Recordings from “Hail True Body: An Evening of Eucharistic Music” on May 15, 2024

What a beautiful evening of music in honor of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist we witnessed this past Wednesday!

I was edified by so many parishoners who are dedicated sharing the beauty of the Church’s treasury of sacred music at liturgical celebrations throughout the year, and at this end of season concert.  Your voices pierce our hearts, raise our minds, give us hope, and lift our souls up to the goodness and beauty of God himself.

Hats off to Patrick McGuire, our Director of Sacred Music, who poured so much of his heart and mind into this event, which served as his Capstone Master’s Recital for his Master’s Degree from the University of Mary.  His love and dedication is evident, and I am so grateful for his leadership and vision of our sacred music here at Sts. Anne and Joachim.

I hope these video recordings continue to bless many for months and years to come.

Peace of the Lord Jesus,
Fr. Luke Meyer

Extended Program Notes by Patrick McGuire

Communion Prayer – Michael Mazzatenta

This piece is intended for use as a musical meditation, which is more or less the “style du jour” for tonight’s concert. Large leaps paired with stepwise motion gives a modern-hymn feel to the melody. The melody changes from upper bells to lower bells showcasing the color of each octave quite nicely. For example, the upper bells accompany the smooth ‘legato’ melody in the lower bells with a series of staccato2 quarter notes, creating a nice contrast. Musical contrast often sticks out, as the ear picks up on these contrasting but complimentary playing styles to stimulate our brains. As such, when we rehearse this music, we try accentuate those contrasts to provide clarity and hopefully, enjoyment, in what we play.

Adoro Te, Devote – Patrick McGuire

“Adoro Te Devoteis a chanted hymn that has surely been spiritual nourishment to many holy men and women in prayer throughout the centuries. Though the bells do not articulate any words of prayer, the atmosphere of prayer is created by the music. This piece uses the ‘singing bell’ technique3 that creates a meditative and ethereal texture. I consider this to be the calm sound of the soul that is opening itself up to dialogue with the Lord. What follows is a series of motifs, or ‘half-melodies,’ that give the listener a taste of the ‘Adoro te devote’ melody, but never in completion. The music is representative of time in prayer, as the theme is presented sparsely through the opening, demanding patience and stillness. It can take time to discern God’s voice in prayer. And yet, all the while there is a peaceful nature to the music. The nature of the music offers a calm atmosphere for the listener to relax in, and after a long period of introduction, the full melody is finally heard in great clarity before being developed and played with in various ways. This again highlights the reality of prayer, that God indeed speaks to us in clarity at times, and what a joyous moment that can be. Towards the end of the piece, the texture is reduced to just a few bells, and the tempo slows down. As we hear the outline of the melody one last time, I imagine the moment of an adorer leaving the pew and making the sign of the cross one last time before departing. The final bars of music present a final glance upon the Eucharist to say, “thank you, Jesus,” ending the time of prayer in satisfying simplicity.

Hallelujah Chorus – G.F. Handel arr. John Behnke

The ringers need a fair amount of stamina to play this piece as it comes with many challenges. The sheer volume of notes that need to be played in quick succession makes the piece tricky enough. The articulation and timing that requires all the players to work together as if one ‘body’ controlled each bell highlights the real challenge, as well as the nature of a handbell choir. Teamwork and communication are key components to any group project, and that is integral to the music-making experience in all our ensembles, given special highlight here. The reward of playing something difficult like this is exactly the sort of thing a director wants to encourage towards the end of a performance season like we experience today. Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus is one of the most-well known classical pieces in existence, and there is great satisfaction in accomplishing something so technically challenging.

Eat This Bread – Jacques Berthier

Taizé-style pieces such as this have become favorites among many congregations. The idea behind this music is that it is simple and richly meditative so that when it is sung it can be prayed beautifully and enhance the experience of prayer for those who participate. For our purposes with the Choristers, this song has been a building-block for developing harmonies and independent singing in the choir. Repetition and simplicity allow for the singer to develop their tone and quality of voice without worrying extensively about singing a complex musical line. Even in its simplicity, it is not dull, and allows the singers to express freely and with great devotion, perhaps you may join in!

as if it were – Patrick McGuire

The text for this piece is a quote from Blessed Carlo Acutis. Blessed Carlo is a modern figure whose use of the internet to showcase Eucharistic miracles, even as a teenager, has made him popular among young Catholics. As such, I thought it would be fitting to feature his words with our youngest singers and give them the opportunity to sing what another young Catholic has spoken about Jesus Christ and the real presence. Composing for a young ensemble such as this is a tricky task, as there are many factors to consider including vocal range, lung capacity, music literacy, stylistic familiarity, and much more. To help the choir have success, I considered these things to make an accessible yet challenging piece for them to accomplish. The three-part harmonies are rarely split into three completely different parts. Most often, two parts (predominantly the soprano and tenor parts) stay together rhythmically and melodically, while another part (usually the alto part) has a counter melody or harmony that ensures a musical line that is easily distinguishable from the other parts. By doing this, it becomes clear what the singer is supposed to do, and when they are supposed to do it. There is also a lot of consistent rhythmic and melodic patterns for them, and this made learning the piece a smooth process.

Agnus Dei VIII – Traditional Chant Melody

By now, perhaps some of you may be singing or humming along to this melody! Since the Easter octave, we have sung this at our Saturday morning Masses. “Agnus Dei” of course means “Lamb of God,” and is sung in the Mass just prior to the reception of Holy Communion. This prayer mirrors the ‘Kyrie Eleison’ prayed at the beginning of Mass, asking God for forgiveness & mercy. Both the ‘Kyrie’ and ‘Agnus Dei’ offer an invocation of mercy to God, and have an obvious Trinitarian emphasis as there are 3 phrases sung in each, imploring God’s mercy. This musical setting comes from the ‘Missa de Angelis,’ otherwise known as Mass VIII in the Liber Usualis. Traditionally, it is listed for Christmas through Epiphany, but it works quite well in this season of Easter, and has become for many the ‘gateway’ into chanted Latin ordinaries.

Peace – Martin Asånder

There is great peace to be found when we partake in the heavenly banquet. The peace that Jesus Christ offers is truly himself, as St Augustine so beautifully pointed out: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Martin Asånder paints the text from John’s gospel beautifully with the choral harmonies he writes. The piece begins in unison and slowly grows into lush harmonies. When he reaches the text, “do not let your hearts be troubled,” he writes some dissonances1 that paint the text quite nicely on the world ‘troubled.’ At that moment, the volume of the piece is soft, perhaps even timid. In contrast, “neither let it be afraid” grows into an open choral texture and a strong crescendo on the word ‘afraid.’ Asånder seems to acknowledge that our hearts are sometimes afraid, but with the Lord, we can trade that fear for the peace that only his presence can give.

Ave Verum Corpus – Patrick McGuire

This is one of the first pieces I began working on after the announcement of the Eucharistic Revival in the United States. In fact, it was during my work on this piece that I was inspired to prepare this concert in conjunction with my master’s degree. I brought the piece to composition lessons having it mostly completed in the Fall of 2022. It was a building block to develop my writing style and compositional process. The general atmosphere of this piece is calm and reflective, with warm harmonies that stay in a mid-to-lower range for most voice parts. When singers stay in lower parts of their vocal range, it creates a warm texture. Within this texture, I work through a few different key signatures and present the singers with the challenge of maintaining tonality despite the changing harmonies. The blend that arises from this adds another layer of warmth to the song. You will hear a bold crescendo and expansion of the vocal range when we reach the text “O Jesu dulcis, fili Mariae” (“O sweet Jesus, born of Mary”). This highlights the significance of Mary as Jesus’ mother, and also allows for a sudden change of texture with the text that follows: “miserere mei” (“have mercy on me”). That change from a louder, full texture, to a softer, unison texture is my expression of humble and penitential prayer.

Lauda Sion a 4 – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

“Lauda Sion” is the sequence hymn for Corpus Christi Sunday. The words of this hymn ring true the same today as they have in any age. Palestrina utilizes just two verses of the hymn in this composition, but there are over 20 to work with in the full text of the sequence. His writing is exemplary of the composers of his day, and he has long-been one of my favorite composers of all history. His significance as a church musician and his satisfying choral textures have long been an inspiration for me, and many others. Using his setting of the Lauda Sion seemed most fitting for our efforts here tonight. The style can be described as ‘imitative polyphony,’ where the four voice parts take turns using the same musical theme in turns, developing and expanding on the main idea in a web of harmonies linked together through careful craft and repetition. About two-thirds of the way through the piece, the varied texture becomes ‘homophonic’ where the singers maintain the choral harmonies, but sing the same rhythm, which adds to the volume and strength of the sound. The ending on the “Amen” is characteristic of Palestrina’s satisfying musical writing, where each part goes exactly where it seems it should, leading to a very satisfying final cadence.

Lamb of God – F. Melius Christiansen

I thought it would be fitting in my Master’s Recital to include a piece by a composer who is a legend from my alma mater, Concordia College. His influence has been passed on to the composers and conductors I have studied with, and so his influence is certainly present in my writing and conducting as well. There are beautiful moments of warm vocal texture that sit comfortably in the lower part of the singers’ range, where we take some liberty with the time signature and slow it down to embrace that moment a little longer before moving on. This is particularly noticeable on the fitting words ‘and lowly’ echoed by the altos, tenors, and basses. Though a short and relatively simple piece in its construction, there is a wide variety of interpretive options available to the conductor in preparing such a piece. This makes the rehearsal process a delightful collaborative effort between choir and conductor, honing in on the best interpretation to highlight the voices present.

O Sacrum Convivium – Patrick McGuire

This text has been a personal favorite of mine with such wonderful settings as Tallis, Messiaen, Bartolucci, and many more using these words to write splendid choral motets. I wonder what the initial moments of creation were like for those composers who set out to write a piece just like I have now. A melodic idea pops into my head all the time, but whether or not I have the presence of mind and/or ability to write down a melody is far less frequent. In this case, I was right next to the piano in my office when the melody of the refrain came to me. A simple unison duet between soprano and bass, accompanied by slow-moving harmonies provided by altos and tenors gives way to other pairings and developments with the rest of the text. The piece builds to a climax on the words ‘mens impletur gratia,’ meaning, ‘the soul is filled with grace.’ The expansion of the choral harmonies, including the imperfections present in the dissonance between tenors and sopranos, is a musical way to say that ‘our cup runneth over,’ and our praise in return is imperfect. Even still, despite our imperfections of any type, God is so good to us. God’s grace is so good and so full, that we cannot contain our joy and thanksgiving for all his goodness. His presence in the Eucharist is a prime example of how he fills us up, and we respond to him with song.

I am with you always – John Rutter

I, like many choral enthusiasts out there, have been positively impacted by John Rutter’s music. This piece showcases Rutter’s gift for elegant melody. The main theme is set tenderly with the words, “lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” We hear that theme come back a few times in this piece, and the rest of the words are written with a similar sentiment of comfort. The very end of this piece features a back and forth between soprano and alto singing “I am with you, always,” accentuated by a musical ‘back and forth’ where the harmony shifts between two unrelated keys by a half-step. For those who have not studied theory, the basic idea is that the shift back and forth creates an ‘unfinished’ feeling at the end of the piece, to musically highlight the word ‘always.’ It doesn’t quite feel finished at the end because Rutter has played with the harmonies, so we feel like the piece couldn’t be over when he concludes, showcasing the reality of God ‘always’ being with us.

Suite Sacrament – Patrick McGuire

This is an orchestral suite on Eucharistic melodies from chant and hymnody, all with some Eucharistic nature. The opening of the piece features a hymn tune called “GAUFESTRE” which I have enjoyed playing to accompany St. Aquinas’ Eucharistic text “Pange Lingua.” We then hear the Agnus Dei VIII melody in a lovely texture with the cellos, which will hopefully be familiar to your ear since the Choristers of the Holy Family sang it earlier. Listen carefully for the triangle in this section, as each time the melody is repeated a single triangle strike is heard, accentuating the 3-fold ‘Lamb of God’ text we would normally hear. After this, we hear a short but playful setting of the traditional “Ave Verum Corpus” chant found in the Graduale Romanum. The strings provide a constant rhythmic pulse while the brass take on the jovial melodic line before building into a sweeping full setting of the tune “SWEET SACRAMENT” that carries us into the ending fanfare. Perhaps you recognize that tune with the hymn text, “Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.” Listen very carefully throughout the piece, as I have snuck in the melodic line of “Holy God, we praise thy name” in various places. This is the hymn very commonly sung at benediction, the end of a period of Eucharistic Adoration. I thought this melody would be a fitting ‘motif’ to include throughout the piece, and especially at the end, as our time with Eucharistic music this evening draws to a close.

O God, Beyond All Praising – arr. Richard Proulx

This melody comes from the classical masterpiece “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. The hymn we sing here comes from the ‘Jupiter’ movement and has accompanied the text since 1982 when Michel A Perry penned it. The last words we sing tonight are “and make a joyful duty, our sacrifice of praise.” I think about the wonderful music we get to make, and the effort it takes to make that music happen, and it occurs to me: The use of our body to make music is a sacrifice. To use the most pointed example, consider the human voice and how one must breathe, then vocalize specific pitches and syllables creating what we call music. One must ‘give’ of their voice to make music. The human body cannot accidentally make a melody on its own, it requires the creative thought of an individual who has been given such faculties by God. When we take what God has given to us, and offer it back to him, we offer a sacrifice of sorts. A ‘joyful duty’ no doubt, but a sacrifice all the same. Christ offered himself that we may have eternal life, the least we can do is offer our acclamation of praise in song to him, so that we are well-practiced by the time we reach the heavenly kingdom, where we sing the great hymn of praise with all the saints and angels in heaven: “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This relatively modern hymn beautifully exemplifies such creative thought with which God has gifted mankind. The melody that comes from a respected piece of western classical music is paired with a text written by a 20th century Anglican priest and hymn-writer. The result is all of us here today, as in many places throughout the world on different days, who sing the praise of God in triumphant song.