Lord, Have Mercy

The Second Sunday in Lent
February 25, 2018

Today is the Second Sunday in Lent. In the Episcopal Church, one of the ways we mark the changing seasons of the liturgical year is by choosing a different mass setting to sing throughout each season. Through music, we can establish a distinctive tone for worship, ranging from joyful and exuberant to quiet and reflective.

What is a "mass setting?" It is a musical setting, usually by a single composer, of the "ordinary" of the mass - the prayers that are sung or said as a part of every Eucharistic celebration, regardless of the season or occasion. During Lent, we usually sing three of these prayers, which are often referred to by their Latin names:
  • "Lord, have mercy" (Kyrie eleison)
  • "Holy, holy, holy Lord" (Sanctus)
  • "Jesus, Lamb of God" (Agnus Dei)
During Lent, we sing a peaceful, lyrical mass setting by Franz Peter Schubert. Schubert was an Austrian composer who lived from 1791-1828. He is best known for his ability to create beautiful, singable melodies. In fact, Schubert is credited with the invention of a new musical genre: the art song (or lieder in German). 

Schubert's Deutsche Messe - German Mass - is the source for the music found in our hymnal. Schubert composed this work in 1827, one year before his death. Here is an image of the first page of the original score - the musical source for S-96, "Lord, have mercy" - in Schubert's own hand:

Schubert used a German translation of the mass rather than the traditional Latin. He also incorporated hymns and other contemporary poetic texts. This innovation inspired other 19th-century composers who followed Schubert's lead.

The English language adaptation of Schubert's work for congregational singing was created by Richard Proulx (1937-2010), well known in both Episcopal and Roman Catholic circles as a leading composer and church musician. He served as a consultant in the creation of The Hymnal 1982, as well as numerous other denominational hymnals. His adaptation of Schubert's mass, as well as his well-loved original mass setting, A Community Mass, have become favorites of congregations throughout the Episcopal Church.

One of the distinctive characteristics of Episcopal liturgy is the breadth of musical expression - ranging from the ancient chants of the early church to modern composers. Through singing the best sacred music of every age, we connect with generations of Christians who preceded us and enliven the tradition for generations yet to come.

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Music for February 25, 2018
Hymns: 401, 675, 143 (stanza 5), 151, 142, 448
Service Music: S-96, S-130, S-164
Anthem: Jesus, So Lowly     -Harold Friedell
Organ Music:
Aria     -Michael Burkhardt
Organ chorale: Aus tiefer Not     -Friedrich Wilhelm Zachau


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