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Friday, February 27, 2015

SongStories 41 - Palm Sunday Processional (1998, GIA Publications)

As you probably are well aware, if you read this blog, the liturgy of Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, the Sunday before Easter, begins with a ritual blessing of palms, a reading of the appropriate year's version of the current synoptic gospel passage about Jesus's entry into Jerusalem that day, and then a solemn procession into the church to begin the liturgy of the word. There are some tradition antiphons for that procession, like "Pueri Hebraeorum" (The Children of the Hebrews), but of course as it often does the rubric provides for other appropriate songs as well.

In the early years of the reform, the go-to piece in organ-based music programs was (and often continues to be) "All Glory, Laud, and Honor," and I would say that my experience was for many years the guitar ensembles favored Willard Jabusch's "The King of Glory." Later along the way, we switched very often to my version of Psalm 122, an NALR/OCP piece called "The Road to Jerusalem," for which I had written paraphrases of the Pueri verses:

Jesus came to Jerusalem,
And the populace came out to meet him,
They lay their cloaks in the road and sang,
"Hosanna to David's son!"

Hebrew children waved branches of palm
And aloud they sang glad hosannas,
And so they foretold like the seers of old
Messiah would rise from the dead.

At my parish in Arizona, St. Jerome, people knew this song really well and liked singing it. After we sang the ritual verses we could sing the verses of Psalm 122 and have plenty of music for the procession. This was one of the great things about Palm Sunday and Easter for that matter in a place where it's actually warm when Lent is over. It was common for us to be able to assemble outdoors for the blessing of palms and procession into the church. The next Sunday, on Easter, we actually had a sunrise mass outside. And aside from the stupidly early hour after our Easter Vigil the night before, it was a beautiful way to start the day. One year, we tried to cut out the multiple mass locations and times necessitated by the overflow crowds by having all of our Easter masses outside, converting the parking lot into church that seated enough people that we only had to have three masses. Unfortunately for us, the fair-skinned, it got to be 100º before we had finished the 3rd mass, and there were times when the brass instruments we too hot to touch, let alone play. The pastor at the time, Fr. Vernon Meyer, wore a serape and a sombrero to keep his midwestern complexion out of the scorching sun. It was good idea ecclesially, we thought; it stunk meteorologically.

Anyway, what was I talking about? Ah. Palm Sunday.

So in the early 1990s I decided to try to write a litanic processional so that people wouldn't need any kind of worship aid to join in the singing. We were accustomed to having a lot of instruments during the high holy days, so it also was an opportunity to craft a processional piece that could terrace as it was sung, beginning with just percussion and perhaps a flute or guitar to help keep pitch when we were outside, and then have the arrangement add choral and instrumental parts to the responses that the assembly sings, in this case, "Sing hosanna to the chosen one!"

I think this little piece does what it was intended to do on those counts: provides a simple litanic form that allows movement and participation without the encumbrance of a worship aid, and a terracing arrangement that can be performed simply, even a cappella, or with organ, brass, and strings, or any combination of those instruments.

And I guess that my publisher agreed with me on this, because Palm Sunday Processional appeared in  the last two editions of Gather Comprehensive and Gather 3rd Edition, and Worship, 4th Edition.

Palm Sunday Processional is available as an octavo at GIA Publications website, with parts for strings and brass published separately.

Click on this link to audition or download Palm Sunday Processional - This Very Morning.

In case you missed it, here's Stephen Colbert's rousing version of "The King of Glory." Have a nice day.

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