Glory to God in the… Oh, Nevermind

by Frank Klose 

Increasingly in the two parishes in which I minister, the Glory to God is being recited rather than sung. Two reasons seem to come up: The length of the Glory to God and the quality of the Glory to God. Both issues can be attributed to the new translation of the Roman Missal, which has in essence taken this hymn away from the people.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is pretty clear: The Glory to God is the hymn of the liturgy. In fact, it is the only one really mentioned by name:

The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text.

What can we do when the text we have been given is too difficult to use? Three years after the implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, finding a singable Glory to God has been the music director’s greatest challenge.

We should have known that this was going to be a challenge. In 2011, composer Ricky Manalo, C.S.P., wrote in a piece entitled, “Making the Unsingable Singable” that the new text, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will”…”does not follow such a logical rhythmic structure, flow, and pace…for many composers, this phrase was the most difficult to set in the whole new translation. In fact, some of us thought that if we could just set this one phrase to music, everything else would be easier.”

The end result is that many composers have turned to repeating words and phrases in composition to give the text musical balance. In Dan Schutte’s setting of the Glory to God in “Mass of Christ the Savior”, the refrain repeats “Glory to God” two times after the first, as well as one repeated “on earth peace”. Schutte’s popular setting has been criticized for “altering the text” for his repetition of the above phrases. The repetition means that with a refrain the hymn is 3:43 long in Schutte’s recording. Schutte is not alone in utilizing a strategy of repetition and this setting has been arguably one of the most popular settings thus far.

If indeed the Glory to God is intended to be a hymn, the text should be treated as a hymn and composers be presented with a translation that allows the faithful to sing. There is precedent in the Church. Article 37 of Comme Le Prevoit: On The Translation Of Liturgical Texts For Celebrations With A Congregation, the 1969 product of the Concilium for Implementing the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, demonstrates the need for a more flexible translation of hymns:

Liturgical hymns lose their proper function unless they are rendered in an appropriate verse rhythm, suitable for singing by the people. A literal translation of such texts is therefore generally out of the question. It follows that hymns very often need a new rendering made according to the musical and choral laws of the popular poetry in each language.

Perhaps the Church could start by addressing the translation , “people of good will.” The 2011 translation utilizes a phrases that the Church foresaw as an inaccurate translation decades ago. Comme le Prevoit warned us:

It often happens that there is no word in common use that exactly corresponds to the biblical or liturgical sense of the term to be translated, as in the use of the biblical <iustitia>. The nearest suitable word must then be chosen which, through habitual use in various catechetical texts and in prayer, lends itself to take on the biblical and Christian sense intended by the liturgy. Such has been the evolution of the Greek word <doxa> and the Latin <gloria> when used to translate the Hebrew <kabod>. The expression <hominibus bonae voluntatis> literally translated as <to men of  good will> (or <good will to men> in order to stress divine favor) will be misleading; no single English word or phrase will completely reflect the original Latin or the Greek which the Latin translates.

Is “formal correspondence” more important than accuracy?

I remember the day when I used to look forward to singing the Glory to God. At the celebrant’s proclamation of, “May Almighty God have mercy on us…” the excitement built as we prepared to proclaim God’s glory. The people all sang along with great vigor, and it set a tone for the liturgy. Today, the celebrants and the congregation race through the text as if sitting down has become a great priority. That is a great shame.

Dr. Francis X. Klose is a parish music director and college professor in Philadelphia, PA. Frank recently completed a doctoral degree from Drew University, where his dissertation focused on liturgical music in the United States since the Second Vatican Council.

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42 comments

  1. Well, we tossed out Comme le Prevoit! And secondly… Why was there such a lack of questioning or criticism when those pushing this missal were gushing how we hear this same phrase in the gospel at Christmas? Uh, what translation of the bible uses “people of good will?” The lectionary reads: “Glory to God in the highest
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” How is what we have now more accurate than “to his people on earth?”

    1. @Sean Whelan – comment #1:
      Sean, that’s another point I often make that I declined to make this particular post, because I was focusing on the translation. Divine Favor is the key. I haven’t used Storrington, but I use the other three you named.

    2. @Sean Whelan – comment #1
      “How is what we have now more accurate than ‘to his people on earth’?” It isn’t at all, Sean, in my judgment. I’ve commented before that “peace to his people on earth,” though exceedingly paraphrastic, at least doesn’t introduce an outright inaccuracy.
      It seems to me that the question of accuracy in translation trumps the question of how to make the new text work in a musical setting. Inaccurate translations are unacceptable even if “Comme le prévoit” has been repudiated. I think it’s wrong to sing words that wrongly render the words of Luke’s Gospel.
      Fortunately, I’m not a cantor, a choir director, or a composer, so my conscience doesn’t burden other people. I just sing “peace to his people on earth,” not loud enough to make a disturbance. So when the “Forgive us as we forgive” part of the Our Father comes along, I have some recent applicable experience! God is great, and even Vox Clara can be forgiven.

      1. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #28:
        One issue is that the Gloria’s text is *not* Scripture, but a Latin hymn that uses a Scriptural referent for its opening line. So, unlike rendering Lectionary readings, the issue of accuracy is rendering Latin, not Greek or Aramiaic or Hebrew. (In the case of the Creed, CLP would source back to the Greek for good reason. Less reason for the Gloria.)

      2. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #30:

        That may be all well and good – but it was SOLD to us as more close to the Scripture. That and the Collect for Advent I, run forth to meet your Christ… never heard them expound on any of the other “beautiful” translations.

      3. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #30:
        But if part of the Gloria’s text is Scripture and part isn’t, the part that is Scripture should not be translated into English from a Latin translation of Greek, should it? I believe that’s not only my standard but that of “Liturgiam Authenticam” (24).

      4. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #32:
        Paul, I don’t read 24 of LA to apply to partly to the Gloria in the manner you suggest. Of course, my reading is not dispositive, but it’s not a reading that has clearly been embraced by the folks in Rome. For now.

        The purpose of my point is really more limited: it’s not per se UNreasonable that the opening line of the Gloria use Latin as its referent language rather than Greek. It may be arguably *more* or *less* reasonable (but still within the circle of reasonableness, rather than the outer circle of UNreasonableness). We’ve lost this distinction these days, it seems. Things are very B&W, very addiction codependent, in these things.

      5. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #33:
        Even if “Liturgiam Authenticam” can be interpreted as allowing translation-of-a-translation in part of a text, I argue (with Frank Klose and Sean Whelan, I think) that “on earth peace to people of good will” is a wrong translation of Luke 2:14. I see that latter issue as B&W.

      6. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #35:
        Not dispositive so as to approve one accurate rendering rather than another, I suppose. But I don’t see how use in liturgy of an outright mistranslation of Scripture is ever permissible.

      7. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #36:
        If the opening line of the Gloria is viewed as a Latin scriptural paraphrase, one is not a fundamentalist that scriptural paraphrases are verboten in the Divine Liturgy, then one might see how it would be at least not verboten…. The Gloria is not pretending to be a Scripture lection or responsorial psalm, where one might expect a somewhat stricter standard to obtain.

      8. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #38:
        It depends on the translation, I suppose. NABRE has something different than the liturgical hymn. I don’t know that I would call it a paraphrase. The Latin text of the Gloria is suggested by Luke 2:14. Either way, it doesn’t take terribly long to sing it, and all the rest of the words.

      9. @Todd Flowerday – comment #39:
        What’s in Luke 2:14 in NABRE, and in virtually every other New Testament published in the last fifty years, doesn’t mean the same as “on earth peace to people of good will.” Those who produced our present sung text don’t seem to mind. I wonder whether they’ve realized they’ve risked CONFUSING THE FAITHFUL. There’s not much worse you can do than that, I’m told.
        Snarkiness aside, I agree, Todd, that the Gloria doesn’t take too much time to sing, and it marvelously deordinarizes the Sundays of “Ordinary Time.” Its value has become clearer to me over the years.

  2. There are many fine settings of the new Gloria, e.g., available on the Corpus Christi Watershed website or via MusicaSacra. There’s no excuse for not singing it.

  3. I have experienced the same phenomenon that Frank talks about in parishes I have attended over the past several years, that is to say in various parishes. The new Gloria translation is so wordy and repetitive, it seems that we rush through it because we are so eager to get it out of the way. There’s a mumbled quality about how it is “proclaimed” and even when it’s sung it seems verbose and lacking in rhythm or other qualities that make for a successful hymn. People remain glued to the printed page because there’s nothing memorable about the wording; it seems like a jumble. I never thought the old translation was easily remembered either, but this one is definitely more difficult to commit to memory.

  4. I have mixed feelings about the new Gloria text. Before the translation there were a lot of really nice Glorias to sing: Community Mass-Proulx, Mass of Creation (if used sparingly), and others. I also would use the William Mathias and Robert Powell settings from the Hymnal 1982, which, since they used the same texts, are nice settings from the Episcopal Church.

    I haven’t found a lot of congregational mass settings that I like since the new translations came about. Mass of a Servant Church is quite nice, and Missa Simplex is quite tolerable. But otherwise, most of the musical settings are pretty bad. I’m really not sure why Dan Schutte’s Mass is so popular; I think it might be one of the worst Glorias I’ve ever heard…EVER! Have we all not seen the comparison video where a clever musician compared the Gloria from the Schutte Mass with the theme song of “My Little Pony”? If not, you should watch it. It would probably help the cause of singing a Gloria at Mass if Diocesan Offices of Worship didn’t promote/mandate the worst and most trite of the Gloria compositions like Mass of Christ the Savior.

    I think chant based settings are the way to go. There is also really not an excuse for not singing the Gloria. Many of the big publishers promote a lot of unsingable Glorias, but there are good ones to be found from smaller places like the CCW, or publications from Collegeville and St Meinrad.

  5. At St. Thomas the Apostle in Minneapolis last Sunday the congregation sang the entire Gloria. The text was not altered; no words were repeated, no words left out. As I looked about the assembly I was amazed at how many people actually had the Gloria memorized and didn’t need the use a worship resource to sing it. What setting were they singing you ask? “The Psallite Mass: At the Table of the Lord” by the Collegeville Composers Group, published by Liturgical Press. That assembly sang the entire Gloria, with energy! The setting works!

  6. when the new Roman Missal was still in process, I’m certain I read somewhere that the Bishops wanted the Glory to God to be through-composed. Very few of the new settings are. Our diocese chose the Mass in Honor of St.Benedict (Liturgical Press). I resisted at first but came to love it. And the people sing it very well. We have also learned Mass of Christ the Savior but sing it without a refrain. The people are now singing it well. Another note: how many people sing a learned Gloria by heart but still need the Mass card to recite the Profession of Faith?

  7. [F]inding a singable Glory to God has been the music director’s greatest challenge.

    There’s a perfectly good setting in the Missal. There are even more perfectly good Latin settings in the Graduale.

    But, of course, we couldn’t possibly use those. No-one in the contemporary liturgical music publishing cartel makes any money off them!

  8. Ah yes… the “good all days”…. My experience in the past 40 plus years is that the Gloria has always been a “burden” at some level not only for the folks in the pews but for presiders because of the length especially the settings with refrain. This is not a new translation issue. We need more solid, singable through composed settings that don’t die out in the middle. Blessings.

  9. At our parish we have used Mass of Wisdom (Janco), Mass of Redemption (Janco), and Mass of…Cabrini (Keil). All are thru composed and all are very singable and all have been well received. Thank you!

  10. I don’t think you can blame the new translation. The transition from a verse/refrain Gloria to through composed was difficult under the old translation as well. For what it’s worth, neither of my parishes have difficulty with singing the new Gloria. We chose one through composed setting that would work with cantor/organ; contemporary ensemble; guitar alone and used it exclusively at every English Sunday Mass for at least one year. We took advantage of the 3 month “training period” before Advent 2010 to teach it a verse at a time–first “verse 3” (for you alone), then verse 1 and finally verse 2 (Lord, Jesus Christ). The setting we ended up with was Mass of Wisdom (Janco) and while none of the choirs love it, it is a good workable setting and both parishes sing it well. At my primary parish, we are just now reintroducing the Latin chant (Missa de Angelis) across most of the Masses.

    1. @Elyn Macek – comment #10:
      Hi, Elyn! Great points, particularly the one that dismisses the issue that the MR3 translation is ipso facto deficient.
      As I’ve mentioned for contemporary ensemble situations, should the Bolduc require relief, please try the B. Hurd “Santa Clara.” It fits those different criteria you mention.
      I have to get in a dig defending Anthony and ICEL XV versus Todd’s revolt. The four note wonder (actually I think six toward the end) moves quite well in the new translation, and invites the creative composer/arranger to adorn the chant that keeps the chant from getting stale.
      Regarding the breadth of time issue, a really good choir could bring in Proulx’s Oecumenica or Gouze’s Samaritan Woman homophonic settings at about 1.5 minutes, tops. And they were congregationally designed.
      But the issue of “clocking” the Glory or the Creed is really counter-intuitive and detrimental to the liturgical point. If a parish choir/ensemble can assist the congregation with negotiating portions of the text with more enlightened innovations than the standard Vatican two step alternatim, something John Schiavone is very good at, then three-four minutes of “heavenly hymn” is no longer an issue. After a while, then retreat to a chant, whether from the Graduale or from Ostrowski in unison.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #18:
        Four note wonder: I like that. Four notes isn’t really enough to determine the mode. A composition prof I had long ago said that for a responsorial psalm six notes is the minimum standard. That said, the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos thought enough of it to include it on their expanded cd from twenty-plus years ago.

        Agreement on clocking the Gloria. God’s time at Mass is good enough in a liturgically mature community.

  11. No one can answer my second point in my first comment?

    Secondly, we used, in this order:
    Storrington Mass – Haugen
    Mass of Creation – Haugen
    Mass of Saint Ann – Bolduc (Through composed)
    Mass of Light – Haas

    Am considering Mass for Christian Unity – Vermulst.

    They sing each with great gusto. And the concern about additional refrains adding lots of time depends. Storrington and Creation have short refrains. Two extra refrains literally adds 20 seconds to the overall time, at least how I play it.

  12. With respect to our blog host, I think the inclusion of Gloria XV was an error. It is not really a good piece of music. Once people get the cadence right (if they do) I don’t think it wears well with repeated use. Our musicians rejected it outright and said we could do better.

    I think the people trying to pass off the Schutte as “My Precious Pony” or whatever need to come up with a better recording. I sure wouldn’t play it the “pony” way. And for the record, the added words are “earth peace on.” Mr Ostrowski needs to get over himself on this one.

    It took our parishioners a good number of months to latch on to the setting from the Mass of St Ann. We are glad we stuck with it. That does bear up well with repeated use (close to three years now).

  13. Over the years, I find emphatically metrical settings of the Gloria wear out their welcome, of course some earlier than others (the more dancelike or syncopated, the quicker). The closer to a looser (metrically speaking), chant approach that does not shoehorn the text too much has longer legs. That was true before the translation change and more apparent to me after it. Btw, the text we have now is not entirely new; if you lived through the “interim” vernacular Missal for a few years in the late 1960s, it should ring a bell or two….

  14. It seems like the problem is more of the music ministries not trying out different settings than the words themselves. Over the past few years I’ve been in parishes that have used Haugen’s Storrington Mass, Warner’s Mass of Our Lady and Mass of Charity and Love, as well as two different parishes that had composed their own contemporary/praise&worship style sung-thru Glorias (2 each per parish!). All of these were very singable and helped everyone learn the new words quite seamlessly. We sometimes even break out into repetitions of the final Gloria/Amen out of joy of praising God…it’s hard to imagine the words as a barrier.

  15. With Joe (#9), our large suburban Midwest US parish sings those three settings incredibly well, through composed, mostly from memory…no trouble. We use a few other refrain-based Glorias as well, but mostly through-composed.

    We now have 6 different settings in our repertoire in 3 years of new translation. I’d like to think our long-range plan and careful introduction/teaching has helped.

  16. View from the pew: For parishes were the music talent is usually unschooled, and where there are 3 or more languages, not English, primarily spoken in the home, then liturgical music needs be singable according to the lights of us in the pews. To which end the current English translation of the 3rd typical edition generally is such an hurdle that defaulting to the Gloria per Schutte is an auricular relief. Would that all parishes had the benefit of talented and musically trained liturgical ministers we in such parishes could be improved by any music that benefits the translation of the 3rd typical edition of the missal from Rome.

  17. I have many issues with the RM3 translation, including the text of the Gloria, but we already sing five settings with fervor….all with refrains. This choice means that less confident singers will at least praise God with the refrain.

  18. Rita Ferrone : The new Gloria translation is so wordy and repetitive, it seems that we rush through it because we are so eager to get it out of the way.

    Perhaps the new translation seems wordy and repetitive because, for the first time in decades, we have been asked to sing all the words of the Gloria instead of truncating it in our war against “needless repetition.”

    To speak to the matter in general, though, I count among those worship in a congregation that has had absolutely no trouble singing the new translation with full voice. In our case we use only two settings of the Gloria – ICEL chant and Janco’s Mass of Wisdom – and we sing them from memory. So the complaint that somehow the translation has stripped the Gloria away from the people strikes me as a strained attempt to find or even make trouble with MR3. It is almost as if we hear “I’m glad my parish is failing, because this gives me another chance to shill for Comme le prevoit!” A much more helpful post would have been “My parish is struggling to find something we will sing – who can help?” Here I think Fr. Feehily’s response much healthier:

    Fr. Jack Feehily : I have many issues with the RM3 translation, including the text of the Gloria, but we already sing five settings with fervor….all with refrains.

    You don’t like MR3? fine; but you can still try to make the best batch of lemonade possible.

    1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #21 (actually, responding to a number of different things folks have said):
      I’m never quite sure what “wordy” means (it reminds me a little of what the King says to Mozart in Amadeus about his new composition: “too many notes.”). As for repetition, it is certainly not more repetitive than the Kyrie or Agnus Dei.

      As to Todd’s statement that, “Four notes isn’t really enough to determine the mode,” I’ll defer to his greater musical knowledge, but don’t most psalm tones have no more than four notes? I have only sung Gloria XV on a few occasions, so I don’t have a strong opinion on it specifically, but it doesn’t seem to me that four notes in and of itself is such a bad thing.

      My general experience is that even after the new translation the Gloria is sung more consistently now than in the 80s.

  19. @Frank Klose

    Since the new translation came out, I have successfully (as in: the congregation participated strongly) used three settings at two different parishes:

    Mass of Christian Unity – Vermulst
    The Missal Chant Gloria
    My own setting.

    My own setting puts the words of the Gloria with a metered melody based on a hymn tune I sang a lot while living in Austria – Wunderschoen Praechtige.

    So from my own experience, I know that:

    a – the Gloria is not too long to sing
    b – the Gloria is not impossible for congregations to sing
    c – there are at least three settings of the Gloria in existence that are good enough quality to sing
    d – the Gloria has not been taken away from the people – at least, not where I’m in charge
    e – the new translation is not impossible to use, or to set to music myself
    f – the new translation can be set to a metered tune successfully, or to a chant-style tune, without needing refrains
    g – composers, myself included, have been presented with a translation that allows the faithful to sing

    Frank, music directors all over the country (some of whom have just posted above) are successfully using many different settings of the new translations. With all due respect, why is this post worthy of featuring on a national liturgy blog? And why does it make sense to take your own difficulty finding/implementing a good setting of the Gloria, and extrapolate from there that the new translation is inherently unusable? Not trying to be (too) harsh here, since the new translation is certainly challenging to compose for. But there is a difference between a challenge and an impossibility.

  20. I invite a critique of my setting:
    http://www.theromanmissal.org/PDFS/Mass_7.pdf

    To my knowledge, my parish (St. Michael in Leawood, KS) and the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston are the only churches singing it, but my folks sing up a storm on it in less-than-favorable acoustics (quite the opposite in Houston!)

    The published version (Liturgical Press) is for congregation, organ, and SATB choir. I also have a “parish classic” edition for unison voices and 3-part keyboard accompaniment, and a “parish folk” edition scored for unison voices, treble instrument, simple keyboard accompaniment with guitar chords and bass. Although I personally chafe at any sort of electronic mediation in liturgical music making, I can imagine a heavy metal version of the Sanctus!

  21. I am in a similar situation to Kevin V. I composed the mass setting my parish uses, including the Gloria, and they really sing it and feedback is positive. A few surrounding parishes have picked it up as well. Thru-composed, no textual repetitions for the assembly, fairly festive, etc. Many of our folks now sing it from memory, but, admittedly, probably could not recite it as such. I am very pleased with the full-throated participation I hear on Sunday. Haven’t been able to get publishers to bite, though! I hope to make it available online at some point.

    I also agree with the assessment of the Psallite mass Gloria: very beautiful and would be well sung where implemented. Agreed as well about the Schutte Gloria: rather poor but well-sold by dioceses. The other acclamations from this setting are decent, but, if our parish were to use it, I would likely use a different Gloria. My two cents!

  22. An overwhelming number of comments on the Missal English Gloria XV describe it as boring, dirge-like, etc. The vast majority of people find that it does not have the qualities they are looking for in a Gloria: joyfulness, energy, etc.

    This has been one of the non-success stories of the revised edition of the Roman Missal. It is high time that it was ditched.

  23. We sing two through-composed settings, the Mass of Wisdom by Steve Janco and the Mass of Renewal by Curtis Stephan. Wisdom is a more classical setting and Renewal is very contemporary, both very comfortable and natural settings of the text. These take longer to learn since there’s no refrain to hook them in, but once we know them they are solid and people really sing.

  24. Gloria XV is basically psalm tone 4, my go-to for contemplative psalms. The ‘mediant’ highlights text nicely. The 3-line responsory at the center works well this way. Every last person alive can sing it, with limited to zero resources. The Leeds archdiocese has a solid accompaniment, and our kind anonymous blog host, and Charles de Visalia has a more adventurous one.
    Yet the angels dictated their peppy meandering preamble, restricted to people of good will, not Eeyores like me. So, you insist that it be joyful? Use tone 1 or 8 for the first section, please keep tone 4 for the (otherwise incomprehensible) 3-line responsory because that really works, and use tone 8 for the rest. Just force those key changes, that’s what your instruments are for. History abounds with major tone harmonizations for you to borrow. Most people only know the notes go up and down, so just keep them going up and down in the same order, no rewrite required for the pews. Have yourselves a very merry Gloria.

  25. We’ve been using DeBruyns Mass of Resurrection since the new missal was introduced. The Gloria is very usable, people are really singing it out. Success! However, This summer, we are introducing (as an alternative) the Mass of Our Lady from WLP. They’re not dissimilar, and I don’t think that our people will have any difficulty learning it.

  26. Corpus Christi Watershed’s “Mass in Honor of St. Jogues” has one of the absolute best Glorias I have heard from this new translation. A wonderful unison line, and masterfully composed harmony. I just took a look at the Psallite stuff and I agree with everyone else: It is very good also. St Jogues mass is my favorite, until we start getting into the latin stuff.
    Also, Richard J. Clark’s Mass of the Angels is beautiful. Wishing my parish sang that….

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