Musical Previews

To update a previous post: there are now samples on the web of new and retro-fitted Mass settings from GIA, WLP, and OCP.

I know it’s difficult to retro-fit, so I don’t envy the composers who had to do this. With all due respect to their efforts, I think their entirely new settings work better – pretty much across the board. What do you all think?

36 comments

  1. Agreed. I admire the efforts of David Haas, Marty Haugen, Steven Janco, Bob Hurd, and others to retool the beloved current settings. That being said, the old versions become imprinted on the mind, in terms of both text and music, and it is a bit surreal to hear something familiar, yet so different. Listening to the various pieces, the success of the revision partially has to do with the level of changes in the Ordinary. The Gloria is substantially altered, and thus presents many challenges. The Sanctus, on the other hand is substantially intact, so the revisions sounds better.

    It is exciting to hear the new pieces that were composed with the new texts in mind, so they fit the new syllables and punctuation. They are a joy to listen to.

  2. Anthony,

    Forgive me for saying that I disagree with you. Even the changes to the Sanctus feel unnatural. Marty’s Mass of Creation Sanctus, to give just one example, has not changed the setting in the optimum way. He could have done it in a much more natural way, as I pointed out some time ago on other blogs, but what we have now is the equivalent of what Richard Proulx did with the the Sanctus of his Community Mass, which has suffered ever since the early 1970s from unnatural melismas when the music was forced to fit the then new text, even though somehow people have, insensitively, managed to sing his revised version without complaining too much. As for Marty’s revised Gloria, well….!

    I can’t help feeling that revised settings (and I include my own in this) are (a) inferior because they are are once again being ‘massaged’ to the new texts and (b) are going to result in much confusion, as assemblies go onto autopilot and sing both old and new texts and music simultaneously. This will continue for a long time, as we have had 40 years (in some cases) to get these settings into our bones.

    In my view, new settings are the only realistic way to go, even though I very much regret the passing of settings, including my own, which have become part of people’s prayer life.

    1. Paul – I think you agree with me! The fault is mine for being unclear. My point was that the NEW settings work better than the retro-fitted adaptations, not that the retro-fitted adaptations are better than their current versions. Sorry, my fault.
      awr

  3. I was hoping composers would take the opportunity to write some new settings instead of merely reworking the same settings of the recent past.

    1. Some of us have. I currently have six new settings in different styles in preparation. Some of them, I think, are very good indeed. However, along with others, I suspect, I have now suspended work on them until we know for sure what the new texts are going to be.

      I just hope the composers and publishers linked to above are not going to get their fingers burnt.

    2. Michael, almost all of the composers who have revised their old settings are also writing new ones. From the big three publishers, see here, here, and here.

  4. I can speak to Michael’s concern, and to some other things, since I am one of the composers in question. For myself, and the same was true for Marty and a handful of others, we were asked by the publisher to adapt some of the settings (or retro-fit) that had become popular over the years, and we were also asked to offer a brand new setting, composed from scratch with the new texts. One of the decisions that had to be made in some of these cases was, do we try to stay true to the melodic material that had been a part of the identity of these settings, or in a couple of cases, start over for the most part. This was a particular point of contention for myself in trying to decide what to do about my setting of the Gloria from my “Mass of Light.” This particular Gloria had become popular, and the text for the “hook” found in the refrain: “Sing! Glory to God” had of course, to go away in light of the new texts. The consensus for this and for many of my colleagues with their mass settings, together in consultation with the publishers, was to to try to find a way to help them work with the melodic material that was familiar to congregations. So, there you have it.. and of course, the results have mixed verdicts.. and I am among the first to say it was difficult, and not always satisfying. The retro-fitting of the text to my Gloria from Mass of Light, is not terribly satisfying to me… it works, but I have to say, parts of it feel contrived. It was tough to do.

  5. (con’t) For both both of the revised settings of mine (Mass of Light, and Mass for the Life of the World), it was truly a challenge. Basically, in some cases, one is forced to jam words to fit the musical motifs, or to help phrases reach a cadence that makes sense… was really tricky at times, and again, not always the most pleasing. It will be very interesting to see how people will respond to these revised versions. As one who often works with young composers, I would NEVER say, especially when setting ritual texts, that you start with melodic material and then figure out how the text works later. And yet, in many of these cases, the result sounds just like that.. and the reality was, at times, that was what we had to do. Very awkward… For example, I have sung through the new version of the previously mentioned Gloria for some groups in workshops.. and the reactions have been varied, from “gosh, I really hate it, it loses the original spirit,” all the way to: “I like it, it still works well for me.” So, who knows?

    I can say that in a couple of these workshop settings, after doing the Mass of Light Gloria, we would then sing through the newly composed Glory from my new Mass, “Mass for a New World,” and almost immediately, most of them said that the new words did not even seem that new or awkward, because the piece was composed with those words in mind.. so I guess I take that as a compliment, but more importantly, a prediction that the new settings…

  6. (con’t) will in some way, help people accept some of the new versions of the liturgical sung texts…

    Sorry to go on so long about this… actually, I will be presenting a workshop at the upcoming NPM Convention regarding this very topic… so I am appreciative of the insights of all who are contributing to this thread.

    1. David,

      Thanks for sharing the story of the revision of the Gloria for the Mass of Light. I am one of many who find it a wonderful settings. I am glad you brought up the fact that your find parts of the re-tooling unsatisfying. While listening to it, I found certain parts felt forced, but considering how much work and effort was put into them I would never criticize such efforts publicly.

    2. David, listening to the revised Gloria setting from Mass of Light, I found myself at once very appreciative of your efforts, and also rather happy to be an Episcopalian — and therefore still free to use the original setting.

      This is tough work: you and your colleagues are to be commended for your efforts!

  7. At our CCMLA conference last week, a woman asked whether I advised doing retro-fitted settings with familiar music or starting over with new settings. I responded by putting the question to the audience of mostly musicians. “Entirely new settings” won by what looked like a margin of about 20 to 1. This corroborates David’s point – entirely new settings for the new words of the Gloria work well, and the text no longer seems so wierd, because everything fits together.
    I still think, for pastoral reasons, we need to do some adaptations of familiar melodies, and I thank the composers for working so diligently on these.
    IF, that is, the new missal even happens… and depending on WHEN it happens… much is up in the air right now.
    awr

    1. Fr. Anthony, I wonder if the responses to your informal survey would be different if the participants were the average church-goer and not necessarily musicians, singers, or liturgists. I’m always reminded of a recent NPM survey that asked musicians and non-musicians what helps them sing the liturgy. The responses were quite different between the musicians and non-musicians.

      (http://dsjliturgy.blogspot.com/2007/01/what-helps-american-catholics-to-sing.html)

      I’m guessing that non-musicians would want to keep the familiar, albeit retrofitted, settings rather than learn new ones. But I’m also guessing they’ll be quickly frustrated by them.

      1. Thank you Diana, for this data!

        As a music lover but not a musician, for a least a decade now, I have maintained that musicians really have different music preferences than average people.

        Familiarity has a lot to do with my liking. For example among the new pieces, I took a liking to the Warner Mass with the Ubi Caritas theme. Also liked the Proulx Gloria Simplex. All kind of familiar music.

        Musicians have a lot of reasons for liking and choosing music that completely pass me by.

        If you ever listened to discussions by people who program symphony concerts, they always say they are very wary of putting new or even unfamiliar material on the program. What people who love classical music want is the familiar (perhaps with a fresh performance) not something totally brand new.

        I was particularly glad to see your link acknowledged another fact that has always disturbed me about musicians, that they get to practice seven times before singing it while we are very very lucky to be able to practice it once before Mass. Then after we sing it several times and just begin to know it, they are totally sick of it because of all the practice.

        I just do not think musicians take the congregation seriously.

      2. Diana – excellent point. It did occur to me, as we sang the new ICEL settings, that they worked perfectly the first time and everyone liked them…but of course! This group consists of musicians who can sight read anything. They can eat up a new setting, experience immediate success, and say it works well. Your point is good: what will the experience be like for congregations?
        awr

  8. I agree with Anthony… so far, the NEW settings are getting much more favorable responses than the “retro-fits.”

    At some point, many of the present settings we use will kind of fade away… and that is totally OK. Again, looking at the revised Gloria from “Mass of Light,” – it will probably before too long sort of drift away, as we are entering into a new period with new musical possibilities that we have not yet discovered. When you think about it, right now, waiting in the wings so to speak, are close to 40 some BRAND NEW mass settings that we will be drowning in very soon. And that is just now, out of the gates. In the coming years, more and more settings will emerge… and some of the settings we use now will not even be a blip on the screen. And again, that is OK… think about the mass settings we sung in the early days after the council (Mass for Christian Unity, the Vermulst, Clarence Rivers’ setting, and more)… we hardly ever hear those at all any more… it made room for things like Community Mass, Mass of Creation, Mass of Light and so many more… and now, with a new chapter, we will find newer Mass settings that will meet the need… this is all the pattern that probably should happen…

    After I shared this at some workshop somewhere recently, someone said to me: “Oh no, I cannot imagine NOT doing your Mass of Light Gloria!” Why not.. we are confusing the task with the mission.. the mission is to sing of the glory of God.. (con’t)

  9. NOT to preserve a musical version of a liturgical text.

    In the end, especially with the musical aspects of the missal, it will be OK… we will survive. When you think about it, the musical aspects of the new missal are really minor, with the exception of Gloria, and the new Memorial acclamation texts….. the change in the Sanctus is just one phrase…

    Now, the NON-musical texts.. that presents other challenges. But that is off point.

    I can hardly wait to see what settings will “stick to our ribs” after we are submerged into the deep with the dozens and dozens of new settings (and revisions) that are coming our way very soon.

    1. David, thank you so much for your comments and insights here. The Mass of Light Gloria has long been a staple in many churches. For several years, it’s served as our Gloria setting during the Triduum; hearing our congregation burst out in its joyful refrains after Lent is, well, glorious.

      I think it’s incredibly humble of you to say that you’re okay with it “fading away.” On the other hand, I can’t but help feel a great loss for what has been, for many Catholics, part of their ritual language and identity.

      It’s comforting to read that you acknowledge the contrivances and you’re unsatisfied with the revised version. I’ve played it for a few people, and their reactions were pretty negative—the most positive being, “Well, it’s not as bad as I expected it to be.” Everyone appreciated the effort you put into it, but seemed to agree that it’s just not going to be singable.

      I came to the conclusion pretty early on that, at least at my parish, we’ll only be using new settings to introduce the revised Order of Mass. If I ever decided to use a revised setting, I’d want to wait at least a few years before re-introducing it—and then, I’m not even sure I’d do it.

      There are too many awkward phrases with retrofitting, and it’s too confusing to separate the melodies from the old text. Heck, we’re still tripping over “O, Lord” instead of “Yahweh” in Dan Schutte’s “You Are Near”. HECK, we’re still tripping over “yous” where there used to be thees…

  10. And the settings of the Credo will not be a problem because, well, when was the last time the Credo was sung in your parish?

  11. I think David’s comments are coming from a deep inner awareness founded in prayer rather than performance. Thank you David!
    In regard to his “older… passed on settings” comment, I remember singing the Missa Bossa Nova (by Reverend Peter Scholtes) for years in the early 70’s along with Mass for Young Americans (by Ray Repp) and earlier music by Miriam Therese Winter, Joe Wise, Jack Miffleton, and Lou Fortunate (the truly forgotten child of that era).
    Some of the “folk” music from that era may not have been the most profound but the hearts and spirits of those composers were great and their dedication to that ministry unquestionable. Their music may be forgotten but they should not be.
    On a more formal note: we more recently did a magnificent piece for the dedication of the Oakland Cathedral of Christ the Light by Alexander Peloquin, “Christ the Light of the Nations – Lumen gentium Christus”. Some music from the 60’s, such as that piece, should be heard still today.

  12. Christian.. thanks for your kind comments. Just to make a small point in reaction to your thoughts – I think the new version of the Mass of Light Gloria is singable enough, but for those who are going to miss what I refer to as the original “hook” of the refrain, and some of the internal speech rhythms found in the original setting of the verses.. they will be disappointed.

  13. I really like what I’m hearing in these new settings, and it will be the music that carries people through this time. Just playing devil’s advocate – if the new missal is delayed further, or not implemented at all, will the composers rework their new settings for the current texts we use? It would be a shame not to use them.

  14. I know that Anthony introduced the word “if” to the discussion about the introduction of the new texts, but I hope he is more the soothsayer than the prophet on this matter. On the GIA site we are merely a “click” away from purchasing the new text and musical settings. After eight years, various martyrdoms and a papal recognitio one would hope that the MR3 translation implementation will happen. There’s a lot of credibility on the line. What an incredible embarrassment “if”? And re-use of the new musical tunes would be the least of our problems!

  15. With regard to “new” versus “revised” settings, I very much think it depends on the faithfulness of the original setting to the original texts as to whether a revised setting is going to work going forward. There really is not much changing in the Mass settings – one phrase in the Sanctus, one phrase in the first stanza of the Gloria, and a few extra lines in the second and third stanzas of the Gloria. Yes, the memorial acclamations are new, but these are new irrespective of whether it is an existing setting or a new setting. Do we really think that the memorial acclamations make the Mass setting?

    No, the bigger issues lie where favourite settings were not faithful to the original texts, and faithfulness is now being demanded. As David mentions, the biggest miss in the revised “Mass of Light” Gloria is not the re-ordering of words in the refrain, or the extra lines in the verse. No, the big issue is that there is no “sing, glory to God,” a text that was not in the original text in the first place. Similarly, those “Lamb of God” settings that added tropes or adapted the text in various ways (e.g. “Jesus, Lamb of God”) are now being re-rendered to be “more faithful” to the original texts. These changes are not wrought by the new translation, rather a closer attention, musically, to the original text and the genre of the part of the Mass.

    (cont. ……)

    1. The issue of the Agnus Dei is an interesting one. It is a litany, and it is intended to accompany a liturgical action–unlike most parts of the Mass which are stand-alone as expressions of praise.

      Even before Vatican II there was a place for variation in the classic text in the Requiem Mass.

      All that said, extended tropes are probably the most practical way to extend the litany and give musicians and priests a needed flexibility, especially at big events.

      On the other hand, I don’t have a problem with foregoing them, even in settings in which they are given, if the liturgical action doesn’t merit an extension. It’s interesting in that case to get some cantors out of the habit, even when I remind them before Mass, “Lamb, Lamb, Lamb,” and their autopilot still kicks in, “Lamb, Bread, Lamb.”

  16. Marty Haugen’s comments on the changes to the “Mass of Creation” are very insightful. He outlines his journey as a composer in understanding the very nature of the genre of some of the parts of the Mass. He has changed his mind about how to approach setting some of these texts. For example, he confides that he no longer sees an ostinato part as appropriate for the Kyrie. These changes in composers’ sense of the liturgy are a major development that means the newer settings are likely to be more appealing than some of the older ones.

    Nonetheless, there are many settings in existence today that deserve to continue, because they were prayerfully insightful, faithful to the genre and text in their initial creation, and have won the hearts of the faithful in their regular use today.

    In Australia one of the favourite settings in use today was composed by Brother Colin Smith cfc – Mass Shalom. His composition was prayerfully insightful and most faithful to both genre and text. He wrote it in 1977 and it has been a favourite through generations, published in every Australian hymnal since that time. When he passed away in 2005 I felt there was a real need to enable his setting to be sung beyond MR3. Fortunately, the Christian Brothers agreed to allow me to adapt it to the new texts and publish it anew to extend its longevity. There are other Mass settings written by composers now departed that will not survive the changes, and this is a great pity.

    In summary, I think there are some great settings that deserve to survive the “minor” changes in text. That said, there are also some settings that would do well to pass away gracefully.

  17. Paul.. just a small comment, regarding the tropes to the Lamb of God… STL allows for it, and in the scores for my new mass, and for the revisions… samples of different tropes will appear at the bottom of the page as an asterisk. I know this is also the case for other settings of several composers. So this practice will most certainly continue.

    1. The remaining problem is that the bishops would still need to submit trope texts to Rome for recognitio before they may be licitly used. Thus far, the bishops have not seen fit to do so. (STL has no force of law to authorize the practice without further recognitio from Rome.) I feel compelled to clarify this when anyone tries to cite a legal basis for the practice. I hope publishers are aware of this, because an increasing proportion of pastors are likely to be more rigorous about not using settings where confusion is sowed on this point. Were I a composer, I would probably avoid providing for tropes to ensure a more likely use of my composition for the longer term.

  18. Karl’s points are well made. In Australia, where STL has no force of law at all, the National Liturgical Music Board (the Music Advisory Board to the Australian Bishops’ Conference) issued its own document to composers “Composition of New Mass Settings: Some Background and Guidelines” (16/01/2009). This sought to clarify a number of questions for composers submitting new settings of the Mass to the Board for review. Specifically:

    “Q: Can tropes be used?
    A: In accordance with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal the insertion of tropes (invocations) is allowable in the third form of the Penitential Rite but not in the Lamb of God.”

    To meet this requirement, I have used other (musical) methods in my settings (revised and new) for extending the “Lamb of God” where the rite requires it to be longer. In one case, this has required a significant adaptation of the originally published music.

  19. Responding to the above comments:

    (a) Particular law in the dioceses of England and Wales for many years has been that troped settings of the Agnus Dei can be used, and the ICET text, as long as they are sung ! The Conference may rescind this legislation at some point, but there is no sign of them preparing to do so. That being so, the text in the Missal has not been and will continue not to be the only text that may be used. And there is certainly no need for conferences to submit troped texts to the Congregation, pace Karl. All this is internal stuff.

    (b) Ronald Jones mentioned a Missa Bossa Nova by Peter Scholtes. I wonder if he actually means the Missa Bossa Nova by Alexander Peloquin?

    (c) Jack Rakosky said he did not think musicians take congregations seriously. I can assure him that where there is a good cantor present who has a care for the assembly, this is far from the case. I can point to many parishes, on both sides of the Atlantic, where musicians do indeed take the people of God seriously. Perhaps Jack has had some bad experiences (and I admit that I have had plenty of those too!). But bad experiences do not make universal reality, and good experiences are a beacon towards the future.

  20. On taking the congregation seriously:

    A very fine musician and choir director about a decade ago gave the congregation an exhortation to sing, giving “Happy Birthday” as an example of everybody singing. After Mass, I told him that if all the music he chose were as familiar as “Happy Birthday” we would sing.

    Taking the congregation seriously means singing songs that they know and want to sing. In the few cases when songs are unknown, it means choosing ones that are simple to master, e.g. an easy refrain, or spending the time before Mass practicing.

    In a parish about two decades ago, a woman organist without the assistance of anyone else got the best congregational singing I have experienced. She choose the music carefully and we practiced for five minutes before each Mass, going through one unfamiliar song fully, and singing one verse of each familiar song. She had an outgoing personality and it was an enjoyable experience. She took us seriously.

  21. Karl, just to clarify.. I was not, and never have cited STL as a source to “legally” justify a practice. But STL is a “pastoral” guide… and it certainly is not so far outside of the mainstream, that we should ignore some of its wisdom. I have a hard time believing that there will be any more than a very tiny percentage of priests who are going to chastise pastoral musicians and report them to the diocesan liturgical police, because they chose to actually treat a litany, like a litany should be, by using alternative tropes. Can we move a bit away from what seems to be at times, a paranoid sense of legalism, and ask the pastoral questions as to whether a practice can help open up the deeper meaning of a ritual action? Even during these times, I would hope we could just use some common sense and be able to implement a practice that in my experience and for the experience of others, truly opened up the beauty of the fraction rite. God help us….

  22. Interesting how a similar debate about the status of the cappa is being discussed over at NLM.

  23. Oh my gosh! I just listened to the new Mass of Light Gloria, and it was shocking to my ears. I think David handled it very well, but the new text just doesn’t seem to fit well. The way the text fit reminded me of what can happen when “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” starts on a pickup. I am wondering what will stop the people from singing the version they know already if there is no catechesis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.