Kyrie Eleison

The rumors are not true; I did not quit my blog in disgrace after finding out that I (Tess) was a Hufflepuff.  I’ve just been busy doing things like writing and conditionally passing my PhD comprehensive exams.  (Yes, I know a Ravenclaw would have gotten a high pass.)  I do plan to return to a more regular blogging frequency, and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say about my summer activities, including my upcoming trip to LeakyCon Portland!!!

Today, I wanted to give you a devotional meditation in music, but I found out that I need to upgrade to a paid version of WordPress to insert music files into my posts, and that’s a step I’m not sure I’m ready to take.  So I’m just going to give you track titles and you can look them up if you care to.

Kyrie Eleison means “Lord, have mercy” in Greek.  The phrase, along with Christe Eleison (“Christ, have mercy”), is used frequently in Christian liturgy and often set to music.  (There’s a Wikipedia article if you want all the technical details.)  This week I realized that I have five versions of the Kyrie in my iTunes library, and not a single one of them is that Mr Mister song that you’ve probably heard (though I do enjoy that song).  The five settings of the prayer that I have are radically different and illustrate the universality through time and through the world of the need to rely on God’s mercies, which, as Lamentations 3 says, are “new every morning.”  Yes, as we learned in Awana, mercy is “God not giving me the punishment I deserve,” but mercy is not just something we receive once at salvation; we need it every day.  Great is his faithfulness.

So here is a list of the five Kyries that I listen to often.  I hope you can find them and listen to them; let me know if you have any trouble.

1. Palestrina, Missa Assumpta est Maria–“Kyrie”

Palestrina was a 16th-century composer of sacred music.  This piece is for unaccompanied choir.  It’s beautiful in a vaulted-stone-church kind of way.  It reminds me of Christmas.

2. Mozart, Requiem in D Minor, K 626–“Kyrie, Kyrie”

This piece was written to be sung at rich people’s funerals, and that’s pretty much what it sounds like.  Unlike the Palestrina version, this one is orchestrated.  It’s dark, imposing, and sounds like it should be played at the climax of a dramatic film.  (Ok, so I’m not a music critic!)

3. Fernando Ortega, “Kyrie I,” from the album Come Down O Love Divine

Fernando Ortega is, hands down, my favorite “contemporary Christian” solo artist (don’t get the wrong idea from that descriptor), and I really love this 2011 album, which combines instrumental pieces, choral numbers, traditional hymns, new settings of parts of the liturgy, and even a clip from a Billy Graham sermon.  This opening track on the album features a very contemporary-sounding tune, but it’s still quiet and reverential, and it showcases Fernando’s wonderful voice and piano-playing.

4. Fernando Ortega, “Kyrie II” (same album)

On the other hand, this is a brief a capella choir piece in which Fernando’s voice isn’t heard at all (unless he’s in the choir).  Stylistically, it harks back to the Palestrina version.  It isn’t my favorite choral piece on this album (that distinction goes to the “Sanctus”), but it’s still lovely.

5. David Crowder Band, “God Have Mercy (Kyrie Eleison),” from Give Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [The Happiest of All Keys])

This one was also written for a requiem, but it couldn’t possibly be any more different from the Mozart version.  It’s one of those mid-tempo but beat-driven songs that you can’t quite dance to but can sort of do a seated groove to.  As you’d expect from a Crowder Band song, it has all kinds of experimental electronic sounds, plus a few additional lyrics, but the essential prayer is still there.  I absolutely love this album, by the way; it was one of my favorites of 2012.  Don’t let the highly parenthetical title deter you.  Oh, by the way, the very next track after “God Have Mercy” is  a Johnny Cash cover.  No kidding.

Well, if you listen to any of the music, let me know what you think!