Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Abbey Cluster Choirs gather with composer Bernard Sexton

Sing the Mass Accompaniment Edition 

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.
Cathedral Choristers

My review of a day spent at the annual Irish Church Music Summer School at the link below.

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