We’ll be needing lots of Mass settings at the abbey. We have one hymnal used only for Sunday Mass; either we’ll add a supplement or purchase a new hymnal which will also need a local supplement. For daily Mass we now have 15 settings in the binder in the choir stalls; this will probably increase to about 20. For big occasions with visitors from all over (Midnight Mass, university commencement), we’re limited to settings everyone already knows, or else call-and-response settings that work instantly. Weekday feasts and solemnities call for a different genre of setting than ferials. Some daily Masses are accompanied by organ, others are not. We want to stretch the harmonic vocabulary and artistic creativity here and there, but many settings need to be, in the best sense, simply functional.

I’m excited about this opportunity. The field is open – any publisher, online sources, locally written are all fair game. Some of the things on my list are copyrighted but unrevised so far, and I’ll have to get permission to revise.

Despite my best resolve to stay angry about the new missal (both the product and the process), I’m getting taken with enthusiasm for this creative musical project. I’m disappointed in myself and my ability to nurse resentments. The musical part of the revision is just too much fun.

(Don’t worry, Pray Tell will continue to give voice to many angles about the new Missal, including critical voices, as a service to the Church and a contribution to the next revision, which, please God, will begin sooner rather than later.)

We’re having two readings sessions this week and next for interested monks. Before hearing my confreres’ feedback, I thought I’d share  my thoughts so far. This is preliminary. No doubt other settings will come in between now and September or Advent.

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– ICEL chants –goes without saying. For liturgical reasons it’d be nice to have a stronger assembly affirmation of the Eucharistic Prayer – I’m thinking of a lengthened Amen such as this. Don’t they do something like this at papal liturgies in Rome? Or did I dream that?

– We now have one Latin chant Mass in our choir book, the simplex recommended in Sing to the Lord. It was a huge step when that got introduced in the early 90s, but now it is unproblematic. I’m thinking of adding two or three more Latin chant Masses– probably Mass VIII and the Ambrosian setting from Graduale Simplex, not sure what else.

– The German Lutheran Sanctus derived from a Latin chant Mass after the Reformation which was setting 2 in the Lutheran Book of Worship and is now setting 4 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. I’ve seen various versions of this in German-language Catholic hymnals since the 19th century, including the current official Gotteslob. I wish Catholics and others would pick this up as a historic and ecumenical setting. I’ve developed MA and Amen based on the Sanctus.

– Calvin Hampton, my revision based on Hymnal 1982 S127. We’ve already done an Alleluia based on this delightful setting and it went over well, which inspired me to revise the Sanctus and create MA and Amen. The Agnus would be 1982 S374 (in “Service Music” accomp ed., not in the hymnal).

– Michel Guimont’s setting which is one of three in the Canadian national resource Celebrate in Song. For my money, this setting is stronger than the one he wrote for GIA, “Mass for a Servant Church.”

– Douglas Mews, his new setting for the New Zealand bishops’ conference. I’m told it’s getting mixed reviews down there. This setting is very simple but not without interest, and it may be just what we need for some occasions.

– John Karl Hirten, “Rose Hill Mass” from GIA, if we can revise it. Michael Silhavy put me on to this soft, pleasant contemporary setting.

– Richard Connolly, “Mass of Our Lady, Help of Christians” from CanticaNova, one of six recommended by the Australian bishops. Not super interesting, but I think it’s usable. I fear the Latin refrain of the Gloria is a bit long for one-time visitors – I wonder if they’d let us use just the first line with the text “Gloria in excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest”?

– Richard Proulx / Michael O’Connor, “Missa Simplex” based on the “Gloria Simplex” Proulx wrote shortly before his death (World Library Publications). It’s simple and quite lovely. I also like Lisa Stafford’s Mass of Grace from WLP, but we’ll have to think through the similarity between that, Missa Simplex, and Corpus Christi Mass.

– David Hurd, “Mass in Honor of St. Cecilia” from Liturgical Press – this was commissioned by Omaha archdiocese, and I’m glad LitPress picked it up. I’m curious how monks will react to this somewhat melismatic setting with diatonic melody and nice mild chromaticism here and there in the accompaniment.

– My attempt at a simple setting based on Gregorian psalm tones. I might write a simple organ accompaniment. Or if we do it at Sunday Mass, a small schola might sing simple organum unaccompanied in alternation with congregation. Or if it gets voted down, I’m OK with that too.

– ADDED 7/7: Adam Wood’s  “Missa Sakanala” Sanctus came to my attention just in time for the reading session. It is excellent – truly American folk chant, truly inculturation at its best. Here is the version I distributed, with Adam’s permission. It was a huge hit.

– Richard Proulx, “Corpus Christi Mass,” GIA. I think GIA might not be planning to reissue this, since they laudably want to promote the ICEL settings for those wishing to do chant. But we need lots of chant settings at St. John’s, so we might ask them if we can revise this. It could be done at daily Mass with the simple organ accompaniment Proulx wrote; or at Sunday Mass we could do it as now, with alternation between schola (my simple TTB arrangement) and congregation.

– My arrangement of Michael Haydn, the Austrian Mass from LitPress. I have mixed feelings about this one – it’s kind of cute, and I think it might fit the English text slightly better than Proulx’s “Deutsche Messe,” but I’m not convinced that such typically Alpine melodies work in the U.S. It is striking that this is the oldest Catholic Mass setting in continuous use – in the 18th century the Austrian empress mandated it for the entire country, and it spread to Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Bohemia, and even northern Italy for a time. (The people sang vernacular paraphrases while the priest said the real text in Latin.) Haydn’s setting, with the paraphrase in English translation, appeared in some U.S. Catholic hymnals from the 1920s or so.

– J. Michael Joncas, “Sing Praise and Thanksgiving” from WLP. This is strong and appealing.

– David Hurd, Misa de la Santa Cruz, written in Spanish, never published. I got a copy from him and worked up an English setting which of course I’ll run by the composer before doing anything with it. I love his interesting harmonies and delightful, energetic melodies! Gloria could be sung by everyone all the way through, or first line could become a refrain.

– Collegeville Composer Group, Psallite Mass. This has gotten good reviews over at CMAA. It can be a challenge to hold a large group together on text rhythm settings, but with strong leadership from cantor/schola, I think this could be very effective.

– Gerald Near, “Mass of St. Augustine” from MorningStar Publications. Like most everything from Gerald Near (see acc to Hymnal 1982 #37, EVENING HYMN), this setting is really beautiful. It’s rising to the very top of my list, and I hope monks don’t find the melodies too difficult.

– Chris Mueller, Missa pro editione tertia at benesonarium. Gentle dissonance, very beautiful, at times similar to Taize (though perhaps the trad composer wouldn’t appreciate the comparison). Through friendly conversations with the composer, I’ve learned that there’s no way the first line of the Gloria can be used as a refrain – he belongs to the school of thought that would prohibit Gloria refrains. The composer received well my suggestion to correct the grammar in what was originally “Missa pro editio tertia” – pro takes the ablative.

– H. Barrie Cabena, my adaptation of his Mass in Catholic Book of Worship II (Canada), copyrighted 1971 by Huron Press. My revision worked so well that I’m curious whether I’ve reconstructed what he wrote for the 1966 text, or whether his setting was original in 1971. The harmonies are slightly out there in a quirky way I really like. We’ll see what the brethren think.

– Jacob Bancks, “Mass of the Most Sacred Heart.” This Gloria is rising to the top of my list because – as I said at the reading session at our CCMLA conference – it moves forward with exciting energy. There is no wasted space (e.g. measure of suspended chord, measure of resolved dominant seventh chord – arrrrgh!). I think the congregation could sing the entire hymn. The Sanctus is, as they say, different. The first “Hosannah” is very beautiful, sort of reminds me of Langlais. I’m curious what others will make of the opening notes D – E flat – D – A – A on “Holy Holy.”

– Robert LeBlanc, “Mass in Honor of St. Benedict.” LeBlanc is an excellent composer, right up there with Richard Proulx with whom he shares (loosely) some similarities in harmonic vocabulary. This is LeBlanc at his less adventurous, and it’s solid and usable.

– Kevin Vogt, “Mass in Honor of St. Paul.” This is in RitualSong, but as of now GIA isn’t revising it. It’s in 4 and has a nice sort of Anglican arch to it. Kevin shared with me his revision which – gasp – puts in in 3. At first I thought that was a deal-breaker. Then I came to think that it is precisely this which makes it work well with a revised text.

– Richard Proulx, “Carillon Mass.” From GIA. I didn’t know of it until a couple weeks ago. It’s a candidate for call-and-response at Midnight Mass. We’d use the version with organ accompaniment, alternate between schola and congregation, and add trumpet to the congregational parts to help them follow the somewhat syncopated melody (it’s in 6/8). The Benedictus goes crazy – either a tenor solo would take it, or I’d write a simplified short version based on the Pleni sunt. The setting is beautiful, mystical, delightful. The syncopation might argue against it – that can be difficult in a large church with a thousand people.

– J. Michael Joncas, “Missa ad Gentes,” GIA, commissioned for Maryknoll’s centennial. At this point it’s either Proulx “Carillon” or Joncas “Gentes” for the call-and-response big occasions – we’d use Sanctus, MA, and Amen from these settings. I think the solid rhythms of Joncas’s Mass might make it less risky and more usable. The alternation between Latin (schola) and English (congregation) is nice. The melody is sort of tending toward high Anglican, but there is a slight influence of popular contemporary which, in my view, softens it in a good way and saves it from being triumphalistic.

– Robert LeBlanc, “Mass of Jubilee.” This is an oldie from GIA, much done around here back in the 80s when LeBlanc was part of the Benedictine musicians’ organization. It pushes the envelope on harmonic dissonance, which I think we need more of. We’ll see if anyone else here wants to see it revived and revised.

– I mined the 1966 Benziger Catholic Hymnal and Service Book and found two things from the 1966 translation which work well with the similar revised text: J.G. Phillips Gloria and Frank Campbell-Watson’s Agnus. The former might be too repetitive. The latter is really beautiful.

I expect we’ll continue using Haugen “Mass of Creation” (good for big occasions when visitors are from all over, but only if the revised setting also catches on), Vermulst “People’s Mass,” Lee Gloria (we alternate the psalm tone between TTB schola and congregation to nice effect), Proulx “Mass of the City,” Proulx “Community Mass” except the revised Gloria which is a train wreck, Andrews Gloria if everyone is OK with the massive revisions the new text required, Becket Senchur’s “Confidence” Sanctus and Trinity Agnus from Benedictine Book of Song, and his Gloria in E flat (I’ve revised the refrain and verses) which somehow migrated from Benedictine sources to People’s Mass Book to the GIA hymnals and is now copyrighted by GIA. I fear we might drop Hurd’s “New Plainsong” if GIA doesn’t revise it. Still waiting for James MacMillan’s revised settings, and the score for his Newman mass.

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The 19th century Cecilians wanted to rid Catholic music of secular influences (sound familiar?). For them this meant vernacular hymnody (sound familiar?) and orchestral music of Mozart and Haydn and their second-rate and third-rate imitators, and secular instruments (sound familiar?) such as violins and kettle drums. They wanted to be really, really Catholic (sound familiar?). At their worst, the Cecilians maneuvered themselves onto the sidelines of bland mediocrity. That great towering composer of the nineteenth century, Anton Bruckner, said of the Cecilians, “They call it ‘churchly’ when nothing has occurred to them,” and he once called Cecilianism “a disease.”

As you see, plenty of online resources have made my list. But some haven’t because they are, in my view, the dull and uninspired, supposedly Catholic Cecilianism of our day.

I think we need more Hampton, LeBlanc, Cabena, Hurd, Near… and less dullness.

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I was initially overly confident of my ability to judge a score by playing it through on piano. It was a revelation to sit on the panel at our CCMLA conference and sing while another played. It was then that the sheer beauty of Gerald Near (to name one example) really hit me. I’ve also found that piano gives a quite different effect than organ, especially in settings with moving chromaticism against sustained notes. I’ve made sure that our readings sessions will take place in the abbey church by the pipe organ, since that’s where they would be used. I encourage you to experiment with singing through settings as well as playing them through, and to try out the settings in your actual worship space.

We all have biases and limitations. It has been a good thought-experiment for me to sing a particular setting as if a hero such as Richard Proulx wrote it. It puts it in a different light and opens up more generous evaluations. Give it a try and see what happens.

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See Adam Wood’s interesting and perceptive reviews of WLP, GIA, and OCP, and Gerry Galipeau’s response (from WLP) here. Here is Adam Wood on Mueller and Psallite.

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Thoughts? Fire away.


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