Mass of the Blessed Fire - American Chant
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    Tooting my own horn, for those of you who hadn't seen it.

    This is inculturation at its best, I think – real, authentic American chant brought into the Roman liturgy. The melodies are sturdy and charming, and I’m pretty sure they will wear well. The melodies move in almost predictable ways, oftentimes pentatonic, but the rhythmic alteration between 2s and 3s gives it just the right amount of interest.
    I say this should be the second chant setting in the U.S. Roman missal, after the ICEL chants based on Latin chant.

    In the comments, our mellow friend Charles asked about accompaniment. My answer was:

    Shaker music is, properly, unaccompanied. That is my preference, and I wrote the music with the idea that it would be a good setting in cases where accompaniment is not available- small churches, daily mass, etc.

    However, I have absolutely no objection to anyone writing and/or using an accompaniment- so long as it is always clear to whoever would want to know which thing I wrote and which thing someone else wrote. I have a hard time imagining it with instruments, but that should not stop someone who can from doing so.

    I’d be particularly interested and excited if someone who is conversant with shape-note/early-American music would write a four-part harmonization to be sung by a loud and untrained congregation.

    Fr. Ruff's overly complimentary post here:

    The home page for the mass setting itself here:
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,132

    I am not familiar with the term "blessed fire". Please enlighten me.
  • rob
    Posts: 143
    I assumed it referred to the blessed fire from which the Paschal candle is re-lit at the Easter vigil, since I'm not familiar myself with any other blessing for fire.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,029
    I was also assuming it was referring to the Easter Vigil.

    This is pretty neat, Adam Wood. Kudos on a cool idea! :)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    The term "Blessed Fire" in my mind refers to the fire of the Holy Spirit. (Kindle in us the fire of your love.) I also love that it evokes the Paschal Candle and the fire of the Easter Vigil.

    It is an appropriation of a phrase from a Shaker hymn about their own history:
    "In Manchester in England the blessed fire began." In that original context it is simply a metaphor for the enthusiasm of their movement.
    Thanked by 2Gavin francis
  • bgeorge77
    Posts: 185
    I’d be particularly interested and excited if someone who is conversant with shape-note/early-American music would write a four-part harmonization to be sung by a loud and untrained congregation.

    Yeah! That would be neat.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood tomboysuze
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    The irony of modern renditions of the SACRED HARP remains that they've been depicted by loud, VERY trained congregations in "COLD MOUNTAIN" and "LINCOLN."
    Catholic congregations trained? 10% chance best bet. Loud? .001%.
  • Thank you, Adam. I will check it out. I'm a big proponent of using American Folk Hymns at mass for the same reasons you state. What Wondrous Love, Come Ye Sinners, Come Thou Font, etc. (Amazing Grace has been ruined to my ear so I never use it.)
    I agree w/melo, too. Been to Sacred Harp fests and hated the perpetual FF on EVERYTHING. But that doesn't mean we can't inject some tasteful dynamics, right?
    (I'm a sucker for the mournful sound - bought at great price, I know.)
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    Yes- I probably should have said "enthusiastic" instead of loud.
    At any rate- an idiomatic harmonization would be very much appreciated, at least by me.

    Shaker music tended to be monophonic, as I understand (there are known exceptions to this). But it is closely related to other early-American musical traditions that have a recognizable harmonic language (which I can identify upon hearing, but have no skill in writing myself). I do hope someone with the wherewithal takes on the task.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    See, this is what rubs me the wrong way about open source.

    MBF (Mass of the Blessed Fire) is a great work. Part of its greatness is that it's a capella music. That also limits its use among music directors who are (inappropriately) frightened of a capella singing in congregational music. If there were an excellent, idiomatic accompaniment of this written for organ, it would be to the detriment of the music, but it would help it gain some wider acceptance. If there were a lousy one written in a non-idiomatic style, this piece would likely take off.

    The result is bad music, and ruining (in practice, though the original remains usable and quite good) a great piece of music. Laissez-faire market principles are great for increasing productivity and sharing. But they ruin quality.

    Other people may not agree, but I was won over against this whole "free" movement by a (conservative Lutheran and physicist) blogger who said something to the effect of "I'd rather spend $40 on software that is finished and works well than get free software which is eternally full of bugs and is constantly released without full functionality."

    Maybe I'm an out-of-touch dinosaur. Did I say maybe? Definitely. But I think the composer ought to exert control on the reproduction of his work.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    I'm glad you think it's a great work!

    I don't buy your argument here, but I have no time to go into why.
    But I certainly appreciate the compliment!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,679
    Gavin, "software ... full of bugs and ... released without full functionality" could just as well be a description of commercial products, right? Anyway, I do understand one appeal of buying commercial software: it makes you the customer of some specific firm, so that you can take your defect reports there, and they have to accept them. Really, that's about all it gives you, since "terms and conditions" agreements usually have an express disclaimer of any warranty on the product's functionality!

    Anyway, can we look forward to Gavin's harmonization of the Blessed Fire Mass?
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 787
    Shouldn't the Agnus Dei contain the trope: "Jesus, Blessed Fire: you take away..." ???

    Sorry, couldn't resist. Nice work Adam. I also like early American Music--real folk music as it were.
  • Claire H
    Posts: 337
    Are there any audio recordings of this?
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    Not yet. If time permits, I will do them soon.
  • Claire H
    Posts: 337
    I hope so!
  • Chrism
    Posts: 663
    Well done. And nice use of liquescents on the Sanctus.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    Well done. And nice use of liquescents on the Sanctus.

    Thanks. I wish modern notation had a way to notate that. It seems mildly weird to use square notes- so I didn't for the final versions- but it doesn't sound right to me unless they are sung that way.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,092
    I've experimented with this in modern notation, putting the liquescent noteheads at a smaller size (usually to 75-85% of the normal size), which is rather easy to do in Finale. This, together with a performance note (at least for the time being) which indicates ones intentions, would perhaps suffice.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood