We introduced a new Mass setting at daily Mass in the abbey this week: Blessed Fire, the wonderful setting by Adam Wood based on Shaker melodies.
The Mass of the Blessed Fire is a new musical setting of the congregational acclamations and chants from the new English translation of the Roman Missal.
The setting is unaccompanied and unison, designed for easy, but beautiful and hardy, congregational singing. The melodies are based on the traditional music of the United Society of Believers, an American Protestant monastic group more commonly called The Shakers.
Here is a PDF of the abbey layout. (Don’t know why the PDF-maker skipped blank pages, but you get the idea of it.) We sing it unaccompanied, as Adam intends. On roll-out day we had the people repeat lines 1, 3, and 5 of the Sanctus after the cantors, but by the third day everyone was ready to sing everything.
This is inculturation at its best, I think – real, authentic American chant brought into the Roman liturgy. The melodies are sturdy and charming, and I’m pretty sure they will wear well. The melodies move in almost predictable ways, oftentimes pentatonic, but the rhythmic alteration between 2s and 3s gives it just the right amount of interest.
I say this should be the second chant setting in the U.S. Roman missal, after the ICEL chants based on Latin chant. Whaddaya think?
PS. Here’s a story about the last three remaining Shakers from Busted Halo.