We hadn’t used the John Merbecke setting in quite a while, and it was strikingly effective when the children began singing it at Mass yesterday. Our music takes a more somber route during Lent, and certainly this fits the bill. In 1550 Thomas Cranmer, the author of The Book of Common Prayer, had asked Merbecke to provide service music "containing so much of the Order of Common Prayer as is to be sung in Churches". It was to be simple and able to be sung by everyone, and the requirement was "for every syllable a note."
Musically it’s not terribly exciting, but that’s the point of using it during this season. It’s tuneful but not overwhelming, and it almost sings itself. Joined with the pure voices of children, it makes a nice change for these penitential days.