The pause in Saint Mark’s 2021 narrative gives us the “Bread of Life” Sundays. Just about every liturgical resource from the antiphonary to the publishers’ glossies suggest all sorts of Eucharistic songs, especially for the Communion Procession.
In my new parish, I’m becoming acquainted with a few less familiar pieces in their repertoire. One if Bernadette Farrell’s “Bread For The World,” which we sang this past weekend, the 18th Ordinary. There is an “official” recording here.
I’ll confess this is a piece that has grown on me. At first listen, I’m a skeptic on the tempo. It needs to be faster to move and inspire a certain confidence. The verses speak of a contrition for social and individual sins. Sometimes the “we are wrong for neglecting justice” theme is cringeworthy. Not here, I don’t think. The suggestion that we find Jesus where he said we would encounter him in Matthew 25:31ff is clear enough. But I still want the verses to run in speech rhythm. In many parishes, my singers have tired with the breath control needed on those long lines at slow tempos. It’s one thing for publishers and composers to record these with ringers. Many contemporary songs fail in parishes because the singers do far better with shorter breath lines.
Ms Farrell is clearly a composer for the singing voice first, not the piano or guitar. This song has a similarity with many of her other compositions. If I heard it without a worship aid in front of me, I would think, “Yes; this is one of hers.”
The clarinet part is lovely, simple, and giving just enough taste. Alas, I have only flutes active in my parish at the moment, and it went well with an instrument an octave higher than the original. The recording is nice with just piano accompaniment, but I found a real sweet spot with the guitar added to my own keyboard player.
As a director, I noticed the problem with seven refrain phrases beginning on the 1-and beat, and the eighth and last suddenly hitting the downbeat. Inattentive congregations (not to mention choir members) will stumble on that until they know it. Teaching a congregation this otherwise easy song will need to call attention to that.
I want to program this piece again, once I get the full music ministry back this Fall.