Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Ah, yes! The periodically mandatory funeral request line rant!

Had a funeral this morning. Won't say where, but had to bite the usual bullets:

Be not afraid
Here me is, Lawd
Schubert Ave

Phone conversation with the secretary the other day:
Secretary: Oh, and "The Ave Maria"
iSNARK!: Which one?
Secretary: The original one.
iSNARK!: You know the original "Ave Maria" is Gregorian Chant, right?

(Now of course I should have just said "OK" and gone ahead and done the Mode I, right? No! I had to open my big flappin' yap! So, here come the consequences!)

Secretary: Oh, I should have said, "the most popular one."
iSNARK!: Ah, I thought so!

Of course anything like "the most popular one" and "the one you hear a lot on TV" (think Dixie Carter in a "Designing Women" episode I once saw back in the 1980's) will lead to the Schubert. I don't mind it so much, just that it's overdone. I've played it in a fistful of keys (F, G, A-flat, B-flat, and even C) to accompany singers from all ranges. When I'm singing from the console, I play it in G (after all, I'm a bass). But now, what if "the most popular one" on TV is Schubert, but the most popular Ave in your parish is really the Arcadelt? or the Victoria? or one haphazardly written by the deceased or by the soloist herself, Aunt Mabel?

A few people over the years have once told me I should assume the Schubert by default, but I don't. There are so many Ave Maria settings out there, and a good number of them ARE high quality (read "dignified for use in Catholic worship"). While, again, I'm not saying that the Schubert is bad, it certainly isn't the original (that was about six centuries before Schubert's), and many times I have gotten compliments after a funeral Mass on another Ave - again, usually the Arcadelt or Victoria. (I know, the Victoria's really meant to be sung SATB a capella, but I've successfully reduced it to a very lightly accompanied baritone solo!) :-)

We can call my conversation with that particular secretary a "pastoral" moment - not because I gave them the Schubert Ave, but because I just gave that secretary a lesson on what the REAL original Ave Maria is. Remember that "pastor" is Latin for "shepherd" (read "teacher", "leader"), not "a yes man".

Oh - and another bullet to be bitten: Recessional: Let There Be Peas and Carrots on Earth! (BLECH!) Of all things! And I've heard someone actually call it a Christmas song. Yeah? Since when?! It's not a Christmas song (just because Vince Gill recorded his rendition with some kids for his own Christmas album), and it sure as hell isn't a funeral song!

The Missal has a recessional already prescribed for Funeral Masses. In fact, the Funeral Mass is the ONLY Mass to this day that has a set recessional. It's "In Paradisum". However, the intelligence seems to be to end with a metrical hymn of some sort. After all, in most places in these parts, the priest will usually SAY the first half of the "In Paradisum" in English just before he announces "In peace, let us take our sister Henrietta to her place of rest."

The rest of the Mass was left up to me. So, what does the iSNARK! decide upon? To put at least SOME dignity in the Mass, of course! Here's the rest of my lineup:

Psalm: My Shepherd is the Lord (Gelineau)
Alleluia from O Filii et Filiae with the "I am the resurrection and the life..." verse sung to tone 2D
Sanctus XVIII (which doubles as "pro Defunctis")
Memorial Acclamation: Christ Has Died (Sacramentary chant - it's in Worship)
Amen: adapted from the first line of Sanctus VIII (de Angelis)
Agnus Dei XVIII
Final Commendation: Saints of God (Proulx)

I was between the Proulx "Saints of God" and the Peloquin "I Believe that My Redeemer Lives", but I just didn't have it in me to try the high F on the last stanza. Maybe another time. :)

At least if the funeral were to be Extraordinary Form, I wouldn't have to worry so much about options. Everything's set in place for you!



Robin said...

Does no one ever ask for the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria? (Would you approve if they did?)


Brian Michael Page said...

Hardly ever. If I do sing it, I sing it low - like, key of C.