At the recent Collegeville Conference on Music, Liturgy, and the Arts, Michael Silhavy (now at GIA Publications) gave a plenum presentation on Mass settings with the revised Missal translation. This post is based on his remarks and the participants’ comments.
Seven comments on the implementation of the new missal
1. The implementation wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.
The unkind way of saying that is that some folks may have felt cheated that there wasn’t more rancor in the pews! Some may have been demoralized about the text and the process, which reduced their energy to do catechesis. But places that wanted the translation to work made it work. Leadership is everything.
Our people are used to having too much new music thrown at them. But the positive side is that this made it easier to throw all this new music at our people!
The implementation was an opportunity to weed out some bad habits and bad music. It helpfully forced some parishes to introduce some needed variety in their stale music program.
It is sad to see that things are no longer known by heart, and to witness congregational indifference and decreased participation because of the new texts and music.
If nothing else, we can remember Henry V’s speech before the battle of Agincourt: we can say we were there!
2. Experimentation reigns.
Well over 50 different settings are being used in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. There are probably regional differences across the country, with more hymnals and GIA products in the Twin Cities, more OCP on the west coast, for example.
There is a proliferation of web-based resources – but how much are they being used?
Some used the implementation of the new Missal as a pretext to push other agendas – for example, to claim (falsely) that the Church says opening hymns should no longer be used.
The new Missal doesn’t (yet) seem to be uniting parishes. It is dividing them more than every by Mass setting used, which may differ from the parish next door.
There seems to be more parish-wide unity, and less music specifically for kids, adults, teens, etc.
3. We were largely wrong in our assessment of revised settings.
We thought revised old settings would be too confusing. But a survey of publishers (below) shows that revised settings are doing well.
Simultaneous singing is helpfully possible with some revisions, with old words and new words sung at the same time.
“Mass of Creation” (GIA, Marty Haugen) still seems to be the standard wedding and funeral setting.
4. The Missal chants have received, to put it kindly, modest usage.
Chant continues to have a bad name: strange four-line notation, square notes, Latin text. Chant is associated with penitence.
We should have spoken of “dialogical singing” rather than “chanting.”
Priests are struggling to read new texts, let alone sing them. The results sometimes are simply not beautiful.
5. The Gloria has suffered the most.
Refrain settings of the Gloria keep the whole Gloria from being learned by the people. But refrain settings for Christmas with the carol refrain Gloria in excelsis Deo will continue to grow. Why not an increase of choir-only Glorias, as allowed for in the GIRM, especially at Christmas and Easter?
The Gloria offers great possibilities for musical satisfaction. Composers: get at it!
6. You can’t regulate what people will use.
Try as they might, publishers or organizations can’t force settings via their hymnals, publications, or contests.
Our most successful music usually grows out of actual usage, not commissions. For example, Richard Proulx’s Community Mass first composed in 1966 was used in a parish in Seattle beginning in 1970, and then it spread from there.
7. More new settings are needed.
Consider the thousands of settings that were attempted in the 25 years between 1970-1995. It is a long winnowing process between this and the 6 or 8 settings a parish selects and learns.
Data from Publisher on Customer Interest in Mass Settings
World Library Publications reports that the four top-selling settings are:
- “Mass of Wisdom,” Janco (new)
- “Mass of Redemption,” Janco (revised)
- “Sing Praise and Thanksgiving,” Joncas (revised)
- “Mass of Saint Ann,” Bolduc (new).
Then, after a gap, these settings have similar levels of interest:
- “Mass for Christian Unity”, Vermulst/Proulx (revised)
- “Missa Simplex” Proulx/O’Connor (new)
- “People’s Mass,” Vermulst/Proulx (revised)
- “Mass of Awakening,” Soper (new).
Liturgical Press reports the greatest customer interest in:
- “At the Table of the Lord” (Psallite), Collegeville Composer Group (new)
- “Mass in Honor of Michael,” Vogt (new)
- “ Mass in Honor of Mary,” Krubsack (new).
OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) reports that its top five settings are:
- “Mass of Christ the Savior,” Schutte (new)
- “Mass of Renewal,” Curtis (new)
- “Heritage Mass,” Alstott (revised)
- “Mass of Resurrection,” DeBruyn (revised)
- “Mass of Glory,” Hurd/Canedo (revised)
The most popular bilingual Mass from OCP is “Missa Santa Cecilia Lopez,” García-López/López (new).
GIA Publications reports that its top five settings are:
- “Mass of Creation,” Haugen (revised)
- “Community Mass,” Proulx (revised)
- “Mass of Angels and Saints,” Janco (revised)
- “Mass of Joy and Peace,” Alonso (new)
- “Mass of Light,” Haas (revised)