Celebrating Reformation with Divine Service, Setting Five

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By the Rev. Will Weedon

LCMS Director of Worship, International Center Chaplain

No question that Divine Service, Setting Five in Lutheran Service Book (LSB), is an outstanding choice for Reformation Day. But musically, it can be very exhausting for the congregation to sing. The hymn paraphrases of the ordinary tend to be longer and simply require more energy. Is there a way to lighten the load on the congregation that still lets the wonderful ordinary of this Divine Service stay intact?

Indeed there is. Following are three ways to lighten up the burden of congregational song in this service:

Kyrie

The Kyrie for Divine Service, Setting Five is found at LSB 942. If you have three voices (soprano, alto, tenor or bass work nicely), have them sing it as follows:

In parts: Kyrie

Soprano solo: God, Father in heaven above, You abound in grace and love, Of all things the maker and preserver.

In parts: Eleison, eleison!

In parts: Kyrie

Tenor/bass solo: O Christ, our King! Salvation for all You came to bring. O Lord Jesus, God’s own Son, our mediator at the heav’nly throne: Hear our cry and grant our supplication.

In parts: Eleison, eleison!

In parts: Kyrie

Alto solo: O God the Holy Ghost, Guard our faith, the gift we need the most, And bless our life’s last hour, That we leave this sinful world with gladness.

In parts: Eleison, eleison!

A simple parts setting for the Kyrie is found in the old The Lutheran Hymnal, hymn 6. If this is done without accompaniment, the free flow of the words is actually strengthened and the prayer nature of the Kyrie heightened.

Gloria in Excelsis

Many worship planners, aware of voice exhaustion, automatically opt for the shorter version here, the Decius setting, LSB 947. But Luther’s paraphrase, LSB 948, is actually closer to the prose text of the Gloria. A simple way to sing this is to alternate phrases:

Men: All glory be to God alone,

Women: Forevermore the highest one,

Men: Who did our sinful race befriend

Women: And grace and peace to us extend.

Men: Among us may His gracious will

Women: All hearts with deep thanksgiving fill.

All: We praise You, God, Your name we bless

Solo: And worship You in humbleness;

All: From day to day we glorify

Solo: The everlasting God most high.

All: Of Your great glory do we sing,

Solo: And to Your throne our thanks we bring, etc.

The hymn works very well this way, and the organist or musicians can underscore the antiphonal nature of the song by playing it antiphonally as well, perhaps with the organ introducing and the piano answering.

Sanctus

The Sanctus in Divine Service, Setting Five is LSB 960, “Isaiah, Mighty Seer.” This piece also begs for a bit of antiphonal treatment, but it really shines when it is offered along these lines:

Choir women: Isaiah, mighty seer in days of old,

Choir men: The Lord of all in spirit did behold

Choir women: High on a throne, in splendor bright,

Choir men: With robes that filled the temple courts with light.

Choir men: Above the throne were flaming seraphim;

Choir women: Six wings had they, these messengers of Him.

Choir men: With two they veiled their faces as was right,

Choir women: With two they humbly hid their feet from sight,

Choir men: And with the other two aloft they soared;

Choir women: One to the other called and praised the Lord:

Full organ, bells, choir and congregation:

“Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!

Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!

Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!

His glory fills the heavens and the earth!”

Choir women: The beams and lintels trembled at the cry,

Choir men: And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high.

In places where the elevation continues in use, we might note that Luther particularly praised it being done during this singing of this hymn (see AE 53:82, “We do not want to abolish the elevation, but retain it because it goes well with the German Sanctus”). The Lord’s body and blood would be elevated at the commencement of the words “Holy is God …” through the conclusion of “… and the earth!”

Conclusion

With a simple assist from cantors or choir, any of the above suggestions allow the congregation to “catch a breather” as it enjoys the wonderful and rich music of the traditional Lutheran Chorale Mass on Reformation, or any other Sunday!

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One Response to Celebrating Reformation with Divine Service, Setting Five

  1. James Roemke October 30, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    We used these rubrics almost verbatim at my parish for the Feast of the Reformation (the only thing we changed was the Kyrie, we used Kyrie II, LSB 944) and it was a beautiful witness to the Word and Sacraments God graciously gives! Thank you for the advice on making the congregational singing easier as well as beautiful!