Continuing Home

The ongoing saga of a Continuing Anglican church home, as seen by a member of the laity.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Fifth Communion Service

Today provided an experience in something completely new to me: singing the Fifth Communion Service.

When we few showed up for the Schola Cantorum at 9 AM this morning, Fr. Daniel announced we'd be practicing something called "The Fifth Communion Service"? I wondered what that was but explanation was quick in coming.

Every church I've attended, when they sang portions of Holy Communion, they always sang it the same way. Looking at one of the older Hymnals around the house I see they chose the Merbecke form though there were a few alternatives. However, Fr. Daniel noted that there was supplemental material added to the 1940 Hymnal in 1960 and again around 1975. Our new Hymnals have that material appended.

Looking this afternoon at one of the two new Hymnals we purchased for the upcoming Lay Reader Training and Parish Leadership Retreat this September, I see that there are indeed additional forms, labeled the Fifth Communion Service through the Eighth (apparently added in 1960 -- and in the second set of supplemental tunes I was startled to see that "Amazing Grace" had been added!).

So in this morning's service the parish was going to sing the Fifth Communion Service, specifically the Kyrie, the Sanctus and Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei, in settings arranged by Leo Sowerby (1957). (Hymns 747, 799, and 749.) This was not going to be familiar to the church so the Schola Cantorum would learn it, practice, and provide support from wherever our group's members were seated in the congregation.

After learning about the life of Leo Sowersby, we started in. The material was not difficult, though pitched a bit high for me. Normally I could reach it, but lately I've been having trouble; the attempt can make me feel like I'm choking. So I'm afraid I wasn't much help this morning, but the church did pretty well.

I just hope my voice clears up before we start working on the Choral Evensong.


  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Anglican Parish Priest said…

    This Service is very beautiful, lyrical and attainable. It should enter the standard repertoire of traditional Anglican parishes alongside the setting of Merbecke/Martin and that of Healy Willan.

    More especially because Merbecke was British and Willan was Canadian...but Leo Sowerby was one of our own...from Chicago!

    One of the charming features of the Fifth Service by Sowerby is the subtle working in of some of the American sounds of jazz and blues harmony, tempered within the general harmonic framework of the Classical style. A word I would almost use to describe is neo-Impressionist, for Debussy was himself influenced by American Jazz. These sounds are the soundtrack of American life, such that we almost don't notice them anymore.

    Rest assured we are not talking here about a "jazz Eucharist" or anything like that - we are still in the 1940 Hymnal. It is still a very conservative Service with simple melodies. Yet the harmonies of the accompaniment are just a bit more exciting than the wonderbread First Communion Service of Merbecke/Martin (which I love, too).

  • At 6:07 PM, Blogger Continuing Home said…

    I concur: this was NOT a "jazz Eucharist" (shuddering, based on my memories of folk masses) but a beautiful service that I enjoyed even if my voice didn't.


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