Saturday, 22 August 2015

Thoughts on the Year of Mercy Jubilee Hymn

Mr Michael Vian Clark, a seminarian for the Diocese of Plymouth, has posted his thoughts on the official "Year of Mercy" Jubilee Hymn. As Michael is extremely knowledgeable about liturgy and music, and has a very gifted liturgical voice (if I can put it so clumsily), I take his 'thoughts' to be very important, and a great help to me as I have no music to speak of!

Thoughts on Paul Inwood's 'Misericordes sicut Pater':

There were 89 entries for the official 'Year of Mercy' Jubilee hymn and this was the winning entry. Congratulations, Mr Inwood, this is a triumph. Why do I say that?
Well, first of all, it's beautiful. Both the melodies and the harmonies are instantly pleasing and expertly thought through. Wonderful stuff.
Secondly, it's simple. The melody is memorable and easy to sing, fitting comfortably within a congregational range.
Thirdly, it's versatile. This is a piece which can be executed in a number of different ways - according to resources - and sound great in any of them.
Fourthly, it's got a great libretto. It's scripturally-based, but in Litany form, which lends itself to antiphonal participation.
Fifthly, Latinity. The Latin language should be familiar to Catholics (Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and 54) and I would argue it should be comfortable as well. Latin is not a clerical language, it's a universal language which no-one owns, but at the same time everyone owns. Therefore, to have the congregational response in Latin, with the verses in the vernacular is an excellent example of what SC was aiming for.
Sixthly, and relatedly, Mr Inwood, being a Latinist, demonstrates this in his careful setting of the Latin text to coincide perfectly with the Latin stress. I bang on about this all the time - Latin is a language, not holy mumbo-jumbo. So often composers (the worst culprit being a certain W. A. Mozart) ignore the language entirely. It's unusual to see such care in composition by contemporary composwers.
Seventhly, anyone who is familiar with the Divine Office in Latin will immediately recall Ps 136 when hearing this Litany - 'quoniam in aeternum misericordia eius' - a fitting echo. 
Eighthly, the way that Mr Inwood has set the reciting verses permits easy translation into various languages. Good.
So there are my eight points, I could go on, but I think that's enough. Here are the details from the official website below:

DAY NINE (Eve of Pentecost)