REPARATIONS FOR the liturgies of Holy Week have already begun in many places. In some parishes extra lay lectors are assigned parts for a dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday. But why not sing the Gospel?
The Second Vatican Council did indeed encourage the sung form of the mass as the “more noble.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 113; see also Musicam Sacram, 5) And since the Passion Gospel is the most important portion of the Gospel read all year, to sing it would be an effective way of realizing the solemnity of the occasion.
In fact, there is a long tradition in sacred music of composing special settings for the Passion Gospel, both on Palm Sunday and on Good Friday. The beautiful settings by Victoria and Byrd are simple enough to be used even by parishes with small choirs.
My “St. Matthew Passion” seeks to answer the need for a musical setting in English of the Lectionary text currently used on Palm Sunday in Year A.
Following the tradition of sung Passions, it provides three solo parts for most of the narrative and choral sections for the voice of the crowd. The choral passages (in SAB) are well within the ability of a modest parish choir. The solo parts of tenor, bass (Christus) and baritone (Evangelist) employ simple reciting formulas, each set at its own pitch level within a Mode 3 (Phrygian) modality.
We hope you enjoyed this guest article by Royce Nickel.
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