HE FOLLOWING QUOTE has been attributed to St. Augustine: “The only thing you can take with you to Heaven is music.” Whether St. Augustine spoke these precise words or not, it is undeniable that Sacred music has an amazing ability to lift our hearts and minds to God. Sacred music reminds us in a powerful way of the purity of God and the unspeakable beauty of our Creator. Therefore, before I go further, let us listen to a short excerpt of the Kyrie from Messe de Nostre Dame by Guillaume de Machaut (†1377):
EXT YEAR—when the holy season of Lent once more approaches—many Catholic choirmasters will be searching for polyphonic versions of the Kyrie Eleison. As everyone knows, the Gloria is not said during Lent. That means musicians can “get away” with using a slightly longer Kyrie without risking a “heated discussion” with the Pastor after Mass. [I wish it were not this way … but in many parishes, this is the case.] An added bonus would be a Kyrie that also involves the congregation. Even better than that would be a relatively easy polyphonic setting, so that amateur church choirs could sing with confidence (since it’s better to sing a simpler piece very well than to sing a more difficult piece poorly). One good choice might be Kyrie cunctipotens genitor Deus (Trent Codex 90), which has polyphony for three voices as well as Gregorian sections for the congregation. I strongly recommend that anyone considering Trent Codex 90 read this fantastic article by Dr. William Mahrt of Stanford, which appeared in the Sacred Music Journal (Summer 2011, Volume 138, No. 2):
Regarding this Kyrie Eleyson from Trent Codex 90, Matthew J. Curtis has provided rehearsal videos to help your choir members master this piece:
Another beautiful choice (for SATB choirs) might be a Kyrie Eleison based on Joan Brudieu (†1591). Just as in the previous Kyrie, a possible format for all three invocations would be:
Cantor / Congregation / Choir (polyphony).
Here’s a vocal simulation:
Corpus Christi Watershed has provided rehearsal videos for this Brudieu Kyrie Eleison to assist choir members who do not read music well. Just visit this page, which also contains the free PDF score.