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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Albums (9) - Praise the Maker's Love (1993, GIA)

The beautiful cover art for PTML was designed
by noted Gonzales, LA artist Douglas Bourgeois
After working on trio albums in one form or another for eight years, Gary Daigle decided he wanted to
have a recording under his own name. Lucky for me, he didn't go out looking for some other chowderhead to write lyrics for him, he was satisfied enough with the chowderhead with whom he was already collaborating. But what was so special about this ICEL guy? Why wouldn't he use his whole name? And who is this Brian Wren fellow, anyway? What do they have that I don't have? I was miffed, still am, but keep hoping he doesn't answer that last question.

So in 1993 he gathered his colleagues from the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, along with some of our studio regulars, and made Praise the Maker's Love. Tom Kendzia was also there, co-producing the recording. Gary was, with John Gallen, really committed to exploring ritual music, especially by employing music as a unifying factor in the entrance and communion rites. To be sure, other artists were doing the same, including Paul Inwood and Marty Haugen, but Gary's work at the FRC and our work with Gallen in workshops at conferences around the country was a model for a lot of folks in using music creatively to create unified-sounding rites within the eucharistic celebration. In fact, we wrote a book for Resource Publications in 1991 (John, at some point during this time, was also working for that publisher) called Promising Presence, Meaning and Music in the Gathering Rites or something like that. Frankly, I don't have a copy, and neither does any US publisher of used books. It is listed, however, in Amazon Canada, Germany, UK, and Zambia, if you're interested.


1. Advent Gathering. Gary's album starts off with this haunting litany-with-refrain in 7/8 time, carried off with bare-bones instrumentation of bass, percussion, and flute. He had given me the tune on a cassette, and asked for a lyric, so I sketched out a four-stanza text around the central Advent theme of incompleteness, darkness awaiting dawn. "We seek a sign that you are among us," the song prays, "Show us your face, O promise of dawn!"
Where is the peace you promised the widow?
Show us your face, O promise of dawn!
Where is the home you promised the orphan?
Show us your face! O Lord Jesus, come!
Come, O hope of your people,
Come among us and stay.
Lead us in mercy up from the shadows.
Shine in our darkness, be here today.
Gary fashioned an entire Advent gathering rite around this song, from the opening music to the collect. Haunting tune. The rhythm probably looks a little daunting on the page, but with steady percussion (claves) and choir support the hymn was not difficult for an assembly to sing. And its real strength is the wedding of tune to text, the stark, winter beauty of it, and its honest assessment of the reality of the world situation, calling for an advent of repentance and reform. This song appeared in the first edition of Gather Comprehensive, but was not in subsequent editions. It does appear in RitualSong.

2. Covenant Hymn
This choral arrangement of the song that first appeared on our album Vision moved the song out of the simpler folk arrangement for guitar, oboe, and cello, and into the world of SATB choir, with string quartet and oboe. Gary changed the harmony, and made a beautiful choral piece from our song. I already wrote about this song in one of my "SongStories" posts, and if you didn't see it and would like to read more about its composition, click here.

3. God Is One, Unique and Holy. (text by Brian Wren) Brian Wren is a British-born hymn writer, a text-writer's text-writer. He has several books of hymntexts, and is well-represented in every major U.S. hymnal. Gary's setting of his "God Is One" text was written for Trinity Sunday, its gentle, uncomplicated melody giving plenty of room for Wren's evocative text to blossom, while providing some accompaniment for that "endless dance of life and love" to which God is compared.

4. Penitential Litany (Hold Us in Your Mercy). In the late 1980s, Gary brought me into the work of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate's "Remembering Church" institutes. These workshops were designed to explore the dynamics of the Rite of Penance, and offer a way to renew that sacrament by extending it over time, applying the model of the RCIA to its celebration, and recovering its origins in the Order of Penitents. These practices took root in a few places in the country, but without the approbation of the Bishops' Conference and retrenchment around canonical auricular confession, the practice has all but died out. 

Still, in the day, it sparked a lot of creativity in some dioceses and parishes. At one institute, Gary and I were trying to choreograph a procession for which we wanted an a capella litany that would be immediately singable by the participants. In the service, we were already using Tom Conry's bold anthem "Hold Us in Your Mercy," the refrain of which is itself based on the ancient chant melody "Parce Domine." So we decided to take that line, "Hold us in your mercy," which has exactly the same musical syllables as "Parce", and use it as the response to a litany, sung a cappela. Later, when adapting it for use at the FRC in Scottsdale, Gary and his band added the syncopated accompaniment that appears on the recording, along with the choral harmonies that sparkle so achingly over and between the cantor's invocations. 

This song is also one of the anthologized pieces from Gary's album, along with "Advent Gathering," "Covenant Hymn," and "May We Be One." Four out of eight is a really good track record!

5. Introductory Rite: Glory to God from the Roman Missal. I told Gary when he wrote this that the world didn't need another Glory to God in 6/8 time. But I was wrong. Artfully crafted in C major but borrowing throughout from the relative minor, this setting is musically satisfying and a joy to sing from beginning to end. In addition, Gary provided a litanic center to be used with a sprinkling rite, based on the option in other sacramentaries that the Glory to God might be used for the Entrance Song at some times. In this case, the opening two stanzas and refrains were sung as the entrance song, and then the litany, with the refrain "Blessed be God, O blessed be God" was sung while the water was blessed and the assembly sprinkled with holy water, interspersed with other invocations to Christ ("You are the light of the world," "You are the shepherd of hearts.")

I think Gary has rewritten the Gloria for the new translation, but hasn't field tested it enough for publication. 

6. Gospel Acclamation (Alleluia) Based on genetic material from the Glory to God (which  is also used in the Lamb of God included with #7 below).

7. Communion Rite: May We Be One. The communion rite included a harmonization of the Lord's Prayer chant with its embolism, a Fraction Rite with multiple verses, and a communion hymn. With "Covenant Hymn," the Lamb of God and May We Be One are the most enduring of the songs we wrote for Praise the Maker's Love. The product of one of our escapes to the Prescott forest in the early 1990s, "May We Be One" uses a call-and-response form for the verses, with a refrain. The text of the chorus is a trope on one of the memorial acclamations, explicitly tying the act of communion (becoming one-with God and others) to the paschal mystery (dying to self in love). Musical material used in the Glory to God and Lamb is wedded to the response "Amen, amen," making the response both memorable and resonant with the action of communion, and the familiarity of the text (1 Cor. 10 and the Roman Missal) made the congregation's part a quick learn. There are thirteen verses for the cantor(s), too, making May We Be One a good choice for even the longest communion processions. The verses use images about bread, wine, and common life to give variety to the performance of the song.
This is the bread of Israel's wandering. (Amen, amen.)
The bread that strengthened Elijah. (Amen, amen.)
Take and eat, this bread is the life of God.
This is the cup of Cana's amazement. (Amen, amen.)
The cup that would not pass from you. (Amen, amen.)
Take and drink, this cup is the life of God.
This is a people homeless and wandering. (Amen, amen.)
A people at home with each other. (Amen, amen.)
Drink warmth and hope from this winecup. (Amen, amen.)
May all creation meet at this table. (Amen, amen.)
And deep within all people the breath of God.
We dedicated "May We Be One" to Rev. Richard Fragomeni, a wonderful liturgist and long-time friend whose dedication to the Eucharist has inspired us for over two decades. It was a homily, or a talk, or a story about a homily or a talk of his, that was the inspiration for this song so many years ago. Thank you, Richard, for your friendship and your great work over the years.

8. Hymn of Thanksgiving (Praise the Maker's Love)
People who don't write songs (or for that matter, make their living by writing) might not believe this, but though I wrote the text for this song, I didn't remember a line of it until I picked up the booklet from the CD today. I think that because Gary scored this as a hymn, with organ, trumpet, flute, and SATB choir, I never really had an opportunity to use it in a parish where I was working. It's a good strong melody, too, but not that adaptable (by me) to a smaller choir and my meager keyboard skills. As usual for me, I just don't know when enough is enough, and there are five stanzas. Since you probably won't ever hear it otherwise, here is the text. Only the a capella choral verse is on the GIA website as a preview, and it doesn't really give a good feel for the whole song, so I've included a SoundCloud version. It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

Hymn of Thanksgiving (Praise the Maker's Love) 

music by Gary Daigle, text by Rory Cooney © 1993 GIA Publications.
A banquet for the powerless is spread from shore to plain,
A feast of peace and mercy we make from grape and grain,
That caste and class be leveled and despots put to flight,
No human power rules here. God's word alone our light.
A banquet for the searching soul is sown in ancient fields
And grows with fertile mystery to teeming golden yields.
As God sends rain and sunlight with unrestricted grace,
This banquet feeds the hungers of every time and place.
O taste and see the goodness of bounty without price,
Where no one is a stranger, and life is pledged to life.
Come singing to this table, let no one go unfed,
For hope flows from this winecup and God is shared like bread.
This cup of sweet forgiveness, the loaf of work and home,
Are sign to every human heart that none should be alone.
Let no one fear surrender to Christ, whose love would heal
The righteous and the sinner by sharing in a meal.
O wondrous gift! No word of ours would ever be enough.
O stand together, friends in Christ, to praise the Maker's love,
Praise Christ who walked among us, who died and lives again,
And in their Holy Spirit may all be one. Amen.
Regrettably, this particular CD was never released digitally on iTunes. MP3s of the songs are available from the GIA website, however, along with most of the music. The Glory to God/Sprinkling Rite, lovely and useful as it is, has not as of this writing been updated for the 2010 transliteration of the mass texts. If you'd like to hear brief cuts from the songs, or download individual tracks from GIA, click here.