As I read through the Triduum feedback forms, one sentence made me pause and caused my spirits to rise.

Ever since the end of lockdown, when I was asked to lead the music and aspects of the liturgy for the Paschal Triduum, I have been giving these forms to those involved in the planning and ‘delivery’ of the liturgies as well as some members of the congregation.

The planning group met in mid-January, though my own planning had been going on at a gentler pace for 12 months.  At that meeting, we discussed new, improved procedures, established who was responsible for what, and then went our separate ways to fulfil our roles.  There was a further meeting between myself, the Parish Priest and the Deacon for some of the finer details.  Meanwhile, we all kept in touch via a chat room.

Our numbers and singing are such that we cannot entirely dispense with instrumentation between the two Glorias of Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil.  So, although we don’t use the organ, we do have a small ensemble of musicians with instruments such as violin, cello, flute and clarinet to support the congregation; and, to be honest, that ensemble did enhance the liturgy greatly.  But psalmists and cantors were unaccompanied – it has taken a few years to build up that confidence.  Rehearsals with choir, soloists and musicians meant that the music very much enhanced the liturgies.

We have made a greater use of this year of the processional chants, where an antiphon is sung by everyone but verses (usually psalm verses) are sung by two cantors.  We have used the Ubi caritas, in English, on Maundy Thursday for a while, as well as Chris O’Hara’s excellent My people, based on the Reproaches, on Good Friday.  But this year, we also sang communion processionals, mostly from John Ainslie’s English Proper Chants.  It was a little bit of a risk because communion songs are presently used at only one of the three Sunday Masses.  But feedback was very positive indeed, with words such as ‘beautiful’ and ‘prayerful’ being used to describe them.

My aim has been continually to develop our liturgies so that they truly reflect the Paschal Triduum as the highlight of the year for Christians: to enable a rich, liturgical experience so that our community can more deeply enter into the Paschal mysteries, and to be so well prepared that we avoid the mistakes and awkward pauses that can distract and detract.

We are certainly on the way to achieving that latter aim, as almost everyone commented on how smoothly everything ran.  But the sentence which made me appreciate we are on the way to achieving the first two aims was when a member of the congregation reflected, “there was a real feeling of worshipping as the family of God.”  That was good to read.

But I have already started to think about what we can do better next year.

Andrew Elliott has been music leader at his parish in Glossop, Derbyshire, since 2012 and a member of the Society of St Gregory since 2014; though he would describe himself as nothing more than an enthusiastic amateur.

Share This