Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Name that Sanctus!

Last week, the organist wanted to pick a new Sanctus and so did a run through with interested members of the congregation. I knew most of them and so sang them (from memory — not sight-reading) so the others could get an idea.

The constraint was that it should be Rite I and from Hymnal 1982. We’d been singing the Proulx (S125) but people noticed that the Rite II words didn’t match the rest of the Rite I service (including what we say for the Sanctus if there’s a substitute organist.)

For our church efforts and this blog, I decided to do a Sanctus inventory, spending a few hours flipping through the back of H40 (both the 1943 and 1981 editions), the front of H82 and various other sources.

As is the custom in most American Anglican (or TEC) parishes nowadays, we use the combined Sanctus/Benedictus (“Blessed is He”) rather than ending on “O Lord Most High” as was the norm 40-70 years ago, when I was growing up and when Hymnal 1940 was produced. In fact, it wasn’t until the Supplement II edition of H40 (1981) that my favorite hymnal got the longer version of the Sanctus.

I’ve been accused of being biased against H82 (I’d rather think of it as it as a fair assessment of its strengths/weaknesses) but the reality that a) even more than for hymn melodies, service music chants are a matter of personal taste and b) both hymnals have included some dubious choices, where you say “why did they do that?”

In fact, it appears that one of the main reasons for a new hymnal nowadays is for the hymnal editors to put their friends’ (or personal favorite) hymns into the book and perhaps generate some royalties. There is evidence of this not just in H82 but also for H40 and the Lutheran Service Book.

To be fair, Hymnal 1982 has a disadvantage that to my knowledge no previous hymnal ever faced: the church couldn’t decide on a common liturgy, so there are separate settings for each of the two variant rites. (In a stroke of remarkable bad timing, the 2006 LSB went with the unfortunate “Also with you” just before the CCT and RCC (partly) corrected this error by switching to “And with your spirit.”)

The upshot:
  • The original H40 has seven settings of the Sanctus: four complete communion services (Merbecke, Willan, Oldroyd and the Douglas/medieval plainsong settings) as well as three additional settings of the Sanctus alone. The Supplement I (1961) adds four more complete settings: Sowerby, Bodine, Waters, Shaw. Overall, this means 11 settings of the Sanctus, plus (after 1981) a Sanctus/Benedictus version of the 8 primary communion services.
  • H82 offers five Rite I settings (S113-S117). It reprints (with tinkering) the three most widely used (and IMHO best) settings (Merbecke, Willan, Douglas) for Rite I, supplemented by two others: one from the C.W. Douglas Missa de Angelis and one that James McGregor claims to have adapted from a 16th century mass by Hans Leo Ha├čler.
  • In H82, these five Rite I settings are joined by (count ’em) 11 Rite II settings (S121-S131). (Does this perhaps hint where the hymnal committee’s priorites lay?) Among them are late 20th century settings by McGregor, Proulx, Martens and Hurd — names that show up repeatedly in the S-section of the book.
In our singoff at church, the Willan was very familiar and was briefly the favorite. This was the one I sang every week as a boy soprano in the pro-cathedral choir. Despite my medievalist biases, I think it has earned popularity far beyond mere familiarity. Willan is North America’s greatest Anglican composer and (after Vaughan Williams) probably the most important 20th century composer of Anglican church music. The one gripe (again legitimate) is that it requires a wide range that would be easier for the choir than the congregation.

One that was also familiar was the Merbecke from The Book of Common Praier Noted (1550), the first English language setting of the mass. Unlike the 1662 prayer book — or the 1928 where it was optional — the first Anglican Sanctus included the Benedictus, matching the words of the original 1549 BCP:
Holy, holy, holy, Lorde God of Hostes: heaven (& earth) are full of thy glory: Osanna, in the highest. Blessed is he that commeth in the name of the Lorde: Glory to thee, O lorde in the highest.
The Merbecke is a great choice, but our rector veto’d it as too somber for all but the penitential season, which he defines as including Lent but excluding Advent.

So we probably would have gone with the Willan until a new parishioner chimed in “What about the Schubert?” I had to admit she had a point. During my Lutheran days, I’d previously sung the English translation of the Sanctus with the setting from his 1827 Deutsche Messe (D.872). Unlike most service music (notable exception: the Scottish Gloria), it has a beautiful and singable harmony — of great personal concern now that I’m decades removed from my boy soprano days.

As with a lot of other Romantic era compositions, the piece a tendency to be sappy but I think our organist will avoid that. Listening German and English versions available on YouTube, the two are quite different. The German original is very slow (literally Sehr langsam, 3/4 with 50 bpm) which wouldn’t be sappy but would probably be too slow for weekly worship use.

The other problem for us is that Schubert is published by H82 (S130) as part of the 11 Rite II majority rather than the 5 Rite I minority. The H82 words are the Rite II favorite:
Holy, holy, holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of your glory
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest, Hosanna in the highest.
Taking the German
Heilig, heilig, heilig, heilig ist der Herr!
Heilig, heilig, heilig, heilig ist nur Er!
Er, der nie begonnen,
Er, der immer war;
Ewig ist und waltet, sein wird immer dar
Allmacht, Wunder, Liebe, Alles rings umher!
from Yahoo and other sources it appears that a more accurate translation would be:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord!
Holy, holy, holy is He alone!
He, who always was
Is eternal and reigns, and will be forever.
Eternal, and prevails, will be accessible is
Omnipotent, miraculous, love all around!
So no “Power and Might.” But then the Luther text used by Schubert is not the same as the English translation of the Latin.

The words and music were adapted by Richard Proulx, who is described by his Facebook group as follows:
Richard Proulx (1937-2010) was a widely published composer of more than 300 works, including congregational music in every form, sacred and secular choral works, song cycles, two operas, and instrumental and organ music. He served as a consultant for such denominational church hymnals as The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal Church), New Yale Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, Worship II & III, (Roman Catholic Church), and has contributions in the Mennonite Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal. Proulx was a member of The Standing Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church and was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. 
On the one hand, Proulx had a front row seat to get his music into H82. On the other hand, he seems to be solely responsible for taking the Sehr Langsam Sanctus in German and adapting it for congregational singing in English. Another hymnal lists it as 1985 — the same copyright date as on p. 930 of H82 — while an entire arrangement of the mass by Proulx was published in 1989.

So we have a piece out of copyright for more than a century, with a new arrangement that includes a non-literal translation. It appears there is only one version of this arrangement that uses the Rite II rather than the original BCP words. (Too bad the question didn’t come up before he died in February, or we could have emailed him.)

The Rite II words, derived from the ICEL texts, are now considered obsolete by the Catholic church. Instead, consistent with the other liturgy changes, English speaking Catholics will soon revert to Cranmer’s original 1549 words stripped of the thees and thous:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
I’ll be curious to see if the AMiA, ACNA and of course TEC will adopt the more accurate text, and thus bring along the service music with it. One distinct advantage is that the Rite I/II then become a syllable-for-syllable equivalent and thus could use identical settings.

If he were alive, we know that Proulx — as the former organist of the Catholic cathedral in Chicago — would have updated his Sanctus for the Vatican-approved text. One eulogy called him “one of the last great composers within the Catholic milieu who came of age in a time before commercial-style pop music came to dominant American parishes” while another called him “the leading champion of traditional Catholic church music post–Vatican II.” He sounds almost like a 20th century John Mason Neale.

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