Sad news this week of the death of Canon Peter Jones, composer of the "Jones Gloria."
A memory immediately came to mind. At Saint Marcelline Parish in Schuamburg, Illinois, where I served as director of liturgy and music from 1992 to 1999, the "Peter Jones Gloria" was a favorite of our congregation.
My pastor had challenged me to begin looking at the way our music and liturgy program addressed the needs of young people, particularly teenagers. So he sent me to a "Life Teen" seminar in Arizona. I came back with mixed feelings. The predominant Life Teen model back then was that the parish should gather a group of adults to form the "band" that would minister at Life Teen Masses. I knew that I had kids in the parish who, because of an excellent choral and music program in our school district, were talented and willing to become ministers of music. So, instead of the direction that Life Teen was going, I decided to form a group of singers and instrumentalists from those who were interested in sharing their talents with the parish. It was a challenge. I had a piccolo player, a clarinetist, a bass player, and a flutist. At the first rehearsal, when I asked the teens who formed the choir to stand, they all stood, with their choir folders positioned perfectly in front of them. These were trained singers because of the excellence of the school district. It was close to comical when they sang "Awesome God," looking like they were singing Faure's Requiem!
A family approached me a few months after we began our monthly Masses featuring the teen music ministry. They were recent immigrants from Poland and they told me that their son who played the drums was interested in joining the group. We were all delighted. He played wonderfully at our rehearsals, and then came time for the first Mass at which he would be playing drums. And this is where the "Peter Jones Gloria" comes in.
I was playing the duel role of conducting the choir and turning and gesturing for the assembly to sing the assembly parts, especially those crisp "Glory to God's" during the "verses" of the Gloria. Well, it all started out beautifully, great tempo, terrific choir parts, and an enthusiastic assembly.
Then our Polish drummer, probably experiencing a bit of stage fright, began to pick up speed with the tempo. Nothing I did helped him to slow down and the Gloria took off like the William Tell Overture. The accompanist looked at me with sheer panic in her eyes as we were nearing triple the speed. And the Polish drummer just kept speeding up.
I must have looked like the Tazmanian Devil on my perch in front of the choir, spinning around to gesture the assembly to sing their responses. I remember thinking to myself, "The only positive thing about this experience is that this Gloria is going to be finished very quickly!" At the end of the piece, there was this moment of silence. I could practically hear the assembly panting in the same panting rhythm as the choir and their red-faced conductor! The young Polish drummer was beaming from ear to ear!
At the end of Mass, I asked the assembly to thank the musicians. And I asked for a special thanks to our new drummer, who infused the Gloria with so much gusto! Laughter and applause filled the space.
I really loved that setting of the Gloria. May Canon Peter Jones rest in peace. And may his Gloria resound in the heavens, at its normal speed, of course!
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.