deepest devotion the present small work
of that science which I have achieved in musique, with the submissive prayer
that Your Highness will look upon it with most gracious eyes …
— J. S. Bach, from the dedication of
the Kyrie-Gloria Mass, 1733
On Easter Sunday this month, the Gloria of the Divine Liturgy will return after its omission for the penitential season of Lent. This seems to be a fitting time for another installment in our “B Minor Basics” series, focusing on the last four movements of the Gloria.
Behold, the Lord, the Ruler hath come:
And the kingdom and the power and the glory are in His hand.
— Historic Introit for Epiphany Day
The relatively late date for Easter Sunday 2017 facilitates a lengthy Epiphany season. As the Gloria (“Glory be to God on high”) returns after its absence during Advent, it seems fitting to focus on the Gloria in this installment of “B Minor Basics”. The Gloria of Bach’s Mass in B Minor comprises eight movements. For the sake of length, I will divide it into two columns, addressing the first four movements in this issue, and the final four movements in the forthcoming April 2017 column.
Everything that happens with Christ forms a prefiguration for the church.
— Martin Luther
As the season of Epiphany begins on January 6th, many parish choirs will hopefully sing the traditional carol, “Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,” which tells the entire story of salvation in the voice of Christ:
Drop down, ye heavens, from above
And let the skies pour down righteousness.
— Historic Introit for Advent IV
As the church celebrates Advent, a season of hope and expectation, many of us will hopefully pray and sing the seven Great “O” Antiphons, which lend a seasonal theme to the Magnificat at Vespers. The following translation of the antiphons is from Lutheran Service Book (LSB), with scripture references from Oremus: A Lutheran Breviary by David Kind:
Pr Brian Hamer
Brian J. Hamer is Chaplain to the 11th Regiment of the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, CA, via the LCMS Board for