Music for the Imposition of Ashes
  • Aaron
    Posts: 103
    I am interested to hear what music you use during the imposition of ashes. What other English options are available that use the Missale Romanum, Graduale Romanum, or Graduale Simplex texts besides By Flowing Waters, Anglican Usage Gradual, American Gradual, and the Simple Choral Gradual?
  • Simon
    Posts: 116
    Perhaps the moment is too solemn for music accompaniment. Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. (Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return). I have never, in churches I have attended, heard any music accompaniment during this moment in the rite of Ash Wednesday.
  • Aaron
    Posts: 103
    I should clarify, I am interested in other English monophonic settings.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,613
    Music at this time would have a strong tendency to function as a soundtrack; I would not do that.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,987
    There are chants in the current Graduale for the time of the imposition of ashes. Is this new?
  • mahrt
    Posts: 504
    It is not new; there are traditional chants for the imposition of ashes: especially Emendemus in melius. The ceremony includes a procession, the people coming, as they do for communion, and as such receives processional chants. I have never known this ceremony in a sung Mass without chant.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Thank you, Dr. Mahrt. Even the Missalette which we use at the Cathedral has Antiphons for Imp of Ashes.
    Donna
  • Here at Winchester, it's always Allegri's Miserere, sung in Latin in the George Guest edition published by Chester.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Oh for the resources to sing that wonderful piece. Not having a boy soprano to hit that high c, it's just a dream
    Donna
  • For the last few years we have "cheated" and done the piece down a semitone so it's a top "b" instead. I think it's partly psychological. For the boy singing it, it makes the top c's a little less terrifying, and the boys aren't told it's in a different key!
  • Simon
    Posts: 116
    Two plainsong antiphons that are traditional for the imposition of ashes are Immutemur habitu in cinere and Juxta vestibulum. Singing one of these together with the Miserere as plainsong psalm is within reach of almost any choir. Depending on the numbers receiving the ashes one can extend the singing by, for example, repeating the antiphon after every 4 or 5 verses of the Miserere. Or one can continue singing with the respond Emundemus in melius.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Simon--That's a good idea. I may try that this year. We have a new priest, so I'm waiting to see what he might want. The last guy let me do pretty much what I wanted. This one is much more 'hands-on' We are all waiting with trepidation.

    Donna
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    Come on, now. Everybody knows that Imposition of Ashes is the perfect time to dust off O Divine Redeemer (or Repentir for the purist). At least if you have the high notes.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Yurodivi, I have to disagree. Singing "Les Rameaux" would serve to remind us that the ashes are made from the fronds from last year's Palm Sunday. Besides, if there is one French composer of truly Catholic music that surpasses even the great Gounod, it is Jean-Baptiste Faure. Of course, one should only attempt to perform this chef d'oeuvre if one has the necessary solo trumpet for the ritornello; to do otherwise would be, well... in poor taste.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    No. 6 from Beethoven's Gellert-Lieder, Op. 47, is also pretty appropriate if you can't do the chant.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    Or one of the numerous Elizabethan-era settings of Donne's Hymne to God the Father.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Are you guys serious about 'The Palms" That is sooo tacky!! You must be joking, I hope.
    Donna :)
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    NO, I would never sing "The Palms." I wouldn't say it is tacky -- just reflective of its era and the sort of high sentiment that comes with it. Gounod, on the other hand, is at least well done, and it can be marvelous if you give it a respectful performance, as if it were better music.

    And on the Other other hand, some Gounod is really tacky. Stuff written to pay a gambling debt or something, maybe.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    LOL I think I might feel the same way about Stainer's 'Crucifixion'. Well-done, it is beautiful, like Gounod's St.Cecilia Mass. I have always shuddered hearing that Sanctus, but with a great tenor, it's something else. Chacun a son gout

    Donna
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    When someone tells me "The Palms" is tacky, I invite them to listen to Joncas. Now he's tacky! I'll take Gounod on his worst day, over Haugen/Haas/Joncas.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    Amen and Amen, CharlesW.

    The problem with the Gounod Sanctus is the retroflex "L" on the high note. And if your soloist doesn't have mad skilz, it goes from sublime to embarrassing in a single, horrible instant.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Um, I was very much kidding.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    "incantuCommentTime2 minutes ago
    Um, I was very much kidding."

    I wasn't!
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'll walk out of a church doing either Gonoud or Joncas. Bad music doesn't become better just because it's old.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    If you aren't familiar with anything other than the St. Cecilia Mass and "O Divine Redeemer," you owe it to yourself to check out his later Mass settings, many of which are available on CPDL. I think of them as his penance for the frankly theatrical music he had written as a young(er) man.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    I agree. He did write some bad stuff, but also some that wasn't. His works need to be evaluated on a composition by composition basis. Of course, one could always do the infamous, "Dust and Ashes" for the imposition of ashes. Not going there...
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    And considering the enduring popularity of his operas (Faust, Romeo and Juliet), the wind symphonies, the songs, and, yes, the Masses -- even the theatrical ones -- and various other pieces, I think it's uncalled for to refer to it as "bad music." He was immensely talented and enjoyed a great deal of success and recognition as a composer.

    Lumping Gounod in with Joncas shows a considerable lack of musical discernment.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    I don't see M. Joncas on this little list.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    And you won't, either. He's out collecting eagle feathers and, unfortunately, royalties.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    HAHA! I knew I'd start something when I called the Palms 'tacky'. Gounod is my least fav composer- not counting stuff composed after VatII. I am a former opera singer and lover of opera (Sorry Francis) but I don't like Faust or Romeo et Juliette. Everyone is entitled to their likes and dislikes guys. AS far as the Sanctus from St. C is those awful repeated triplets in the bass that I object to.

    Donna
  • That whole grand opera era frightens me. Wagner called it "effects without causes." One does not have to like all the canonized composers. Having the ability to discern what you like IS the sign of a thoughtful listener.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,069
    Donna

    I don't despise opera SINGERS... I have one I work with weekly here. She is top drawer! It's OPERA that I despise.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    It may be the sign of a thoughtful listener, but thinking that results in assessing Joncas and Gounod as peers is defective at best. Not all minds are created equal.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,069
    Can someone point me to an mp3 of Gounouds "best"? Nothing from him has ever stuck to my ribs that I can recall.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Ha, well we actually do "The Palms" every year before Mass on Palm Sunday. It's been a long tradition here at the French National Church which I have continued. But I wouldn't do it on Ash Wednesday! And as for Gounod, we do his Seven Last Words each year on Good Friday. Very tasteful, I think.
  • I happened to wander into the Roman Catholic cathedral in Dresden, Germany, the "Hofkirche" on Pentecost Sunday morning in 2007, and was confronted by an amazing, operatic Kyrie, with big orchestra, brass, organ, choir and professional-calibre soloists, all in the rear gallery of this splendid baroque church. Very majestic, solemn and stirring, very slow and gorgeous harmonies, like Wagner mixed with Elgar, and I wondered what on earth it was, as I've sung a lot of church music in my day and hadn't heard this. Looked at the service sheet and it turned out to be Gounod's "Messe Sollennelle" It was new to me, but very impressive, sadly I was only able to stay a few minutes (the frustrations of choir tours!).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    I love opera, especially Wagner. Too bad there's no emoticon for a rasberry to send to some of you. May your organ pumper be taken by plague, your trackers be eaten by termites, and all your shrieking mixtures go flat. ;-)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,069
    Charles... Sounds like a curse on church music that you have composed. Wagner had the same problems.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    More like a curse on north German Protestant instruments and Lutheran church music. Strange at it may sound, some Catholic musicians want to use both for Catholic worship. Go figure! Wagner, on the other hand, is theater. He is entertainment, not a part of worship.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,069
    The Protestants took it from the Catholics. So you might want to rethink your position. You are cursing your own heritage.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    Oh, some of the hymns did come from Latin originals. That's where Luther got some of his hymns. Of course, after he altered them, many were barely recognizable. Many were also original compositions by other composers. The instruments, however, seem to be unique to that part of Germany - although the Dutch seem to have also possessed a similar ear for screeching pipes. Must be primarily a Prussian thing. Most of the instruments I have heard from the southern parts of Germany, however, I liked. Amazing, but the south was an entirely different world. Three cheers for Bavarian Catholics, anyone?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,069
    Actually, most pipe organs were more similar than different until the emergence of stops and swells, and then electricity which brought all kinds of variations. Those radical differences have only emerged in the last four to five hundred years. (Might we say we have watched the ecumenical movement of organ building?)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    It seems to be coming full circle. The 19th century American instruments had lovely tones, then American instruments got carried away with powerful electronic blowers in the early 20th century. I have heard some mid-20th century American instruments that were nice. Many produced in the 60's tried to imitate European instruments, and did it rather poorly. There's a Casavant in town from that period that screams 1960s - and I mean literally screams. There are some good instruments being produced today, ranging all the way from Schoensteins to Fisks. I heard an Andover recently that wasn't bad. So there's always hope that organ building won't be taken over by electronics.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    CharlesW I knew there was a reason I liked you :) I too love Wagner. And Strauss operas, and how about Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites. There is nothing more spine-tingling than the final scene in that opera.

    Donna
  • I am another Wagner lover, and the Poulenc is quite fine. I know very few Wagner fans, so it's nice to hear from you.

    Donna R
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,726
    Good to know you Wagner fans are here. I like Poulenc, too. As a youngster, I think it was Lohengrin stepping into the swan boat that first attracted me to Wagner. We may be out of favor in the organ world for our preferences, but who cares? Organists are the only instrumentalists who will follow a tangent to extremes, throw out perfectly good instruments not fitting the tangent, and declare anyone crazy who doesn't favor the instruments and music currently in favor. Then, the cycle repeats, and those instruments and music are thrown out, and everyone goes off another deep end. Would that be called the reform of the organ reform? Who knows? I understand that musicians who play other instruments are, for the most part, sane. ;-) Eclecticism is good!
  • Hmm.. I know that I am not directly comparing Gounod with Joncas. Their music seeks to do different things. The Palms, however, does cross the line into Joncas territory, even if using another musical dialect. To my knowledge, Joncas has never tried to write an opera, though.

    Perhaps Gounod's best-known tune outside of his attributed setting of Ave Maria is the march from The Prophet. It appears in zillions of 19th century arrangements. Sorry, just not a fan of the grand opera style.
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    Yes, agreed. And "Les Rameaux" was not written by Gounod, but by Jean-Baptiste Fauré.

    And "Le Prophete" was by Meyerbeer. Also French still not Gounod. So you're kind of making my point. But I'm glad to hear you are not directly comparing Joncas and Gounod. Gounod is light years above Joncas.

    Gounod's best known tune is undoubtedly the "Funeral March for a Marionette" that was the theme song for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
  • JDE
    Posts: 582
    And yeah, I admit it - I like Wagner too.

    What time does the next swan leave?
  • I'm leaving in ten minutes to take the dog to the woods LOL
    Donna
  • Wow, I must really have been doing too much multitasking that day. I certainly knew both of those composers! Maybe it's just hard to believe that Faure wrote The Palms. So unlike him.