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Vita mutator: Life Is Changed, Volume 1

- Various, ed. Gary D. Penkala


PDF Sample

Use: Funeral
Required Resources: 2-pt or unison choir, organ
Language: Latin and English

Funeral choirs often get a bad reputation in Catholic parishes. Often one finds a small group of retirees, perhaps incorrectly labelled a Resurrection Choir, that sings poor music. The notorious and deplorable funeral standards, "On Eagle's Wings," "Be Not Afraid" and "Amazing Grace" are staples in their repertoire. In many cases, the group is not challenged any more than to sing with (or instead of) the mourners on congregational hymns.

That doesn't need to be the case! While certainly charged with supporting the singing of Mass parts and other congregational music, the choir can and should present music of its own. Drawing on retired parishioners and possibly home-schooled children, the funeral choir [which in my parish we call the Joseph of Arimathea Choir] cannot support SATB harmony — unless you're extremely lucky. But there are unison and 2-part pieces that qualify as good music, so the choir need not rely on left-over emotional numbers from the 1980s. We've compiled a book of this quality music that will not only bring comfort and support to the mourners, but will also contribute to the authentic beauty of the Funeral Liturgy.

Vita mutator: Life Is Changed, Volume 1

  1. Alleluia (chant mode VI) / Lenten Acclamation (Gary Penkala) — This is the very familiar Alleluia [DO RE MI DO …], with organ accompaniment. A descant is provided. Each of the 11 verses from the funeral lectionary is set to psalm tone 8G.
  2. Eternal Rest (Gary Penkala) — The format here is antiphon/verses, making it usable as a processional or as a choral selection. Music for the antiphon is derived from the proper Introit, Requiem æternam. This unison piece can be sung by the choir or by a cantor; antiphon and five verses are provided, the latter sung to an original psalm tone. An organ accompaniment is included.
  3. In paradisum (Gregorian chant) — There is no better way to end a Funeral Mass than to chant this music as the casket is carried from the altar. The music is given here in modern notation with the proper Latin text. A non-singing English translatsion is provided for this touching antiphon. A cappella singing is expected.
  4. Justorum animæ (Cody Mead) — Perhaps the most frequently used First Reading comes from the book of Wisdom, "The souls of the just are in the hand of God…" The Latin text is used, set for unison voices with an optional male harmony part. The range is a ninth (D to E-flat), comfortable for most singers. In hymn fashion, the organ accompaniment doubles the voice part, making it rather easy to sing. A full SATB version of this will be published separately.
  5. Lead, Kindly Light (Charles Purday, arr. Gary Penkala) — Four stanzas of the hymn by Bl. John Henry Newman are set to the tune Sandon for 2-part mixed choir and organ:
    1. Unison voices
    2. Women sing melody; men sing descant
    3. Women sing descant; men sing melody
    4. Unison voices, with free harmonization
    The arrangement makes for an utterly simple way to sing this lovely melody and text.
  6. O Rest in the Lord (Felix Mendelssohn) — The alto aria from Elijah, exactly as the composer wrote it, in the key of C Major. The independent organ accompaniment is supportive of the vocal line. The ABA format allows for easy learning.
  7. Pie Jesu (Gabriel Fauré) — This gorgeous soprano aria from Requiem in d is singable as a unison choral motet when transposed from B-flat Major to G Major. The accompaniment, written in standard organ format (three staves), is a reduction of Fauré's orchestral score. Dynamics and manual changes are clearly indicated. Yes, your unison funeral choir can sing truly great literature.
  8. Requiem æternam (Gregorian chant) — This proper Introit (from which the Requiem Mass gets its name) can be sung as the Entrance Chant as the casket is borne down the aisle. It also has possibilites as a choral selection — part of the Prelude, Offertory or Communion. The Proper antiphon and verse from Psalm 65 are included, set in modern notation.

The title of this collection, Vita mutator, is perhaps the most hope-filled phrase in the Funeral Mass, found in the familiar Preface: "Life is changed (not ended)."

We offer the Full Score/Accompanist version: 5301-s, and a less expensive booklet with just the vocal parts: 5301-c.


(suitable for organist as well as director)
Order #: 5301-s
Price: $8.50 each

Choral Parts
Order #: 5301-c
Price: $2.95 each


- Liturgical Setting
- Choral Music
- Funeral
- 2-pt Choir
- Unison Choir
- Latin / English

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