NEW BOOK IS OUT! A collection of English Eucharistic motets called, Bread from Heaven, was published recently. The music was adapted and engraved by Heath Morber, Director of Music at St. John’s Catholic Chapel in Champaign, IL. Ben Yanke, who writes on Chant Café and NLM, helped with the publishing. This book is available on Lulu. A preview of the book is also available here.
Now let me actually get onto the book.
Eucharistic Text — There are 9 common Eucharistic texts set to 14 motets in this collection. The original Latin texts are from the Ad libitum communion antiphons found on p.391 of the Graduale Romanum. And of course, the texts are all scriptural and theologically correct. These texts are basically suitable for any season and can be sung during communion on any day.
These motets are generally pretty short, usually about 2 pages and no more than 30 measures. A Psalm verse is printed at the end of each motet, so there is an option for singing the motet twice with the psalm verse in the middle. The psalm tones are written and arranged by Aristotle Esguerra. Having the option of adding the psalm verse makes the time-controlling easier. It also gives people a chance to sneak in the communion antiphon of the day if the choir or schola isn’t used to singing it. So, instead of singing what the texts of the psalm verse, one can sing the antiphon of the day to the psalm tone given.
English Motets — The Eucharistic texts were translated into English and set to the original polyphony. The translation are very accurate and most of them are from the Roman Missal directly. Some of the texts have been modified by Heath to fit into the music. The pitches of the music itself have been retained, but rhythms have been re-worked for the English texts. I sang through a couple pieces myself and I found them pretty smooth. Although, I would say that English diction is harder than Latin in general and that can be a little tricky.
Some people may say that the “English” part is not ideal for the Traditional Latin Mass. However, I think it is perfect for the “average Novus Ordo parishes”, which is probably most of Catholic churches in the country. The acceptance of the Latin language is growing, but still not everybody likes to hear it. I don’t think that should be an excuse not to sing in Latin, but having the option of good English motets can avoid some fights.
Choir-friendly — Regarding the level of difficulties of these pieces, I would say they are from easy to medium. As I said before, they are pretty short which makes them easier to learn. The music of the motets are taken out of larger works (like the Mass Ordinary) of Orlando di Lasso, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Josquin des Pres. The collection also include 49 different voicings for the 14 motets which makes them extremely flexible. And once you purchase the book, a free PDF is available for download.
All of these pieces are in two-parts or three-parts and they are great for smaller choirs or developing choirs. I just sang one of the motets this weekend with a friend of mine at the Catholic center on a college campus. A lot of times, directors with small amateur choirs have hard times finding and picking quality music. Here is the perfect collection for that kind of situation.
Here is a recording of my friends singing a piece from the book:
The Bread that I Will Give
3-voice setting based on the De posuit potentes from Magnificat quarti toni by Palestrina
Soprano: Bridget Scott
Alto I: Beth Nowokunski
Alto II: Angela Russo