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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Music Video - Kyrie Eleison

Last weekend I was awake at 5:30 am, to worship with 9 others in a tiny stone chapel in the Berkshires. There was no accompaniment to support our scratchy morning voices, but we sang nonetheless. As we all stood around the altar in the warmly lit chapel wrapped in that deep stillness that precedes the dawn, the presiding priest chanted the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy - if you're not up on your Greek), and made the sign of the cross on each of our foreheads with water. The Kyrie echoed off the walls with our response. I felt as if we had somehow bumbled our way to T.S. Eliot's "still point of the turning world. " Now that I'm immersed in the normal chaos of my life (I just demanded that my 13-yr old come down from the roof), I long for that still point. I found it again in these two beautiful a capella Kyries.

The first of the two is from the Missa Pange Lingua of Josquin Des Prez, a major composer of liturgical music from the 15th/16th century. This mass is a cantus firmus - which means its magnificent polyphony sits on top of a base melody (the fixed song or cantus firmus). Originally such compositions were based on ecclesial chants, but later drew from popular secular music. This mass is set, perhaps a bit ironically for this Remembrance Day weekend, on a French Renaissance song "L'homme armé" (the armed man). (My kids read this and wondered what it might be like if you wrote a mass setting to "Row, row, row your boat" or Britney Spears' latest. Food for thought?)

To balance my still offering - what lively things did you sing today?

If you long for more stillness in motion, read Burnt Norton or listen to Eliot read it. You can find the rest of Missa Pange Lingua at Amazon as a CD or downloadable MP3.


  1. As part of my sermon, we sang along to the MercyMe song, "I Can Only Imagine" as the congregation members wrote down their questions and their wonderings about last-things/heaven/eternal life. Some time today or this week, they are to share their questions and talk about them with a family member or friend. They loved the song, and seemed excited about the chance to talk about the topic, so I'm looking forward to hearing about their conversations from this week.

  2. Michelle! Oh, I'd love to be in the Berkshires this time of year, but not much later than this, at least not until spring. This morning I attended the (early) Praise service, so as not to miss breakfast at Second Sunday Café and to have some quiet time afterwards for study and prayer (ooops--prayer and study). We sang:

    The River is Here - talk about *LIVELY* and one of my very favorites
    I Will Exalt Your Name by Aaron Shust
    My Savior, My God - "I am not skilled to understand...I only know at His right hand stand One Who is my Savior"
    Word of God, Speak - another from MercyMe, PS!
    from Proverbs 18:10 - The Name of the Lord is a Strong Tower

  3. Michelle, that's really a beautiful Video - very soothing and meditative. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful music.

  4. We went with the Job text and sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."

    Oh, and we also sang "Guide Me Ever, Great Redeemer," which always brings back ordination memories for me!

  5. Oh, I love this, and your commentary on it too.

    We sang
    The God of Abraham Praise
    Jerusalem My Happy Home
    Lord of all Hopefulness
    for offertory, the choir sang RV Williams' How Amiable are Thy Dwellings
    for communion,
    Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured and
    I am the Bread of Life

    now I've got to go look up MercyMe.

  6. I'm off to look up MercyMe, too; and it's nice to see that some is singing something of RVW that isn't "The Call"...and semfem, I love the majesty of "I Know My Redeemer lives"! p.s., that sounds like an incredible project to do, maybe we'll try this with the high school students.

  7. I went to a Swedish Pentecostal church this weekend - the worship was amazing - including two 'get up and dance type Jewish songs ... it was full of praise and a marvellous time of quiter worship too.

    I loved it :)

  8. I'm actually working on an independent study project for school that will be a mass based on traditional (gospel) hymn tunes. I had used a communion setting based on Christmas carols last year at Christmas that went over very well, and I decided we needed one that could be used at other times of the year.

  9. Kim...a cantus firmus! That sounds like a great gift to your church...


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