Christ Cathedral


Original commissioned works comprise much of the music for Christ Cathedral’s July 17 Dedication

By Larry Urish     7/12/2019

The upcoming Dedication Mass of Christ Cathedral will mark the first time the Catholic Church’s new Rite of Dedication will be used to dedicate a cathedral in an English-speaking country. The Mass will include a number of new musical compositions commissioned for the event. 

Many of these pieces are important gifts to the entire English-speaking world who might be dedicating a church,” says Dr. John Romeri, the Diocese’s Director of Music Ministries.   

The Mass’s first song, “Let Us Go Rejoicing,” is rooted in Psalm 122. In 2017, Dr. Peter Latona, music director of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington, D.C., won a composition for his Introit and Communion processions, “Priests of God” and “Go Into All the World.”  

“When composing the Antiphon, I used ‘Priests of God’ as a model. I set out to compose a piece that would reflect the solemnity of the occasion, as well as the joy of dedicating this cathedral,” Dr. Latona says. “I gave a lot of attention to the verses sung by the choir, ensuring a variety of textures, some key changes and material reflected in the Psalm’s different verses.” 

Normand Gouin, associate music director at the Church of Holy Cross-St. John the Baptist, in Manhattan, composed pieces for The Mass Setting (Named the Mass of the Transfiguration, based upon the chants of the Roman Missal) – Kyrie, Gloria, Gospel Acclamation, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Amen, Agnus Dei; “Your Light Has Come, Jerusalem,” text from the Canticle of Tobit sung during the Festive Lighting of the Altar and the Church; and the Communion Antiphon, “Like Shoots of the Olive.” 

One of Gouin’s challenges involved writing for a large, multilingual community. He adds that, “What’s also unique is that there are few settings set for a choir, an assembly and an orchestra.  

“I based the setting of the Antiphon for the Festive Lighting in the Cathedral on a text from Isaiah and a Canticle found in the Book of Tobit,” Gouin says. “The Antiphon for the Reception of the Holy Communion is from Psalm 128. Both Antiphons involved taking something familiar and elevating them to reflect the joy that [the Dedication Mass] brings.” 

The composition for the Incensation of the Altar of the Church, from Psalm 138, was created by Julian Revie, associate director of music at the Center for Music and Liturgy at St. Thomas More Chapel, at Yale University.  

“My goal with this piece, and other pieces, is to weave the melodies of plainchant into a new kind of musical fabric that is both new and ancient,” Revie says. “A major challenge is timing. God is timeless and eternal. Chant is notated without a time signature, but I write pieces like this in modern notation, which is challenging to sing.”   

Revie adds: “For this piece, for the rising incense, I wanted to retain the rhythmic freedom of the core melody and allow it to shift back and forth between being felt in groups of two and groups of three beats, creating, I hope, the sensation that of the eternal that reflects the motion of the incense as it swirls and rises.” 

“The piece I wrote, for the Responsorial Psalm of the Day, is always based on Psalm 19 – about the Word of God,” says Fr. Jim Chepponis, director of the Office for Music Ministry for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Senior Parochial Vicar for two of the Diocese’s churches. 

“I saw that this psalm has divisions in its text,” Fr. Jim says. “The first section is composed of three verses. They’re statements about God’s law and descriptions of their effect. So the first three verses of the piece involve interplay between the cantor and choir. Verse 4 is a summary of the first three; I set that for the full choir. The last set of verses is presented for the psalmist’s direct, personal prayer, so I wrote this for an individual sound.”   

For the Dedication Mass’s Postlude, accomplished composer and organist Rachael Laurin was commissioned to write a song based on the fourth-century Gregorian hymn “Te Deum” (“Thee, O God, we praise”). 

“This old hymn has inspired so many musicians before me,” Laurin says. “It’s joyful and celebratory, with a lyrical, melodic theme in the middle. It’s a Thanksgiving piece to God. There are so many messages and meanings I want to convey in this piece, but it’s principally about gratitude.”  

Her work incorporates organ solos, brasses that introduce the “Te Deum” melody and a “jazzy twist that brings a spicy color to the Gregorian theme. I don’t think there are so many brasses, organ and timpani pieces composed on the Gregorian Te Deum. The way this old Gregorian theme is mixed with an original contemporary melody is quite unique.”  

Dr. Romeri notes that the Mass will include the Diocesan Choir of Orange, the Diocesan Children’s Choir and Christ Cathedral Choirs singing in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Assistant Director of Music David L. Ball will serve as organist, and Dr. Romeri will conduct all of the Dedication’s events.  

Music of the newly commissioned works is part of a new Commemorative CD produced by Gothic Records. Recorded by the choirs and orchestra in the Arboretum, it is available from any choir member or in the newly opened Christ Cathedral Gift Shop. 

The man leading the way throughout has done a stellar job, says Fr. Jim of the Pittsburg Diocese. But that’s no surprise. “John [Romeri] is one of the greatest pastoral musicians in the whole country.”