258. Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us

Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

Text Information
First Line: Lord, have mercy upon us
Title: Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us
Meter: PM
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Confession and Forgiveness; Confession of Sin; Forgiveness (2 more...)
Source: Kyrie, from early Christian liturgies
Tune Information
Composer: Healy Willan (1928)
Meter: PM
Key: E♭ Major
Copyright: © 1928, Oxford University Press

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. = Matt. 20:30, Ps. 51:1, Ps. 57:1

The Kyrie translates into English as follows:

Kyrie eleison; Lard, have mercy;
Christe eleison; Christ, have mercy;
Kyrie eleison. Lard, have mercy.

This ritual song dates from early Greek (Eastern) Christian liturgies and has retained its Greek text in the Latin (Western) rite. In the Eastern tradition the Kyrie is still used in its initial capacity, as a response in litanies. By the end of the eighth century in the Roman (Western) church, the Kyrie was used as a separate song, often in a nine-fold form–a three-time repetition of its three lines, in which the priest uttered the first line, the congregation or (more likely) a choir responded with the second, and the priest responded with the third. The Kyrie became part of the Ordinary (the unvarying parts) of the Roman Catholic Mass, chanted at the very beginning of the service.

Some liturgies of the Reformation continued to use the Kyrie in connection with confession of sin or with the reading of the Ten Commandments. Like other ancient biblical and liturgical expressions (such as "amen," "alleluia," "hosanna," "maranatha"), the Kvrie is a prayer that ties us to Christians from all times and places.

Liturgical Use:
As a sung prayer for mercy in the service of confession and forgiveness; as part of a litany, sung after each petition (as in the oldest traditions); as a frame around spoken prayers.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

The music for this short prayer is just one segment from the Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena, an Anglican service composed by Healey Willan (b. Balham, Surrey, England, 1880; d. Toronto, ON, Canada, 1968) in 1928 and named in honor of Saint Mary Magdalene Church in Toronto, where Willan served as organist and choirmaster for forty-seven years. The Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee assigned the title WILLAN KYRIE to this piece in honor of its composer. Willan composed his Missa in D major for unison voices with simple organ accompaniment. Sing in unison with a clear but light organ tone.

Willan spent his early years in England as a student from 1888 to 1895 at St. Saviour Choir School in Eastbourne and later as organist and choirmaster for several churches in and near London. In 1913 he became head of the music theory department for the conservatory of the University of Toronto. Thus began a long and distinguished career with that university, where he was influential as a teacher of composition and university organist and choral conductor. Willan retired in 1950. An outstanding composer, he wrote for orchestra, piano, organ, and voice. He was the musical director for the Hart House Theater and wrote incidental music for fifteen plays.

Willan's contribution to church music was equally impressive. He served as organist-choirmaster at St. Paul Anglican Church (1913-1921) and at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (1921-1968), both in Toronto. He promoted the use of plainsong through¬out his career. In addition to his organ preludes Willan wrote liturgical music, motets, anthems, and some thirty hymn tunes. A number of those tunes, as well as settings of biblical canticles and harmonizations of plainsong melodies, were first published in The Hymnary of the United Church of Canada (1930) and The Book of Common Praise (1938) of the Anglican Church in Canada. Willan was also music editor of The Hymnbook for Children (1962).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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