New music for the liturgy

New music for the liturgy

For as long as saint benedict’s table has been gathering,* we’ve pretty much always sung Steve Bell’s setting of the sanctus and benedictus as a part of our communion liturgy. And you know, regardless of which ensemble happens to be leading the music that night, when we come to that part of the liturgy the congregation pretty much raises the church ceiling.

Given that, it might be considered a bit nervy for someone to offer up a new setting. Sure, one year all the way through Lent we did sing John Merbecke’s classic Anglican setting from the 16th century, but that was actually framed as a bit of a Lenten discipline, as in, “for these weeks we’ll deprive ourselves of Steve’s version.”  Besides, a four hundred and fifty year old setting still in common use in countless churches can surely be said to have stood the test of time.

Yet there we were this past Sunday, working with a setting of this liturgical text that was all of a month old, written by our own Mike Koop. And as if that wasn’t enough, it was actually a part of a full setting of the communion liturgy that Mike has written.

  • To listen to a raw recording of Mike’s setting, simply click the arrow:

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Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven above and earth below
are full of your glory
Blessed be the one who comes
in the name of the Lord (3x)
Hosanna in the highest

Mike actually hadn’t ever intended to write a full “mass.” Several years back he’d written music for the Agnus Dei, or “Lamb of God,” and then a couple of months back he produced his very Beatles-influenced version of the Apostles’ Creed. It was at that point that Bill Derksen—a saint ben’s member and Providence College music professor emeritus—mentioned in passing that Mike was well on his way to writing a full mass setting.  Thing is, at that point Mike didn’t even know that was what he was doing.

Within weeks he’d completed work on his first draft of three more pieces, meaning he now had the following in hand; a kyrie/trisagion,gloria (which is not used in Advent, so it will wait until after Christmas), the creed, the sanctus/benedictus, and of course his time-tested agnus dei.

It is not that we’re now going to jettison Steve’s version; in fact, we’ll continue to use it on most Sundays. But as Mike works out the textures of this new setting, we’re pretty committed to using it on the Sundays on which he leads.

And while we have only posted the sanctus/benedictus here, in time we’ll make sure to post versions of the other pieces.

* In case you were wondering, we’ve now been gathering as saint benedict’s table for just over eight years.

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