Bread Of Life Songs: Take And Eat

Eucharistic Bread The Bread of Life sequence concludes this weekend after a pause to see the Blessed Virgin at the end of her mortal life.

I confess this piece is one of my favorite songs for the Communion Procession. This is the studio recording, (a bit slow in my thinking) scored for piano quintet, flute, oboe, with soloists and choir. The verses are Jesuit, by the Scot James Quinn, a less familiar name to those who don’t read copyright notices.

Like many responsorial songs, especially those suited for Communion, the composer chooses soloists for the “invocations” of what strikes me as a litany of the Lord’s titles. I don’t always agree that is necessary. We are not usurping the voice of Jesus by singing “I am.” We engage in a form of lectio divina with them. And while they seem somewhat random and scattered, I detect a procession within the song. It culminates in a much-needed verse 6:

I am the bridegroom, this my wedding song;
You are my bride, come to the marriage feast.

This reference to the end of time in Revelation, and the connection to the Eucharist is vitally important. When I program this song, I want to make sure all the verses get sung.

My only musical regret is that Michael Joncas pitched it in B-flat rather than A. With the latter, I could use my hammer dulcimer and keep the overall effect of gentleness he presents in his original score. I suppose I could learn the harp though …

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Bread Of Life Songs: Take And Eat

  1. Liam says:

    Unless you have choristers who have perfect pitch, could you not produce a transposed score for yourself? (Former horn player here, for whom transposition on the spot (F instrument) was part of training by high school, including as far as a tritone, though most transposition in the field was within a major third; in music theory in college, the TA used to transpose sight singing exercises by a tritone on the piano to handicap the students with perfect pitch.)

    • I could do that, certainly, for the piano and instruments. Some dulcimer pros with a second instrument pitch it a half tone higher or lower and give themselves the full chromatic range. In my last parish, the men were sorely outnumbered, so doubling their harmony on the bass seemed helpful. Publishers, some of them anyway, are often pretty helpful when you call them first when wanting to do stuff like that.

  2. Liam says:

    PS: Way back in the day (>3 decades), I was a cantor at a parish where later fairly well known composer of contemporary liturgical music was a young composer-priest (I still have the copies of his manuscript versions somewhere in my stacks of music). He was a tenor, and sometimes tended to pitch things a wee too high. In the US-Western Europe, the very dominant voice ranges in pews is a double bar bell curve with peaks at baritone and mezzo ranges, but regular church singers are forcibly sorted into bass-tenor-(contr)alto-soprano categories without regard to demographic reality on the ground. (Confession: baritone here impressed into singing Tenor 2 for many years; too many Tenor 2s in church choirs are really baritones rather than more richly sounding tenors; one might say … Fach that ….anyway, bari-tenors are busy sticking pins in images of G.F. Handel, who too often penned ungainly choral tenor parts.) Tenors and sopranos in charge of music or composition may have a cognitive bias towards pitching things too high for the reality on the ground.

  3. Liam says:

    Anyway, my preferred albeit not terribly imaginative approach to this is to alternate female and male choral voices on the verses, joining together on the last verse, using a flowing chant energy that is not strictly in tempo – and let folks in the congregation who care and are able to join to do so, rather than force the verse into a strict tempo for the notional sake of increasing congregational participation (my experience is that it did no such thing).

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