Photo courtesy of Juliana Lamb Photography

Both the pews and the choir loft were full at Most Precious Blood Parish this Ash Wednesday–the pews thanks to an invigorating, steady increase in the Latin Mass congregation in the Diocese of Pittsburgh; the loft thanks to the support of Dr. Vincent Rone and the Sacred Music department at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Under Dr. Rone’s direction, over 30 students joined their voices with the parish schola to sing the ordinary and proper chants of Ash Wednesday, as well as two sacred motets for Offertory and Communion.

A significant amount of chant accompanies this somber liturgy; notably four antiphons for the blessing and imposition of ashes, the Introit, Gradual/Tract, Offertory, and Communion proper chants, and the ferial Mass XVIII for the Ordinary of the Mass. These chants were distributed evenly between the male and female voices of the university and parish scholas, while both ensembles sang all together for the polyphony.

“Parce Domine” was performed as the Offertory motet, which fluidly incorporates chant verses with a 4-part (SATB) harmonized refrain. The text of the refrain is taken directly from the prophecy reading of Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel: “Spare, o spare Your people, Lord…” Its dark, lush, and penitential tone makes this piece a favored motet for Lent, and Ash Wednesday in particular.

One of the highlights of the evening was a moving arrangement of “Anima Christi” by Fr. Marco Frisina. The text of this hymn is often attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola, and paints a vivid picture of devotion to the Body, Blood, and Passion of Christ for the reparation and avoidance of sin. Soloists sang the successive verses, either completely unaccompanied or with the choir on non-textual syllables, while the refrain boasted a beautifully sorrowful 4-part harmony. Both motets shined as the parish and university choirs complemented each other with an elegant yet full sound of nearly 50 singers.

Please take a moment to listen to some live recordings of the music, complete with the authentic sounds of the Latin Mass. Many thanks to Dr. Vincent Rone, the Sacred Music department of Franciscan University, and of course the students that drove nearly an hour to dedicate their time and talent to make this a beautiful and memorable beginning to a blessed Lenten season!

Antiphon for the Blessing of Ashes: “Exaudi nos Domine” – Schola Cantorum Franciscana
Antiphon for the Imposition of Ashes: “Immutemur habitu” – Most Precious Blood Schola
Introit: “Misereris omnium Domine” – Schola Cantorum Franciscana
Mass XVIII: Kyrie – Schola Cantorum Franciscana and Most Precious Blood Schola
Tract: “Domine non secundum” – Most Precious Blood Schola
Parce Domine (Harmony A.G.M.) – Schola Cantorum Franciscana and Most Precious Blood Schola
Fr. Marco Frisina: Anima Christi – Schola Cantorum Franciscana and Most Precious Blood Schola

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