On Another ‘Note’: Introducing the Mass of the Holy Name
So, these days most people know me for my writing, whether on this blog, or my book Dating God: Live and Love in the Way of St. Francis, or because of several dozen articles in various publications. What most people, I think it’s safe to presume, don’t know about me is that I occasionally minister as a liturgical musician. Opportunities for me to serve as a piano accompanist have dramatically decreased since my ordination as a priest (it’s rather difficult to preside and play the piano, although I did play an opening hymn once at Long Beach Island when I had daily mass), nevertheless, when the chance arises when I can help out behind the ivories, I’m glad to do it. When I was in college, and even more recently in graduate school while working on my MA and MDiv degrees, I was able to play percussion: both the timpani and drum set in various settings. You might recall that while teaching at Siena College during the 2010-2011 academic year, I also played the drums in the student pep band.
The reason I mention this aspect of my life today is that earlier this year I composed, rather quickly and simply, a Mass setting to be used with the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal for my local Washington, DC Franciscan community. We faced an interesting challenge. We would often celebrate our community liturgy rather early in the morning, which is not the most opportune time for thirty men to sing just any musical piece, particularly if that setting is written in a key a bit higher than an early-morning-religious man’s voice could handle. Range was an issue with a number of the new settings.
We had also decided early on not to use one of the more familiar revised settings both at the personal recommendation of some of the composers and out of fear that it might be too confusing, at least for now. We tried a few settings and found that Tony Alonso’s Mass of Joy and Peace was one of the better or at least more intuitive settings. We used that for a while, but the repetition (which could be initially helpful in getting the changes down) and the key (D major) made it difficult for us to use long-term in our particular community.
And so, somewhat randomly, I decided in January that I would compose a very simple setting in a key that would be easy to sing early in the morning, particularly by a large group of religious men. Over the course of two days I hammered out what is ultimately still a work in progress, the Mass of the Holy Name.
Almost immediately it became clear that it would work, at least for us. People seemed to have no trouble picking up the melody and singing within the limited range. Even the “Lamb of God” is apparently so catchy that I would hear people humming it around the friary later in the day.
Since its intentional and rather private use in our local community in Washington, it has been used whole or in part (the “Lamb of God” used most regularly, including at my ordination and elsewhere) in a variety of settings and in different locations. Although not widely used, I have been receiving an increasing number of requests from people for information about how to get ahold of the setting and the permission to use it.
After some thought, I decided to post it on my website under a new page titled “Music,” to make it accessible for those who are interested. It is not an entirely complete setting. It consists of the Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Lamb of God. I do intend to finish writing the Gloria, Kyrie, and Gospel Acclamation, but for many obvious reasons, I have not yet had the time.
So, I offer my work here for your use. The only request I have is that you properly identify the Mass setting, credit the composer and note the copyright holder in your reprinting. Please also feel free to send me feedback about your experience with it and how it’s received in its use. Keep in mind the context out of which it arose, that it is deliberately simple and in a key that is relatively easy for people to sing (B-flat Major), especially men in the morning. The accompanying C-Instrument parts were written with the intention of adding diversity and interest to the rather straightforward and intuitive settings, so when possible add a flute or the like. Enjoy!
Link to: Mass of the Holy Name (Piano/Vocal/Guitar/C-Instrument and Congregational settings)