wm201505 Webber j Small Communion for chorus and organ
for chorus and organ
satb chorus organ
5 Agnus Dei
Notes by Br. Abraham Newsom OSB
The earliest written documents (including the New Testament) describing Christian worship (or eucharist, meaning thanksgiving) are very similar: gathering together, singing, praying, reading scripture (sometimes with the addition of a sermon), eating and drinking. Most Christian worship today includes the same things. Some traditions follow a stricter pattern of worship (liturgical), other traditions have a looser pattern (non-liturgical). Even in congregations that do not eat and drink together at the same time and in the same place that they gather for prayer and song, almost all will have communal meals several times a year. That is fine – these “church suppers” have a eucharistic element about them that I consider to be just as valid as communion in a liturgical setting. The two important parts of Christian worship are: 1 – gathering together (personal prayer is important and necessary, but Christianity must have a communal facet), and 2 – doing so in the name of Jesus (remembering that we are being transformed away from our false individualistic selves and into our true vocations as Children of God by proclaiming Jesus as the center of our lives and working to remove egos from the center of our lives). This musical setting of the traditional (liturgical) western (Latin) Christian text of a communion service does not include music for eating, drinking, sermons, scripture reading, or certain prayers. Those things happen in between the movements of music (although sometimes music is played during those events, and sometimes the prayers and scriptures can be sung). In a non-liturgical congregation, the order of the service might or might not be the same as these musical movements, and the texts are likely to not be the same, and not all movements would happen at every meeting – but the basic ideas expressed would be found.
The opening organ notes of the KYRIE set the tone for this entire set of movements: a combination of old and new sounds. The intervals themselves are also used in various ways in other movements throughout the work.
The opening of the GLORIA immediately reminded me of music form old Warner Brothers Cartoon - that is a huge compliment, because I have always loved that music and thought it was very intelligent and sophisticated (as were the cartoons themselves). The Gloria seems to have an open ending – the praise can’t stop, so the movement simply ends in the middle of it.
The CREDO has an almost chorale-like feel to it in some places, emphasizing the “we believe” over the “I believe” – a good thing in a communion service (individual growth is of utmost importance, but it happens most fully in a group setting).
The opening theme from the KYRIE is more apparent in the SANCTUS than in the other movements; heard in the opening organ notes and echoed by the voices at various tempos throughout the SANCTUS.
The AGNUS DEI also makes use of the theme from the KYRIE, with a beautiful a capella section in the middle of the movement.
This SHORT COMMUNION is a good embodiment of many ideas vital for Christian worship, as well as many good musical ideas.
Br. Abraham Newsom OSB
St. Gregory’s Abbey
Three Rivers, Michigan