Sunday’s offertory piece is a setting of the ancient Latin text, O Sacrum Convivium (O Sacred Banquet), by Peter Mathews (b. 1944) and will be sung by our “Chamber Choir.” While Canadian by birth, Mathews has spent most of his career here in the United States serving churches and choral ensembles as conductor and composer. Mathews resides in central Florida. Last summer, at the Sewanee Church Music Conference, I was introduced to his O Sacrum Convivium (it was sung by the choir at the closing Eucharist). It was great to discover that Mathews actually dreamt the first section of this piece, awoke, and wrote it down to finish later! The lush texture of his O Sacrum is certainly dream-like, and its lyrics serve as a reminder to us of the nature of the Lord’s Supper - an eternal banquet that transcends time and space. The translation of the Latin lyrics is below.
O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.
One especially interesting feature of our service this week is the singing of Canticle 13 by the choir after the first reading. While this spot is usually occupied by a psalm, be it responsorial or chanted, the lectionary sometimes includes other texts in this spot. This week, an option was given to sing Canticle 13 or Canticle 2 (an older version of the same text). Happily, this gives us the opportunity to sing a setting of Canticle 13 by John Rutter (b.1945), found in the service music section of our hymnal. The repetitive nature of the music fits the repetition of the text, culminating with a rousing descant and big finish in a final exclamation of, “Glory to you!” In some churches, this canticle is used in place of the Gloria on occasion. We hope it inspires you. Listen for the direct reference the Trinity at the end.
During communion, we will hear Ave Verum Corpus by Edward Elgar (1857-1934), of Pomp and Circumstance fame. This expressive and delicate solo piece renders the text in a refreshing, Romantic-period style. For those only familiar with Mozart’s setting of the text, it will be interesting to hear a different take on it. Admittedly, Mozart’s setting is much more famous, but the Elgar deserves to be heard occasionally also!
Lastly, the organ prelude is of interest if for no other reason than its rarity. The Paso en Do Major by Narciso Casanovas (1747-1799), a Spanish monk, organist, and composer. It is rare to hear Spanish church music in our country, but it merits more “air time.” Generally, Spanish church music is quite ornate and quite sophisticated. Sunday’s prelude, by Casanovas, is very much in the style of harpsichord and piano pieces of his era. Notice that his music, while resembling music from neighboring countries, retains a Spanish flair that is transmitted by rhythm and ornamentation.