In a comment on Jonathan Day’s post, Scott Knitter said,
I’d love to see a video of a mid-1960s Mass (1965 Rite?) done for educational, comparison purposes.
This of course sent me scurrying off to YouTube to see what I could find. In terms of video, not much. But I did find an audio archive of recordings of liturgies at Sacred Heart Church in Southbridge, MA (closed in 2011), ranging from 1966-1969. The audio is not always very clear, and I will admit that I skipped the homilies (which might themselves have made for fascinating comparisons), but they provide a fascinating glimpse of liturgical changes in one parish.
The earliest, from 1966, shows the first wave of conciliar reforms. The orations and some of the dialogues of the priest are still in Latin, as is the preface of the Eucharistic Prayer. All of the people’s parts (unless responding to the priest’s Latin in the dialogues) are in English. The congregation recites together not only the introit, offertory, and communion, but also the gradual (remember, the responsorial psalm is as yet just a gleam in some liturgist’s eye). Hymns are sung, predictably, at the entrance, offertory, communion, and end, but nothing else is sung. Clearly Low Mass with hymns is the operative model. The liturgy is dominated by the commentator, who not only invites participation, but also reads summaries/paraphrases of the orations before the priest prays them in Latin, as well as inviting the people to pray for the church and the world immediately after the Sanctus, as the still-silent canon is beginning. Indeed, the commentator might, if one excludes the homily, actually speak more audible words in the liturgy than the priest celebrant does. Interestingly, there are no prayers at the foot of the altar to be heard; presumably these are said quietly by the priest and servers during the opening hymn. So the entrance rite takes the form of a hymn, the communally recited introit, and, after a brief invitation by the commentator to ask for God’s mercy, the nine-fold “Lord have mercy.”
The next recording, from 1967, is interesting on a couple of counts. First, the process of vernacularization has advanced. Now everything—except, presumably, the still-silent Canon—is in English. This means the commentator is less prominent in the liturgy, since he no longer has to summarize the Latin prayers. Second, this is a “folk Mass,” and I don’t think you could create a more stereotypical folk Mass if you tried. The opening song is “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” but with new, more “churchy,” words. The offertory is to the tune of “Blowing in the Wind” but, again, with churchy words (the sound quality is pretty poor so, alas, I was not able to discern many of these lyrics). For Communion you have the sturdy classic “Sons of God” and for the closing—and I’m really not making this up—“Kumbaya.” Unlike the earlier Mass, here the Amen at the end of the canon is sung (the “Lillies of the Field” tune) and, rather surprisingly, the Prayer of the Faithful to a Byzantine chant (seemingly led by the priest).
From 1968 we have a Mass for the Feast of Christ the King that reflects the changes of 1967’s Tres Abhinc Annos. Everything is in the vernacular, the canon is now recited aloud and in English, and the order of the blessing and dismissal are switched (so that the dismissal follows the blessing, as in the current Missal). Most startling is that instead of the Roman Canon we have Eucharistic Prayer II, complete with the memorial acclamation “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” As before, nothing but the four hymns are sung, and everyone still recites the introit etc. together. The commentator seems to have further receded in importance.
Also from 1968, there is a Mass celebrated by the monks of Weston Priory, who must have visited the church, perhaps to do a parish mission or something. The changes to the Order of Mass seen in the previous Mass are still present, though the Roman Canon is used instead of Eucharistic Prayer II. But we seem to be in a very different world, musically speaking. Not only are the parts of the Mass sung (Kyrie, Gloria, Eucharistic acclamations, Lamb of God), but the prayers of the faithful as well, and the principle celebrant chants the dialogues, the orations, and the preface. Interestingly, instead of one of the prescribed memorial acclamations, the old Young Life camp favorite “I am the resurrection and the life” is sung. It is also interesting to note that after the Lamb of God and before the invitation to communion, people are invited to exchange a sign of peace with each other, even though this would not become part of the Order of Mass until the Missal of Paul VI, a year later. On the whole, this recording suggests that at least in some places the ideal of the sung Mass was being realized. At the same time, the music is quite contemporary and there is no sense that the monks are hankering for “the good old days.”
Finally, there is a first communion Mass from 1969, which is very similar to the first 1968 Mass, except that Eucharistic Prayer III is used. What is noteworthy here is that the exemplary liturgical practice of the Weston Priory monks does not seem to have convinced people in the parish that there was anything wanting in their own practice. It’s still four hymns and everything else recited. The sign of peace has not (yet) caught on.
So there you have it. What is striking is that, as far as I can tell from the recordings, the liturgical culture of the parish does not seem all that much changed from 1966 to 1969. It is still basically Low Mass with hymns, all gotten through in about 45-50 minutes. Obviously the shift to the vernacular made things seems different to people. Maybe some missed the long silence of the canon, and maybe others were now glad not to be left along with their thoughts in the silence. But other than that, and apart from the Weston Priory Mass, the sound of the Mass doesn’t really change that much.