MR3 in the Musical Laboratory

My friends and a few students have asked me if I’ll be composing a Mass setting to the new texts of the Roman Missal. I’ve actually felt a bit inspired to work on it the past few days. I reworked my old (2005) Olive Leaf Mass. The Sanctus is here, and I’ve taken Liam’s advice on setting the triple “Holy” on a phrase apart from “Lord God of hosts.” Memorial acclamations B and C weren’t bad. Acclamation A just doesn’t fit. It’s more difficult to have the music ready-made and try to fit a required text into it, as you composers know. Save Us, Savior of the World is here.

The original tune is Patton, but I thought the source hymnal, The Olive Leaf, sounded better–no military overtones.

I thought it might be illustrative to reveal a bit of the arranging process I go through to adapt an existing tune for liturgical music. A great challenge will be the Glory to God. Long lines, short lines–it probably needs its own tune. And maybe it will come to that for me yet. I was noodling around with the magnificent shape-note tune, Sweet Prospect, and behold: the opening stanza of the Gloria fits it pretty well:

Excerpt from the English translation of The Roman Missal © 2008, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.

That phrase “and on earth peace” will be tricky for a lot of composers. But the two dotted half notes (common in shape note melodies) work better than I had hoped. That last measure in the original melody is a dotted whole note, changed to fit the text. However, the tune employs a AABA’ structure, so the initial melody here should be repeated–if it were a hymn. What should I do about that? Is it important to retain that?

One of the students I showed this to advised against trying to cram in the next section on quarter notes. I agree. But where to find the melody for the “We praise you, we bless you …” text? Should I look for inspiration in the harmony parts? Or develop this first musical idea a bit more? Suddenly, the 6/4 time feels awkward and there will be long stretches of this piece that will seem to go more slowly than this first section. By the way, I don’t plan to make this a responsorial Gloria.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgical Music, Todd's music. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to MR3 in the Musical Laboratory

  1. jeffrey says:

    Todd, thank you for posting this. There is no longer any reason to leave the job of writing and publishing music to the big publishers. It’s great that you are using the new media to get the sheet music out there!

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