Corpus Christi Church has a long, continuous tradition of fostering the Church’s rich heritage of inspiring liturgy and music, reaching back nearly seventy years to the dedication of the present church building in 1936. As recounted by Rev. George Barry Ford, the pastor then, “There is no other Christian heritage so rich in appropriate and inspiring music as that possessed by the Catholic Church. In spite of this fact, most parishes spent little or no money on gaining the effective rendition of this priceless heritage. . . . To improve this situation we made a selection of choice hymns to use as our hymnbook, and a choir of some twenty-five boys and men were trained by a very competent choir director.”
Historically, Corpus Christi played a critical role in the Liturgical Revival after World War II. Here congregational “dialogue” participation was customary long before the American laity was used to taking a speaking, let alone a chanting, part in the celebration of the Mass.
While there have been some changes over the years—an adult professional choir of nine men and women replaced the boys’ choir over thirty years ago—the parish has continued to foster a rich and full liturgy. For more than thirty years a small choir of gifted professional singers has performed the music under the direction of Louise Basbas, providing Gregorian chant, polyphonic works from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical repertories, and new works commissioned from eminent contemporary composers, all as an integral part of the worship. The congregation, as well, is actively engaged, singing hymns, the Ordinary of the Mass, and other chants from the Liber Cantualis.
Besides Mass with choir every Sunday at 11:15 and every holy day throughout the year, Corpus Christi observes with even greater solemnity the liturgies of Christmastide, Holy Week, and Easter. The Holy Week services in particular are richly celebrated and include evening and morning services of a restored order for the ancient office of Tenebrae. Unique events like Christmas Midnight Mass, Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, and the Easter Vigil combine the solemn Mass with choir and the Spanish Mass in a bilingual and bicultural expression of unity.
This liturgical and musical tradition has made Corpus Christi Church known and respected well beyond its neighborhood and city.