Tomorrow (Sunday) morning the musicians at the church for which I am music director will present a mass setting I have recently completed. This is very exciting but also slightly nerve-wracking. I am very experienced presenting new compositions of mine so why would this be different? The congregation is very supportive of anything I do and have heard some of my compositions before, but this is different because the texts come are written by me and represent my own personal theology.
Being the music ministry leader for a fairly progressive Christian congregation can have its challenges. While we have a great roster of songs and hymns to choose from there are limitations. St. Matthias does contemporary worship. We use a digital piano with guitar as our base with violin providing melodic support and djembe, when needed, as a rhythmic one. The thing is, most music written for this style comes from the evangelical/fundamentalist tradition. While the music may be fun and uplifting the texts do not fit our congregation’s theology. There are gems to be found but a lot of searching needs to be done. The situation is more difficult when looking for settings of the mass. To be more accurate, the situation is hopeless.
Being an Anglican congregation, St. Matthias has Eucharist every week. We have a Sanctus that we have been using for about twelve years. It is easy and nice to sing. The text has been altered a number of times to suit our needs and the rest of the setting isn’t even done anymore. We use many other settings with wonderful modern language but they are not sung and we like to sing. I have been hunting for texts to set for ages but have come up empty handed. The reason, I believe, is a modern avoidance of verse.
The traditional settings have a sense of meter even if it is not at first apparent. I first discovered this when composing a setting of the Beatitudes for my cantata a number of years ago. I used the revised standard version of the text and what I found was that when I set music to the first section the remaining sections fit the music with hardly any adjustment on my part. It was absolutely beautiful. Modern prayers, collects, statements etc. seem to be obsessed with prose. While that is fine in and of itself the lack of meter betrays natural rhythms and beat. This is my problem with setting them. Modern paraphrases of the Lord’s Prayer for example, while showing a wonderful understanding of the theology read more like a paragraph than a lyric poem. I love modern poetry but these don’t work for my purposes. To fulfill my needs, I was left with writing my own texts and baring my private theological musings.
The impetus for completing this came from the decision of the congregation to vacate the building we have been in for about thirty years. It was to be a fast move and I felt something musical should be done to commemorate this event. I decided to put my ideas of a modern mass setting into action. I had been doodling and sketching for quite a while so it wasn’t as dire as it may have looked. My original plan was to do an evening service before the church was turned over to common use but that was changed due to logistical and preparation issues. This altered my original outline a tad but probably for the better.
In the setting I use a Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus, Lord’s Prayer, something like an Agnus Dei and a Blessing. The texts are all paraphrases or interpretations of English translations of the ancient ones. For the most part I hue closely to the meter and phrase structure of the originals. The Lord’s Prayer is almost a direct mapping.
Never before have I put my deepest spiritual thoughts on display. I know many people won’t agree with them, but that is the nature of these things. Others may appreciate them. The musicians I work with have been extremely supportive and game for taking this project on with such a short time line. For that I am truly grateful.
All texts by Owen Bloomfield unless otherwise noted.
Let there be mercy.
Let there be mercy upon me
and from me.
Glory to God
here on Earth!
Let there be peace amongst all people.
We give thanks for the Spirit amongst us
and glorify its presence.
We follow in the path of Jesus
who showed us a better way
to reclaim the light in ourselves.
We give thanks for him in the Glory of God.
Holy, holy, holy
the Earth sings of glory
bounding with new life!
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the one
who comes in the name of God!
Hosanna in the highest!
For the Journey(source unknown)
For the journey that life has been.
For all that life is for us now,
and for the mystery of life beyond death.
This great Compassion within and without us
is sacred in our world.
A day will come
when the world is one
and peace is shared by all.
Let us be so filled in body and soul
that we may forgive and love ourselves
as well as those who harm us.
Let the wisdom
carry us through our trials
and sustain us to our end.
Go Now in Peace
Go now in peace
Walking in the light of God.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.