Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany at St. Thomas

Sung by the St. Ann Choir today at the noon Mass:

Orlando di Lasso, Missa sesquialtera

I want to mention something I really noticed only a month or two ago: the Renaissance polyphonic Mass settings that are done here move through the prayers of the Ordinary very quickly, hardly taking more time to sing than it would to speak the texts slowly and with understanding and reverence.

Some of us are aware of "serious" Mass settings mainly through the wonderfully grand works of the Baroque and classical periods, like Bach's B minor Mass, Mozart's Requiem, and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. But because of their length and elaborateness, these compositions are only suitable for celebrating along with a real Mass on the most splendid of special occasions. The great thing about Renaissance settings is that they really were intended to accompany everyday Masses, and their brevity and directness of expression show that.

They do take a bit more time than just rattling through their English-language equivalents. But perhaps if our Renaissance brothers and sisters in the Faith could slow down enough to savor the Ordinary at this more thoughtful pace, we can too.