My first exposure to John Becker’s setting was at an RCIA conference in 1993. Other musicians there were going ga-ga over it. And I admit my first impression was that it was a big improvement over the chant version* I had heard for years. (Those versions rarely had the additions offered in BFW by Paul Ford, here.)
After the early 90s it seemed everybody was doing the Becker setting. That’s not to say I didn’t seriously adapt it for my parishes. Cramming up to four saint names in one invocation? Not good. Keeping the music at a crisp tempo meant that those names needed to be more clearly enunciated by cantors. Additions for each year’s catechumenate? Usually that meant deletion of somebody.
Over the years, I’ve kept multiple versions on file. One for All Saints and Lent’s First Sunday: a basic version with saint of importance to the parish. Over the years, I would add diocesan and deanery patrons. Easter Vigil usually meant a whole new verse–and with the structure of the contemporary setting, adding in eights or fours was rather necessary.
In my new parish, it’s been done, and I honored my inheritance last year. These past months I’ve been reconsidering it. After reviewing Paul Ford’s fine article from Pastoral Music a generation ago, I thought a more flexible setting was needed.
After a few weeks of tinkering, I think I have something useful. The catechumenate team and my boss think so. If I get a good recording of it, I might post it here. I have a chant with piano accompaniment in A, but with some flexing around the third and sevenths, depending on what is being sung–martyrs, doctors, the Blessed Mother, etc.. Like the Becker, the response is simple. Unlike the Becker, there is no “antiphon.” I also have the flexibility to add or subtract optional saints and invocations within each section without troubling the overall piece too much.
One of the areas of concern I had involved the limited expression of the Invocations of the Paschal Mystery, so I’ve expanded to this:
By your Incarnation
By your Last Supper with your disciples,
By your Passion and Death,
By your Resurrection,
By your Ascension into glory,
By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,
Although even here, I wonder about other aspects like “By your Baptism in the Jordan,” or “By your proclamation of the Reign of God.” Or even “By your manifestation to Shepherd and Magi,” but maybe that’s just a little leftover Christmas festivity. At minimum, I thought the inclusion of the complete Paschal Mystery, not just the Death and Resurrection, was important.
*It’s not that I have something against chant as such. I just don’t find many people who can render it with a liveliness fitting the Easter Vigil setting. It’s always been far easier to find a keyboard player who can offer a needed musicality for a piece which, alas, is too often perceived as a “throwaway mandate” from the Missal.s