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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

SongStories 22: Mass of St. Aidan

Last time around trying to get music published, probably in early 2005, I wanted to publish a setting of the eucharistic texts that I called Mass of St. Aidan. I approached one publisher after another with the collection of songs, and there was interest particularly in a song I had written for Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Naperville, Illinois, on the occasion of the 2003 dedication of their church, a song called "You Have Built Your House." But all three publishers said that the new translations were coming down the pike soon, and that they didn't really want to publish a mass until the new texts and new missal were finalized and published. So I found myself back at square one, with what I felt were some good songs, but being (as usual?) at cross-purposes with publishers.

Then, something unusual happened. A publisher called me! Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson called me to say that World Library had rethought their objections, and reasoned that it would probably be years, not months, before the missal finally emerged, so they were willing to publish the song collection with the mass included. World Library was going to do the collection that became Christ the Icon, with the Mass of St. Aidan as a part of the collection.

I had written the mass with a three things in mind. First, I wanted to have a setting that was simple and direct, not a lot of repetition, that would stand up to repeated use and retain its emotional impact over time. I also wanted to include a sung version of the "prayers of the faithful" (universal prayer) and a simple acclamation for the dismissal of catechumens and the sending of children to the liturgy of the word. (This latter didn't actually happen as part of the mass, but "Let the Children Come" became part of the larger collection.) Finally, I wanted it to have an Irish flavor, but not cloyingly so. That wasn't too difficult, since I'm several generations off of the auld sod, I wouldn't have been able to be too authentically Irish anyway.

Christ the Icon was released in 2005, with the original version of St. Aidan. In 2006, Mass of St. Aidan won, to my surprise, the Unity Award from the United Catholic Music and Video Association. (The UCMVA seems to have closed its doors in 2011, but don't blame me.)

It was in Advent of 2011 that the new Roman Missal took effect, and I admit that I lost my energy for the work in the babble of churchspeak and formal equivalence that drained the evangelical oxygen from the church in the months leading up to its release. Knowing we would have to do something at St. Anne, I thought it would be best to adapt my acclamations for the community since they knew them well, but not with the same interiority as, say, Mass of Creation.

Retooling the Eucharistic acclamations was, in my setting as for most settings, not a difficult task. Gospel verses needed to be rewritten after the influence of Liturgiam Authenticam, and the Glory to God needed to be overhauled. But I had based some of the memorial acclamations (Mystery of Faith) and the verses of the Glory to God on a Dorian chant line that is also found in the Kyrie and some of the gospel acclamation verses, so adapting the Glory to God in my mass was mostly about rewriting the refrain to accommodate the new language.

The music was re-recorded live in November at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Oak Park. The guitar and Terry's cantor parts were overdubbed later at a small studio in Park Ridge. In addition to Dominic Trumfio's flute and whistle parts, my former GIA editor Kelly Dobbs Mickus, now with MorningStar Music, played piano for the session, the redoubtable John Williams played bodhrán, friends from Chicago Musical Connection played the string parts, and a crackerjack choir under the direction of Paul French, music director at St. Clement of Rome in the city and whose musical sandals I am unworthy to tie, quickly found the right sound for the setting and recorded it in the space of about two hours. In terms of recording, this is dizzyingly great, even for as modest a piece of music as MSA. Paul's generous spirit and natural musicality brought out the best in all the players and facilitated a low-tension session that produced fine results in a short period of time.

In the 2014 release of the CD and printed music, the "Lamb of God" that I wrote to be used with "You Have Built Your House" when that song was used for communion has been included in the Mass of St. Aidan. In the previous incarnation, I didn't include a fraction rite with the mass setting because I feel that the Lamb of God might better be connected musically with the communion song than with other acclamations. But I'm not that much of an ideologue. I hope that including the "Lamb of God" makes the whole collection more valuable to music directors who audition it and decide to give it a try in their parishes.

The score and CD are available now, along with separate parts for flute and string trio. There has been some discussion about assembly cards, but I'm not in on that discussion. If you would like more information, call World Library Customer Service at 800-566-6150, or click here.

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