The Pray Tell editors suggested that I write a short notice about a compositional project I’ve been working on for the last year or so. Since many new musical settings of the Order of Mass prompted by the new translation of the English texts will appear in the next few years, it might be of interest to hear how one church composer is going about the task of providing scores for future sung prayer.
I was deeply honored when, in preparation for the 2011 celebration of the centennial of papal approval of the Catholic Foreign Missions Society, Maryknoll officials through Fr. Michael Duggan contacted me about creating a musical setting of the new English translations of the texts for Roman Rite Eucharist that could be used both by the Maryknoll missioners and by the English-speaking churches. (For more information on Maryknoll visit the website at: http://home.maryknoll.org/maryknoll/)
One of the most intriguing parts of the commission was that the various movements should represent musically both Maryknoll’s United States heritage and the diverse cultures in which Maryknoll missioners serve. From early 2009 through May 2010 I submitted the individual pieces as they were created to Michael who was assisted by Lucille Naughton, long-term music director at Maryknoll’s houses of formation in Ossining, New York, in determining how well what I was writing fulfilled the commission. More than once Michael and Lucille sent me back to the drawing board and their comments have certainly improved the finished work.
After some discussion we decided to call the work the “Missa ‘Ad Gentes’” (Mass “To the Peoples”), drawing the title from the Second Vatican Council’s document on missionary activity. We also decided to adopt “Maryknoll Centennial Mass” as a subtitle to recall the circumstances of the original commission.
Early in 2010, the Gregorian Institute of America, Inc., (GIA) agreed to publish this project, thus making the Maryknoll Mass available to a wider audience. This brought a new round of collaboration during which Kelly Dobbs-Mickus, Joshua Evanovich, and Brian Streem made many detailed suggestions to improve the score. (I also want to acknowledge Fred Vipond’s assistance in making the organ accompaniment more idiomatic, but due to time constraints I was unable to incorporate much of his work in the published scores.)
After that introduction, it might be of interest to listen to part of one of the segments of this Mass setting. As is well known, at Roman Rite Eucharist the praying of the Our Father consists of four elements: 1) the priest’s recited or chanted invitation to pray; 2) the body of the prayer chanted or recited by the assembly; 3) an embolism expanding the petitions of the prayer recited or chanted by the priest; and 4) a concluding acclamation by the assembly. In my setting the priest’s parts are in free speech rhythm, while the assembly’s texts are set metrically, but with great freedom in performance. Since at the time of this posting, the changed texts of the new English translation are still embargoed, I can only post the (unchanged) congregational portion of my new setting of the “Lord’s Payer.” While it would be wonderful if the congregation were able to chant the prayer in four parts, I have deliberately kept the soprano tessitura in mid-range so that the congregation can sing the melody in unison in the soprano line. This setting is intended to evoke Russian Orthodox liturgical chant as filtered through my harmonic language in honor of Maryknoll’s mission in Siberia, a parish of which was entrusted to my friend and fellow liturgist from the Maryknoll community, Fr. Joe McCabe, MM.
It is my hope that the “Missa ‘Ad Gentes’” will not only celebrate the great contributions Maryknoll has made to people in physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual need over the past century, but will also assist English-speaking Roman Rite Catholics to worship with the new liturgical texts, faithful to their heritage but enriched by the great diversity of languages and cultures that make up the Church Catholic.