Music for the Church’s Worship 3: Liturgical Music by Dr. Lynn Trapp

A native of Missouri and holder of BMus, MMus/Liturgy, and DMA degrees, Dr. Lynn Trapp, has served as Director of Worship and Music, Organist/Pianist at St. Olaf parish in downtown Minneapolis, MN, since 1996, overseeing the installation of the new 67 rank Lively-Fulcher pipe organ there in 2001. One may frequently see him supporting the sung prayer of St. Olaf’s community (and hear the organ brilliantly played) in their televised Masses.

I call attention here to Dr. Trapp’s equally distinguished career as a church composer. While he has written a significant amount of music specifically for organ (sometimes with instrumental ensemble) published by Oxford University Press, Concordia, Morning Star, and World Library Publications, I am especially impressed with his liturgical music, bearing as it does the characteristics of one clearly trained in musical theory and composition but also aware of the capabilities of congregations in singing the texts of the reformed Roman Rite liturgy. Let me highlight three sets of compositions that I have found truly enhancing of our common prayer.

The first set is a series of Introit Hymns for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and Ordination/Dedication of a Church/20th Sunday in Ordinary Time published by GIA Publications of Chicago, IL. Commissioned by Corpus Christi Cathedral in Texas, these processional pieces brilliantly combine the Entrance antiphons proposed by the Roman Missal in a metrical setting to be sung by cantor, choir, and assembly, with more complex psalm verses to be sung by choir. For example, the Introit Hymn for Lent applies the ST. FLAVIAN hymn tune (frequently sung to “These Forty Days of Lent, O Lord”) to the congregational text “To you my eyes are turned, O God, to free me from the snare. / In mercy turn your face toward me, abandoned, weak and poor.” The choral verses based on Psalm 25 incorporate the ancient Lenten chant Attende Domine. Like the good steward lauded in Matthew’s gospel, these compositions bring out from the storehouse of the Church’s music things both new and old for the praise of God in our ritual prayer. (Audio samples of these Introit Hymns can be found here or by going to the GIA website and entering “Lynn Trapp” in the search apparatus.)

The second set is a series of compositions for the sung parts of Roman Rite Mass entitled the “Morning Star Mass,” presumably because of the publisher, MorningStar Music Publishers of St. Louis, MO. Written for SATB choir and/or cantor, congregation and organ, the “Morning Star Mass” includes the standard elements of the 2010 English translation of the Mass: the Lord, have mercy with various tropes appropriate to seasons and feasts; the Glory to God; the Gospel acclamation with various verses; a musical pattern for chanting the Universal Prayer; the acclamations of the Eucharistic Prayer (comprising the Holy, Holy, Holy, the three memorial acclamations, and the Doxology and Amen); and the Lamb of God. The writing is consistently lyric and prayerful, often beautifully evoking the effect of chant and its polyphonic elaboration in English (e.g., Lord, have mercy, Gospel acclamation, General Intercessions, Lamb of God), at other times reaching a real sense of majesty (e.g, the unified Eucharistic interventions: Holy, Holy, Holy, memorial acclamations, Amen). I find the Glory to God to be especially powerful, alternating rich choral writing with singable (anthemic or pleading) refrains for the congregation. (An audio file of “Morning Star Mass” can be found here.)

The third set is another series of compositions for the sung parts of the Roman Rite Mass entitled “Centennial Mass,” also published by MorningStar Music Publishers. Treating the same elements as the “Morning Star Mass,” the “Centennial Mass” has a completely different ethos: the “Morning Star Mass” with its organ and brass accompaniment bespeaks a classical heritage, where the “Centennial Mass,” although using the same vocal resources, uses (piano) keyboard, guitar, trumpet, 2 C instruments, and Timpani to present a “folk ensemble” feel. Some of the tropes of the “Lord, have mercy,” for example, sound as though they were inspired by a spiritual, while the “Glory to God” with its triple pulse fairly dances with joy. There is a wonderful thematic unity among the Gospel acclamation, the Holy, Holy, Holy, the memorial acclamations, and the Doxology and Amen. (An audio file of the “Centennial Mass” can be found here).

In my experience it is quite rare to find a composer who can write idiomatically in both “classical” and “folk” styles, let alone one who has such a sense of what is appropriate for ritual, conducive to prayer, and within the capabilities of most parish musicians. I hope that Dr. Trapp will continue to bless us with his liturgical compositions for many years to come.


  1. Lynn – enjoyed listening to your compositions especially the processional introits.

    Brings back memories of your music/liturgy leadership at St. Mary’s Seminary in Missouri in the early 1980s.

    Hope you don’t mind but have forwarded this posting to some of your former students who are now employed as music/liturgy directors in various parishes in the Midwest e.g. St. Vincent’s in St. Louis.

    Does this mean that I heard you play the organ when I watch the St. Olaf Christmas Program every year

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #1:
      Bill, thanks for your interest…great to hear from you.
      See my website and connect by email. I would be thrilled to hear more from you and of those from the great chapter of life at St. V’s, Pville.
      St. Olaf College is one hour south of St. Olaf Church. Our liturgy is on parish website and metro tv/Relevant Radio each week St. O College has the annual Christmas festival which I have enjoyed in person many times through the 18yrs of my being in MN.

  2. I enjoy this endeavor, Fr. Mike! Love the vocabulary as well. I can honestly say I have never heard the Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, and Amen called Eucharistic interventions!

  3. Knowing of Dr. Trapp’s prowess on the organ, I had not looked at his compositions as possibilities for use as we are an ensemble based music ministry. So thank you for broadening my scope, especially in light of his Centennial Mass!

  4. Fr. Joncas,

    I wonder, with this composition series, if there is any way to present better recordings to us online. With the snippet of sound and a page or so of sample score, it’s really difficult to get a sense of the scope and structure of each piece. For example, the introit pieces listed here are advertised as an alternation of hymn-tune congregational singing and more complex choir psalm verses. Yet the snippet only covers the hymn tune portion.

    In addition, the publisher websites often seem to use a studio quartet plus synthesized instruments. It’s difficult get a sense of what the piece actually sounds like from those recordings.

    Does Lynn Trapp happen to have any recordings/YouTube videos of these pieces “in action” at St. Olaf? Maybe a choir recording? I would think PTB would be a great place to advertise through sharing those.

  5. #4 Jared re:recorded music of Lynn Trapp.
    GIA has a subscription series of choral music some of which are Dr Trapp’s. The instrumental accompaniments are always well done, especially the items that require an organ. To the best of my hearing, the organ is a pipe organ. The choral group doesn’t sound like a quartet, but a legitimate choral ensemble whose members sound like they might have had vocal training and can read music. Fr. Joncas cited the choral introits that are nothing short of spectacular.
    No doubt, the other companies have similar products.

    …hope this helps.

  6. I did search YouTube and found a cache of st olaf TV Masses going back months – jackpot! You can see and hear some of this music in action.

  7. Please let me add my contribution to the praise and thanks to those already registered. I feel compelled to add a few other qualities which I have experienced and seen in the shared history I’ve enjoyed with Lynn since our first encounter at Notre Dame years ago. 1. He’s genuine. 2. He’s authentic. There is not a phony bone in him. 3. His music consistently is inspired and inspiring. 4. He has an interior keel in his public and his personal life. 5. His music never stales. 6. He is not weird. Both St. Olav’s Church and St. Olav’s College are blessed by gifts and so are we. He is open and affirming. Fr. Joncas its Lynn’s e-mail address. Dr Trapp always returns e-mails and phone calls.

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