The Choir Corner: Schubert's German Mass for Lent

As the old hymn and anthem alludes, during Lent our Alleluias “for a time we must forgo.” The same is true for our Gloria in Excelsis, which the prayer book rubrics forbid in Advent and Lent.

To change the musical mood to go along with the liturgical change of season, we will once again be doing the Deutsche Messe-German Mass by the late Classical/early Romantic Period Viennese composer Franz Peter Schubert. Schubert died in 1828 at the age of 31, only a year after his musical idol, Beethoven. Although he wrote in most genres, he wrote more lieder (songs and song cycles) than anything else. Probably the one you know best is his “Ave Maria” which is published in the original German, with a Sir Walter Scott English poem and the standard Latin text all included.

This mass setting was written for congregational use, and the late Richard Proulx arranged the entire work for modern English use. We use the Kyrie (y’all should know that is the “Lord Have Mercy”), the Sanctus (Holy, Holy Holy) and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God.) The hymn-like texture of the part writing makes this popular with choirs and congregations. Proulx was a prolific composer and musical mentor serving at the Roman Catholic cathedral in Chicago, who was received into the Anglican Communion almost on his deathbed. Among those he mentored in composition was Greenwood’s own William Bradley Roberts, who taught Peter at Virginia Seminary.