Mass of Creation at 25

GIA Publications notes that Marty Haugen’s well-known and widely used “Mass of Creation” is now 25 years old. I heard its debut from the composer as an undergrad at our summer music conference (now CCMLA) at St. John’s. I promptly typeset it on the abbey’s old music typewriter (this was before computers and Finale) so we could use it at campus ministry student Masses before the published edition arrived. Now we program it at any big liturgy (e.g., university graduation this Sunday) because it’s the closest thing to a universal setting known by all comers, at least in the Midwest. Sort of a latter day Mass VIII (–Yes, I know, some of you have mixed feelings about that. Keep your comments respectful, please.) I think it’s an eminently singable and useable setting which allows people to unite in song, and that’s a good thing. As congregational music it’s solid enough, though not particularly elegant. I suppose that wasn’t the goal. I’ve been somewhat surprised at its popularity, to be honest. I don’t find its G minor in 3/4 to be as appealing as others apparently do. I guess the whole world doesn’t think like a bookish chant geek monk, or something.

Here GIA has put up an article on the setting by the composer, including a look into the delicate process of revising existing settings for the new text. I think you’ll find it very interesting.

Congratulations, Marty! Thanks for serving the Church.



  1. My memory of the foundation of the durability of the MoC in the 80s was that it was that its being fully scored for ensembles made it popular for festive uses at things like episcopal ordinations and other ceremonies, and from there it trickled down. I specifically remember how it displaced Peloquin’s Mass of the Bells in this regard. I have my issues with it in terms of compositional quality, textual oddities and habits of use in parishes, but I don’t take this as an invitation to hash those well-hashed issues out here.

  2. I like it very much but the musicians that the various parishes that I have been in don’t seem to always like it for some reason. But it sounds nice to my ears and it is very singable and our congregations belt it out. What I don’t care for is the double Christ has died… acclamation.

    1. Oh, the choirs that I participated in that did MoC stopped the repeats on the acclamations and Amen 15-20 years ago. You can so request of your musicians.

  3. This popped up over a week ago on the site and then vanished, only to be revealed again. I printed off the PDF and had a great time reading the story of the setting and the efforts to adjust it to the new translation.

    I think 2 things have really attracted me to this setting over the years, first of all is flexibility in terms of instruments used. You can simple use the piano and it sounds good, or you can add an entire orchestra and 4 part choir and it soars. Second, is that he chose to set EP III to music, not II or Children’s II, or Various Needs and Occasions. This is among the most commonly used and well suited EPs for Sundays, so it allows for a solemn sung Eucharist that intact from the Preface to the Doxology.

    1. Just no accompaniment (as opposed to pitches of incipits) to the Eucharistic prayer, please (it’s forbidden anyway, but that doesn’t stop some).

  4. I love it’s bigness, especially at large “festival” Masses. It’s familiarity is also a big help in that regard, or any other time you have strangers coming together for Mass (weddings, funerals, Midnight Mass).

    I especially love it when a priest is ablew to sing all the way through (I’ve only experienced that a handful of times… loved it).

    That quality, though- it’s big, concert-like style- is a big reason I dislike it at regular Sunday Mass in “normal” parishes in Ordinary Time. Here we are, trying to activily participate silently with a rather average priest in rather average vestments in a rather average building on a rather average Sunday. AND THEN THE ORGAN… BUM BUM BUM BUM CHRIST HAS DIED!

    If I had my way, Mass setting programming would be:
    Ordinary Time: Chanted English (unaccompanied)
    Lent and Advent: Chanted Latin (unaccompanied)
    Easter Season and Christmas Season: Composed through settings that seem appropriate
    Big Feast Days and such: perhaps Mass…

  5. Such a shame that Marty did not go with a much better revision of the first line of the Holy. This is the first time I have seen this PDF, and I now understand why people who have been exposed to his revised version are saying that it will not fly.

    If I were able to upload a TIF on this blog, I could show you what the revision might have been.

    This is where composers (myself included) need the help of a group. A number of revised settings that I have seen have been run past a group of peer composers and are in a rather more user-friendly state than those that have been produced in isolation.

    I can still remember in 1984 Michael Joncas’s astonishment that, in the middle of a presentation he was doing at Notre Dame, someone would have the temerity to suggest that a setting of his was not as good as it could have been, and suggesting an improvement (which as a matter of fact he incorporated, with thanks).

    We need each other’s help in this area.

    1. Paul, I would have done somthing like this, 5 measures total:
      Hol-y | Lord | God of | hosts| |.
      Bb A Bb | C | Bb G | A —- | -A–
      I think his solution is OK but it feels like it’s wasting time because the (now fewer) syllables are being held out too long.

      1. And weak syllables at that.

        Anthony, I like your solution. I devised one similar before finding your post:

        Ho-ly _ | Ho-ly _ | Ho-ly _ | Lord _ _ | God _ of | hosts _ _ |
        G D _ | A F _ | Bb G _ | C _ _ | Bb _ G | A _ _ |

        I can see your point in abandoning the descending minor-third motive in measure 3 to propel things forward. In my solution, I’ve kept the minor 3rd on the third “Holy” introduced by Marty in his revision (I think this more dramatically sets of the “Thrice Holy,” but like you I have dropped the unneeded measure. I would also recommend dropping the last measure of your solution as well. Granted, it’s on a strong syllable this time, but there is an interesting thing that occurs if these extra measures are dropped. There was always a 3-bar hyper-meter in the original version at “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” The problem was that it wasn’t replicated. It is replicated in both your solution (once) and in mine (twice), lending greater unity. I’m attracted to the TRIPLE triple hypermetric structure as a numerological amplification of the “Thrice Holy.” Either way, this not only improves the current revision, but actually improves the original, IMHO.

        I’d love to see this reworked, because I’m not sure the revision as it stands is going to fly. I agree with Paul Inwood that such revisions might benefit from some group input. That’s a testimony to how this music has really taken root.

      2. History is certainly replete with examples of this sort of “distillation” of melodies as well as proliferation of variants. The famous example of the Vaughan Williams SALVE FESTA DIES comes to mind, in which “blessed day that art hallowed forever” gains a distinctive syncopation on “hallowed” because that’s the way singers intuited it. (I suppose that when the copyright runs out on “Be Not Afraid” all of those 16th notes will become 8ths someday as well.)

        Your insight into omitting unneeded measures (especially when they are simply prolonging unaccented syllables of text), propelling the form through the introduction of assymetrical structures, is corraborated by the genius of Sondheim, who apparently learned it from Bernstein. I wonder if Marty and our other great tune-smiths out there would feel this “artifies” the folkishness of the music too much.

    2. The most obvious thing is to retain the present melody exactly as it is and change the text to “Holy, holy, holy Lord, holy Lord (2 notes) God of hosts”. That makes it much more user-friendly than changing the melody.

      1. I suspect that Marty Haugen, who is obviously no fool, realizes that, in the current climate of thought, it is wise to use the texts “straight.”

      2. I also have mixed feelings about tinkering with the hallowed thirce-holy opening. I think 5 Holy’s is a problem.

      3. I think we have a well-established tradition of repeating phrases and words, judiciously of course. I think this will continue to be obvious in settings of words such as Kyrie eleison, so why not here too?

      4. As long as our priority is to fit the words of the liturgy into our desired settings, not creating settings to fit the words of the liturgy.

      5. Fr. Costigan raises an interesting point. It seems to me that if you give priority to the text, you end up with one kind of music (e.g. chant, in its varied forms), while if you give priority to the music, you end up with music of a quite different sort (as well as, in many cases, a different sort of text).

        If I really wanted to over-theorize this, I might argue that the balance between text and music is somehow related to the balance between the Apollonian (text) and Dionysian (music) in human culture.

  6. The contribution and impact of Mass of Creation cannot be overstated… bringing styles together; blurring the distinctions of “contemporary” and “traditional;” empowering the Eucharistic Prayer to be seen as a complete singular ritual moment of prayer, the prayer of the Church, not the private musings of the priest; and its ability to be successful in a wide variety of pastoral setting; its ability to sustain itself with organ alone, guitar alone, piano alone, and the numerous combinations – woodwinds, brass – everything. Not to mention the fact that for most of us, it does not grow old.. it sustains itself: sturdy, lasting, celebrative, and prayerful. I remember years ago when Marty was composing it, and him sharing with me different aspects of it as it was coming to life. I had a sense that he was on to something… great memories, and much more importantly – what a tremendous gift to the Church. May God bless Marty Haugen!

    1. David, I just was on the GIA site and noted with joy that your own contribution, the Mass of Light, has been revised. There are a couple of samples, namely of the Gloria and Sanctus. I pulled out my score of the “old” setting as well as the CD “Creating God” to see how the new version will sound. From what I can see, you were a little freer with introducing changes into the music to fit the new texts that Marty was with the Mass of Creation. I was wondering if you might share your thoughts about revising the Mass of Light, with is as memorable in my mind as the Mass of Creation is.

  7. A somewhat related question on Mass settings. With the upcoming translation implementation, my though would be to put a temporary moratorium on using any re-worked Mass settings (such as the above) for 6-10 mos to lessen confusion. I would be rather difficult to go from Mass of Creation I on Christ the King to Mass of Creation II on I Advent.

    1. Starting two years ago I (re)introduced the missa simplex parts in my parish so that we would have at least one setting that can immediately carry over into the new dispensation. I’ve been kicking around the idea of teaching the missa de angelis this summer, though I haven’t yet decided to take that on. Masses with a choir, perhaps, but Masses with just a cantor? Not sure. FCA participation before all else!

      When we get closer to the time, I’ll be making very careful choices about which new settings to introduce. I imagine that it will take a few years for the cream to rise to the top.

  8. A few of the most well-known settings are being retrofitted with the new text. But many others will go into retirement, including the iconic St. Louis Jesuit Mass. OCP has announced they are reissuing: Celtic Mass, Heritage Mass, Mass of Glory, and Misa del Pueblo Inmigrante. Presumably the others will not be revised.

    Does anyone have info on which GIA and WLP settings will be reissued?

  9. Fr. Ruff,

    I think you’re right that the whole world doesn’t think like bookish chant-geek monks. But that’s okay, because if we all thought the same way we’d be deprived of all that other wonderful music out there…just as much as we’d be deprived if NO ONE thought like a bookish chant-geek monk, and that would be tragic.

  10. I actually think the revised first lines of the Sanctus and Gloria work pretty well. I don’t like the idea of repeating text to shoehorn the words into an existing melody, and I rather like the idea of lingering a bit on the threefold holies of the seraphim.

  11. Have heard from utterly unreliable sources that formats of the ordinary cannot contain repeated refrains, such as the, “Glory to God in the highest, and peacee to his people on earth,” in the MoC. Has anyone else heard of it? I suppose that a case could be made that such refrains amount to “useless repetitions.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a believer that such ordinary parts should always be in Latin, as a rule chanted by the congregation.

    1. I think making the Gloria into a song with “verses” and “refrain” or “chorus” fails to respect the form of the hymn. Yes, I’ve heard some good settings of it, but that’s not really the point. It would be like singing the Our Father with “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name” as a chorus repeated after particular petitions. (I’ve actually heard such a rendition.) Or like making the Exsultet out to be a refrain-and-verse hymn. (I’ve never heard that, and hope I don’t.)

      While the Roman tradition does have hymns with verse structure (and maybe even refrain-and-verse, I don’t know), that’s not the ONLY type of hymn there is out there, and we needn’t mold all hymns (esp. those belonging to the liturgy) to that shape.

  12. *As much as I appreciate Adam’s sentiments, I believe the affect of MOC is best appreciated and sung without extravagant adornment (brass/tympany/gongs and gamelans…joke!) Humility always trumps saturation, IMO, and particularly at stadium-sized events.
    *The repeats of “Christ has died” and “Amen” work nicely because of the deceptive cadence to the Major IV from the modal minor i.
    *The “per ipsum” works for a capable celebrant. But 25 years ago it wasn’t SOP for folks to even know or consider that an accompanied EP was technically verboten.
    *The “Lamb of God” has never rung my bell. It seems more of an appendage, a sweet one, yes, but not integral to the whole work.
    *”Twould be cool if the “Glory…” were reset in Latin in a through version.
    Just my twopence.

  13. I am not a fan of Haugen’s work generally, and Mass of Creation — arguably the most useful of his ouevre — is shopworn nearly to the hub. The opportunity is at hand for good NEW music, and not a rehash of at best mediocre old music. As with the new translation, we are about to let an opening for a substantial improvement in our worship pass, and will be paying for it for decades to come.

    1. RP, what kind of “good new music” do you have in mind? Can you cite an example of Eucharistic acclamations of which you approve?

  14. Freshest new setting I’ve heard in quite a while is Richard Proulx’s “Mass for the City.” At St. Paul’s in Cambridge, I always admired Hermann Schroeder’s “Saint Cecilia Mass,” which is rarely heard anywhere else and still sounds strong 40+ years after its composition.

  15. As I’ve offered a hundred times here and elsewhere,
    Many Proulx settings (of which “City” is quite pristine) are worthy except for his penchant for screwing up great melodies with Bartokian harmonies. The two exceptions being “Community,” which lacks any artistic fascination on the whole entirely, and “Oecumenica” (which I still program) which lacks a Gloria and Credo, one of which I’ve, ahem, remedied.)
    John Schiavone and Jerry Brubaker have settings which have never been supported by their respective publishers and thus avoided the radar of NPM which are extremely worthy by comparison to the settings found in the pulps. But I digress.
    Nothing’s really going to change post-recognitio. If we’re fortunate, some intuitive, new-blood artist will join the editorial boards of the majors and stand on the table of the timid and demand that they endorse the mass publication, marketing and distribution of a setting not by someone born between 1950-1975 who has 25 albums already.

    1. I sense this to be another shot at Haugen. Often he says it is up to the people to chose what music of his will be useful and what won’t be. His salvation does not depend on it. This is a most humble and prayerful response to an enormas amount of vitriol and hate spewed at him by some who bear the title “christian”. He truly did set the bar very high with regards to the acclamations of the Mass and especially the Eucharistic Prayer. Creation, Remembrance, EP II (Loyola) and more recently Beneath the Tree and Unfailing Light. The man deserved credit, but more importantly, respect. Composers of any age often have massive bodies of work. Not all flies. So it shall be with any of the major composers of today.

      There is an extreme comfort in hearing the melodic material of “Mass of Creation” and you can be sure my parish will continue to use it once the revisions go into effect. Funny that a Mass setting that was created to bridge separate musical groups in one parish causes some to be less than charitable to it’s composer and fellow child of God. Many thanks Marty and continue your wonderful work.

  16. With all due respect to Mr. Haugen, the M of C has run its course for many of us. It did serve a purpose and I might add, in a good manner. But I daresay that many of us have “outgrown” it and are looking for other possibilities.

  17. After seeing some of the revised settings posted by OCP and GIA, I’m leaning more and more towards gradually employing completely new settings. In 2003 I composed a straight-through setting of the Gloria (in frustration not being able to find one that I found usable) and named it after my parish. We’ve been singing it ever since and, all glory to God, it is the most successful piece I’ve ever written (naturally, I mostly wrote it in a span of a few hours, contrast with far inferior pieces that I spent months on). Ever since the new translation was released, I’ve been racking my brain for a way to transform the music, but that’s not fair to the new text. I wrote it for the old text, and it’s going away, and so is my Gloria… all good things… It saddens me, but I’m up for the challenge of writing something to serve the new text, the liturgy, and my congregation.

  18. I would like to see more a capella in the new settings. Especially in the “mystery of faith”. It is annoying to have the priest sing a capella and have all the noise of instruments interrupt this. If the priest sings a capella, we should also – including the amen. Also, we can look back to 1970 and Pope Paul VI’s words about Latin Chant that the congregation should be taught to sing. This still holds. I don’t know what happened. Somehow we have become the backup singers to the Gloria and Credo among other pieces. We also have forgotten about periods of silence. I would like to see choirs sing a Communion hymn while we are receiving, as we should focus on our Holy Communion rather than singing on the way up – should we be carrying books on our way up to Communion? Another thought – less Bread and Wine Songs, less singing to one another and more worship to Our Lord’s Body and Blood in Holy Communion. Just a thought…

  19. Linda – thanks for your comments. A capella – I’m all in favor of it. But some of your other comments are a bit shaky, I think. For example, I don’t think the people have *become* backup singers for things like the Gloria and Credo – they didn’t really sing these parts for about a thousand years, so the new settings are good attempts to engage the people. As for not focusing on singing during Communion – a sentiment expressed quite often on the web – does everyone realize how strongly the documents from Rome call for singing during Communion? For a reason – read the GIRM! As for the bread-wine and body-blood issue, this is simply a misunderstanding, a widespread one. Calling it “bread” is found in the New Testament, the ancient Latin hymns (eg Panis Angelicus), the Mass propers, the missal prayers. This is Catholic theology and Catholic liturgical language, though some people don’t want to believe it.

    1. In terms of calling Holy Communion, bread and wine, I think the context is important. In a written form or prayer form I think it becomes somewhat clear that “Bread and Wine” are metaphors for Christ, who is the Bread of Life, the Wine of Joy, if you will. But what I have found in common talk is precisely that– common talk, bread with a little “b” and wine with a little “c” as though transubstantiation has not occurred. I would prefer less casual talk in everyday conversation about Holy Communion and actually refer to our Lord as the Holy Bread or the Consecrated Wine or the most Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Again, I think it all goes back to context and what people mean by referring to Holy Communion as bread and wine. In common talk it could betray a real lack of faith. But some people don’t want to believe that there is a lack of faith and yes a lack of respect out of ignorance for the Eucharistic Species by many uninformed and uncatcheized Catholics.

  20. Thank you for responding – I am well instructed in liturgy and in fact direct a choir. When I mentioned singing during Communion, I meant on the way up. It is hard to do if you do not know the words by heart. Pope Paul VI, as I mentioned, intended that all should know the propers – Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei Chants as well as others. For some reason, no one paid attention to this. This brought about my comment about “backup singers”. The “bread and wine” songs I talk about are those which do not indicate that it is Sacred Bread – we sing Panis Angelicus and many Eucharistic hymns that are quite clear what we are talking about. I just attended a First Communion Mass and heard comments about “how did the bread and wine taste?” This is what I meant. Perhaps I was not clear. It comes down to the old “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi”.

  21. When I mentioned singing during Communion, I meant on the way up. It is hard to do if you do not know the words by heart.

    That is precisely why (a) the Church assumes that the norm is a Communion psalm with an antiphon that all can sing immediately from memory in the procession, and (b) composers have spent the past 35 years and more providing Communion songs with memorable refrains for the assembly. Both of those mean that you don’t have to carry a book with you. Communion hymns, however, are not a very good idea.

    1. Because it’s not the easiest nor the most desirable thing to process with your nose buried in a hymn book, and more importantly because receiving from the chalice is hazardous with a hymn book tucked under your arm.

  22. Off topic but related: Are there any plans for anyone to update any of Richard Proulx’s Mass settings?

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