A Conundrum of Interpretation

I know this guy who has really traditional views about the reformed liturgy and whose great project in life is promoting Latin chant. But he comes from a place which is, or at least used to be, kinda liberal, so I sometimes wonder if he’s really with the program. Since we are fellow Christians I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt and build bridges if possible. Below is something he wrote on the GIA website with my comments in [boldface brackets].

The Second Vatican Council stated [I’m glad he starts with an authoritative document of the Magisterium] that the faithful should be able to sing the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 54). [Sure is good to see GIA finally emphasizing this statement of Vatican II.] Catholic congregations in most parts of the world sing at least a few chants in Latin. [I think he’s saying, if everyone else can do it, why can’t we Americans?] But in the U.S., for the most part we have a ways to go in fulfilling SC 54. [Might as well name the problem honestly.] One need not look far to find resources for basic congregational Latin chant—every major Catholic hymnal or worship aid includes basic congregational Latin chants. [We should credit the big publishers, often unfairly demonized, for giving us what we need to get started.] The easiest places to start are with the Kyrie [stop the outcries, faux purists – yes, this is a Latin word and it’s in my Latin dictionary, even though it came from another language, sort of like “garage” and “angst” came from French and German but you’ll find them in your English dictionary] and the Agnus Dei. Then one might advance to the Sanctus and perhaps the Pater Noster. [It’s a steep curve for most of our parishes who aren’t singing this stuff, but he’s prodding us on, and giving us practical advice for how to advance.] The Gloria and Credo are more difficult because of their length. [Wow, he’s putting even these challenging gems out there for congregational use.] In any event, slow progress and pastoral sensitivity are advised. [This is politically savvy. Fast progress which elicits resistance and ill will and ends up being entirely dismantled by the pastor is no progress at all. Slow progress is actually much quicker.] There are several collections with more extensive congregational repertoire: Iubilate Deo, Liber Cantualis, and Kyriale Simplex. [He keeps setting the goal higher and giving us ever more to strive for.] GIA publishes an edition of an earlier version of Iubilate Deo in modern notation: Jubilate Deo. [Folks, there are so many resources out there, you really have no excuse any more. Tiny point you might not have noticed, but he spells Iubilate correctly when referring to the Vatican edition, but then he uses the spelling GIA inadvertantly used for their edition of it, while kindly refraining from pointing out their error.]

But maybe I’m naïve. I just found another commentary, and now I think that maybe this uncovers what the guy is really up to:

The Second Vatican Council stated [actually, it still says this] that the faithful should be able to sing the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 54). [It says that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. This is important because it makes clear that the Latin language is the important issue, not the chant settings. What steps have been taken by GIA to achieve this?] Catholic congregations in most parts of the world sing at least a few chants in Latin. [“Look! It’s being done elsewhere so we don’t have to worry about it!] But in the U.S., for the most part we have a ways to go in fulfilling SC 54. [Perhaps the understatement of the century…] One need not look far to find resources for basic congregational Latin chant—every major Catholic hymnal or worship aid includes basic congregational Latin chants. [OK…so they’re really token inclusions, but so what?] The easiest places to start are with the Kyrie [which in fact is in Greek] and the Agnus Dei. Then one might advance to the Sanctus and perhaps the Pater Noster. [Take note of the language here…”one need not look far”…”one might advance”…rather than “you can find”…or “you can then advance”. In other words, “one could do this if one were so inclined, but not YOU.] The Gloria and Credo are more difficult because of their length. [so…don’t ever attempt to sing them in Latin? We should never try anything difficult?] In any event, slow progress and pastoral sensitivity are advised. [Good Lord!…why would slow progress be advised? I don’t see any descriptions of works in their choral anthem catalogues claiming “One might sing this for the Sunday after Easter, but only after careful pastoral consideration. If one’s choir is successful in introducing this work, one might then advance to the more difficult selections, but do so slowly.”] There are several collections with more extensive congregational repertoire: Iubilate Deo, Liber Cantualis, and Kyriale Simplex. [But since we just told you that it should take a long, long, long time to introduce even the basic congregational chants included in our fine hymnals, why would you ever need a more extensive congregational repertoire?] GIA publishes an edition of an earlier version of Iubilate Deo in modern notation: Jubilate Deo. [We’re not going to tell you what this is or why it might be useful….just that we do publish it. Notice that we replaced the difficult Latin “Iubilate” with the much more accessible “Jubilate”.]

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So who understands the guy? That’s the interpretational conundrum. I leave it to your judgment. It might help if you know that I am the author of both the GIA post and the first commentary above.

awr

35 comments

  1. What I find interesting in the whole chant debate is the different views assumed by certain Roman Catholics and most of the Anglican/Episcopal parishes I know. In the former, it seems like the attitude is either “OMG, it’s chant!!! Yippeee!!!” or “OMG, it’s chant. We don’t want it, we won’t do it.” Entrenchment follows, attitudes get polarized. . . . you know the picture. (Admittedly these are caricatures, but not unfounded in real experience.)

    Meanwhile, in The Hymnal 1982, chant settings of the ordinary (albeit in English) — including Gloria and Credo — stand right alongside the metrical settings, and the general attitude is, “Oh. That was chant? I just thought it was another setting.” Chant isn’t foreign to us, and our congregations sing it because it’s there, and therefore it’s there to be sung. Not everywhere, not all the time, but not with any noticeable resistance either.

    (Mind you, I think most singing of it in Episcopal parishes could use some work — it’s overly accompanied, too slow; could use a dose of semiological rhythm. But that’s me. . . .)

  2. Perhaps his reaction is understandable given that chant has been practically non-existent in most U.S. parishes for decades.

    1. More the problem: except for monasteries and the occasional exceptional parish, chant was never alive in US parishes to begin with. Addressing the problem goes better when we can dismiss the urban legends and find the actual pre-conciliar practice

      1. The actual pre-conciliar practice was that there were three kinds of Masses, low, no music except for optional four hymns; sung, all parts sung including the introit, gradual Gloria, Credo, offertory antiphon, sanctus, amen, agnus dei, communion antiphon. Most Masses included vernacular hymns in addition to the official chants and Latin motets in addition to the offertory and communion. Usually a vernacular recessional. Most parishes in the south hired protestant organists or music director, had a small choir that learned at least plain chant and tried their best. Most parishes had one high Mass on Sunday, the rest low. So I think the practice was plain chant where talent was limited, and more difficult chants, polyphony where good choirs existed. Sometimes smaller places had a soloist cantor to sing all the parts if they couldn’t muster a choir. Our music director and organist is United Methodist, knows and loves both forms of our Mass, knows the EF better than me and corrects me on my Latin, especially when I first began two years ago.

  3. Wow, Father Ruff… that was a gem. I tend to jump to the same conclusions about people’s intentions as your critic, much to the dismay of my wife, who constantly reminds me that I don’t know a person’s intent and that I read too much into things. Thank you for the post. I don’t think I will ever forget this lesson… though I’m sure I will not always apply it! : (

  4. May I say what I admire about you, Father Anthony, and what troubles me about this exchange?

    I have know you for almost eleven years. I met you in the summer of 1999 at the Collegeville liturgical music week. (I was overwhelmed by the quality of the conference, which you organized; I wrote about it in http://www.npm.org/pastoral_music/issues/PM%20Vol%2024-1.pdf, pages 57 and 58) You were already a gifted, intelligent, hard-working organist, chant scholar, and liturgist.

    What I have experienced in you in the intervening years is a growing gentleness, geniality, and openness, all without losing the concision of your insights and convictions. An apologist for chant and high quality in liturgical music, you are willing to create and to preside over this blog, a testament to your earnest desire for respectful and passionate dialogue.

    I am an active participant in many internet forums on liturgy and liturgical music. Sometimes the tone of some contributors really dismays me: anger, ridicule, derision, calumny, detraction—a catalog of the sins against verbal justice that Saint Thomas Aquinas decries in Questions 72, 73, and 74 of the 2a2ae of the Summa Theologica. ALL of us have been hurt by some of what has happened in the past forty-five years. Can’t we offer that suffering to fill up “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24)?

    As a student of the writings of C. S. Lewis, I am sure that this unjust tone is the work of Screwtape. The enemy of our human nature sees how the Eucharist would make us one in mind and heart and so he works overtime to attack us through our tenderest sensibilities, to music and to language and to beauty. Saint Michael and all angels, protect us . . .

    So thank you for your spirit in this exchange and on this blog.

  5. Amen, Paul. This is just beautiful, mystical:

    “ALL of us have been hurt by some of what has happened in the past forty-five years. Can’t we offer that suffering to fill up “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24)?”

  6. Fr. McDonald, the pre-Vatican II practice in my large Boston parish was that there were NO high Masses on Sunday, ever; no four-hymn sandwich either; a boychoir (of which I was a member) sang at one Mass as decoration but with no liturgical function; the only high Masses were funerals and memorial Masses (nearly every daily Mass was a month’s mind or anniversary Mass sung in black — we hardly ever saw the Mass of the day celebrated); and the only congregational singing was for benediction.

    1. Well, we all know how backwards the northeast is! Didn’t ya’ll start the Dialogue Mass in 1958 and continue it when institutionalized in the 1962 missal? Lots of problems up there,the least of which liturgical! 🙂

      1. Dialogue Mass was used only for the school. We did it at a specially scheduled daily Mass for all the school kids. Never on Sunday, because it would be too long for the schedule of every hour on the hour from 7 am to noon.

  7. One other thought comes to mind about Boston! Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral! Only metrical hymns, solos, motets sung, but the Mass–no! no sung responsorial psalm, No alleluia–spoken, and yes I was truly shocked almost dropping my mint julep!, Holy Holy, spoken, Mystery of faith, spoken, Great Amen spoken, Lamb of God spoken! Of course they didn’t speak or sing the actual Introit for the funeral or Communion Antiphon. I hope this doesn’t characterize Boston’s liturgics today, because we in the south were truly appalled! 🙂

    1. (I hit the wrong reply–should be in reply to the one below from Paul):
      I think you are mistaken about the four hymns prior to Vatican II for both low and High Mass on Sunday, in fact I know you are as it concerns the Diocese of Savannah.
      The Mass choices are (I left out one):
      Low Mass, all spoken, including the chants, i.e. introit, etc
      hymns, like marian hymns quite common on Sunday, how else would Catholics know these?
      High Mass (Missa Cantata) Everything Sung, but no deacon or sub-deacon–prevalent for parishes that had a “principal” Mass on Sunday.
      Solemn High Sung Mass: Missa Solemnis: had deacon and subdeacon (usually priests in these roles) Seldom done in most parishes, but some did.

      But the point is not chant today, the point is singing the Mass! Introit, offertory antiphon, communion antiphon, all the parts, including the Credo and Lord’s Prayer–do it in English and set some of it to a modern idiom, like Mass of Creation or Community Mass, including the “chants” like the introit, offertory antiphon and communion antiphon–the official ones for that particular Mass.

  8. Allan said

    The actual pre-conciliar practice was that there were three kinds of Masses, low, no music except for optional four hymns; sung, all parts sung including the introit, gradual Gloria, Credo, offertory antiphon, sanctus, amen, agnus dei, communion antiphon. Most Masses included vernacular hymns in addition to the official chants and Latin motets in addition to the offertory and communion. Usually a vernacular recessional. Most parishes in the south hired protestant organists or music director, had a small choir that learned at least plain chant and tried their best. Most parishes had one high Mass on Sunday, the rest low. So I think the practice was plain chant where talent was limited, and more difficult chants, polyphony where good choirs existed.

    In the interests of accuracy and not of being disputatious, I’d like to point out that before the Council there were indeed three practices, but not the three he mentions:

    (i) Low Mass, entirely spoken, the norm for most Catholics;
    (ii) High Mass, with all the singing he listed, which many Catholics could (and did) live their entire Catholic lives without experiencing;
    (iii) the rarely-encountered Missa Cantata, a halfway house between (i) and (ii) for occasions when no deacon or subdeacon were available. This form was met with in convents and isolated rural parishes, but not often elsewhere.

    Hymn-singing at Mass did not happen at this period, except in German-speaking countries, where chorales intervened in Low Mass in the Betsingmesse and similar manifestations. There was also hymn-singing in France, where the first vernacular hymnbook for use in tandem with Eucharist was published as early as 1947, but generally this meant a vernacular recessional hymn after the Mass was technically over. This latter practice also existed in a few Canadian and US parishes, and in some Italian parishes, but otherwise was generally unknown. To say that most Masses before the Council included vernacular hymnody in addition to the Proper chants is not accurate.

    Things changed rapidly between the beginning of the Council and the publication of the new Ordo Missae in 1969. It was then that the “four-hymn sandwich” began to move into the former Low-Mass territory. By the time the new Order of Mass was in place, the sandwich was also.

    Before the Council the practice was one of more elaborate chanting and polyphony where competent choirs existed, some ‘standard’ plainchant where they didn’t, but there was also a significant number of places where the only pieces of plainchant ever sung were the Asperges me and the Missa ‘de Angelis’. Simple parish choirs would sing the Introit, Gradual, Offertorium and Communion either to the tonus in directum (i.e. cantillated to a few notes), or recto tono (cantillated on a single note), or to formulaic chants such as Dom Laurence Bévenot’s Chants for the Propers which were the mainstay of many choirs on the east side of the Atlantic, or Sir Richard Terry’s fauxbourdon settings.

    The purpose of this last set of observations is to point out that a substantial number of choirs actually sang little or no plainchant before Vatican II. Their Propers did not have to be sung to chant since alternatives were available. Mass settings were often limited to the simpler examples of homophony, such as a few works by Viadana, Hassler, Casciolini, etc, interlarded with easier and (they thought) more rewarding melodious settings with organ accompaniment by 19th- and 20th century composers too numerous to name. The same was largely true for motets that the choir sang. The bigger, more competent choirs could manage a Mozart Missa Brevis or a motet by Palestrina, Byrd or Lassus, but they were in the minority. For many parish choirs, chant was simply too difficult to do well (or do at all).

    In other words, it was possible for parish choirs to go through the entire liturgical year without singing a note of chant, and I woiuld contend that many did. Another way of saying this is that long before Vatican II Gregorian Chant had in practice already ceased to be the music ‘par excellence’ of the Roman Church in many places.

    That is one reason why it is rather more difficult to reintroduce the chant now in many places than some would maintain. The fact is that, although I grew up with it and love it (and have a reputation as one of the last surviving exponents of the Solesmes school of plainchant accompaniment), many never experienced it even before the Council. We now have two whole generations for whom plainchant is something they have never lived with, but I would suggest that for many it is far more than two generations. It was never part of their parish culture, and to (re-)introduce it now gives an impression of strangeness and even of novelty. We need to be aware of this, and to act accordingly with sensitivity and delicacy.

    1. Hymn singing was more common at Sunday morning Low Masses (the hymn sandwich) in parts of the US than you perhaps appear to think – it was not an innovation of the interim missal period.

  9. The basic summary is that parishes may or may not have been doing what they were supposed to do in regards to the propers of Mass 50-60 years ago. Does that mean that we, in 2010, should just give up trying to improve what we do?

  10. Karl said

    Hymn singing was more common at Sunday morning Low Masses (the hymn sandwich) in parts of the US than you perhaps appear to think – it was not an innovation of the interim missal period.

    Interested to hear this. I assume that the practice must have arrived from the European continent? It would have been unthinkable in England prior to the Council.

    Christopher said

    The basic summary is that parishes may or may not have been doing what they were supposed to do in regards to the propers of Mass 50-60 years ago. Does that mean that we, in 2010, should just give up trying to improve what we do?

    The basic summary is actually that parishes were not doing what they were supposed to do, sometimes because they didn’t want to, but more often because they were incapable of it and because other alternatives were available. The criterion at the time was ‘delivery’ of the prescribed texts, and if you couldn’t do the chant then you would have to find another way. They did. I believe it is unfair to criticise them just because they didn’t have the same resources as a major parish church or cathedral.

    The admission that often chant was not sung doesn’t say anything about our course of action today except, as I mentioned, that we can’t just charge in like a bull at a gate, waving our banners of what we consider to be the ideal. The culture simply won’t receive it. We need to be far more subtle than that ─ hence my comment about sensitivity and delicacy. Matthew 10:16 comes to mind (be as wily as serpents and as [apparently] harmless as doves).

    1. Well, part of the problem once the 1970 Missal came into place was the lag with the production of chant materials; and, in the vernacular, one had problems like the fact that the offertory chant texts were not made available in the vernacular. Meanwhile, US episcopal leadership made a decision to rely on the commercial marketplace (see Abp Weakland’s pointed regret on that in his recent memoir).

      I agree that the introduction of chant needs to be done with skill, but there must also be enthusiasm about the prospect rather than a begrudging attitude. As behavioral studies repeatedly show, people as a group will tend to live up or down to the expectations that have been said of them. This is one reason why groups with a reputation of underperformance tend to underperform; when they are given different expectations, outcomes start to change. If we tell the PIPs that chant is a difficult gauntlet, they will tend to to treat it as such and find the embrace more difficult than if we approach them more enthusiasm (but enthusiasm does not look like castor-oil-administering nurses, either). When leaders of music ministries say with their mouths that they welcome chant, but offer a dozen or more qualifications about why it would be problematic with their congregations (particularly when the omit creative ideas about addressing any genuinely problematic aspects), the begrudging attitude belies the erstwhile enthusiasm. And there has been too much of that. The pro-propers crowd can get way too much in its own way, but that’s no excuse; I prefer to focus on my fellow progressives who have for a variety of reasons, stated or unstated, neglected the need to familiarize the faithful sufficiently with their birthright in liturgical music. I’ve seen enough situations where chant and polyphony were said to be too difficult (technically or pastorally) but, with enthusiasm and skill, can be introduced more easily than was expected/dreaded.

    2. The only reason, Paul, I question your history concerning the EF Mass is that there was a culture of choirs for it, especially the High Mass, officially known as the Missa Cantata. The Pre-Vatican II Church had a marvelous tradition of choirs because the choir had so much responsibility in the Sung Masses. They had a culture of singing handed on to them for a millennium. It wasn’t until the “spirit of Vatican” that choirs, the grand ones we had, were systematically and intentionally dismantled and our grand tradition of Gregorian Chant, Masses from the great composers and other compositions for the EF Mass all but disappeared because it was felt that the choir usurped the congregation singing the Gloria, Holy, Holy, etc. And because these grand choirs did go by the wayside, so did the introit, offertory antiphon and communion antiphon, because most congregations couldn’t sing them either in Latin or English, but choirs that were trained prior to Vatican II could. Then the Credo was dropped from the singing choices (one of our hymns by the way) for the same reason, to difficult for congregations, but not for choirs. Folk Groups that later replaced traditional choirs just weren’t into the Mass parts, the true nature of our music, but into replacing our devotional music in the vernacular which was limited, that’s why we borrowed so many other hymns of good quality and questionable quality from the Anglican, Methodist and Lutheran and Baptist traditions–we wanted hymns galore, not the music of the Mass and that is what needs to be corrected in the reform of the reform

      Finally, in only two years, my parish has begun a culture of the schola. I just finished our monthly 2:00 PM High EF Mass. We have six men in our schola, a Methodist choir director and organist and they pulled everything off that had to be sung, which was everything, including my parts, I even chanted the Gospel (English–I take the Pope’s permission and don’t do the Epistle and Gospel in Latin and these are facing the people). Their chanting was marvelous, some more complicated then simple chant. On top of that the nearly 100 who attend this regularly, sang with the choir on the Kyrie, no Gloria today (sexagesima!) and CREDO!!!!, sanctus, Pater Noster (another of our hymns), Agnus Dei, and we sang an English Processional, Holy God, prior to the prayers at the foot of the altar and Invisible, Immortal as a recessional, lifting the roof of the Church, as they did in Pre-Vatican II times. In addition to the official communion antiphon everyone sang “Panis Angelicus” in our People’s Mass book in Latin and at Communion!This in two years of doing this. If we had continued our 1500 years of doing it and encouraging the people to join, just imagine.
      Paul, you got your history wrong on the Mass and choirs and parishes in Pre-Vatican II times. Of course there are those like Boston who don’t do things right, but the northeast is the exception! 🙂

  11. One more comment about the northeast and I’ll quit. I promise. The Irish community of the northeast inherited from Ireland a very low-church, low Mass approach to the Mass. In fact, the prejudice in the Catholic Irish community is that a marvelously sung Mass is the Church of England tradition! YIKES. When persecuted by the English, the Irish in their own country had to celebrate primarily low Masses, non ceremonial, etc, because they could get caught by the English and put in jail for Mass and if it was loud and solemn with all the bells and smells, that would be a problem.
    So, many Irish today associate high liturgy with the English, not with Roman Catholicism. Any historians out there, please chime in! So it may well be an Irish cultural phenomenon in the northeast, that haunts the Irish here until today that they despise high Masses. Just a thought and in good faith. 🙂

  12. I lived through all this, so I do know something about it. The history of it obviously depends on where you were geographically. Not everywhere was the same by any means. And I agree that Ted Marier is probably revolving rapidly in his grave. The culture of choirs (rose-tinted spectacles come to mind) was actually fairly thinly spread, as anyone else who lived through that period can testify ─ or anyone who lived in a small country parish, come to that. As far as I can tell, the northeast, far from being the exception, was actually pretty typical of the state of things across the nation, as others seem to be saying.

    On a point of accuracy once again, High Mass is definitely not the same as thing as a Missa Cantata and was never known as such (except perhaps by those who did not know the difference).

    As far as the Irish inheritance was concerned, High Mass was indeed a rarity. To this day, Ireland is not renowned for its singing during Mass. The average Irish Mass experience seems to be ducking your head under the pew for an hour of boring droning from somewhere up the front, unless you are lucky. No music anywhere. That being said, in some places there are wonderful liturgies filled not just with chant and vernacular singing but also melodies (and even Gaelic texts) based on the Irish folk tradition which is incredibly rich and knocks the eight modes of plainchant into a cocked hat.

    As for the culture of schola, the danger point in this is the exclusion of the assembly. I’m sure you’re not doing this, but it’s as well to be aware of the risks.

    1. One way to deal with the risks of “the culture of the schola” might be, for example, to have it chant different kinds of propers in alternating weeks, with even at times the people given the music (and, if in Latin rather than the vernacular, also a translation) so they have the opportunity to join the simpler chants. The opening music need not always been the same idiom of music, nor the offertory or communion. Imaginations have been cramped that way. FCAP should not be viewed liturgy by liturgy, like a photograph, but over time, like a movie, as it were.

    2. In my youth (the 1950s and 1960s), serious music came in two places: cathedral parishes and Catholic colleges. Otherwise, the cost of running the school amid the baby boom meant that everything else had to be done on the cheap. Our parish was old enough that the mortgages were paid off already. So we could get a real organist — not the septuagenerian neighborhood piano teacher willing to “offer it up” — and a real music teacher from the order that ran our school.

    3. This may be a pond difference, but my understanding is that in the US “High Mass” was the typical designation for the Missa Cantata, which was more common that the Solemn Mass (with deacon and subdeacon). But I’m relying on second-hand information so would welcome correction.

      I do get the impression that, as abysmal as certain aspects of the liturgy in the US were prior to the Council, things were worse in England. As I recall, Evelyn Waugh was so repelled by the dialog Mass that he compared it to a Nuremberg rally.

  13. What is chant so “difficult?” – – – I think the contrary is true: chant is much easier for a congregation than most of the “Broadway style” music being published in recent decades.

    My current parish raises the roof every Sunday with their chanting, at least with the Ordinaries, Credo, and Pater Noster. And the choir have their chants, too.

    Now, both choir and assembly are painful to hear, if you are a purist. We use organ accompaniment, and it doesn’t help much. But people sing!

    I contrast that with post-Vatican II compositions. On a typical Sunday you hear some diva cantrix crooning away whilst the assembly tries to follow their part.

    Rather than starting slowly, with a Kyrie or Agnus Dei, why not start with a bang, but with a single mass and a new choir?

    A friend of mine is pastor at the parish in which I grew up, where there is a long tradition of contemporary music. Finding that the young people want something “deeper,” he got a youth schola going. They took to chant like ducklings to water.

  14. Just for the record, Todd, I did not mean to imply that chant was alive and well before the Council. Even I am not that ignorant! 🙂

    Perhaps I should have reworded it to make clear that I was speaking only to the non-existence of chant after the Council and to the gentleman who wrote the commentary in the first place.

  15. F C Bauerschmidt wrote:

    This may be a pond difference, but my understanding is that in the US “High Mass” was the typical designation for the Missa Cantata, which was more common that the Solemn Mass (with deacon and subdeacon). But I’m relying on second-hand information so would welcome correction.

    May I refer you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Mass
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missa_Cantata
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Mass

    which should tell you more than you need to know. If indeed US usage was that Missa Cantata (literally ‘Sung Mass’) was used for High Mass (as Allan McDonald maintains), then that only proves that some Americans at that time mostly did not know what a true Missa Cantata as properly defined actually was.

    You seem to be saying that Missa Cantata was used for any form of sung Mass, and Solemn Mass was used for High Mass, which is interesting, but certainly not an accurate reflection of the terminology in common use in other parts of the world.

    Anyone yawning yet?

    1. I’m still confused about your confusion. The term high mass in this country meant missa contata, where the Mass was sung, no deacon or sub deacon–some believe though that the common practice of additional metrical hymns were an aberration, but nonetheless these were sung in addition to the choir, schola or cantor singing all that pertained to them. Now it is true that when the choir was singing, the priest would recite every part to himself, independent of the choir, because his actions as priest were independent of the choir and congregation. However the 1965 missal corrected this in the Tridentine Mass and it was made clear in the rubrics that the priest need not recite the Gloria and Credo first and then sit down until the choir finished theirs, which unfortunately was the practice and still today in the EF in some places. The Missa Solmenis or what in the USA was called a Solemn High Mass was a sung Mass with deacon, priest and sub deacon and MC. This was rare in most parishes and priests usually took the role of deacon and sub deacon and vested in the vesture of such. It still happens today in the EF although permanent deacons can act as both deacon and subdeacon and I’ve done it in my parish for All Souls–which was a Missa Solemnis, not just a Missa Contata or High Mass.
      I hope this helps.

  16. I hope this helps.

    No, not really.

    A true High Mass has a deacon and subdeacon and a choir of some kind. A Missa Cantata has neither deacon nor subdeacon, and perhaps not even a choir. But it is not a High Mass. A Solemn High Mass was either one for a major feastday or solemnity, or one celebrated in the presence of a Bishop (who did not have to preside at it, incidentally). I suggest that the confusion is yours rather than mine, or perhaps the result of an erroneous usage of terminology in the US. Once again, I refer to the Wikipedia entries cited earlier.

    1. Paul, I’ve pasted what is from one of your links and it backs up what I’m saying–in the USA there was/is a misuse of terms but your link as is pasted below, but the misuse of terms refers to what I was writing:

      High Mass may mean:

      * Solemn Mass, a Tridentine Mass celebrated with deacon and subdeacon (international and general United States[1] usage)
      * Missa Cantata, a sung Tridentine Mass without deacon and subdeacon (usage among United States Catholics)

      The renowned liturgist Adrian Fortescue declared that the Missa Cantata “is really a low Mass, since the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon”.[2]

      from me again: As far as Fortescue, that seems to be his opinion. I know of no masses with a deacon and subdeacon that is not also sung, seems to be no point to that becasue of how complicated the rites are, but in all Masses, the priest and deacon do recite all the parts that the choir would sing in addition. The 1965 missal explicitly tells the priest not to do this and this is the Tridentine Mass, not the 1970 Mass. I think the reform of the Tridentine Mass should be the 1965 instruction which I presume was based upon Sacrosantum Concilium, but I could be wrong. Pope Benedict decries the fact that the EF often was disconnected from what the people were doing, lack of unity between clergy and laity, priest doing his thing, laity as represented by the choir doing its thing. I think that is certainly an aberration, not inherent in the EF Mass, but imposed upon it.

  17. Keith Wildenberg :
    Now, both choir and assembly are painful to hear, if you are a purist. We use organ accompaniment, and it doesn’t help much. But people sing!

    God bless them!

    I had tried for years to convince our choir director to include an occasional chant (possibly and Agnus Dei for Lent).

    I got my wish one year when we got a new choir director who decided I had a good idea and we would do Holy Thursday completely with Latin and chant.

    We had organ accompaniment, and we were not as perfect in our Latin pronunciation as we could, but when we launched into Pange Lingua, I could hear a dozen strong elderly voices singing with us.

    At the end of the mass an older lady with tears running down her face said “Thank you. I can’t remember the last time I sang that!”.

    It’s not every week. It’s for special occasions. That reminds me… I have to speak with our new choir director and pastor about the possibility of a chanted Agnus Dei for the services during Lent.

  18. Concerning the practice before the council: I do not have any knowledge of the general practice, only the parishes which I experienced. I grew up in a small farming town in Eastern Washington, where a congregation of under a hundred people had a volunteer choir, mostly women, who regularly sang four hymns to the harmonium from the St. Basil Hymnal, the St. Gregory Hymnal, etc., old standard devotional Catholic hymns that are difficult to forget.

    In the Dominican parish in Seattle, the Dominicans kept their tradition of chant, and for Holy Week they commandeered a group of music students from the University to sing all the Gregorian chants (from the Dominican books) for the five days of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.

    I was one of those students, and after this, on Easter Monday, I signed up for the chant choir at the cathedral, which sang a Missa Cantata every Sunday morning with chant ordinary and proper. There was also a daily high Mass, sometimes a requiem Mass, but mostly the Mass of the day, with the chants being sung by a soloist accompanied by the organ; one summer, I was that soloist.

    In all of these there was a substantial role for the choir and very little or no congregational singing.

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