Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

I had an occasion last week to work with a large choir from a high school in Pennsylvania, listening to them sing some wonderful repertoire, tasked with making any observations and comments that might prove helpful as they prepared for a competition. It was an excellent 100+ member choir from a large public high school and they were completely attentive to their marvelous conductor.  Such a great pleasure to hear them and to see the obvious commitment and joy that singing brought to their lives.

One of the pieces they sang for me was a setting of the liturgical text Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) by a young Norwegian-American composer, Ola Gjeilo. I asked if they knew what the piece was about and a few knew that Sanctus translates as “holy”, but no one connected the elaborate setting they were singing to anything that might be sung in church every week, though more than a few were undoubtedly also singing in their church choirs at home. I found myself explaining that the richness of the chords they were singing in the Gjeilo setting were a wonderful representation of this central part of the liturgy, when the people join their minds and hearts and voices together with the “Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven..”  The piece is linked below, and I think on hearing it you’ll understand exactly what I was saying.  I think they got it too.

As I further reflected on this notion of the Sanctus as the central point of liturgy, I saw liturgy in an hourglass shape – something akin to a George Herbert shaped poem [Herbert shape poem]. The Sanctus to me feels like a moment when heaven and earth come together, a momentary awareness of true communion.

Coming from every direction, the people gather in church
Liturgy of the word and sermon
Creed and Prayers
Eucharistic Prayer
The people partake in communion
Renewed and fed, the people disperse into the world




This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

  1. Bob Sellery says:

    Congratulations Sonya, on being sought out for your expertise from a place away from Washington.

  2. Jo says:

    This is lovely — Eric Whitaker-y — and so is the hourglass image of our worship.

  3. twylafultz says:

    Sonya, this piece is sublime. . .thank you for sharing. . .xxxooo Twyla

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