M. Lawrence's O Sacrum is published
  • I'll reprint the full review I wrote of this piece at NLM. I hope the graphic doesn't look too goofy in this forum. Really, I highly recommend this piece to all of you. You can look and look for years and not find anything so singable and effective. I've developed a strong bias against the commercial marketplace for music--preferring free downloads--but this piece is worth paying for. You will see.

    I've waited for this day for two years, and every day that has passed, I've regretted that the piece about which I'm writing couldn't be sung and heard in every parish in this country (or world for that matter).

    And here it is St. Valentine's Day. And at last--thank you, blessed forward motion of time--the day has arrived when a wonderful choral work, accessible to all and as gorgeous as the great works of the Renaissance, is finally available to all: O Sacrum Convivium, by Michael Lawrence.

    Yes, that Michael Lawrence who writes for the NLM. He is more than an author, organist, choir master, and theologian. He a marvelous and truly gifted composer as well, and this piece is his a prime example. It is modern, ancient, and timeless all at once, and bears all the marks of music that is truly sacred (beautiful, holy, universal). For all the genius of the composer that it bears, it is also an archetype of what new sacred music can be, and increasingly is, thanks to the independent publishers who are working to restore ideals in Catholic liturgy.

    Our schola has been so fortunate to have a draft copy of this for two years. It might surprise people who know us but the truth is that out of all the music we sing--and our repertoire is vast--members would choose this piece as their favorite. Of all things, it is new piece.

    I've wondered why, precisely, it works so well. It is not long, it has a orderly shape, its dynamics are inevitable, and it sets a text that remains somewhat familiar to Catholics. A reason that our schola loves it is that it flatters the ensemble. The voicing is about as perfect as one can imagine. Nothing is strained or awkward. When you sing it you feel like you are part of something rich and beautiful, and every singer feels good about that. There are no moments in the piece that almost fall apart. The piece always works to create a sound that is simple but always pointing heavenward.

    I'm also drawn to how this piece demands a kind of timelessness when conducting. Essentially you can take it as slow as you want to. You don't have to force it this way or that way. You just breath deep, start it, and it moves as if by a hidden hand. I must say, too, that my own ear is drawn to the way he handles the relationship between chords and text: clarity without triviality, innovation without experiment, and always deferential to the highest purpose of art, which is not to please us but to worship God.

    Recently we conducted a workshop in another town and we took this piece with us, and tried out it on singers with far less experience. And this is true story: we sight read it before Mass and sang it for communion. Can you imagine? This is with a very inexperienced choir. It was just marvelous. After Mass, everyone wanted to know about this piece, where it came from, how they can hear it again. Though I have no interest in joining the copyright police squads, I didn't photocopy ours because I knew that CanticaNova was coming out with this soon.

    Now, that it is here, I am thrilled to be able to recommend it to all scholas everywhere. It might be that very piece you have been looking for, something that can be sung at nearly all Masses outside of Lent, and something you can put in even at the last minute. So many times we have found ourselves without a piece of music following communion, because the lines were longer than we expected, and we look around at each other wondering what to do. Then the whispers are next: "O Sacrum, O Sacrum," and the pages of our schola books turn right to Mr. Lawrence's piece.

    It is written in D major for SATB, and the entire motet lasts only a few minutes. It can be sung by the most beginning choir or the most advanced. It is also a great way of showing that sacred music doesn't have to be 500 years old. Great sacred music is being written today, and Canticanova is a excellent publisher. While you are there, look at other high quality work by Richard Rice and the many other composers who are writing today.

    Finally a special congratulations to our dear friend Michael. We look forward to many more such compositions by you, ideally an entire collection for the whole of the liturgical year. In this work you are doing, as a composer of music, you are a servant of the faith. We thank you for helping all of us contribute to beautiful sounds on earth so that our minds and hearts can be drawn to eternity and the true source of all that is beautiful.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586

    it would be helpful to see a page of it as a sample. I hate to buy a pig in a poke, so to speak, but I am looking for something approachable and of high quality for Confirmation, coming up on 15 April, because we're doing that liturgy with all the combined ensembles in the parish. This includes the pop ensemble, alas, but they have been pretty willing to tough it out and sing a capella music with us.

    Failing a page, maybe a snippet of a sound recording? Maybe the first 30 seconds, like on Amazon?
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    I would also like to add that I value your opinion (being familiar with your work), and if you think the piece would be appropriate for that occasion and mix of singers, I might just buy it anyway.
  • I agree that a sample would be great. I don't have one though. We are still singing from Michael's own manuscript! And my understanding is that he relinquished control of it when he let CanticaNova publish it (relinquished in a legal sense, not in a natural law sense, because, so far as I am concerned, the idea of intellectual property is an artifice created by legislation, but that is another subject entirely) .

    Hey, I wonder what is supposed to happen to pre-pub copies of published music? Now, there's a puzzle.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    They wind up in your rival's hands, as the MS of the Dresden version of Tannhäuser found itself in the keeping of one Johannes Brahms. Wagner actually had to ask for it back so he could do the rewrite for Paris that included the Venusberg ballet section.

    Not sure it would happen the same way with Michael's MS. Maybe I'll have to post a couple of my own compositions, but then I would have to reveal my name, I suppose. I can't go around writing and publishing music as Yurodivi, now can I?

    I agree that the concept of selling one's idea to a corporation seems to clash with the natural order of things. A better way, it seems to me, would be to publish things oneself and retain ownership, as Irving Berlin did. He was worth over $150M when he died, most of it from royalties. He never sold a copyright in his life, at least not from the time he could afford to publish his own. And he was also one of the few artists to live long enough to see his work enter public domain -- the copyright for Alexander's Ragtime Band expired in 1988, shortly before he died (early 1989 IIRC).
  • Ah, but now, no one can (by definition) live long enough to see one's work enter public domain. I strongly recommend that people add to their wills a clause that relinquishes rights to all music or words you ever wrote. Otherwise, they will be tied up for another 70 years, by which time you will be forgotten.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    Maybe this is an idea for a profit center for you, Jeffrey: Equitable Estate Planning for Composers and Other Catholic Artist Types.
  • I hereby release the idea to the public domain.
  • I would need to see a little bit of the piece before I purchase it.

    I believe CanticaNova would sell more if they put tiny previews.
  • Oh I agree. More than that, I wish that publishers could find some other way to make money besides withholding treasures pending payment.
  • Ok, I have no idea what the etiquette or the rules say about this, but I'm making available Michael's draft, page 1, written in Bb. The published score is moved up to D for SATB. Here it is. Glad to take it down if the publisher asks.
  • JDE
    Posts: 586
    Thanks! You just sold another 35 copies for him.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Jeffrey - The real problem comes from copyright law. If a publication is released into the public in any form the publisher needs to assert copyright at that time by marking it appropriately. Hopefully Michael's manuscript had that annotation on it and you might ought to place it on the page you're releasing here. The owner may transfer his copyright at any time. The problem is that if the work is performed or printed in public prior to copyright claim it is de facto public domain. Our corporate lawyers beat us up regularly on this topic.
  • PriorSTF,

    You will be surprised to learn that, regardless of copyright, excerpts (EXCERPTS) of copyrighted material can be published (in any form) so long as credit is given.

    If this were not the case, composers would get a free ticket. But, if I don't like a piece of music, I can publish a text book and include excerpts of it, showing (for example) the parallel octaves here, or the choppy voice leading there.

    There is absolutely nothing prohibiting this. As I say, if this were NOT the case, composers could get a free pass. They could publish trash, and then not allow people to excerpt their works. But, again, anyone can publish excerpts, PriorSTF — but just remember to cite!!!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    Hi Jeffrey:

    I don't know if CanticaNova would be interested, but I could have a web demo up tomorrow on Michaels new piece in a demonstration format. Let me know.
  • Well, I sort of doubt it. But I really have no involvement in Cantica, other than having met the owner at the Colloquium. He is a very nice man. I also really appreciate the resources on his site.
  • Lawrence
    Posts: 123
    Thanks for the plug, Jeffrey, and for the purchase, Yurodivi.

    And that this thread has developed into a discussion about natural law makes it all the more enjoyable!