The choir’s offertory motet was long attributed to Palestrina, but this was incorrect. O bone Jesu (O good Jesus) is actually a work by Marc’Antonio Ingegneri (c. 1535-1592), a Renaissance composer known for his simple, clear vocal pieces. It is important to understand the position of Roman Catholic church music in the 16th century. With protestant reforms happening all over Europe, the church called a council together (the Council of Trent) to basically devise a “Counter-Reformation.” Many things were discussed and changes were made, but this was an unstable time for the Roman church. Musically, church authorities were displeased that composers, through the combination of multiple simultaneous melodies (polyphony), had made it nearly impossible to understand the lyrics of the Latin pieces. Before the advent of these intricate pieces, there had been only simple, unison chants (monophony). Palestrina, Ingegneri, and other composers basically invented a new style of writing their music, often called the “Roman School,” that started to move music toward a more harmonically driven language (homophony) that made the lyrics more intelligible. Even though Palestrina is considered the greatest master of Renaissance choral music, Ingegneri may well have been more successful at making the texts understood. As an important aside, Ingegneri was a teacher of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643), the father of the Baroque period. On Sunday, you will hear one of his motets. In fact, it is believed that Palestrina based one of his motets of the same name upon this piece. Its message is good to remember as we make our way through the Book of Job! A translation of the Latin text is as follows:
O good Jesus, have mercy upon us,
for thou hast created us,
thou hast redeemed us
by thy most precious blood.
Our Handbell Choir will perform a completely different piece during Communion, Land of Rest, arranged by this author. Land of Rest is the tune name of I come with joy to meet my Lord, and you should recognize the tune in my arrangement for handbells. This piece is of American origin, and has a beautiful folk melody not unlike other gems from America’s folk tradition.
Finally, our postlude music will be the “Great” Fugue in g minor by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). This work is written almost as a cathedral in sound. The angular, almost gigue-like melody is used as the essential fabric of the whole fugue. The crowning glory of polyphonic music, the fugue, has never had a more masterful exponent than J. S. Bach, and you can hear this mastery fully in this great fugue on Sunday. Listen for the main theme (subject) to return over and over again in different places!