OK... I know I said just yesterday that I would not have time to post, but I have a few minutes here and just wanted to say a few words about the Holy Thursday Mass here at my parish last evening.
I have to say that it was one of the high points of my work in parish music up to now, although I have to say that was not by any accident or "luck"... there was a lot of preparation and rehearsal, both by our musicians and by the liturgical staff of our parish, including the Pastor and Associate, our Deacons, Lectors and student servers. We spent yesterday early afternoon doing a final "run through" of the liturgy with the servers... when and how to incense the altar, how to accompany the Deacon to the Ambo to incense the Gospel, and a hundred other details (like how to walk backwards while incensing the Priest while processing to the Chapel for Reposition at the conclusion of the Mass!).
Our choirs had rehearsed the hymns and chants for Mass for the last month and a half and sang confidently and beautifully. For the past two years our Antiphon Schola has sung the communion Antiphon for Holy Thursday. This year we made use of the Richard Rice setting in the Simple Choral Graduale, although I elaborated on the psalm-tone given for the verses. Although these settings have been criticized by some for being "formulaic" and lacking a melody related to the text, when they are sung within the context of the liturgy the impression they leave is quite different. I received several comments about how striking and "holy" it sounded as the Priests received communion... one said that it reminded them of chant they had heard in an Orthodox Church several years ago.
This year we added the chanted Entrance Antiphon, making use of the setting from the Simple English Propers by Adam Bartlett. I cannot say enough about what a gift these settings are to parish musicians. Our Schola learned it with minimal effort. I made a recording and put it online for them to practice, so they all came to rehearsal with the notes learned already, saving valuable rehearsal time for some details of phrasing and tempo. And this is real chant... not a "chant flavored" song, or a "chant like mantra"... it is actual chant for the texts of the Mass.
And so as our Mass began, rather than a series of announcements or an amplified welcome by the cantor accompanied by a series of instructions for where to find this or that song, the usual chatter and murmering of the people in the pews was quickly silenced by the unaccompanied sound of a voice proclaiming "Let our glory be in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...". Some people kneeled in prayer, others closed their eyes and relaxed. All listened in silence. And when the organ introduced the Processional Hymn, all joined in singing "Lift High The Cross"... and together we indeed "Gloried in the Cross of Our Lord".