Proulx Sanctus – Earlier Version Found

This is for serious liturgical music geeks.

I happened to find in the Proulx Collection a certain Hymnal for St. Charles Borromeo Parish. There is no publication date given for the soft-cover local hymnal, but the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei from the “Mass to St. Charles” are copyrighted 1968 to Richard Proulx. That is, one year before the new Order of Mass was issued by Pope Paul VI. (Bad timing for the people who went to the trouble to put together this hymnal.)

It’s fascinating (for us geeks, anyway) to see Proulx’s original version of what is now his “Community Mass”:

Download (PDF, 1.96MB)

As you see, the 1968 “Lord God of hosts” has come back with the 2011 Missal translation. I like it! But Proulx decided to revise the 2nd measure for the third “Holy.” Then he transferred this to the beginning of “Blessed is he who comes…” Then he used made the entire melody of “Blessed is he who comes…” to be the melody for “heaven and earth…” by stretching out the text a bit.

In my view, every change is an improvement, and the version we have now is more consistent and coherent. But Proulx had a good sense for congregational melody writing already in 1968, when it was still mostly a new thing for U.S. Catholics.

GIA’s Michael Silhavy will probably know whether this is the St. Charles Borromeo in Minneapolis. And whether this is the only antecedent to the version we all know from 1970 until 2011, or whether there is yet another Proulx version to be found. And I wonder why the name changed from “Mass to St. Charles” to “Community Mass.” Michael?



  1. Thank you for surfacing this, Anthony. I was unaware of it. In constructing a history of A Community Mass with Richard, he mentioned the Mass – or at least the Sanctus – was composed in 1966 while he was at the Church of the Holy Childhood in Saint Paul, MN. This recount by Richard himself made its way into the performance notes of the revised Community Mass that GIA published in 2010. A history of A Community Mass also appeared in an issue of Pastoral Music a few years back Indeed, he was quick to note that the new version was a return to the old version. But what you have found proves otherwise. The Saint Charles referenced was not the nearby parish in the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis; it was the first place Richard worked after relocating to the Pacific Northwest in 1968.

    I have seen an early manuscript which accompanied his very first submission to GIA, somewhere around October 1970, I believe. (To those who are truly interested in this, permit me to provide the dates when I am back in the office on Monday.) Yes, A Community Mass was his very first submission to GIA and in the letter introducing himself as a new composer, he noted that the work “seemed to have enjoyed some success with neighboring parishes.” How’s that for an understatement.

    It should also be noted that Community Mass was the first GIA mass to be published with a memorial acclamation. There have been a few other Community Mass discoveries over the years; one version for use in the Episcopal Church features a sturdy Trisagion in g minor; it was refashioned into the Sanctus for his Festival Eucharist. As far as the E major placement of this Community Mass Holy, GIA’s earliest printed editions of Community Mass featured the Holy in F as well as in D major for “use at early morning liturgies.”

    Keep digging around, Anthony!

  2. Greg Glenn, director of the famous choirs of Madeleine Cathedral in Salt Lake City, wrote this to me:

    “Richard began his Northwest period working at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Tacoma, an early mega-parish with a huge school and something of a visionary pastor. I believe he was also for a time at another parish in the area before going to the Episcopal church where he is now buried east of Seattle. He used to talk fondly of his days with the children’s choir there, where apparently the boy choir was quite good.”

  3. We have sung A Community Mass off and on for years and have continued to use it in its 2010 form. For some reason we had never used the Gloria, so we tried it this winter. We lasted about three Sunday before switching to the New Mass for Congregations Gloria. Given how assembly-friendly the rest of A Community Mass is, we were surprised how difficult the Gloria was.

    While I’m at it, has anyone sung any part of A New Mass for Congregations other than the Gloria? I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen them, much less heard them.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt:
      The first edition of GIA’s WORSHIP hymnal (1971) contains the Lord, Have Mercy; Glory to God; Holy, Holy, Holy; and Lamb of God from Carroll Thomas Andrews’ (1970) A New Mass for Congregations. WORSHIP, second edition (1975) contains only the Glory to God and the Lamb of God. And the third and fourth editions of WORSHIP (1986 and 2011, respectively) contain only the Glory to God.

      Andrews’ Lamb of God is a simple but effective setting, with the melody rising a major second on each successive iteration of the text. The Lord, Have Mercy is overly simple, to the point of being lackluster. And the Holy, Holy, Holy seems to have been doomed from the start with the congregation being asked the sing an augmented fifth triad (Eb, G, B natural) three times in the setting.

  4. When Richard was revising the Jan Vermulst settings of the “Peoples Mass” and “Mass for Christian Unity” we ended up having a very long lunch chat about the return of the 2010 translation to the 1960s (the Gloria in particular). He did mention how his own Community Mass “evolved” (my word, not his) from when he wrote it for his own parish – St. Charles Borromeo, as Gregory Glenn has confirmed.
    My sense was that the re-naming was part of Richard’s own growing awareness of his emerging role as a composer of national (vs. parochial) significance. Going through the WLP archives from those early post-conciliar years, there is a notable division between the custom of naming Masses for particular saints and giving them broader titles (as, indeed, the two Vermulst Masses have).

  5. As an aside, the notation and calligraphy that you displayed today on Pray Tell was the work of George Carthage, a friend and confrère of Richards. They worked on a number of manuscripts together and their choirs often sang together at St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud, St. Olaf’s, Minneapolis and Holy Childhood in St. Paul back in the day.

    I looked but didn’t find in his collection his Fanfare and Variants on Hail Virgin of Virgins, for brass quartet, organ, congregation, choir and organ. Copies may still be in St. Mary’s choir library. Also, not sure if his O Come All All Ye Faithful in the manuscript collection is the same one that I used at St. Mary’s, in A Major of all things. Yikes!!! It has wonderful instrumentation for strings, choir and organ. Very playful. I remember Abbot Baldwin commenting on it one Christmas Midnight Mass in the early 1970’s at the Cathedral.

    1. @Jay Hunstiger: So glad you confirmed this, Jay. This was my first thought when I saw the photograph of the hymnal page. If I remember correctly, you yourself have a beautiful calligraphic hand with a notation style similar to Carthage.

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