For Lætare Sunday, we sang the Gregorian chant introit and communio (listen here and here) at Saint John’s Abbey. Not quite as smooth as I would like, but I’ll take it. But that’s not why I’m posting. Rather, I want to raise the issue of mixing musical styles within one liturgy. At this Mass with these schola chants, plus Latin Sanctus by assembly, everything else was a style other than Latin chant. The MemAcc and Amen were English chant (OK, “amen” is Hebrew) and I think that fit OK with the chant Sanctus. Psalm and GospelAcc with organ. And this: a fantastic, moving spiritual sung by a Bahamian student at Prep of Gifts. Closing hymn in what you might call classical “Protestant” (I prefer “ecumenical”) style.
Does all this hang together??
I’m of two minds. I’d very much enjoy hearing what you think. A part of me is a purist (you already knew that) and would very much appreciate a liturgy entirely in chant, or entirely unaccompanied with chant and some vocal harmonies, or entirely classical hymns with organ-based service music, or entirely in African-American idioms. Another part of me thinks it is pastorally advisable and more engaging for our people to do a variety of styles within one liturgy. I suppose stylistic diversity reflects the reality that our culture is postmodern (to use a word I’d rather not). And I think of the Austrian church musicians who, after the 1903 chant restoration, argued that you couldn’t use Latin chant in Austria because it just doesn’t fit alongside their rich tradition of orchestral church music. Fast forward a generation or two, and on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, the Austrian musicians were arguing that the highest model of Western sacred music is High Mass with orchestral Mass ordinary and (you guessed it) Latin chant propers.
Consistency or diversity? Whaddayathink?