Mass

Gloria instrumental parts

  • Mass

I have written symphonies to link the verses in the Gloria, experimenting with rhythms and orchestration.

In most West Gallery music, instruments double the vocal parts (with the addition of instrumental interludes, called symphonies, between verses/sections, and sometimes instrumental introductions and codas. I have decided, in addition to the symphonies, to include slightly simplified instrumental parts scored, ideally, for either soprano recorder, violin, cello and bassoon or violin, clarinet, cello and bassoon following the soprano, alto, tenor and bass lines respectively. This will give the option for instrumentalists to play the vocal or simpler parts at the guidance of the musical director as preferred.

Gloria

  • Mass

I have been toyed with using accents to encourage the choir to phrase the “gloria-gloria” section correctly (as the words do not all sit sensibly on the stressed beats of the bar). I tested several options but, in the end, I decided against doing this as such markings (and dynamics in general) were not common in West Gallery manuscripts.

More (not the) Agnus Dei

  • Mass

I have added a symphony between the verses and, as introduction, a simple statement of the main theme. The symphony moves the harmony back into the minor key ready for the “verse” to begin.

Music in the West Gallery tradition tend to allow singers to stay within a comfortable vocal range. I have transposed the Agnus Dei up from the key I originally chose to one which will not be too low for the soprano and tenor voices. I have also changed one phrase slightly so that the resulting line does not rise to high for altos and basses.

(not the) Agnus Dei

  • Mass

I have created a chorus section to “lift” this piece. I have used the English “Have mercy upon us, hear our prayer/receive our prayer” and this, with fugue-like elements, seems to work. The chorus moves from the minor key of the verse to a major chord to represent confidence that our prayers will be heard.

Choruses, per se, are not a feature of West Gallery hymns although the repetition of lines, particularly last lines, is very common and acts, almost, like a chorus. West Gallery anthems do sometimes have “hallelujah” or “amen” sections at the end so I hope this is not too much of a departure. I have accepted from the beginning that I cannot write a mass in “West Gallery style” but I hope that it can be fairly said that my claim that the music is inspired by West Gallery music is clearly evident. Each of the pieces is based on a hymn-type structure.

In terms of the intention of the piece – an expression of thanks to all those ordinary people who have made sacrifices, large and small, to benefit others – I have this wish for the music to be for the people. The repetition, chord progressions of the choruses lead to intentional predictability – If it is the wish of a musical director who uses this piece, then the congregation/audience may be informed that their participation in the choruses would be acceptable/welcome.

Gloria

  • Mass

I have decided to “park” the Agnus Dei for a while and work on the Gloria.

I have re-cast the Gloria so that each of the three “verses” is in two sections, the first with parts entering at different points and with an English text, the second in full four-part harmony setting the Latin text. The “Laudamus te” section now also has both Latin and English words.

I have also done some more work on the accompaniment.

More (not the) Agnus Dei

  • Mass

I am struggling with the not the Agnus Dei at the moment.

I like that fact that such an extended section can work as a four-part canon and I like the impression/illusion that the musical line is always ascending. (This seems to be a consequence of the generally rising phrases allied to the staggered entries.) But… and it’s a massive but… the overall sound, because of the simple and repetitive underlying chord structure, is not engaging! I’m thinking it sounds better as a three-part canon, but I haven’t come to any firm conclusions!

I have revised the Kyrie – extending each section, essentially repeating each one – once with English text, once with the Greek. This seems to work better and gives a better balance. I thought it may sound rather too repetitive but, I think, variation in the harmony parts avoids this.

(not the) Agnus Dei

  • Mass

At first, and I show my ignorance here, I confused this next part of the Gloria with the Agnus Dei section of the mass. However, although I think this might give me a problem with a title for this element of the piece, I do feel that it needs a new main theme so have decided to persist with the idea of setting the Gloria in several sections.

I have had a go at fitting English words to the melodic lines of what I am still calling Agnus Dei at the moment. This seems to be okay. I have tried various sequences.

I have also added some English phrases to the Kyrie – in fact, changing the last phrase of each section to the English translation.

Macaronic text

  • Mass

Over Christmas, I was watching a repeat of a BBC programme – one of a series about the history and development of church music – when there was reference to “macaronic” text in church music. This, I learned, is where a text uses a mixture (or, at least, more than one) language. Lyrics mixing Latin with the venacular, I read in Widipedia, was not uncommon in Medieval Europe in the 12th – 15th centuries. One of the most widely know examples today is In dulci jubilo:

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart’s joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

Macaronic text seems to be an ideal solution to one of my dilemmas. (That is, a mass is typically in Latin while West Gallery hymns and anthems are in English.) Maybe this will please no-one, but I like the idea of connecting the familiar (to many) Latin words with an English translation.

Ed. Some weeks later, I learned that J.S. Bach wrote a macaronic mass! He composed a Kyrie-Gloria mass using the words of a German paraphrase of the Gloria as well as the Latin text (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Ludwig_Bach#JLB_38). This was a work acceptable in the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church of the day.

Gloria

  • Mass

I have written further “verses” for the Gloria, including a second section to parallel the “Laudamus te” short-phrases section. Now I am experimenting with how these should best fit together – at the moment the piece has an A-B-A-A-B structure, which seem a bit strange – I have been wondering whether it would be better/appropriate to repeat the “Laudamus te” section after “verse 2” to regularise the pattern.

Gloria and Agnus Dei worries

  • Mass

I have been playing around with ideas for the Gloria and working out how to move from “verse” to “chorus” (not too hard) and from “chorus” back to verse (harder). I have tried out some options including using a short instrumental interlude (symphony) and shall mull over these while I am working on other things.

I am in a period of vacillation at the moment… I am fairly confident that aspects of what has been written to date would be recognized as reflecting features of “West Gallery” style but the use of a full chorus (less so), a piece written in canon form (not) and the use of Greek and Latin text (not). Much to ponder…