There was a request to see some of the leaflets I prepared for the abbots’ congress now taking place at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome. Here you go – I Vespers, Lauds, and II Vespers of today, Sunday XXV.
There is no leaflet for Sunday Mass today because the congress participants have the option of a field trip to Monte Casino, Subiaco, or Norcia.
For those of us who stayed at the monastery, we did a simple Latin Mass, all singing Mass XI, Orbis factor, for the Mass parts, and a thrown-together schola singing some of the propers of the day.
I learned only 4 minutes before-hand that this Mass for the non-pilgrims was happening and I was responsible for music. It was great fun – I mean this seriously – to be able to open the Graduale and make music, on the spot, with a couple German abbots (Beuron, Gerleve) whose singing style and rhythmic interpretation fits perfectly what I learned in Graz, Austria. A student monk from Korea, Br. Pachomio, also added his beautiful voice. He obviously is accustomed to singing the syllables with equal values, but he’s a quick study and picked up that accented syllables are longer (not louder) and that the energy moves through the note group to the last note, especially on an accented syllable, and that the whole thing moves. It all held together.
We did the proper introit and communio of Sunday XXV. We only had the Graduale Romanum, not the Graduale Triplex, but the Germans and I pretty much knew by heart the rhythm of the early neuemes, and I was able to indicate this to Br. Pachomio as clearly as possible. Br. Pachomio sang the Responsorial Psalm in Italian from a little Italian handout with readings of the day – I think he made up a simple, singable chant on the spot. For the Gospel Acclamation we did, rather than the proper of the day, the simples mode VI Alleluia that everyone knows, and we chanted the text of the verse in the Graduale to the simple psalm tone of the mode.
During the opening Sign of the Cross the abbot of Gerleve said he might as well accompany the congregational chants, though he had never played the organ. Mad dash for the console, searching for which stops are for which manual, and I held my hand up to hold everyone back in the sanctuary when we weren’t quite ready for the Kyrie. And then we began. Gloria (and Credo III) alternating between schola and all. Since we sing the Mass parts in English at Saint John’s and only use 2 or 3 Latin ordinaries, this was a Gloria I had never sung in my life, but it was great fun conducting it on the spot to keep the schola together while I sight read.
During the homily (in Italian) I decided that the proper offertorium of the day is a bit much and I’d rather not butcher it since we hadn’t had time to rehearse it. The foreword to the Graduale allows for substitution of proper chants within the same season, so I began paging around for a more usable candidate. Sunday XIX it was, In te speravi.
This offertorium is another chant I’ve never sung (the chant schola at Saint John’s focuses on introits and communios, rarely doing an offertory), so I had no earthly idea what the early neuemes say. I whispered to the abbots that I’d take a guess, and they should follow me as best they could. It worked. Then there was time remaining so I made a snap decision that maybe wasn’t too brilliant – I chanted out a verse of Psalm 34 in English to a simple psalm tone, and we repeated the antiphon. Then we sat down and I thought about what I might have done – say, a Psalm verse in Latin… say, from the psalm that antiphon is from. Oh well.
Here are a couple Mass leaflets – St. Matthew on Friday, BVM on Saturday:
The leaflets evidence my campaign for “mutual enrichment” – not that the pre-Vatican II unreformed Mass and the reformed liturgy enrich each other as Pope Benedict proposed when he readmitted the unreformed Mass universally with Summorum pontificum, but that the postconciliar liturgy as generally celebrated in vernacular according to good liturgical principles enrich postconciliar celebrations of the Mass of Paul VI in Latin.
I’ve long observed that in many celebrations of the reformed rite in Latin in Europe, liturgical principles are overlooked, or old habits are still in place, or folks haven’t thought through how to make the new liturgy work in Latin with good assembly participation. Hence the following reformist measures on my part.
I included all the assembly’s sung and spoken responses in the leaflet – no, not everyone knows these by heart.
I made some use of the Graduale Simplex. I know that some people regret the loss of the great masterpiece propers from the Graduale Romanum, and in fact I’m one of them. But for the votive BVM Mass, for example, I surmised that the participants might appreciate singing familiar pieces such as the Ave Maria, rather than struggling with propers that are rather difficult for 300 people to sing together. Since the Simplex draws from office antiphons, and since the office antiphons known to Benedictines from the 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum are revised and much improved over the 1912 Antiphonale Romanum, I used our 1934 melodies rather than AR / GS, also with some consultation of the new Antiphonale Monasticum of 2005 – (about which, opinions vary).
For some of the congress Masses I have printed the proper introit and communio in the leaflet, sensing that it will not go over well if Anthony Ruff uses the Simplex as part of a slash-and-burn campaign to eliminate chant propers. Mass of St. Matthew has the proper introit Os iusti, for example. But even here, I strived to make it look like as much like an assembly antiphon as possible, not an excerpt from some esoteric monkish book. This means that only the antiphon of the introit is in the leaflet, and then just the text of the verses. It’s a subtle change, but it is intended to communicate that the reformed liturgy has a variety of roles which allows for alternation between assembly and schola.
I recall from the last abbots’ congress (2008) that every Latin chant proper was printed in the leaflet, and in some cases, especially during communion, almost nobody sang along – or some brave souls struggled to carry the melody, but at several tempos simultaneously, each slower than the next. This struck me as something rather less than the glories of our precious Benedictine liturgical heritage – not to say, a train wreck. I included some of the easier Mass propers from the Graduale Romanum where I thought they had a fighting chance of working, but when not, I opted for the Simplex.
Note: when a large assembly such as this sings a Latin mass proper, the tempo will inevitably be a bit slower. Plan on it and make your peace with it, and do what you can to keep it moving while graciously striving to hold it together. There is nothing contructive about an unamplified schola of 5 people singing at a much quicker tempo than an assembly of 300, unless if you have a thing for chaos. I directed the assembly just a bit (not being a big fan of gesticulating animators), and cocked my ear to hear what was coming from the nave so as to guide the schola to stay with the mob. I suppose some in the schola might have thought that I don’t know how quickly chant should go. If it’s to be an assembly chant, you have to account for the assembly and respect them.
The Scripture readings are proclaimed in various vernaculars at the abbots’ congress. I recall from 2008 that the lector generally said “The Word of the Lord” in his or her own vernacular, with most of the congregation struggling to guess how to say “Thanks be to God” in that langauge. I thought it more practical and hospitable to have it sung in Latin at every liturgy – Verbum Domini. Deo gratias.
Here’s a pet peeve: immediately after the second reading (or gradual/psalm at daily Mass), the organist starts improvising on the Alleluia while the acolytes begin bringing the incense equipment to the celebrant. The schola beings the Alleluia – rather quietly, while all remain seated as if they need better to see the incense preparation. The Alleluia mostly accompanies the celebrant’s and acolytes’ incense preparations. Then somewhere near the end of the Alleluia, all finally stand as the deacon approaches the ambo. Hello, everybody: the Alleluia is the assembly’s joyful, expectant acclamation to the Lord who will speak in the Gospel reading, and all should stand as it begins. Sitting reflectively in silence is appropriate before the music begins, i.e. after the second reading. For all these reasons (from the GIRM, not me), I mostly used Simplex assembly Alelluias. For St. Matthew, though, I also included the proper chant in case the schola had a chance to learn it (note, only the Alleluia refrain, and then the text of the Alleluia verse). We ended up using the Simplex option for practical reasons.
I included the simple and solemn versions of the preface dialgoue, rightly guessing that some celebrants would use the simple preface tone since the prefaces in the Latin missal aren’t all notated.
I used an expanded, three-fold chant “Amen” at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer so it would feel more like a real affirmation on the part of the assembly. (Don’t tell anyone, but it’s from the 1997/1998 ICEL sacramentary. I don’t want the provenance to leak out, lest it prevent this three-fold Amen from being included in an official Latin book someday.)
The organist – a very talented young monk from Maria Laach – doesn’t know it yet, but I have a further reform in mind for daily Mass this coming Monday and Tuesday. The unfortunate custom in Europe is that the Memorial Acclamation (Mortem tuam) and Amen are sung unaccompanied, though the organ accompanies the congregational Sanctus. My issue with this is that the Eucharistic Prayer is a unity, and the music should reflect this. So… I know it means the organist won’t be able to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer (no comment on that for now), but I will ask him to accompany the Memorial Acclamation and Amen on the organ.
BTW, I’ve pulled from various papal liturgies at the Vatican website the chant setting for all three Memorial Acclamations:
Since these settings are available, I’ve mixed it up and used a different one each day at Mass. It has required just a bit of waving the leaflet at everyone to indicate if it isn’t the first one that everyone knows by heart.
All these are subtle changes, but for perceptive people it has an effect on the spirit of the liturgical celebration. It feels now like we’re doing what we always do, Sunday after Sunday, the reformed liturgy of Paul VI – but now in Latin because we’re an international group – and not that the Latin language has some sort of gravitational pull upon our memories and causes us to fall into a different set of ritual customs, with less concern about the assembly.
I’m sure there are varying opinions about celebrating the liturgy in Latin. In this case, it wasn’t my decision to do so. That decision was already made, and it was my role to make it happen. So far, I think it’s gone quite well. Let’s see what the conference eval sheets say.