Baccalaureate Mass Lineup - When I Survey the Wondrous Cross....
  • trephill27
    Posts: 4
    I have once again been charged with organizing the lineup for our university's baccalaureate mass. The Music Department Chair at our school is not a Catholic and relies on me for liturgical lineups. He has requested that we try to include Gilbert Martin's "When I survey the wondrous cross" in the lineup for the mass...but I don't know where it might be appropriate.

    Our parish and university generally prefers a much more meditative mood for Communion. We traditionally sing the Archadelt Ave Maria for Offertory and we try to not spill Marian motets into Communion either. I originally offered it as a Prelude or Recessional Piece but he doesn't want people to talking/walking around while we sing it.

    First off, is it liturgically appropriate in your opinion? Second, where would it belong?

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,725
    My 2 penn'orth - When I survey the wondrous cross is appropriate at the offertory. It speaks of both the sacrifice at which we are about be present, and our act of oblation.
    And the Magnificat is appropriate at Communion, indeed the Graduale Simplex says it may always be used there. It is of course not about Mary but by Mary as praise of God. If some participants feel the need to bring in a Marian element that may satisfy them. So as text, both fit.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,711
    Here's a performance, for anyone not familiar with the Martin arrangement:

    The piece is too long for a recessional and too grandiose for communion. Maybe at offertory, IF there is lengthy ceremonial to be done (procession with gifts, incensation of the altar, the ministers, the people). It's almost five minutes long. Otherwise it could only be a prelude.

    Apart from the functional question, it might or might not be a good fit, depending on the homily. A baccalaureate Mass is typically a Mass of Thanksgiving, while this song has a theme of scorning worldly things in favor of glorifying the redemption obtained by Christ. If the homily is giving the same message, then you could sing this at offertory if the time allows. And if the key changes -- I lost count after five -- don't come across as a cheap effect.

    Maybe a more conventional arrangement would be a better choice. Well, considering that the congregation will include many infrequent Mass attenders, maybe it's no time for subtlety.
  • Trephill,

    The baccalaureate Mass.... is it a Mass of the Holy Ghost. In order to decide what might be appropriate (independent of the decision 'This piece is wholly unsuited for Mass under any conditions', which I can't make because I don't know the piece and will listen to it after I'm finished with this post) one needs to know which Mass is being celebrated.

    For example:

    Carey Landry's "Hail Mary, Gentle Woman" seems to fail the "ever appropriate" test,


    Edward Bairstow's "I sat down under his shadow" would be more appropriate in some situations than in others,


    anthems may be appropriate in places where hymns aren't (and vice versa).
    Thanked by 1trephill27
  • I didn't recognize it at first, but I do know the piece.

    If your priest intends to preach on the cross the baccalaureate class must accept because the world hated Our Lord before it hated His faithful servants, I can see a place for this at Offertory. If he plans to tell them how much excitement there is in front of them as they begin to live their dreams, and that this is just the beginning of the adventure of their lives..... I could see cognitive dissonance setting in quickly. Maybe you should check with your priest.

    At another level, this piece is a large-choir piece. Do you have large choir?
    Thanked by 1trephill27
  • trephill27
    Posts: 4
    I should mention that the bishop will be celebrating this mass. He typically speaks more on the topic of sending them forth into the world than on the cross. I'm not sure that I will be able to confirm the topic of the homily with the bishop in the meantime.

    We do have a choir of about 30 students.

    The bishop celebrated a Palm Sunday Vigil for us and neither incense was used nor was there a procession of the gifts during the offertory so it was quite short.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,382
    It's very nice, but it comes off as extremely Protestant and not really appropriate for Mass. That is, not only are the text and musical form very Protestant, this isn't even on the top ten list of pieces familiar to Catholics.

    Sure, sure, motets and chant largely aren't, but hymns in English are for singing, and if it's unfamiliar or winds up being a concert piece like this, then people will just get frustrated. On the other hand, you don't have to sing long motets, and you either are open to chant or you are not, but everyone groks right away that the propers are not strictly speaking congregational pieces. And if they like Ave Maria, then they can ease their way into the other stuff by their own logic.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • You could use a setting of Vexilla Regis?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,374
    Unless it's a hymn familiar to the congregation, I would avoid using it as a hymn at such a Mass. While it's a hymn that appears in hymnals that are used in US Catholic churches (set either to HAMBURG or ROCKINGHAM - neither of which IMO is particularly wonderful for an anthem arrangement), in my experience I've never heard it sung at Mass in a Catholic church in over 50 years; I've thought it might be deployed for Stations of the Cross and Sacred Heart devotions.

    If it had to be used, it would only be for Offertory, not Communion.
  • davido
    Posts: 516
    I’ve used When I survey the wondrous cross at Catholic Churches for years. It was set to ROCKINGHAM in Worship III, everywhere else I’ve used HAMBURG becuase that tune is so dead simple you’d have to not want to sing to not pick it up after a verse.
  • Felicia
    Posts: 68
    The arrangement in the recording, by Gilbert Martin, is based on HAMBURG. I was quite surprised to learn that this tune by Lowell Mason (1792-1872), known for encouraging the teaching of music in U.S. public schools, is itself based on a plainchant psalm tone! Dr. Mason, a Protestant, was in favor of using chant, though he preferred Anglican chant or chant rendered as hymn tunes, because he thought these were easier for congregations to sing. The full story on HAMBURG is in an article by David W. Music (yes, that's his name) in The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song, Winter 2017, Vol. 68 Issue 1, pages 24-30.

    FWIW, I agree with others that this might not be the most ideal thing for a Bacclaureate Mass, though it might work for the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

    Thanked by 2MatthewRoth CHGiffen