Today, you get a choice between two very unlike songs. One is a survivor from the 60’s, and still finds its way into hymnals and other resources two generations later. The other is most familiar as an art song. Let’s wrap up the white regional with this poll:
“Panis Angelicus” was an easy top-25 NPM choice. Like many Latin texts, there are countless settings: plainsong, art song, polyphony, baroque, classical. Recordings run the gamut from Josh Groban to choirs of religious. The Franck setting is likely the most heard and recognizable in the US today. The text was penned by Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi. How many TA originals have we voted on so far? Like the situation of Tantum Ergo being part of Pange Lingua, Panis Angelicus is part of a larger hymn, Sacris Solemnis.
Peter Scholtes’ “They’ll Know We Are Christians” may well be the most persistent 60’s liturgical song. It never seems to go away. A friend of mine, way back in the 80’s, praised it as a quintessential song of evangelization and a basic, pervasive definition of the Church in action. He liked it somewhat more than I did. In the 90’s, a high school campus minister friend urged her high school students to channel Nirvana in playing it and singing it. Curious that her own preference in performing was opera.
From Peter Scholtes’ web site:
Peter wrote the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” while he was a parish priest at St. Brendan’s on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. At the time, he was leading a youth choir out of the church basement, and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. When he couldn’t find such a song, he wrote the now-famous hymn in a single day. His experiences at St. Brendan’s, and in the Chicago Civil Rights movement, influenced him for the rest of his life.