For this task, I created a choral piece entitled, ‘A Prayer During Change’, praying to Saint Angela Merici, as ‘…a woman of foresight and courage who enjoined her successors to make changes according to the needs of the time.’ (The Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020), for guidance and strength during ‘… times of change’. The piece explores the theme of transitioning, reflecting on challenges faced by the Merici Community during 2020, and highlighting how, whilst confronting, periods of transition facilitate growth and flourishing.
Throughout the piece’s creation, an important consideration was its lyrics, the prayer responding to the disappointment and stress of Merici’s Community due to the changes of the coronavirus pandemic, such as, ‘… postponement or cancellation of school events… remote learning… closure of schools…’ (Wholley, 2020), reassuring that all will happen ‘…according to God’s plan.’, echoing the Bible verse; "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11). As 2020 also increased the importance of supporting others, the lyrics echo Catholic Social Teachings of Solidarity and Dignity of the Human Person; ‘…committing oneself to… the good of all and of each individual’ (Paul, 1987), by inspiring listeners to ‘…overcome our fear of change in order to… allow others to follow… God’s call’. (Caritas Australia, 2020a; Caritas Australia, 2020b). The appeal to Angela Merici is particularly effective, the Saint, who ‘…was not afraid of change’, inspiring strength, whilst connecting the song to Merici College, referencing its Mission Statement and 2020 Theme, as, ‘…to build futures more wondrous than we dare to dream’ (Merici College, 2020), we must ‘…overcome our fear of change.’
Change is further explored through the piece’s structure, reflecting the transitions of 2020, beginning with a Gregorian-chant-like melody, evoking familiarity, then contrasting with the introduced harmonies and rhythms, mimicking the year’s chaos and uncertainty. The disarray is reinforced through each part’s varying rhythms, basses moving with slow minims, contrasting with the tenors’ and altos’ quicker crotchets, demonstrating how, amid the complexities of 2020, we have experienced; ‘… a peculiar paradox of pandemic times: Every day is interminable, yet the hours fly by’ (MacLellan, 2020). Eventually, the chaotic mood is replaced by unison chord progressions praying for ‘…help… to overcome our fear of change’, representing clarity and acceptance, followed by a return to the original melody, asserting that, whilst initially confronting, many changes of 2020, such as ‘Slowing down and putting less pressure on ourselves… prioritizing family and friends… [and] reducing consumerism.’ (Samuel, 2020), are positive. Furthermore, the piece’s production, layering individually recorded lines, tributes the challenges of musicians throughout 2020, reflecting the methods used to make music during lockdowns.
To ensure this piece possessed components of worthy art, described in Built of Living Stones, I chose the medium of song, as, through its increased accessibility and ability ‘…to communicate deep meaning and powerful religious sentiment with grace and sensitivity…’ (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, 2000), the piece serves the Church by evangelising God’s comfort to a wider audience, whilst fulfilling ‘… the need to articulate the faith in ways proper to each age and to diverse cultures.’ (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, 2000) (Credo Evangelisation and Renewal, 2012; Francis, 2015). Furthermore, the piece assumes a meditative role, its prayerful chanting and slow melodies inspiring prayer and reflection by ‘… enhancing the liturgical, devotional, and contemplative [mood]…’ (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, 2000), and repeated lyrics focussing listeners, inspiring them to help others, thus ‘…drawing the People of God into a deeper awareness of their lives and of their common goals as a Christian community as well as of their roles and responsibilities in the wider world.’ (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, 2000).
Throughout my creative process, I am most proud of how I have drawn on 2020 experiences, creating a piece that musically reflects its complexities and challenges, whilst conveying hope. Although facing challenges in ensuring the song classified as ‘worthy art’, I believe my piece evangelically serves the Church, providing comfort and inspiration.
Blessed Saint Angela Merici
You were not afraid of change,
You did not let stereotypes keep you from serving.
Please pray for us in this time of change.
Help us to overcome our fear of change,
In order to follow God’s call,
And help others to follow theirs
According to God’s plan.
- Adapted from Catholic Online, 2020
Imogene Blake, Class of 2020