Singing the Mass

From the National Catholic Register:
Singing the Mass,” by Jeffrey Tucker.

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98 comments

  1. “…in 1969 the Consilium [the commission established to implement Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy] stated definitively that it is not fitting that hymns should replace the propers of the Mass”

    Let’s get back to V2 then. Aside from the now dated ICEL translation, this is the most troubling part of the post V2 liturgy that we must experience every Sunday and holy day. Give us back our propers please.

  2. JN, you’re misinformed. The relevant legislation is not what Consilium said 41 years ago. It is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. The GIRM clearly states that one may sing the proper chant or an “aptus cantus” – another song or hymn. Already in 1967 Musicam sacram no. 33 said, “It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.”
    awr

    1. +JMJ+

      I’m puzzled at the disconnect between the 1969 decision of the Consilium for implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium and what was then codified in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal a very short time later.

      Here’s an English translation of the 1969 response:

      That rule [permitting vernacular hymns] has been superseded. What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not “something”, no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the Mass. Because the liturgical service is one, it has only one countenance, one motif, one voice, the voice of the Church. To continue to replace the texts of the Mass being celebrated with motets that are reverent and devout, yet out of keeping with the Mass of the day amounts to continuing an unacceptable ambiguity: it is to cheat the people. Liturgical song involves not mere melody, but words, text, thought and the sentiments that the poetry and music contain. Thus texts must be those of the Mass, not others, and singing means singing the Mass not just singing during Mass.

      (The response was published in Italian in the Consilium’s official journal Notitiae 5 [1969] p. 406. An English translation appeared in the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy’s BCL Newsletter, August-September 1993.) [source]

    2. I know that Fr., the point was what the highly revered consilium wrote, not the GIRM. I think we all know that hymns are permitted, the question is whether they should substitute for the text of the Mass so regularly. It seems that things are upside down just now, the hymns, regulated to second choice in the GIRM (and MS) are seemingly perceived as having 1st place by many progressive liturgists. The renewal of V2 seems to be delayed in this area, our people are still unfamiliar with this important part of their own liturgy. I don’t think the liturgical movement envisioned the regulation of the propers to monasteries alone.

      1. Todd,

        #86 seems to suppose that the communion chant always takes place only made brief when a hymn follows, not eliminated entirely.

        That is what I’d like to see, the English or Latin propers used as often as possible with suitable hymns following whenever appropriate.

      2. I think that’s rather artificial. My preference would be to see more full psalm settings at Communion, or one of a set of, say, a dozen Eucharistic antiphons yoked to a psalm of praise.

        For the record, I dislike hymns at Communion. I think the dialogue structure of the propers is much more fitting.

  3. But Fr. Ruff, you too agree that propers are deserving of a high place in Mass, that even when replaced by hymns, the propers carry with them a kind of liturgical authority and priority over hymns however appropriate they may be.

  4. I think the biggest mistake of the GIRM is that is does not mandate the singing of the introit, offertory antiphon and communion antiphon or saying these in a spoken Mass. That clearly needs reforming. It is clear that there is an option to substitute a hymn. It shouldn’t be either or, but both if the congregation can’t sing the official antiphons.
    As of the First Sunday of Advent in our parish, after the entrance hymn, which is normally metrical and from our hymnal and once the priest arrives at the chair and prior to the sign of the Cross, the cantor or the choir chants the official Entrance Antiphon that is in the Roman Missal. They also chant the offertory antiphon and the communion antiphon as the priest receives Holy Communion. We still do hymns too, although our custom is not to sing a congregational hymn at the preparation of the gifts, only choir, solo or instrumental. Chanting the official texts of the Mass has illustrated for our congregation the unity that these antiphons bring to the Liturgy and how they fit rather nicely into the Scripture lessons of the day and/or the particular feast/solemnity celebrated.

    1. It is clear that there is an option to substitute a hymn.

      I wonder whether this truck-wide loophole —which has so widely resulted in replacement of the venerable propers of the Mass with campfire quality songs (which, however, no one would tolerate around a real campfire)—may well have done more than anything else to prevent the 1970 Mass from achieving in most typical parish practice the liturgical vision of Vatican II.

  5. I admire Jeffrey’s passion and optimism. Latching onto the propers and promoting them in such a tenacious and singular way, well: it can be admirable or shortsighted.

    It’s telling that so many defenders of the propers latch into the discussion as if it were a door number one or door number two choice. The reality is that among post-conciliar composers, the St Louis Jesuits were among the first to pattern their compositions on the propers in both structure (communal antiphon, plus a psalmist or schola on verses) and in the inspiration for the texts. (It was difficult to find a SLJ tune written before 1976 that wasn’t based on the Scripture–usually the psalms.)

    The 70’s publication of the propers as single Scripture verses devoid of context (with the psalm) and no musical settings doomed any thought of using them in the immediate post-conciliar years. Not to mention the prospect of programming two or three songs-of-the-week.

    Perhaps the biggest obstacle to their use today, especially in ordinary time, is that they are independently inserted as a one-year cycle into a Missal with a three-year Lectionary. Finding settings of the psalms or other Scriptures may be an improvement on the current propers, from the view of liturgical spirituality. I don’t feel I have a really in-depth familiarity with the Psalms, but in my programming congregational music, I can often think of psalms that harmonize better with the readings than what I’m given in the Sacramentary.

    Perhaps my biggest objection to Jeffrey’s approach is how casually he takes the importance of congregational singing, and how his supporters are unwilling to engage not only the GIRM, but the post-conciliar documentation on participation.

    As for the title of the interview, many of us working the trenches for the past three decades have indeed been singing the Mass: psalmody, acclamations, litanies, and music for the sacramental rites. I always welcome a latecomer to the party, but these singing-the-Mass gatecrashers are going to have to admit a lot has gone on in their absence.

  6. There is so much to comment on with Jeffrey’s article, but there is one quote that really steams me. When asked by the interviewer, what would Jeffrey say to people who are attracted to pop/rock and other styles of music, this is what Jeffrey says:

    “So far as I can tell, the only people who really argue this way are old people. It’s true that plenty of young people are not interested in true liturgical music, but those same people are not interested in Catholicism either. How do we draw people to the faith? By lying about it and substituting false teaching? I don’t think so. The faith draws people when it is not ashamed of itself and when it has the ring of truth.”

    O my gosh… this is so offensive on many levels. “Old people?” What in the world is being said here? Old People?… I cannot even begin to know how to respond to this. THEN – his rationalization that the young people who like more contemporary styles are really not interested in Catholicism – this shows how absolutely clueless he is in regards to the young church. Their “tastes” are all over the map – check out the popularity of The Catholic Youth Choir at St. John’s, the Music Ministry Alive program in St. Paul, the One Bread, One Cup program in Indiana, and scores of others – they love it all, and their Catholicism is VERY engaged. And the same is true with the Lifeteen movement (whether we like what they promote or not) – they are VERY engaged in their Catholicism.

    So these young people, and those who lead them in these programs and in parish music and youth ministry programs, according to Jeffrey, are lying and substituting false teaching. and are (or he thinks – they should be) ashamed of themselves.

    O my gosh… regardless of one’s stance on singing the propers vs. vernacular hymns and the related issues… comments such as these should make our blood boil. It is an insult to the many young people that I and so many others know, who are engaged, and passionate about their faith, as well as the liturgical life and prayer of the church.

    1. In his defense, Jeffrey has a narrow experience of liturgical music as young people experience it. His own stance that “only old people try to be hip” is as much a stereotype as “young people only like modern music” was in its day. It should be time to move away from this gunk, but after all, we do live in an age of catchy sound-bites. And if it sounds good, it must be true, n’est-ce pas?

      This is why, in part, the reform2 movement will probably make few converts. The thought that Advent 2011 makes for an ideal opportunity to implement the propers–in the middle of textual upheaval in the Order of Mass …

      1. Todd, if we stipulate that Jeffrey “has a narrow experience of liturgical music as young people experience it,” isn’t this equally true of your experience of liturgy in reform of the reform parishes? And yet you repeatedly bang on about the reform of the reform, e.g. “This is why, in part, the reform2 movement will probably make few converts.”

        Spend a few years in a reform of the reform parish ministry and then maybe we can talk. Or maybe we should accept this as a reductio of your indictment of Jeffrey’s lack of experience?

      2. Samuel, actually no. When I can get away from the parish, I’m a frequent visitor to monasteries–have been for three decades. I enjoy chanting the propers, the psalms of the Hours, and have a great love of chant and polyphony. If I were to imagine myself retired in a liturgical setting, it probably would be in a place where I can pray as I do at Conception or St John’s.

        Jeffrey is a good friend, a generous and kind and tenacious soul. It is for that reason I “bang on,” as you say.

      3. An abbey is not a parish and occasional visits are not week after week engagement. While I don’t have any direct experience with St. John’s liturgy, is it very different than the vision of liturgy presented by Pray Tell and Liturgical Press’s products? If not, then it’s not “reform of the reform” in the relevant sense.

    2. Thank you Henry, for revisiting that other tiring meme: “If the people in the pews don’t agree with me, they must be ignorant/uneducated/stupid.”

      No problem is so big that it can’t be addressed by pounding facts into the heads of simpletons.

  7. “…It is an insult to the many young people that I and so many others know, who are engaged, and passionate about their faith…”

    As one who was raised in the post V2 Church with Lifeteen and similarly crafted Sunday afternoon “Youth” Masses I can tell you that our presence and even visible enthusiasm was often despite not because of the musical forms inserted into the liturgy in place of the propers.
    The similarity between still frequent hymn substitution to the low Mass practice prior to 1970 is indicative of how they frustrate our engagement with the liturgy as SC and its predecessor documents in the liturgical movement encourages us to do. The propers are the Mass, employing them helps us to pray the liturgy in a way that substitute hymns simply cannot.

  8. I think David Haas explains the problem pretty well. The Church is full of at least a couple of generations of Catholics—many of them active and concerned, spirited and passionate, fine and sincere people—who nevertheless are almost entirely clueless (through no fault of their own, but due to lack of catechesis) as to the content of the Catholic faith—as defined by the CCC, for instance—and, having so long been deprived of liturgy fully consistent with that faith, clueless as well about the nature of proper worship (as might be defined by SC).

  9. Jack – regardless of your stance, which I can respect (although not totally agree with), for someone to say that those who do not pray and sing the propers, or who may have an attraction to styles other than chant – old people and young people – are misguided, being lied to, and not interested in Catholicism… that is the issue I am raising, and the one to which I find profound offense to.

  10. Henry.. how does an attraction to a particular style of liturgical music other than chant (which Jeffrey asserts is the only “true liturgical music”), make one entirely clueless as to the content of their faith?

    And I guess I and many others who also visit this blog, according to your axiom, must be among the “clueless” in both our faith, and in the approaches to worship that we are engaged in.

  11. David,

    I’d suggest to you that focusing on that aspect of the article is to miss the larger point. It is also far less offensive than the comments given on this blog about things like, the cappa magna or those who pray the rosary during Mass. Come to think of it, hymn singing during that time allotted to the propers is not that different than praying the rosary during the liturgy. In each case one is engaged in a text apart from the Mass itself. Perhaps we can imagine the congregation reciting the rosary together during the entrance procession or communion as a way to consider the comparison. Food for thought.
    Another uncomfortable question, how much is the defense of hymns in place of the proper related to the market question? I don’t want to appear rude here but we have to consider whether composers & publishers are concerned that large scale reform in this area might impact their bottom line.
    Lastly, is some of the defense of hymns in place of the propers attached to a desire to make our Roman Mass appear as similar as possible to mainline Protestant services? Is it an ecumenical concern similar to the common texts issue? Just wondering….

    1. Singing a hymn rather than the proper is unlike reciting the rosary in this sense: the relevant legislation, the GIRM, explicitly allows either singing the proper or singing a hymn. The GIRM makes no mention of reciting the rosary as an option. Note also, according to GIRM the hymn is not “substituting for” or “replacing” the proper. It is simply another option, alongside the proper chant, which is listed as the first option.
      awr

      1. But the hymn does substitute for the proper unless the proper is chanted as well. Things are not so settled about the rosary it seems, unless one can find a document superseding Mediator Dei #108. I don’t think the GIRM forbids praying the rosary during Mass any more than MD does, in 1974 Paul VI even wrote that “the Rosary is a practice of piety which easily harmonizes with the liturgy” though he did not want it recited out loud during the Mass he does not contradict MD as far as I can tell (Marialis Cultis). We have to permit people all the options that the Church allows because everyone is different.

      2. Jack, no it doesn’t “substitute,” any more than the first option, the chanted proper, “substitutes” for a freely-chosen hymn. Read the GIRM, please.

        Mediator Dei is clearly superseded by the GIRM! Nowhere in the GIRM does it say that the rosary may be recited as the entrance cantus, so that there would be no antiphon or hymn sung because the rosary is the option chosen.

        With all due respect, you’re pushing the borders of our editorial policy on “making a constructive contribution.” You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

        awr

      3. Fr. Ruff,

        If you thought I was suggesting the communal recitation of the rosary at the entrance/offertory or exit you are misunderstanding my point. My thought was that the the rosary, just like a hymn, works as an insertion into the Mass of a text outside of the liturgy itself. I know that hymn singing is given as the 4th option in the GIRM. My point about MD was that the GIRM nowhere abrogates the point made in MD 108 because the GIRM nowhere banishes the rosary from the hands of pious laity who like to use it. I guess we can compare rosary holding during Mass to hand-holding during the Pater noster. I don’t think I’ve inserted my own facts anywhere, if so, I apologize & please show me where.

  12. I understand that a principal objective of sacred musicians involved in the liturgical reform movement was the elimination of the 4-hymn sandwich that was prevalent at low Mass even in pre-Vatican II days. Immediately after the Council, many sacred musicians thought this had been achieved. But here we are, over 40 years later, still debating the matter, the only difference being that so many of the songs—and very likely ones most popular among many of the well-intentioned but uninformed—being sung in Catholic churches now are even more superficial and liturgically inappropriate than many of the frequently saccharine pre-Vatican II devotional hymns.

    1. Henry, I don’t know that many of us had ever thought we were rid of the four-hymn sandwich. My recollection is that attention was gradually turned to the psalm, the gospel acclamation, the Eucharistic acclamations, the litanies, and the music for the sacramental rites. This began to take root in some places in the early 70’s. And no doubt, there are parishes that barely implemented liturgical reform that still program four hymns.

      I would disagree with your assessment on comparing saccharine pre-conciliar hymns with Scripture-based songs and hymns since the council. If anything, many places that still program four hymns have at least made strides in choosing music that is liturgically and textually appropriate for Mass.

      While I can appreciate the continuing drive for better music, including texts, I cannot abide the shortcomings of some of the arguments presented here: people are ignorant; it’s all driven by a cartel of self-interested publishers and composers; I was insulted by mean-headed comments about the cappa magna, etc..

      I think it’s important to separate out the issues, too. The quality of music is largely dependent on how it is presented in parishes. If the only time you heard Bach was when a first-year piano student attempted Anna Magdalena’s pieces, ol’ Johann Sebastian would be in the scrap heap of serious music.

      The propers are an important issue, and we might do well to ask why contemporary composers are doing a better job connecting with the Scriptures of the day.

    2. The 4-hymn sandwich is not merely a situation where there is a processional, offertory, communion and recessional hymn.

      Rather, it is where that is either the entire sum, or almost the entire sum, of music at Mass – in other words, where the Mass is not sung, but hymns are simply inserted into an otherwise (relatively) “dry” Mass. Where one sings an entrance hymn but recites the Gloria. Where one recites the Sanctus and Lamb of God but sings a communion hymn. It’s an almost complete inversion of musical priorities of the Roman liturgy.

  13. Jack, I know and am aware of the fact that the comments about old and young people are not the primary focus of the article. But they are offensive all the same. His comments on the rosary and the cappa magna may be more offensive to you (and they are also to me as well), but that does not make these other comments any less reprehensible in my view.

    I was not making a defense one way or the other about hymns being used instead of the propers. In terms of the publishers, I cannot speak for them. My only direct and constant experience is with GIA obviously, and I do know that they have published resources and are in the process of producing some contemporary settings of the propers as well, and will continue to do so. Paul Tate and Ken Maceck have produced one volume of contemporary settings with GIA, and more on the way. I believe WLP has some things going in this regard as well.

    Be careful to attempt to know the mind of publishers and composers and whether or not they are concerned about this. I also can say, that what you call the “bottom” line is not always their motives. A couple of examples to note: GIA a few years back published the beautiful, big, red, book of the Passion Narratives in chant form… expensive project to take on.. it has not sold well at all… but they believed in it then, and still do. There are other examples of where the “bottom line” was not their motive, and where projects did not sell well – but the importance of the project was important to them, and for the Church. I am sure the same is true for OCP and WLP…

    I am not trying to protect or defend them, nor do I need to. It is just too easy to always pile up on the publishers and the composers. But while obviously the market issue is always a concern for publishers (it has to be for them to survive), it is not the only motive for their work. Look at the fine people who serve in leadership and in the editorial departments of these companies.. (con’t) –

  14. (con’t).. and these are people who are largely involved in parish music ministry themselves… they serve people in actual liturgical settings… they want to produce and provide music that serves ministerially, not just because things are popular and “sell well.”

  15. Todd: “Henry, I don’t know that many of us had ever thought we were rid of the four-hymn sandwich.”

    I take it that you were not “around” in sacred music circles during the heady days of buoyant confidence and optimism during and immediately following the Council. I was. (Admittedly as a simple layman, a state of which I was and am proud.)

  16. Jeffrey – I appreciate the apology to me. But my greater concern is how this identifies people with whom you differ (the “old people” and the yong people who are misguided in your view). We have to be careful, because what you say is just not true, objectively speaking in regards to the young folks. There is so much evidence to the contrary.

    Enough – I will let it go. I just needed to raise the issue and vent a bit.

    Back to the discussion about propers vs. hymns….great fun!

    1. I’m sitting here wondering if my comment about old people was a cheap shot. I kind of wish that I could say that it was and be done with it. Perhaps I should not have said it and it is a somewhat ridiculous demographic generalization but – as Todd suspects – it does reflect my own experience: older people telling institutions how they should conduct themselves to attract young people while the young people are rather bemused by it all. This is not a liberal/conservative issue, from what I’ve seen.

      It is so hard to comment at all on the way things are because our experiences vary so widely. But I was really influenced by the one time I was asked to do a LifeTeen series during Advent. We unplugged everything. We sang just plain chant, and maybe one small motet. The people sang. It created a real frenzy of wild popularity with the young. I was sad when they reverted after I left but they did so under the influence of an older musician in the parish who assured the leadership that it was essential to go back so that the youth could stay involved.

  17. Unlike the principal prayers and readings of the Mass, which are of primary importance, the antiphons in the Missal are secondary to the rites they accompany, i.e. the processions, namely, the formal entry of clergy and ministers marking the beginning of the liturgy and the approach of people to receive and be united in Holy Communion. (The offertory antiphon is not found in the Missal for reasons to be explained elsewhere.)

    “Sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately connected to the liturgical action” (SC 112). The texts and the music used during these processions should illustrate the liturgical action of these processions, which is explained in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (paras 47, 73, 86). That must be the principal criterion of selection. Whether this is better achieved by the best songs inspired by the 20th-century liturgical renewal or by antiphons in the Missal/Graduale, the bulk of which were compiled to be sung by Roman scholae cantorum some time before the end of the 7th century, is a matter for considered debate.

    1. Mr. Ainslie makes a good point.

      I love the chant propers, and recently rehearsed Gaudete and Dominus dixit with joy for use in the liturgy.

      One significant fissure running through many liturgical Catholic liturgical discussions is whether there is some object “out there” (e.g. the Latin propers, the Latin text of the missal) which has precedence, or whether the celebration of the mysteries of our faith by a Christian community has precedence. Mr. Ainslie is talking about the nature and purpose of the rites for a celebrating community. Some defenses of the propers fall down, in my view, because they treat them as an intrinsic good – apart from how they work for a given community. If you go too far with this line of thinking, you can end up with idolatry or legalism. Our Lord had a few things to say about this.

      Another important aspect which Fr. Ainslie alludes to is the context from which the propers arose – a highly trained schola cantorum at the papal court in the 7th century. In fact, there have been parish choirs which could sing the propers – but historically these are a tiny, tiny minority. Apart from great cathedrals, abbeys, and collegiate churches, most celebrations of Mass on Sundays and feast days over the centuries did not have sung propers. Pius Parsch said already in the 1930s that the Graduale Romanum is unusable in 95% of our parishes. (Hats off to the Austrians if they ever achieved GR propers in 5% of their parishes!)

      From the 8th century until the 20th, very few lay Catholics had any idea what the propers were about because they didn’t know Latin and didn’t have a dual-language pew missal.

      I love the propers when a choir is able to do them well and a community is able to hear them as an expression of their own faith.

      In all those many, many communities where this is not and never will be the case, could we please call off the unrealistic and idolatrous “propers fever”?

      Pax,
      awr

      1. In all those many, many communities where this is not and never will be the case, could we please call off the unrealistic and idolatrous “propers fever”?

        But this is an empirical and not a theological point. I would deny the existence of communities in which the propers could never be executed.

      2. You would? Anywhere?

        I celebrate Mass at the county jail one Sunday a month. The schola cantorum consists of a guy playing guitar and his wife. I’m amazed at their dedication to do this every single Sunday. Latin propers??

        My home parish, my mother told me, has absolutely no one to play piano, much less their electric organ – there are few high schoolers to begin with, and none play keyboard. The sister in their four-parish unit very much wanted to find an organist for Christmas but couldn’t. She played guitar and they all sang along as best they could. Most Sundays there is no cantor for Sunday Mass. Latin propers??

        awr

      3. I think you’ll find that Jeffrey is not talking about the Latin Gregorian propers and has been fairly specific about that fact. I should have been more specific.

        In a place where the liturgy is celebrated almost solely in the vernacular, English translations of the propers seem apt to me and I deny that there is a community anywhere in the world in which simple English propers could never be sung.

  18. I was not going to continue discussing the old/young people stuff.. but here I go.

    Jeffrey – I think it is great that the young people whom you worked with loved doing the chant.. I agree with you – in so many experiences in which I work with young people, they love it too… but NOT to the exclusion of the other “styles” which touch their heart and deepen their prayer and spirituality.

    I share your dismay that the “older” musician had the attitude he had after the experience – it is too bad that he could not have learned from it, and found ways to infuse chant as a part of their regular repertoire. Believe me, I have had to challenge folks in the youth music/liturgy worl a lot in this regard. But again, does this mean that the other styles that he has used are anathema and not in any way holding true to the liturgy and its many graces? I am not talking about the so called “praise and worship” music that in my opinion is really not intended for liturgical celebration, and too often creeps into our liturgical life. I am talking about music composed for the liturgy and the rite in mind, but utilizing styles other than chant itself.

    Again, my experience has told me time and time again, that most of the young people I work with have a wide palette of tastes, and a tremendous ability to drink in all of the spiritual gifts that all of these styles (when done WELL). have to offer them – and thus, influences their investment in their catholicism.

    Your experience with the LifeTeen series was most unfortunate – but do not paint young people with a single brush based on that experience. LifeTeen is not by any means, the only effort to form young people in liturgy and also to help form liturgical music leaders for now and the future.

  19. Fr. Anthony.. thanks so much for bringing GIRM #48 to our attention, and to the fact that it lists the hymn as one of 4 options, and there is nothing here that suggests that in doing so, it is a substitution, or “second best.” It seems that this is somewhat corrective in this discussion of the Entrance Chant.. seems to me the criteria for debate should be centered at least on a bit, on whether or not these options achieve the desired outcome outlined in GIRM #47 – to “open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.”

    All of these options can accomplish these intentions. Sometimes any one of them have succeeded, and sometimes, any one of them have failed (including singing the proper antiphon).

  20. I will suggest again, as I have before, that one good way to honor the tension inherent in the documents is simply to ensure over time that Gregorian propers are not experienced as something alien to the people in the pews, but as something that is not alien, strange or weird. In other words, that the people are given the opportunity to re-familiarize themselves with their liturgical music birthright.

    But.

    That does not require that every sung Mass feature the set of Gregorian propers. What it would require would vary by community. For example, that might mean offering the Gregorian introit, offertory, or communion chant every Nth week; it might also be very good to pair in some way with a vernacular setting of the text. It would also help to use vernacular versions of the proper texts more frequently as the texts for “alius aptus cantus” that are chosen. Todd has frequently mentioned using the form of antiphonal singing that the chants model as a model for those alius aptus cantus choices as well. Et cet. Still, where the people find their birthright an alien thing, it’s a sign there’s work yet to be done.

    The assessment would have to taken of a movie over time, not a photo of a moment in time, as it were.

    I don’t think this puts us in a place where the entrenched camps would be entirely happy. And that might be another reason to explore it.

  21. “thanks so much for bringing GIRM #48 to our attention, and to the fact that it lists the hymn as one of 4 options, and there is nothing here that suggests that in doing so, it is a substitution, or ‘second best.'”

    It’s actually FOURTH BEST, David. It’s the last option in a hierarchical list.

    Perhaps Todd could remind us, as he so often does, of how “Roman documents” work.

    The first choice given for the Entrance chant, according to these hierarchical values goes to the Entrance chant and Offertory chant, from the Roman Missal or Roman Graudual, being sung in dialogue between choir and congregation. This can be achieved, by the way, with the Simple English Propers which Jeffrey cites in his article.

    The first choice, the highest ideal, given given for the Communion chant in GIRM 87 is the proper chant of the Roman Missal or Roman Gradual sung by the CHOIR ALONE.

    This is what the GIRM undeniably prescribes. There are other options, but they are sub-ideal to the first choice.

    Todd, would you care to refresh us all as to how ordered lists in Roman documents work?

  22. I don’t know that the “propers-ignorant” camp is entrenched as much as occupied elsewhere.

    As a church musician in the trenches, I’m far more concerned with upgrading the congregational repertoire in terms of musical quality. I assume that textually, liturgically, I have many “right” choices. I’m also dismayed by the lack of institutional awareness of the needs in the parishes. Number one on that list are pastors who feel no need to hire competent people to move things forward.

    Speaking from my own experience, the texts of the propers inform my programming, especially during main liturgical seasons when they have some coherence. However, I’m not prepared to sacrifice precious counter-cultural gains in congregational singing at the idol of a gold-plated book of musical propers. Frankly, I think we have far more pressing issues in liturgical music today.

  23. Adam, I am fully aware of how the ordering of things in Roman documents implies a preference – but to cheapen hymns to being “fourth best” is a bit over the top. But even if it is 4th best as you say, Fr. Anthony’s point is that this is not a “substitution” or as many others might say, some sort of aberration or cheapening of the rite. I am not sure that everyone would agree with your assessment that the GIRM sees this as “sub-ideal.” I think you are reading a bit too much into what the text actually says. Believe me, if Rome really feels that something is an aberration or as others imply subtly or boldly, as being contrary to the intrinsic nature of the Roman Rite, they would not include it as an option.

    I am with Fr. Anthony.. some of this obsession with the propers to the point of demonizing everything else does seem a bit idolatrous. I would again ask us as I did in the earlier post, regardless of what option, as ideal or “sub-ideal” as it may be for some, does it reflect and accomplish what is lined out in GIRM 47, namely in INTENT of the Entrance Chant? To me, that is where our passions should lie in this discussion… with the pastoral intent of the opening rite and the opening music, not engaging in a contest of will or force of having to obliterate anything but the proper chant as its vehicle. Also like Fr. Anthony, I am not against the propers – I am FOR communities discovering the best option in their pastoral circumstances, that can accomplish, in this particular case, help the opening rite accomplish its goals of opening the celebration, fostering unity, and helping them to focus on the mystery of the liturgical event or season. That is what GIRM 47 says, and if the ordering of things in documents is important, this then takes precedence, as it appears BEFORE GIRM 48 lays out the options for singing. The singing or how we do it, is not of ultimate importance… sorry.

  24. Okay, Adam, thanks for refreshing our memories about how “ordered lists work in Roman documents”….

    Applying your same logic and “ordered lists” to the whole liturgical document and numerous statements:

    a) from John Ainslie – “Unlike the principal prayers and readings of the Mass, which are of primary importance, the antiphons in the Missal are secondary to the rites they accompany, i.e. the processions, namely, the formal entry of clergy and ministers marking the beginning of the liturgy and the approach of people to receive and be united in Holy Communion. (The offertory antiphon is not found in the Missal for reasons to be explained elsewhere.)

    “Sacred music increases in holiness to the degree that it is intimately connected to the liturgical action” (SC 112). The texts and the music used during these processions should illustrate the liturgical action of these processions, which is explained in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (paras 47, 73, 86). That must be the principal criterion of selection. Whether this is better achieved by the best songs inspired by the 20th-century liturgical renewal or by antiphons in the Missal/Graduale, the bulk of which were compiled to be sung by Roman scholae cantorum some time before the end of the 7th century, is a matter for considered debate.”
    b) again, following your logic of importance, antiphons and the four choices enumerated in the GIRM are really of secondary importance;
    c) given this, most pastors/liturgists will start with the principles of liturgy – how best to articulate and encourage community worship – per Fr. Anthony: “Mr. Ainslie is talking about the nature and purpose of the rites for a celebrating community. Some defenses of the propers fall down, in my view, because they treat them as an intrinsic good – apart from how they work for a given community. If you go too far with this line of thinking, you can end up with idolatry or legalism. Our Lord had a few things to say…

  25. Fortunately a brief trawl of the internet with the search terms “Todd Flowerday Roman Documents” produces some very interesting results!

    Here are a few instances (among an abundance to be found on the web) where Todd has commented on the nature of the way that preference is given in Roman Documents:

    Regarding full-immersion baptism:

    “Roman sensibility dictates that the second choice is licit, but in the custom of Roman documents, the preferred choice is listed first.”

    Regarding “Sing to the Lord”:

    “Unlike Roman documents, in which the ordering of options is a priority, USCCB write-ups tend to be a little more loose.”

    And lastly, regarding the Communion chant and the Roman order of GIRM 87:

    “I note that it is clear the two volumes of chant are pretty much indispensible for a parish music ministry.”

    1. Adam, are you trying to discredit me? What if I just admit I like the Buffalo Bills, and all credibility is shot?

      Please, if you are quoting me, provide a link. Every serious scholar knows to give references in footnotes.

  26. Father Allan opines: “I think the biggest mistake of the GIRM is that it does not mandate the singing of the introit, offertory antiphon and communion antiphon or saying these in a spoken Mass.”

    I am very tempted to start a new discussion on “What is the biggest mistake in the GIRM?” My answer would be: not forbidding the distribution at subsequent Masses of reserved hosts, except in the case of real necessity.

    But isn’t it more productive to ask the question positively? “What is the most helpful restoration in the GIRM?” OR “What is the most helpful innovation (if there were any) in the GIRM?”

    1. Paul, in general the 2003 or whenever it was, GIRM is very helpful if only priests would follow it. It gives a great deal of attention to detail. In terms of the proper antiphons, in the EF Mass, these are not optional either in the low or sung Masses, but hymns in the vernacular are allowed, although purists don’t like that, but I say what the heck. I think with the Antiphons, we should see them as the treasury of Scripture and that we shouldn’t eliminate them. Of course, I am speaking of the short antiphons in the Roman Missal in English, not the full regimen of verses also unless these can be pulled off well and with the congregation’s appreciation/participation. As I mentioned above, the short antiphon sung by a cantor after the metrical entrance hymn is very effective and so are the other two antiphons chanted in a simple tone in English.

  27. “If you go too far with this line of thinking, you can end up with idolatry or legalism. Our Lord had a few things to say…”

    I can’t believe that propers really are being made the bad guy here. The only reason many of us have to resort to legalistic discussion is because of the legalism with which we are engaged! Let’s not forget who began the legalistic discussion in this thread:

    (from Fr. Ruff above)

    The GIRM clearly states that one may sing the proper chant or an “aptus cantus” – another song or hymn. Already in 1967 Musicam sacram no. 33 said, “It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.”

    These are legal exceptions to the norm, which is to sing the proper texts of the Mass. If these were not normative they would not be listed, in each case, as the first option of WHAT is to be sung in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and we would not have official liturgical books (Ordo Cantus Missae, Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex) which are sanctioned by the Church.

    Legalism is the only thing that a reasonable person who reads current liturgical legislation could attribute to the pyramid-standing-on-its-head which is has been the common practice of the past 40 years in American Catholic liturgy.

    1. Adam,

      A technical but important point considering how you are spinning this: In Roman legal-speak (which is different from the legal-speak of the Anglosphere), that’s not an *exception* to the norm, but *part* of the norm itself.

  28. “some of this obsession with the propers to the point of demonizing everything else does seem a bit idolatrous.” (David Haas)

    I see no demonizing happening. The reason for the fanaticism here, I think, is because the exception has become the rule. The efforts I’m engaged in are not to rid all music from the liturgy which is not “proper”, but to actually make what is proper “proper”! Is that too much to ask?

    “does it reflect and accomplish what is lined out in GIRM 47, namely in INTENT of the Entrance Chant? To me, that is where our passions should lie in this discussion…”

    If this is put at odds with 48 though, which discusses the form of the Entrance chant, then I think this would be rightly called the heresy of formlessness.

  29. “The schola cantorum consists of a guy playing guitar and his wife. I’m amazed at their dedication to do this every single Sunday. Latin propers??”

    Fr. Ruff, I agree that the lack of trained musicians is a real problem in our parishes.

    That fact, however, doesn’t in any way justify as some do (not that you are necessarily among them) the current state of affairs in Catholic parishes where the choir’s talent level – if they even have one – and the faithful’s liturgical/spiritual IQ often peak at “Finger Snap Alleluia.” Profane is profane and it has no place in the sacred liturgy.

    The abilities of the assembled, in other words, don’t lower the bar concerning what is sacred and what is not. Spoken sacred text is more fitting than profane religious ditties performed on key.

    Jeffrey Tucker makes the case that the Council’s vision has not been realized, and who can argue with this? He is right. The sad truth is we haven’t responded to the Council’s call to diligently promote choirs, to provide training in sacred music and to preserve the treasury of sacred music as the Fathers knew it and understood it. We have a lot of catching up to do, but it can and must be done.

    When you speak of “those many, many communities where [the presence of an able choir and faithful] does not and never will be the case” this is defeatists. Never say never!

    “Never” will only be the case in those places where the effort is never made. Tucker’s Simple Propers Project (referenced in the interview) is all about making that effort more manageable and more easily undertaken and he should be applauded for it.

  30. “Jeffrey Tucker makes the case that the Council’s vision has not been realized, and who can argue with this?”

    It depends on the argument. If Jeffrey and others want to make a case that the earthly liturgy is an imperfect reflection of a perfect heavenly reality, then sure: nobody’s going to dispute it.

    If Jeffrey and others want to make the case that Catholic sacred music needs a continuing infusion of quality in terms of music and text, again: no argument from me.

    Where Jeffrey and others lose my nod of agreement is in how the case is presented: musicians and laity are ignorant; the publishers have screwed us; any music written in the last 50 years is a mindless unmusical ditty; the propers are the absolute only way to go; the GIRM is confusing; such-and-such composer is a heretic and a blasphemer. Please: if you want to convince me of something, don’t make it so easy to reject your stance.

    1. “Please: if you want to convince me of something, don’t make it so easy to reject your stance.”

      Again, no one has been as abrupt with your point-of-view, widely share on this blog, as some here have been with those who rejoice in SP and the EF and certain liturgical customs associated with both forms including the use of the cappa magna. Our own moderator said that the EF is “a product which, according to the last council, doesn’t fit our understanding of liturgy” (12/6). Another person referred to the cappa as “Catholic silliness” without remonstration from any moderator. That does not do much to engage Catholics attached to the EF in the conversation. It shuts down dialog.

  31. Adam (and others here), I know my hyperbole tends to get out of hand sometime, but as you admit to a certain “fanaticism,” I guess it seems easy to go there.

    I still challenge your assumption that option 4 is the “exception” that has become the rule. I do admit that #4 is the experience of the overwhelming majority of parishes. I think for many – the first option of the choir/schola singing it alone, has been not practical in terms of rehearsal possibilities, and also the level of competency to sing such music. And for the assembly to learn a brand new antiphon at every celebration has similar problems – not for all parishes – but for many. In my work and travels, I talk to parish music directors and choir members – it is really a struggle out there sometimes to find people to be part of the choir, or to find competent cantors…

    Again – and I am going to use that terrible phrase – the participation of the assembly – this is still primary for me in my considerations and choices that I make. I believe that this principle is still at the fabric of what SC and the renewal of the liturgy calls us to work toward. I do not doubt – and I have certainly experienced – that the propers can accomplish this at times – but not exclusively, and I have to say, at least in my experience, not as successfully.

    But whatever.. GIRM 47 still is the reigning guide for me in terms of the music at the opening of the Mass – and there are many ways to do it, and I do not believe that the documents – nor the experience of most liturgical celebrations – support a notion that singing vernacular hymns or songs at this point, is the “exception,” and one that needs to be seen as a diminishment.

    1. David,

      The GIRM serves as a rather poor “reigning guide” IMO. One is forced, it would seem, to dig deeper still into SC, and from there into previous documents which treat of this topic since the Council simply relies on the Church’s understanding of what constitutes “sacred music.”.

      Of choice #4 of which much is made, GIRM 48 proposes “a suitable liturgical song approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.”

      This is footnoted in the GIRM to an article from the Apostolic Letter of John Paul II called “The Lord’s Day.” The operative part of the referenced article reads:

      50. …it is important to devote attention to the songs used by the assembly, since singing is a particularly apt way to express a joyful heart, accentuating the solemnity of the celebration and fostering the sense of a common faith and a shared love.”

      Side note: Solemnity to me means awe-inspiring, sacred, marked by holiness, permeated with the sense of mystery… Does anyone really want to make the case that the typical choice #4 as it is exercised in in most parishes actually comes close to this benchmark ?

      The Letter continues:

      “Care must be taken to ensure the quality, both of the texts and of the melodies, so that what is proposed today as new and creative will conform to liturgical requirements and be worthy of the Church’s tradition which, in the field of sacred music, boasts a priceless heritage.”

      In spite of any good intentions, the General Instruction’s rather vague allowance for “another suitable song” has opened the door for all manner of music at Holy Mass that the Council never envisioned much less encouraged for the simple reason that it doesn’t fit any serious definition of sacred.

      And while the desire for “active participation” is the driving force behind SC, it is often misunderstood as a mandate to dumb down the music at all costs. Listening actively to a new antiphon is better than…

  32. I don’t see how the sung proper is any more difficult than the Responsorial Psalm which also changes week to week. A cantor can lead it and the people can join following in their missals or missalettes. It is difficult for me to understand how the people’s participation is augmented by avoiding the texts of the Mass as given in the missal. It could be argued that too much dependence on hymns actually prevents the people from engaging with the actual text of the liturgy. Too much dependence on hymns also serves to reduce the “given-ness of the liturgy, IMHO.
    I don’t think anyone has suggested banishing hymns altogether, instead of banishment we could consider making the chanted proper in Latin or English equal to the hymn in its frequency.

  33. David: Have you seen the “Simple Propers Project” that Jeffrey describes?

    http://www.chantcafe.com/search/label/Simple%20Propers

    I would be very curious to hear your thoughts on this, composer to composer. I have not heard a single mention of this project on this blog yet, and perhaps there is a reason for this. Many of the issues that you raise above are being addressed by this project. We use them at my own parish, one that has been using Gather Comprehensive for the past 15 years (although no longer). The choir of amateurs (no singers are paid) sing these propers every week without a problem. The congregation admittedly does not sing them, although they can in time if they would like. We’re placing the priority of congregational singing on the Order of Mass and the Ordinary of Mass, the priorities given in Musicam Sacram, above the proper. When the congregation sings these they do not miss singing the proper, and they participate to a great degree in the singing of the liturgy. We still sing hymns, yes, but the propers are now established as “proper” in the liturgy. The texts are heard, understood, prayed, and they lift the assembled body of Christ into a full, active and conscious participation in the sacred mysteries that are celebrated in the liturgy.

    Many of our parishioners have said that they are spoiled and can hardly go to Mass at any neighboring parishes anymore because they long for the fullness of the liturgy that they participate in at our parish. This is just some feedback on how propers are being sung out in average parishes. The Simple Propers Project is making this an achievable reality for many such as me.

  34. “Please: if you want to convince me of something, don’t make it so easy to reject your stance.”

    There must be some misunderstanding, Todd. I really didn’t have you in mind at all, but as long as I’m here…

    Are you sure the laundry list you ascribe to Mr. Tucker represents the fullness of his position?

    1. Of course, my friend. Agreed on the lack of nuance, where my assessment of your opinions are concerned. I should have made it more clear I know well you don’t hold to all of those tidbits.

  35. “I don’t think anyone has suggested banishing hymns altogether, instead of banishment we could consider making the chanted proper in Latin or English equal to the hymn in its frequency.”

    Hello Jack!

    To be very honest, I would come pretty close to suggesting that many if not most hymns be banished – not from Catholic life – but from the sacred liturgy.

    I think the 1958 Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy from the Sacred Congregation for Rites gets it right (no pun intended) when it states:

    “Religious music is any music which, either by the intention of the composer or by the subject or purpose of the composition, serves to arouse devotion, and religious sentiments. Such music ‘is an effective aid to religion’ (Musicæ sacræ disciplina, idem.). But since it is not intended for divine worship, and was composed in a free style, it is not to be used during liturgical ceremonies.”

    The one thing this makes very clear is that even good religious music (i.e. much of hymnody) often falls short of the high bar set for what makes music truly sacred and thus suitable for liturgy. Admittedly, even this leaves room for interpretation (and misinterpretation), and that is why Cd. Cañizares’ plans to offer guidelines in the matter is so welcome in my view.

  36. Adam… yes, I have been aware of the project, and I applaud your efforts. I would wonder about a couple of things however. I certainly am happy that the amateur choir at your parish is capable of this.. I am certain however, that much of its success has to do with your leadership, and your competence in this genre. I am thinking of the average choir director who comes to many workshops that I present, volunteer, not a great musical background, can sometimes barely stumble through “Holy, God We Praise Thy Name.” I see very little possibility of her, and many others in a similar situation being able to even READ the chant notation that you provide, let alone present in a way that would be pleasing at all, let alone possible for this assembly to join in.

    Again – if these work, that is wonderful and I applaud it. But I still do not believe that this approach is necessary and the only possibility for “right worship.”

    I am just so baffled as to why it is so difficult for some to embrace the wondrous galaxy of styles and expressions in our church, for which V2 by the way, affirmed and celebrated?

    I mean it when I say, the project you are involved with is laudable. I am anxious to see how it is received as time goes by, and how it can be transfered in a wide variety of settings.

  37. “the wondrous galaxy of styles and expressions in our church, for which V2 by the way, affirmed and celebrated?”

    This statement is so open-ended as to mean very little, David. Maybe you could expand on exactly what the Council affirmed in this regard.

  38. David–I think that you have identified the great need for education that lies before us. If Gregorian chant is indeed proper to the Roman Rite, as V2 says that it is, and if new forms should grow organically from this tradition, then I think it is reasonable to expect that choir directors should make the effort to read the notation and become familiar with the style. These sorts of educational efforts are happening all around the country and they grow every year. The CMAA’s training seminars are at maximum capacity and are overflowing. I have no doubt that more and more of these educational opportunities will emerge in the near future, especially as Dioceses take up V2’s task of creating Institutes of the Sacred Arts and of Sacred Music.

    One of the great things though, about the chant tradition, is that it was mostly an aural tradition and the simple chants continue to be learned and transmitted in this way even today. YouTube practice videos will be most helpful to parishes, I suspect, who want to learn and sing simple chant settings like this. And the great thing, I think, about the Simple Propers collection is that it is based entirely on 24 melodic formulas in total. So once the melodic model is learned the rest that use the same model become intuitive in a very rote way. In using these at my own parish for only a few short months the formulas are already being internalized and we can learn a new setting in a matter of minutes. I can only imagine what it will be like after going through an entire cycle! It will be a snap without a doubt. It is not unreasonable that a congregation could do the same after enough exposure to the style and to the melodic formulas.

  39. There are a lot of opinions here on the use of popular music in the liturgy – implications of last preference, references to Mediator Dei etc. Some suggest singing popular song should be highly regulated, constrained or even banned.

    For me, I take my guidance from the SC, the GIRM and more recent Papal teaching on the subject. This leads me to recognise the critical importance of singing popular songs in the liturgy. Any attempt to stifle such participation in the liturgy is tantamount to an attempt to stifle the Spirit.

    Most relevant to this discussion, but not mentioned at all, is the recent advice from Pope John Paul II (Chirograph on Sacred Music, par. 11) that seems to indicate a preference for singing popular songs during Mass:

    “The last century, with the renewal introduced by the Second Vatican Council, witnessed a special development in popular religious song, about which Sacrosanctum Concilium says: “Religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may be heard…”[30]. This singing is particularly suited to the participation of the faithful, not only for devotional practices “in conformity with the norms and requirements of the rubrics”[31], but also with the Liturgy itself.”

  40. I am all in favour of “the Propers”. The Psallite project would never have happened if the composers collaborating there had not been convinced of that.

    Having said that, the root questions that we are gradually arriving at are these:

    (a) How do we equate singing the Propers with the participation of the assembly?
    (b) What happens if the Proper setting we are using is unsuited either (i) to congregational singing or (ii) to the English language?
    (c) If we do not have the resources to make a good job of it, is it better to do something else much simpler (and by that I do NOT mean “Holy God, we praise thy name” which is so overused that I personally would like to see it banned for 10 years!) and do it well, or struggle through something, which though theoretically more desirable, ends up by being somewhat disedifying because of the lack of competence of those performing it?

    David: Have you seen the “Simple Propers Project” that Jeffrey describes?

    http://www.chantcafe.com/search/label/Simple%20Propers

    I have seen it, and have the following initial comments:

    (a) The antiphons are not assembly-friendly — see also (b) and (e) below.
    (b) The antiphons are generally unmemorable. It is difficult to imagine anyone pom-pomming them while doing the dishes later in the week.
    (c) They stick too slavishly to chant shapes that do not sit well with the English language. For example, an excessive use of the torculus which not only becomes tedious but sounds and feels artificial with an English text.
    (d) I do not know where the translation used in the antiphons comes from, but it seems unsatisfactory from many points of view, though evidently designed to fit the chant.
    (e) The psalm tones, on the other hand, seem simple and approachable, and could be sung by an assembly that is used to such things. A pity that the antiphons are not nearly as simple and accessible.

  41. “Religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may be heard…”

    Yes, Paul, SC says this, but what neither it nor JPII do is redefine what constitutes sacred music. It is understood that every generation can contribute to the treasury of sacred music, but it does not imply that the “popular religious” music of every age is necessarily sacred.

    You seem to be reading the quotes offered to mean that “popular” implies “sacred,” or at the very least, sacred enough to find its proper place in the liturgy. That’s simply is not the case, and I’d venture to say that most people here would not favor opening up the choice of music at Holy Mass to popular vote.

  42. Thank you, Paul, for your comments on the Simple Propers Project. The general silence on them from the contributors on this blog has been very interesting. Nonetheless, I’m very grateful for your frank commentary. It is helpful especially since this project truly aims at the heart of parish life.

    A few brief responses:

    (a) The antiphons are not assembly-friendly

    This is in part because the antiphons presume that the proper is the domain of the schola cantorum. In time, though, I think these could be sung by a congregation. I’ve seen it happen.

    (b) The antiphons are generally unmemorable. It is difficult to imagine anyone pom-pomming them while doing the dishes later in the week.

    Not sure I would desire for people to pop-pom to the music of the sacred liturgy!

    (c) They stick too slavishly to chant shapes that do not sit well with the English language. For example, an excessive use of the torculus which not only becomes tedious but sounds and feels artificial with an English text.

    You may be interested to know that each and every antiphon is reviewed by chant master Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, my chant teacher and mentor who is undoubtedly a master of the relationship between text and melody in Gregorian chant. His English chant at St. Meinrad has set a kind of standard in the world English chant without a doubt. The comment about the torculus seems to be likened to a non-jazz lover’s dislike of the ride cymbal or something. It takes time to absorb the style, I think.

    (d) I do not know where the translation used in the antiphons comes from, but it seems unsatisfactory from many points of view, though evidently designed to fit the chant.

    They are from the Gregorian Missal from Solesmes.

    (e) The psalm tones, on the other hand, seem simple and approachable, and could be sung by an assembly that is used to such things. A pity that the antiphons are not nearly as simple and accessible.

    Refer to (a)…

  43. I am not against the use of hymns or songs at Mass, and I’m personally conflicted about the style issues – so I won’t go there. But the fact that most Catholics don’t even know why that little Entrance or Communion chant is in their Missalette – let alone ever heard it sung at all or the issues of English or Latin, from the Missal or the Graduale, Gregorian music or otherwise – is a problem.

    But, let’s step into the context of education/teaching for a second. The Church has tremendous potential to educate.

    I think the comments:

    “The schola cantorum consists of a guy playing guitar and his wife. I’m amazed at their dedication to do this every single Sunday.”

    “I am thinking of the average choir director who comes to many workshops that I present, volunteer, not a great musical background, can sometimes barely stumble through ‘Holy, God We Praise Thy Name.'”

    are valid and accurate in far too many parish situations.

    But any teaching musician knows that limiting your students’ repertoire to things that they can perform well (or things they like and enjoy) is just as detrimental to their progress as always giving them something they can’t handle at all (and/or don’t enjoy).

    As a child of the 80s and 90s, growing up as a musician in a relatively conservative Archdiocese, I had no idea what those Entrance and Communion chant things were. I’ve come to believe in them – maybe not to the point that Jeffrey and Adam do. But I will say that if Jeffrey and Adam were not as dedicated as they are to this cause, I would still not know what the Propers were. And that would be a problem for me.

    How many people don’t even know it’s a problem for them – just because their pastor or perfectly competent music director decided it would be best not to expose them to it because it’s not the right style for the parish – or their personal preference?

  44. Paul,

    (a) How do we equate singing the Propers with the participation of the assembly?

    If you’re implying that the assembled must sing in order to participate, that’s ludicrous, and so we don’t equate them.

    (b) What happens if the Proper setting we are using is unsuited either (i) to congregational singing or (ii) to the English language?

    The Council mandated neither. Therefore, compose a suitable setting or use the Latin.

    As for (c), the “lack of competency” argument is condescending at best and an all too convenient excuse for inflicting Sesame Street tunes on the poor uneducated faithful. Chanting the Latin and/or providing the instruction the Council encouraged is an option too.

    (a) The antiphons are not assembly-friendly — see also (b) and (e) below.

    Your opinion, and one influenced by a tortured understanding of “participation.” E.g. if by “assembly friendly” you mean nursery rhyme simple and foot tapping catchy, you’ve missed the boat WRT to what “active participation” means.

    (b) The antiphons are generally unmemorable. It is difficult to imagine anyone pom-pomming them while doing the dishes later in the week.

    Yes, Paul… if it can’t be sung in the shower, it must be useless. Do you even know what “sacred” means?

    (c) (d) I do not know where the translation used in the antiphons comes from, but it seems unsatisfactory from many points of view, though evidently designed to fit the chant.

    “Unsatisfactory” in that they are difficult to shoe horn into your favored motif? So use the Latin.

    1. Mr. Verecchio,
      I must ask you to be more respectful and less insulting, otherwise you will not be able to post here.
      awr

    2. Yes, Louis, I do believe I understand the meaning of “sacred.” RThe glory of the Psallite project is precisely that the songs CAN be sung in the shower . . . and around the kitchen table . . . and in the car.

      1. For what it’s worth, I think a lot of Frs. Samuel Weber and Columba Kelly’s work on English chant would also fit this description, after a certain “period of absorbtion”. They come more immediately to me than the GR propers since they are in my native tongue, but stand up to repetition over a few years. I notice this especially with some of the chants for the seasons such as Advent and Christmas: I am singing them to myself in the everyday tasks I perform. I suppose, then, I would contest Paul Inwood’s assertion that seems to imply they are not what we would call “tuneful”.

  45. “How do we equate singing the Propers with the participation of the assembly?”

    Part of the answer is given in GIRM 48, which envisions a dialogue between music leaders and the assembly. The assembly oftens sings the whole of the entrance, but they don’t have to.

    While there may not be a galaxy of options within the propers, there are a good number of possibilities, including having the assembly sing the psalm verses in English to chant tones if, for example, the schola rendered a Gregorian antiphon.

    I do think that having very memorable melodies for the antiphons goes beyond the toe-tapping considerations. Wouldn’t we want people to bring home the words of Scripture while they drive, do dishes, clean house, walk to school or work? This music, whether hymnody, propers, or psalm settings, needs to be excellent, and the first measure of excellence in congregational music is a memorable singability.

  46. A couple of additional thoughts on this topic….

    1) It seems in this discussion that the use of the Propers or another suitable song is viewed as an either/or choice – especially in the case of using chant (or chant-based, in the case of Mr. Bartlett’s work) Propers. Even I would make the suggestion that for a congregation who is accustomed to joining together to sing another appropriate opening hymn or song at the beginning of Mass (and where most of the people do seem to sing), to suddenly switch to hearing a cantor or schola sing the chant alone would be jarring. While there’s something to be said for starting the Mass with the mystery and solemnity of chant, there is also something to be said for a congregation that really joins together in singing. Why not do both, and have a truly “gathering” song or hymn, followed by the Entrance Chant to begin Mass in a more meditative way? It seems the people’s attention would be thus drawn together and then focused into the mystery of the liturgy. I would prefer this to the suggestion of doing it the other way around and using the Entrance Chant as a sort of prelude. The effectiveness of the chant is in the mood it creates, which can easily be undone by your typically boisterous “gathering” song, where I sense the unity gained by a gathering song would only be enhanced by chant following.

    2) I have heard some express their feeling that the Propers frequently (especially during Ordinary Time) have only a marginal connection with the prayers and readings. Sometimes the choice in the Graduale seems better, sometimes that in the Missal seems better. Often they are the same or just as seemingly disconnected. I’m not sure how to respond to this. In certain cases, perhaps the Church could have done a better job when preparing the Missal. But, some of the time, do you think that maybe there is some connection there that we’re not allowing ourselves to see because we…

    1. come with our own interpretation of the readings and appointed prayers? Might the Propers not help to illuminate some aspect of them that we otherwise would not see as easily?

    2. I think one very good example of the point you raised in (1) bringing together a hymn and a more traditional entrance chant was what a couple of videos I saw from Westminster Cathedral for Christmas Midnight Mass, in which they first sang “Once in royal David’s city” then the schola cantorum sang the entrance chant.

      In my context, the Philippines, the issue is made more complex by the fact that vernacular hymnody–a very successful effort of the Philippine Jesuits–is so dominant that, I suspect, those readers in the States who are in parishes with a strong Filipino presence may have encountered them at one time or another. I would sympathize with those who desire the restoration of the propers precisely because these songs have become overplayed. Even at the funeral of a former President, a huge public occasion which could have led to teaching people about the traditional chants for the Funeral Mass, the family refused to allow anything written in a language other than Filipino or English played at that mass to encourage popular participation–something which turned this solemn occasion into nothing more than what an average Filipino Catholic sings every Sunday.

    3. Why not do both, and have a truly “gathering” song or hymn, followed by the Entrance Chant to begin Mass in a more meditative way? It seems the people’s attention would be thus drawn together and then focused into the mystery of the liturgy. I would prefer this to the suggestion of doing it the other way around and using the Entrance Chant as a sort of prelude. The effectiveness of the chant is in the mood it creates, which can easily be undone by your typically boisterous “gathering” song, where I sense the unity gained by a gathering song would only be enhanced by chant following.

      This is also what I would endorse. Very rarely can i do the Entrance Antiphon after the hymn though, due to the “antsy” nature of things at the parish. We do it the backwards way you mention; I would readily admit it is not ideal. That said, a happy coincidence happened at Christmas Midnight Mass, where we sing “O come, all ye faithful” on the way to the creche, then afterward the entrance antiphon in English on the way to the chair. It was excellent that way!

  47. “The purpose of this chant is to open the celebration, foster the unity of those who have been gathered, introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the liturgical season or festivity, and accompany the procession of the priest and ministers.”

    The GIRM is confused, probably on purpose to appease different interests (sound familiar?), so ironically a document meant to instruct is deconstructive, as evidenced by the many comments above.

    The best way to foster unity of those who have gathered is to have them all sing a song together. The best way to introduce their thoughts to the mystery of the particular celebration is to have them listen to the proper entrance antiphon and psalm. I’ve tried singing both the antiphon and a hymn, but have been told to cease and desist from this practice, as it is very clear that the GIRM calls for just one piece of music for the entrance procession.

    It’s pretty exhausting to work for an organization that can’t even decide the purpose of a piece of music at the beginning of the liturgy. People like me really want to be guided by the declared intention of the Church, but trying to deduce this is like banging ones head on the wall. Thus we have the current situation, where personal preference fills the vacuum, wildly divergent liturgical practices evolve, and since how one worships effects what one believes, we lose all sense of belonging to a family of common faith.

  48. Yes, there’s no shortage of people knowing what they *would* do. It would be nice to know what we *should* do.

    And, in my previous suggestion to use both a hymn/song and the antiphon, it might be best if the actual procession did not begin until the antiphon (or at least the very end of the hymn/song), thereby deliniating the optional “gathering” hymn/song from the (in this case) required “entrance” chant/antiphon.

  49. I’m grateful to Adam for his response to my comments.

    This is in part because the antiphons presume that the proper is the domain of the schola cantorum. In time, though, I think these could be sung by a congregation. I’ve seen it happen.

    I had been thinking of suggesting precisely this: that the antiphons could be sung by the schola, and the psalm verses by the assembly. That would incorporate the dialogue which I and others think is necessary here, pace Louie’s remarks.

    You may be interested to know that each and every antiphon is reviewed by chant master Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, my chant teacher and mentor who is undoubtedly a master of the relationship between text and melody in Gregorian chant. His English chant at St. Meinrad has set a kind of standard in the world English chant without a doubt.

    With all due respect to Columba, whom I know well, the masters of adapting chant to English texts in my time have been the Benedictine nuns of Stanbrook, whose approach to this problem (and it is a problem) was nothing short of inspired. I admit that my experience of St Meinrad English chants is limited, but I have not found them to be inspired in the same way..

    The comment about the torculus seems to be likened to a non-jazz lover’s dislike of the ride cymbal or something. It takes time to absorb the style, I think.

    No, it’s about fitting text and music together like a glove. In the case of the torculus and other similar instances, the glove appears to have rather a large hole. By the time I reached the end of the examples on the website, I was not growing into it but instead getting increasingly tired of it, I’m afraid. It seemed to me be an artifice to make the music more ‘chant-like’ without respecting the needs and natural stresses of the language being set.

    They are from the Gregorian Missal from Solesmes.

    Thank you for this information. I still have problems with them as texts, however.

  50. Paul–Thank you for your responses. I would actually like to discuss this with you more, but I’m not sure we need to have the conversation in a combox…

    Would you possibly email me at adambartlettmusic {at} gmail {dot} com?

  51. I take exception to Mr. Inwood’s comment that the propers are never “sung in the shower” by anyone later in the week. I’ve done so myself! (The introit “Puer natus” with its stirring rising 5th is more memorable than many a bouncy pop tune!)

    Seriously, though, this strikes me as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the propers are never done, naturally they will not be remembered. In a similar way, banishing Latin from our schools and then complaining that no one understands it is difficult to answer!

    One cannot establish the importance of the propers by looking at the GIRM. Laws only make sense if there is a culture in place which is the living embodiment of what the law aims at preserving. Sadly, this culture is close to extinction, if it ever has really been that healthy in the past couple of generations, so all the changes in the books and in liturgical law since the Council has taken place in something of a vacuum. The resulting confusion is well reflected in the present conversation. This in turn is a expression of the unsteady basis of the Church documents themselves, as Jeff Rice has already suggested (comment #90).

    The way out of this impasse? If the present discussion is any indication, intelligent Catholics do not even agree on the nature of the disease. let alone the cure.

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