Whatever views one might have on the amendments to the Roman Missal, one of the positive outcomes has been the commissioning of new settings of the ordinary of the Mass and the reprinting of older versions by the National Centre for Liturgy. An anthology of these commissioned settings both old and new was launched at the 2011 Irish Church Summer School. I was present at the summer school when one of these commissions, Bernard Sexton's Mass of Renewal was heard as part of the daily liturgies at the annual gathering. I thought then that it served the purpose well and it struck me as being very suitable for Irish congregations . Some of Bernard's settings have found a regular place in the liturgies at Ennis Cathedral with The Shepherd Song and Beauty of the Earth both heard frequently in recent years and his setting of Laudates Omnes Gentes is a rousing recessional hymn.
Currently enjoying the liturgical limelight for his setting of the Eucharistic Congress Hymn ‘Though We Are Many’ the composer, conducted a choral workshop in St. Flannan’s College on Sat Feb 25th to teach his new Mass setting, ‘Mass of Renewal’. Choirs of the
Abbey Cluster were invited to attend and a group of about sixty choristers from Clarecastle, Ballyea, DooraBarefield, Ennis, Quin-Maghera-Clooney were assembled with Michael Hennessy, Music Director at Ennis Cathedral acting as accompanist.
The work has resonances with traditional Irish idioms and plainchant and is strong enough to stand up to simple unison singing treatment accompanied or accapella but the part writing is accomplished and the parts are agreeable and pleasant to sing. As a bass himself, one can rely on singable parts for the lowest voice .
|Bernard Sexton, Michael Hennessy, Fr. Fergal O Neill|
At the workshop, Bernard also presented a selection of new worksincluding a communion hymn, This is the Bread, a minor key melody with a descant part for an instrumentalist which I enjoyed playing on the day. There was also a jaunty Alleluiah with an unusual 7/8 time signature and a modal settting of a wonderfully lyrical text by Timothy Dudley Smith , Christ is the Shining Sun. The last one, a unison setting, would make a very suitable congregational hymn. Talking to some of the delegates after the workshop, my sense was that they enjoyed the repertoire and the conviviality of singing with a larger group. Several of the directors I spoke to expressed the hope the settings will become a regular feature of liturgies in their parishes and will encourage more congregational singing.
My review of a day spent at the annual Irish Church Music Summer School at the link below.