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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Another Rosary Concert

at Saint Anne's Catholic Church,
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Rosary A few years ago we ran an article called "A Rosary Concert" that detailed a presentation directed by Dr. Gregory Hamilton at Saint Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jane Errera (Music Director & Organist at Saint Anne's Church, Bethlehem PA, and past CNP Palestrina Award winner) liked the idea and coordinated her own program, in conjunction with the Cathedral Church of the Nativity (Episcopal) in Bethlehem, and their Precentor-Organist & Choirmaster, Canon Russell Jackson. Jane has graciously allowed us to present her take on the idea, and we think others will benefit from reviewing her program, A Choral Rosary, as presented in Saint Anne's Church on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, 2004.

The program brochure included the Latin text of the Ave Maria and the traditional English translation. The foreword was the following excerpt from the Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariæ by Pope John Paul II:

The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of the third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to "set into the deep..."

With the Rosary, the Christian people sit at the school of Mary and are led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary, the faithful receive abundant grace. A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community.
The program began with everyone singing The Apostles' Creed, which was chanted on one pitch with an improvised chordal accompaniment on the organ. Then followed the singing of The Lord's Prayer, a cappella, using the familiar chant melody. Russell Jackson, from Nativity Cathedral, presented three settings of the Ave Maria for organ, representing the Ave beads for an increase in Faith, Hope & Love:
  1. setting by Gerald Near (b.1942)
  2. setting by George Lachenauer (b.1933)
  3. setting by Charles Callahan (b.1951)
The Doxology by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) was then sung by the combined choirs.

A Decade of Aves (ten settings of the Ave Maria) was presented by varying groups and soloists:

  1. Chant (16th century) [men of the choirs]
  2. Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) [combined choirs]
  3. Charles Gounod (1818-1893) [soprano soloist 1]
  4. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) [Cathedral Choir]
  5. Jacques Arcadelt (c.1505-1568) [combined choirs]
  6. Franz Schubert (1797-1828) [baritone soloist]
  7. Edward Elgar (1857-1934) [Saint Anne Choir]
  8. Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) [combined choirs]
  9. Carolee Coombs (b.1954) [soprano soloist 2]
  10. Franz Biebl (1906-2001) [combined choirs]
The concert concluded with all singing the hymn, Hail, Holy Queen, Enthroned Above. Each of the seven stanzas received a different treatment, some even sung a cappella. Jane remarks: "They blew the roof off (almost)!"

Here, then, is a fine example of a wonderfully appropriate, ecumenical collaboration, bringing the musical patrimony of the Church alive, fostering devotion to the great Theotokos, and providing an uplifting time of cooperation and prayer through music. Try this in your parish — and let us know how it works!

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