Saturday, 24 May 2008

Thomas Aquinas' Corpus Christi Sequence Lauda Sion

Big dilemma at the moment. I am on music in my local parish tomorrow morning. Its Corpus Christi and the question is: Do I dare to sing the Sequence, Lauda Sion?

Now, Lauda Sion is a very tricky text. There are a few English translations (The one in the missal is dreadful, but this one is better).

The problems are principally the following:

1) it is extremely long (24 verses!)

2) the 8.8.8 metre is unusual, and it goes pear-shaped at verse 19 ( and then again at verses 23 and 24 ( there are no well known tunes to sing it too

3) None of the English translations are modern, and some are really twee (eg. "the very music of the breast") or tortured ("We break the Sacrament; but bold / and firm thy faith shall keep its hold; / Deem not the whole doth more unfold / than in the fractured part resides") or simply grating ("the bread for God's true children meant, that may not unto dogs be given"--I know the biblical allusion, but can one actually sing this?)

4) No Catholic hymnal I possess has any setting of it at all, not even the Adoremus Hymnal (I did find a translation to the original Gregorian tone in the New English Hymnal and a paraphrase by Alexander Ramsay Thompson in the Australain Lutheran Hymnal).

Given all this, it is no wonder that no one knows the damn thing. Yet the Liturgy Office of England and Wales lists it in their draft "Core Music Repertoire" (which is quite a neat document in itself).

Now, here's the rub. Do I dare to sing it tomorrow morning? My parish priest usually likes a bit of music or something solo during the offertory instead of a hymn, so this would be a perfect opportunity to stick it in as a solo piece. In Latin? Or in English?

PS. While doing this blog, I came across this Spanish(?) site that has all the missal texts for the Sundays of this year on it in easy printing PDF form. Check it out!


Ruth said...

What did you plump for in the end? Given that there are no settings of Lauda Sion available, did you cleverly improvise?

I ask this because in our parish we sing the sequences at Easter and Pentecost but have never sung the Corpus Christi sequence. This year it was read by a reader who unfortunately did not do it justice, which has prompted me to start early the quest for a musical setting. Any recommendations are welcome.

Schütz said...

I notice that Richard Proulx has done a setting of the sequence. I haven't seen it, but most of his stuff is good and accessible. Here's the link to a site you can buy it from:

Otherwise, for a perfectly good English translation to the traditional plainsong, see:

But for Congregational singing, I don't know what. Perhaps Proulx's setting has a congregational response to the usual gregorian verses for a schola. That is his normal style. It might be the solution.