Seóirse Bodley: Three Congregational Masses

Carysfort Press, 2005

This book is a critical edition of Bodley’s three congregational masses – Mass of Glory, Mass of Joy and Mass of Peace. It provides revised performance editions of each of the three masses, which were long out of print. It also provides a scholarly introduction to Bodley’s congregational masses, including an informed reading of the structures of liturgical rites, the resources of musical liturgiology and aesthetics, compositional challenges posed by the mass text, analytical readings of each of Bodley’s three masses and performance practice guidelines for each score. 

“To the extent that many of the styles employed in English-language Catholic worship today are dialects of the same larger musical language (in terms of harmonic vocabulary or rhythmic organization), Seóirse Bodley’s Congregational Masses are, in one sense, unusual in that the harmonic vocabulary is informed by the melodic idioms of traditional Irish Music, and there is a subtle awareness of the psychology of certain harmonic progressions. At the same time the composer’s cultural reshaping of spiritual expression draws on a rich musical tradition. In the early liturgies of the church, national character was present in the use of Greek and Byzantine musical forms and, as we move into Christianity’s third millennium, it is helpful to remember when performing these masses, that all worship is culturally conditioned. In these masses Seóirse Bodley composer draws on the past while at the same time employing the art and cultural expressions of the present. In this respect he has at once continued the liturgical tradition while at the same time reflecting on the new laws and requirements of the liturgy. [ …]

There exists a characteristic ethos of Catholic liturgical music that elaborates the sacramental mysteries in a manner attentive to the public and transcendent character of religion, rather than in styles of music that are overly personalized. The merit of these masses is that the composer has retained aspects of his personal style while at the same time drawing on the musical memory of the people. There is dialogue between liturgy and its cultural context as new forms and styles grow organically from extant forms. Or to borrow Thomas Merton’s words, ‘Liturgy is an action in which people express who they are, and who they wish to become.’ Two words need to be kept in mind when considering the reception of these masses: origin and permanence. Musically Seóirse Bodley’s masses fulfill both: they acknowledge the origin of the people and have, in turn, become a truly worthy part of the Irish Church’s musical heritage.”

Extract from Prof. Lorraine Byrne Bodley, Preface

“It is a pleasure to welcome the republication of Seóirse Bodley’s vernacular Mass trilogy, now with the addition of a scholarly preface by Lorraine Byrne Bodley which places the music in the context of contemporary theological/liturgical debate. Bodley’s Mass of Peace has been with us now since the 1970s and has certainly stood the test of time in terms of dignity of utterance, simplicity of style and immediate accessibility for general congregational usage. The two other Masses are as rewarding and have the capacity to become equally beloved of the worshipping community.”

Prof. Gerard Gillen
Emeritus Professor of Music, Maynooth University & Titular Organist of Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral

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