There is an art to picking a Mass setting for Palm Sunday.
The day is different, dramatic, and the music should reflect this drama with a certain liturgical je ne sais quoi.
After the festive procession, the service takes a dark turn with the reading/singing of the Passion Gospel and never quite recovers. For the end of the the service everything is raw and exposed. The temple veil is rent in twain and everything is laid bare.
So, when it comes time for the Sanctus -- the first sung part of the Mass ordinary on this day -- a special kind of "holy-ness" is required.
In my mind, a Mass setting that captures what I'm after is the Missa Brevis, Opus 57 of Lennox Berkeley (pronounced BARK-ley).
There's a kind of hopeful austerity in this writing. An encounter with the Holy that is more informed by journey than by destination.
The Hosanna section deliberately propels itself forward toward a wrenching, fateful climax, one explored further in the Benedictus. This climax is not shouting, but sighing, loudly. One might term this a meta-suspiratio.
It's interesting to note that St. Mary the Virgin in New York also sang Berkeley yesterday: his five-part Mass. St. Thomas in New York found a very similar aesthetic in a Mass by Jackson Hill.
Labels: Berkeley, church music, liturgy, Palm Sunday
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