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March 31, 2014

Choral Music for the Season | April 2014

Choral Music for the Season

Motets for Pentecost can be wonderful additions to choral repertoire

The cathedral where I am director of music has wonderful acoustics. It is reasonably live, with a slightly more than three-second reverb, but not so live that the delay is problematic. The acoustics lend themselves magnificently to unaccompanied choral motets—so much so that most of my choir’s Lenten choral repertoire is unaccompanied polyphony from the Renaissance era. While I would never diminish the importance of such repertoire, I always strive to find new, well-crafted music to supplement the choral gems by Palestrina, Victoria, and Byrd. My choir can be a bit particular and leery of newly composed music. Although I value their opinions, I certainly don’t let them dictate the repertoire we sing. Besides, you really can have too much of a good thing. The following motets for Pentecost have become wonderful additions to our choral repertoire. I hope you will find them useful to your choral programs as well.

Angela Westhoff-Johnson

Angela Westhoff-Johnson
Managing Music Editor for OCP
and music director at St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland, Oregon


Come, O Holy Spirit, Come: Sequence for Pentecost by Randall DeBruyn

Using the verbatim English text from the Roman Missal, this setting by Randall DeBruyn captures the essence and strength of the Pentecost Sequence entirely! The Pentecost Sequence is one of two sequences that are required in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). Easter is the other. I’m excited to have this newly composed setting for SATB choir as an option to the chant. Written in mixed meter with the quarter note remaining constant, the piece clips along with fire and spirit. Two trumpets and organ (or piano) further add to the joyous, Renaissance-like feel. While it isn’t overly demanding for a medium-skilled SATB choir, proper rehearsal is necessary to effectively tell the story, mostly because of the mixed meter and brisk tempo. With its driving rhythm, the piece makes a thrilling segue to the Gospel acclamation and proclamation of the Gospel on Pentecost Sunday (the sequence is never used at the Pentecost Vigil). Randall DeBruyn has also set the sequence for the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. That piece is titled “Laud, O Zion”.

Difficulty Level: Medium | Voicing: SATB, Descant

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Spirit of God by Robert LeBlanc

This piece was composed for and sung at the April 17, 2008, papal Mass for Pope Benedict XVI in Washington, D.C. Crafted in a chant-like style, this choral anthem for SATB choir and organ, with an optional oboe part, is strong in many ways. The text by Timothy Dudley-Smith is brilliant, and the marriage of text and music is particularly sound. Interestingly, the composer begins with SATB part writing on the first verse and ends the piece with a unison verse four. This compositional approach allows the intensity of the text to stand out and be truly understood. To capture the chant-like feeling, LeBlanc uses mixed meters, alternating between 5/8, 7/8, 3/4, and 2/4. While it’s not terribly difficult, proper rehearsal time will ensure the accuracy—of notes, rhythms, and text—that this piece deserves. Useful not only at Pentecost, “Spirit of God” is appropriate at confirmations, ordinations, and rites of religious profession.

Difficulty Level: Medium | Voicing: No Assembly Edition

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