This past Sunday, I went to Mass at Saint Cecilia Parish in downtown Boston. Richard Clark is the director of music there. Richard has been working hard at introducing the Communion Antiphons from The Roman Missal to his parish. Richard has composed these settings and we publish several of them. You can learn more about Richard here, as well as preview and listen to the antiphons we have published.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived for Mass on Sunday. Downtown Boston is probably the most confusing place to drive in the United States. After parking, I arrived about ten minutes late for Mass. The church was nearly at capacity, and I sat way in the back with the young moms and dads and their toddlers and infants. My view:
This is a beautiful church, for sure. I entered while the Responsorial Psalm was being sung and the singing of the assembly was splendid, as was the musical leadership.
As the communion procession began, a soprano and a mezzo-soprano sang the Laudamus Te from Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria, III, RV 589, III. Just lovely.
Then came the communion antiphon. The music is all contained in an insert in the parish bulletin; here's the cover of the bulletin.
And here's the page with the communion antiphon.
The text of the antiphon: "I am the Good Shepherd, and I lay down my life for my sheep, says the Lord." I found the melody to be simple, accessible, and intuitive. I needed the program to sing the antiphon two times; after that, I put the program down and was able to sing it from memory. The verses alternated between a cantor and the choir singing in four-part harmony. I was a little disappointed that the assembly did not sing the antiphon with as much vigor as they sang the other music at the Mass; but this is understandable since most folks were standing in line for communion and did not have the program with them. Also, the introduction of the proper communion antiphons is still a work in progress. I believe it takes years for this practice to really become a part of the music at Mass. This was a great example of "singing the Mass," rather than "singing at Mass."
I was so happy to have attended Saint Cecilia's. The music is quite eclectic, with a mixture of chant, hymnody, contemporary settings of some of the Mass parts, and splendid organ pieces. I wish I had been there in time to hear Richard play the prelude, the Adagio from Widor's Symphony No. 5. There is a pipe organ and piano near the sanctuary where the cantor and choir are located. Most of the music is led from there. Richard played the final hymn from the mighty Smith & Gilbert pipe organ, which is located in the loft (4 manuals, 50 ranks, 2,926 pipes). I was captivated by his postlude: Trois Piéces, iii. Litanies by Jehan Alain. My little video.
Very, very good music program at Saint Cecilia's, for sure. When I got back to the office yesterday morning, I talked to the staff about proposing Richard as a speaker at musicians' conferences. He has tons of experience and lots to offer in a profoundly pastoral way. Thanks to Richard and the people of Saint Cecilia's in Boston for feeding my soul.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.