How many verses?

How many verses of a hymn should we sing?

In planning music for Mass, one of the items I have to consider is how long a hymn is. Most usually, there is a liturgical action taking place at the same time as the music, so I need to figure out if the music is too long, too short, or just right for the time that the liturgical action takes. If the action goes faster than I expect, will the hymn still make sense if we leave out the last verse? Just as our lectionary will skip certain verses in the readings from the Bible, sometimes we can skip verses in the hymns and still have a coherent story, but sometimes we need to finish the hymn in order to not leave Jesus in the tomb or not leave the Holy Spirit out of the Trinity.

The text for our entrance hymn this weekend was written by Jean Tisserand in the 15th century. Tisserand was a Franciscan monk, founded an order for penitent women, and possibly served as confessor to King Charles VIII of France. With nine verses, there is rarely time for us to sing all of O filii et filiae at Mass, though there certainly would have been plenty of time at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Easter Sunday, the liturgical moment when the French Missals placed the hymn.

With a hymn like this that has a refrain and many verses, another option might have been to sing it during the Communion procession. Would we be able to sing all the verses then? Would anyone besides the cantor actually sing the verses then? There would be time to sing all the verses if it were the Recessional hymn, but how many people would actually stay to sing them all? The Offertory is definitely too short for a long hymn like this, so that leaves us the Entrance as the best option. Because our Gospel reading today focuses on Thomas, we will skip verses two through four in order to sing the verses that tie in more closely to our celebration of the Second Sunday of Easter. Hopefully this will provide a match between the sensibility of the hymn and the liturgical action and keeps the music a partner in our celebration of Mass.


Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, April 12, 2015

Fanfare on ‘National Hymn’

BNSMQU Michael Face
On Sunday, September 29, a new statue of St. Michael will be dedicated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe. Discovering that there would be an additional procession of banners, music director Bill Picher asked if I would make a short fanfare arrangement of the tune “National Hymn’ to provide music for the extra procession. With only a few days to complete the project, I got to work as quick as I could.

Here’s a video from a rehearsal at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen:

O Sons and Daughters

This is an arrangement of the Easter Hymn O Filii et Filiae for SATB choir, organ and brass quintet. It was originally written for the 25th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Howard Hubbard as Bishop of the Diocese of Albany. The event was celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter and needed a lengthy piece for the entrance procession. In addition to including all nine verses of the hymn there are interludes between each verse. This arrangement served as the basis for the later arrangement used at St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the Papal visit to New York City.

The score packet includes a full score, choral score, and parts for organ, horn, trumpet 1, trumpet 2, trombone 1, and trombone 2. Purchasers are granted permission to print or reprint scores as necessary for performance.