Holy Week Choral Pieces
  • jniven
    Posts: 3
    Hi all! I'm a newbie here. I am in my first directorship at a Parish, and they're mostly a boomer hit Parish. Admittedly, I'm new to Sacred Music in the sense that I've never directed it. I've been deep into Praise and Worship for most of my adult life (I lead 2 or 3 Steubenville Conferences each year), but being at this Parish has really started to have me falling in love with Chant, and the Choral music out there.

    Sorry for the intro. Our choir isn't used to doing much more than harmonies from the hymnals, and for Ash Wednesday and Holy Week I want to push them into some choral music.

    I have found some fairly simple and pretty arrangements (from OCP nonetheless), but again, pardon my ignorance - I'm not exactly sure of placement in the Liturgy.

    Here are the few I'm looking to tackle, and hopefully ya'll can help me place them in the best spot.

    Attende Domine - distribution of Ashes
    Adoramus Te, Christe - Veneration of the Cross (or should we do it Holy Thursday after the procession to the Chapel?)
    Tristis Est Anima Mea - Holy Thursday/Good Friday?
    Ave Verum Corpus - ?

    As they are new to choral pieces, I don't want to overwhelm them - but I feel that between now and Holy Week, 4 pieces should be doable.

    Any suggestions for the Easter Vigil?

    Thank you all in advance and, again, pardon my ignorance!!
  • An Ave Verum can be done all year at Communion, including at the Easter vigil. The Attende is pretty flexible for Lent as well. If you aren't used to choral music, you'll want them to hear (and you to do) these multiple times. Tristis is part of Matins for Maundy Thursday in the old rite, so Thursday of Holy Week would be the best place. I'd do Adoramus Te at the Veneration, but it too has a certain amount of flexibility.

    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • jniven
    Posts: 3
    Jeffrey Quick, thanks so much. Any particular place in the Mass on Holy Thursday for Tristis?? I should mention, too, its an intro for the congregation as well. The former MD has his rotation of songs that always got played.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,457
    We have used Charles' Parce Domine. http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/images/e/e3/Parce_Domine_with_Psalm_51.pdf You could teach your choir the four parts for the refrain and then have men and women alternate on the melody for the verses if it is too much for them to learn the verses too. Then add more next year.

    The Ubi Caritas Chant is good for Offertory on Holy Thursday. We use "Lift High the Cross" for the procession.

    Peruse the site a little. Discussions like this are very useful for ideas: https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/12179/holy-week-whats-going-on-at-your-place-2015-edition/p1

    And I would suggest not adding too much that is difficult, especially if you do not have good readers. Repeating music through Lent and Holy Week is a good idea. Slow and steady wins the race. Whatever you do, do it well.

    Good luck!
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • Since Tristis is not native to the Mass, you could use it anywhere you have a free choice of music. I wouldn't do it during the washing of feet, certainly, but at offertory or Communion would be fine.

    As for the feet...probably not this year, but next year, if you have the singers for it, you'll want to look at Peter Latona's I give you a new commandment. It's basically a falsobordone, so lots of repetition. The climactic chord in each verse is a bit complex and you'll need singers who are confident in their middle-high range. But the effect/effort ratio is very favorable.
    Thanked by 1roy2
  • Some may want to whip me for saying this - but "Were you there" makes a surprisingly effective recessional on Palm Sunday, for example. Very easy to do in 4 parts unaccompanied.

    Of course, for the Vigil, Sicut Cervus is a must. Consider as well Victoria's Vidi Aquam.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,174
    I can second those recommendations, except that Victoria's Vidi aquam is terribly hard to bring off with mixed voices: look at Cardoso's Book II or Morales instead. When I first started out we used Monteverdi's Venite sitientes (SS & bc) for the sparkling and Tallis' If ye love me for the Mandatum.

    From the angle of introducing the congregation to polyphony, if your resources include a good chanter with a less experienced choir you couldn't do better than the Victoria reproaches for Good Friday.
  • davido
    Posts: 380
    Keep in mind that non-homophonic, a capella polyphony is VERY DIFFICULT. Don’t attempt it with amateur singers unless they read music well or you don’t care what it sounds like. Most conservatory trained musicians find this music difficult.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • I have my choir doing Victimae Paschali Laudes by Vittoria as Edited by G. A. Schmeltekopf. They are also not too familiar with classical choral singing, but this is very approachable and quite beautiful. This is only my second year doing this, so I rely on repertoire I have learned. One of my professors asked me how the choir did learning this type of music; I told him patience and note by note training works. REALLY OLD SCHOOL,
    but unlike davido, I will attempt a capella and polyphony with an amateur choir. They love it.
  • Dear Casavant organist, thank you; I had forgotten Sicut Cervus; I'm printing it out now!!!
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • @davido I would tend to disagree, actually. I find that the non-homophonic can even be perceived as easier, seeing as there are independent lines for each singer to focus on, and it's easier to drown out the other parts who aren't really doing the same thing.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,387
    Please, not "Were You There?" It would be a terrible mistake.

    After the congregation has just stood through the Palm Sunday Passion -- perhaps fully sung? -- and been present at the Holy Sacrifice, and (one hopes) devoutly received the Most Holy Sacrament, it *has* been there at Calvary, in as strong a way as the liturgy can make possible.

    To sing "Were you there?" after that is to act as though the people had not been to Mass yet.

    But on a happier note: it is beautiful to read jniven's ideas. Don't be afraid to use English adaptations for some of the chants, if the people are not familiar with them. For example, for "Attende, Domine", there's "Draw Near, O Lord".
  • Where could I find the readings (and psalms) for Holy Saturday?
  • A not-too-difficult piece (from Tenebrae on Maundy Thursday) is Viadana's Amicus meus .
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,139
    I wasn't familiar with that (the terrain of possible repertory additions is so vast), so for folks like me, here's vid mit moving score):

    Viadana, "Amicus meus": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1GYLLePQL4
  • Liam et al.,

    This is the one I intended to reveal, but I'm glad to know that there's even another one I hadn't yet encountered.

    Thanked by 2Liam CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,139
    The terrain indeed is vast....
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,387
    @VocesCapituli, the readings for Holy Saturday are available at the USCCB website at
  • If you could use a simple SAB arrangement of some of the foot-washing antiphons on Holy Thursday, I composed these last year.
    Thanked by 1jniven