O INTO YOUR local supermarket, bus station, coffee shop, gymnasium, or university and ask people to name a popular song for THANKSGIVING (celebrated on November’s fourth Thursday in these United States). The Christmas holiday has no shortage of songs and carols, but I guarantee not one person will be able to name a popular song for the Thanksgiving holiday. Indeed, an enterprising composer could make a killing by writing a good Thanksgiving song.
Missing A Song? • But what about the feast of ALL SOULS on 2 November? How many Catholics could name a hymn for that feast day? The Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal has several excellent hymns for November 2nd, including one by Cardinal Newman. Today, I will share with you a particularly sublime example which I believe ought to be better known:
* PDF COMPARISON • “De Profundis Exclamantes” (Chart)
—“De Profundis Exclamantes” • a literal English translation.
Raising The Pitch? • I’ve written hundreds of articles over the years. The time is ripe to pursue a better way of organizing them. Therefore, I’ve decided to begin a new section of the website called: Tricks of the Conscientious Choirmaster. If you watch the video (above) you’ll notice I transposed the choir into a higher key (towards the end) by means of an organ improvisation. This practice can be quite effective, so I wanted to draw attention to it.
Second Technique • Apropos of “Tricks of the Conscientious Choirmaster,” I have emphasized that the importance of musical diversity cannot be overstated. I direct a choir consisting of about 35 volunteer singers. Hymns are but one ‘arrow’ in our quiver. To demonstrate what I’m talking about, below are three excerpts of what we sang last Sunday:
(a) Spanish Renaissance Polyphony (SATB):
(b) Accompanied Plainsong:
(c) Soloists Singing Vs. Entire Choir:
Third Technique • I have also attempted to underscore the importance of “modal mixture” when it comes to choosing repertoire. What do I mean by this? Well, the GLORIA and SANCTUS above are both in a “minor” mode. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to juxtapose those with a bright & happy hymn we sang during Holy Communion (alternating between organ and SATB, to add more variety):
The CREDO (above), is also in a “minor” mode, and uses modal harmonies. Therefore, that was juxtaposed against a bright & happy hymn which uses Common Practice Era tonality. I really believe it’s worth purchasing the Brébeuf Hymnal just for this harmonization of REGENT SQUARE, which positively shimmers with beauty:
Finally, the very first hymn I shared (“De Profundis Exclamantes”) was also in a “minor” mode, although the Brébeuf Hymnal offers several other tunes as well. Therefore, it seemed wise to juxtapose it against the following hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary—remembering that October is dedicated to the Holy Rosary—which employs a bright & happy modality:
“Death” by Monsignor Ronald Knox
Strange, and perhaps humiliating, that our memories of the lately dead should be so much preoccupied with the little tricks of personality, the jokes, the prejudices, the poses of the living man we knew; that they should reach so little to the inner heart of him, to the secret springs of character and of motive which God alone sees, which alone God judges … we would like to distil, if we could, some essential fragrance from the character of the departed which should inform our gratitude for his friendship and inspire, a little, our own lives from his memory. […]
We have all got so accustomed to a mental atmosphere in which everything is graded; one thing differs from another in degree, rather than in kind. There is no absolute standard about our human criticisms, no black and white, only shades of grey … But there is one nasty bump waiting for all of us, death; there are no shades or gradations about that.
Article Summary • In today’s article, I share what I consider to be an exquisite Hymn for the Souls in Purgatory. I also discuss several tips for “succeeding” with the choral program in your parish. If you appreciate articles like this—finding them to be helpful or inspiring—please let a friend of yours know about Corpus Christi Watershed. The only way we can continue is by good people like you spreading the word about our organization and what we’re trying to accomplish.
Quick Digression • One thing I’ve always hated is blog authors who constantly say things like: (1) “As I predicted…” (2) “As I have been telling you for years…” (3) “I knew about such-and-such before anyone else…” (4) etc. etc. etc. In today’s article, I made reference to certain suggestions I’ve made in the past. I tried to eliminate the wording that I hate—but doing so did violence to the article’s flow. Therefore, I ended up leaving in some of the dreaded “I” phrases, and for this I apologize.