One of the most important composers of the twentieth century, Olivier Messiaen wrote fairly little for choir, and even less in terms of actual liturgical music. Though much of Messiaen’s music is Christian in content, this is his only liturgical motet; with characteristic eccentricity, the composer believed that plainsong (what we call Gregorian Chant) was the perfect, unsurpassable, music with which the liturgy should be adorned. The unaccompanied motet O sacrum convivium is an early work, reveling in static chromaticism, rejecting the forward momentum typical of most diatonic music. This static, in-the-moment harmonic structure lends the work a fervently devotional quality, turning the choir into one large pipe organ and embracing gently dissonant stacked chords, ensuring the music is sophisticated but never alienating, static but never stuck.

The text is a celebration of the communion of Christ’s feast, which dovetails with today’s reading, the parable of the Great Banquet. May the focus on humility found in that parable find resonance in the prayerful, static humility of Messiaen’s humble setting.

Next weekend is a big one, as we launch the Music at Trinity Concert Series, after more than a year of planning. I want to thank my committee members Jim Glenn, Reta Phifer, and Myra Griffie for their help and support – it takes a lot of work to get these things off the ground! We hope you’ll join us for the University of Virginia’s Glee Club in concert on Saturday, March 9 at 7:30pm. No tickets are required – a free-will offering will be taken.