Monday, May 25, 2009

An Ascension anthem, and other music for Ascension Day

Here's a video of Patrick Gowers' Viri Galilaei; it's sung by the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir.

Viri Galilaei is the incipit of the Introit for the Feast of the Ascension; you can listen to all the mass propers for Ascension Day here.

Here are the words to this anthem; I found them in an old service bulletin from St. Thomas Church:
Alleluia. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven
as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which said unto them, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up to heaven?
In like manner as ye have seen him going up into heaven, so shall he come again.
God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.
Christ to highest heaven ascending, led captivity captive.
Sing ye to the Lord who ascended to the heaven of heavens to the sun rising.

See the conqueror mounts in triumph, Ssee the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds his chariot to his heavenly palace gate.
Hark! the choirs of angel voices Joyful Alleluias sing.
And the portals high are lifted to receive their heavenly King. Alleluia.

Proper of the Mass, Ascension; Bishop Christopher Wordsworth

I think the citation in italics at the end means that the text here was taken from two sources; the first section comes from the mass propers for Ascension Day, and there is a hymn called "See the conqueror mounts in triumph," text by one Christopher Wordsworth (I think that's him, in the photo on left at the link - whew!).

In the St. Thomas service for that day, the Mass Ordinary was a very beautiful one, too: Zoltán Kodály's Missa Brevis. The "Music Notes" from St. Thomas tell its story:
The Missa Brevis of Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was originally written as an organ mass during a holiday that the composer took in Galyateto in the Summer of 1943. The composer had been asked to play the harmonium at a low mass in the church at Galyateto and, feeling that the music that he played ought to reflect the text, he made a number of sketches before the service, later converting these into the Missa Brevis for organ and choir. The subtitle of the setting, Tempore belli (Time of war), adopted from Haydn’s Mass in C major of 1796, gives a clue to the unfortunate and unusual circumstances surrounding the piece’s first performance. During the siege of Budapest, Kodály and his wife took shelter in the cellars of the Opera House and it was on 11th February 1945 in one of the cloakrooms that the first performance of this version of the Mass was given by a group of the House’s principal soloists accompanied by harmonium. In 1948 Kodály orchestrated the piece and it was premiered at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester. The work shows many influences including Gregorian chant and the works of Handel, Bach, Palestrina and an organ mass by Franz Liszt dating from 1879.

And there were two selections - the Prelude and Postude from the service - from Messiaen's L'Ascension, if you like that sort of thing.

Here's the original Gregorian chant Viri Galilaei:

The text comes from Acts 1:11 and Psalm 47:1, and these are the Latin words, followed by the English:
Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum?
Alleluia: quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in caelum,
ita veniet, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Omnes gentes plaudite manibus:
iubilate Deo in voce exsultationis.

Ye men of Galilee, why wonder you, looking up to heaven? alleluia. He shall so come as you have seen Him going up into heaven, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

O clap your hands, all ye nations; shout unto God, with the voice of exultation.

There are two collects available for Ascension Day - I'm interested in why two, and where they came from, and will try to find out - one of which is one of my favorites for the year:
Almighty God, whos blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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