Papal Mass in England

Today’s Tablet (subscription required) reports on the Mass for the beatification of Cardinal Newman to be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI:

Works by two Birmingham archdiocese priests have been dropped from the papal Mass to beatify Cardinal Newman in favor of music by sixteenth-century composers. The modern compositions – a “Gloria” by Fr Alan Smith and Eucharistic acclamations by Fr Peter Jones – have been jettisoned in favor of more traditional music by William Byrd and Claudio Monteverdi. … Works by contemporary composers Bernadette Farrell, Sebastian Temple and David Evans will still be sung. … [The list of music] now includes the Mass setting by the Scottish composer James MacMillan written especially for Masses to be celebrated by the Pope. … Fr Timothy Menezes, who is helping to coordinate the liturgy … said that, despite his admiration for the music of Jones and Smith, organizers opted for James MacMillan’s Mass setting instead “because he is an internationally recognized composer.” …  Most of the Eucharistic Prayer will be said in Latin, but six modern languages will be used in the “bidding prayers.”

70 comments

  1. To that wonderful dictum

    “In the diocese, the bishop is the bishop, but in the parish, the priest is the pope”

    we may now add

    “and in the deserted field outside Birmingham, the pope is an anachronism.”

    (Go on, have at me!)

  2. On a point of information, Alan Smith is not a priest, but his setting is still streets ahead of James MacMillan’s.

    MacMillan may be an internationally recognized composer, but so is Peter Jones, whose music is sung across the English-speaking world. Jones’s music has the advantage of being rooted in the practice of Catholic parishes, whereas MacMillan writes in splendid Scottish isolation and is not renowned for his liturgical savvy.

    1. (My time for editing elapsed…) In fact Jones had to twist MacMillan’s arm rather hard to persuade him to make modifications to his music in the cause of user-friendliness to congregations; and even then, we are told, the results were not always wonderful. Just imagine — the younger celebrated international art music composer being taught his liturgical craft by an older hand. It can’t have been easy for him.

  3. It’s rather interesting that the World Youth Day Mass in Sydney, with Benedict presiding was celebrated in English – including the Eucharistic Prayer. The music for the mass setting was composed by someone without much liturgical experience and as far as I can ascertain that music has hardly been used since if at all! I find it fascinating that all of a sudden there is this change in policy re the language of the Eucharistic Prayer.

    1. The pope has said the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin many times in past foreign journeys. Here are some examples.

      Holy Land (May 8-15, 2009)
      http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2009/MessaleTerraSanta.pdf

      Cameroon and Angola, (March 17-23, 2009)
      http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/libretti/2009/Messale%20viaggio%20Africa.pdf

      Lourdes, France, (September 12-15, 2008)
      http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/travels/2008/documents/messale_Francia.pdf

      1. Vic, many thanks for this information – I put out a call earlier for anyone who knew about this, since my memory didn’t recall it.
        awr

  4. Friar Gerard,

    If I’m not wrong, the Mass setting used in Sydney was based on the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Given that the rest of the parishes are not supposed to use the new translation, it’s hardly surprising that no one uses those texts.

    But heck, even the ones at WYD2000 (based on the old texts with a lot of improvisations) were not used anywhere else.

    As for using Latin in the Eucharistic Prayer, it was intimated in RS, just that this is the first Pope with the courage to take it up. God bless the Pontiff!

    1. Simon,

      RS was issued in late March 2004. It was issued under Pope John Paul II, who died a little over a year later.

      As I recall, the Holy Father was not able to serve as celebrant of Midnight Mass in 2004 due to his severly impaired condition (Cardinal Ratzinger assisted him in this stead). Let alone did he do much travelling afterwards to vernacular-speaking countries and demonstrate a lack of “courage” to pray aloud in Latin (as RS “intimated”).

      Your comment that Pope Benedict XVI is the “first Pope [sic] with the courage to take it up” is merely unkind toward Pope John Paul II, a pope who on MANY occasions prayed in Latin.

      Check your facts, and get over your untoward attitude. Anyone who does not find “courage” in the late holy father simply doesn’t want to see it.

  5. Paul,

    I assume you have musical training, so I won’t dispute your professional judgement on music you have seen. But I can’t help but notice that you wrote “we are told, the results were not always wonderful” in MacMillan’s work. Perhaps it is a matter of poor phrasing, but if you have not actually seen MacMillan’s work for yourself, it isn’t very charitable to just pass another person’s judgement off to the public.

  6. What kind of comment is “not renowned for his liturgical savvy”? I don’t even know what that means. Honestly, could there be criticism on solid musical grounds, or could opinions at least be substantiated by ANY reference to principle?

    1. I like many things I hear in MacMillian’s music, so I don’t want to be misunderstood. But I thought I immediately took Paul’s meaning because sometimes composers who are good on musical/aesthetic grounds don’t get what the structure of the reformed liturgy or the demands or the reformed rite are. (We have plenty of the reverse, to be sure.) Sometimes you come across great sacred music as concert music, and maybe it would have worked fine as late as c. 1962 when great choral music accompanied the independent action of the priest at the altar. Sometimes the greatest composers – they may well be very pious and devout and deeply religious – really don’t get the purpose of music in the reformed rite. Since this dynamic I’m describing has been around for so long (going on 45 years now), I read Paul’s brief remarks as probably referring to it. And now Paul can tell me whether I’m missing the boat.
      awr

  7. Kathy – you of all people state: “could there be criticism on solid musical grounds, or could opinions at least be substantiated by ANY reference to principle” – principles as articulated in SC; lived out for 30+ years by 11 english speaking conferences, etc. If only you would start with those principles voted on and approved by an ecumenical council on liturgy and then confirmed by Paul VI throughout his papacy rather than picking and choosing from lesser parts of SC and focusing on the accidents of the liturgy rather than its spirit, soul, life. As Fr. Ruff said on another thread, popes can do what they want but one finally reaches a point of saying that authoritarianism damages the credibility of the church.

    Someone else again summed this up as: B16 seems to have decided to re-interpet SC by picking out certain sections/paragraphs (e.g. use of latin and vernacular only when necessary and approved; eucharistic prayer should be in latin; his own piety around ad orientem, use of six candles and a crucifix on the altar). Again, popes can do what they want but let’s not label this the correct meaning/principles and interpretation of what the 2,000+ bishops meant at Vatican II.

    Mr. Inwood – did enjoy the comment by Simon Ho about whether you work in music? Oh well, what is a few dozen/hundreds published compositions when you want to make up your own history and documentation.

    1. Rightly, not a few in the Church are concerned with what is deemed “picking and choosing from lesser parts of SC and focusing on the accidents of the liturgy…” This is precisely *because* many parts (the adjective “lesser” is debatable) were widely ignored in the post-conciliar period. Determining which “parts” of the liturgy are “its spirit, soul, [and] life” is a fool’s errand; they all work together. In other words, it is high time that the Pope initiates a comprehensive examination of the Missale Romanum (1970, 1975, 2002) in light of Sacrosanctum Concilium, particularly through the lens of tradition-in-development. And that is what the Pope has been trying to encourage in all his theological iterations, from his time at the CDF to present.

      “Again, popes can do what they want but let’s not label this the correct meaning/principles and interpretation of what the 2,000+ bishops meant at Vatican II.”

      Frankly, there has never been a carefully defined, authoritative examination, and entire interpretation of SC in practice. To claim so is false. I would dare say that to equate the 2000 plus bishops at Vatican II with the liturgical Consilium led by Annibale Bugnini is misleading at best. The Council Fathers did not strictly approve the rubrics, prayers, etc. found in the Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI, only principles to guide its formulation. It still remains to be seen how faithfully those were followed in their entirety, with regard to what we have at present.

      1. +JMJ+

        What if we combine the questions of Pope Benedict’s liturgical practices (in light of Vatican II) and the connection between the Pauline Missal and Vatican II?

        Pope Paul VI, though he did not personally develop the Ordinary Form, approved and promulgated it. But does that necessarily mean it accurately captures the liturgical vision of the 2000+ Council Fathers? Is the way we account for the seeming disparity between certain statements or “decrees” in Sac. Conc. and their relative reception in the Ordinary Form Missal, simply to say that because the Consilium was charged with implementing Sac. Conc. and the Pope approved the final product, it’s official?

        In other words, does it come down, ultimately, to the approval of the missal by Pope Paul VI?

        Then why is the approval of the yet-unreformed missal by Pope Benedict XVI received differently? Fr. Anthony questions whether it is reconcilable with Vatican II, but some Catholics question how the Ordinary Form is reconcilable with Vatican II as well.

        Am I being clear about the direction these questions are headed, or should I try again? (It seemed much shorter and more concise in my head…)

      2. What a strange era we’re in! It is now acceptable to question the approved liturgy of the Church! This ought to be quite daring, and it ought to shock people because it’s bordering on dissent and disobedience. But it is now a commonplace. How did we get to that place? Very strange indeed.

        The Council Fathers didn’t prescribe every detail, they laid out general principles. Consilium followed these, without a doubt. Consilium could have gone much further on many points, but they didn’t; they could have been more restrained on some points, but they weren’t. They made their decisions, and the Supreme Pontiff approved them. And so did virtually every single bishop of the Catholic world, all of whom were there for the council debates and decisions.

        This chipping away at lawful reform as prescribed by an ecumenical council is scandalous. At least it should be.

        awr

      3. +JMJ+

        Fr. Anthony, you find it “shocking” because (as you have said before) it comes from someone who seems to be espousing assent and obedience, correct? Would you address my questions and comments, then, as if I were a disobedient dissenter, for sake of the discussion?

        Let me defend myself and my position.

        I am not questioning the Council, nor am I questioning the reform prescribed by the Council as found in Sac. Conc. However, I am questioning certain facets of the liturgy produced by the Consilium. Yes, their final decisions and the liturgy they produced was approved by the Supreme Pontiff, Paul VI. But just because he approved them does not mean they were consonant or reconcilable with the liturgical reform as prescribed in the Council documents. Is it true that “virtually every single bishop” approved the decisions of Consilium? I thought only the Pope did. What the bishops approved was the document Sac. Conc. in 1963, not the decisions of the Consilium nor the liturgy they produced in 1969.

        My overall question is: must the Ordinary Form (as it exists in the books) be accepted as an/the “accurate” interpretation of the principles and decrees on liturgical reform found in Sac. Conc., simply because Pope Paul VI approved it? (I am not calling into question its validity or licitness.)

        [Edit: If this “chipping away at lawful reform as prescribed by an ecumenical council is [or should be] scandalous”, shouldn’t the chipping away at other things said by the same council (about sexuality, for example) be decried as scandalous and shocking here as well?]

      4. Jeffrey,

        I believe that the Consilium reforms are well within the mandate of SC, not only but certainly because they were approved by Paul VI. The world’s bishops didn’t formally vote on all this, but they were widely consulted, and they were the ones who asked permission for complete vernacular (the kind of thing allowed for in SC 40). Back when bishops’ conferences had more authority than now, I don’t recall any conference questioning the reformed liturgy in the slightest.

        We all know the SC lines advocating organic growth and reverence for tradition. But imho, SC 21, 23 (which suggests different revised rites being developed within the Roman rite), 34, 38, 50 all suggest the need for a pretty comprehensive reform affecting everything in the old rite.

        But I think we could uselessly debate these points forever. Maybe it’s helpful if I speak more personally: I wish everyone loved the reformed rite as much as I do. I learned it on my parents’ lap. It gave me my monastic vocation. What more can I say?

        I wish the ‘traditional’ currents now afoot in the RC Church influenced the new rite – more chant, more Latin, more reverence, etc. I regret that Pope Benedict is undercutting all this by allowing 1962. But hey, he’s the Pope. If I grant legitimacy to P6, I must do the same to B16. That’s the weak point in my position. But I still know what I want – it’s in the second-last paragraph above.

        awr

  8. I’d be interested in hearing more on “the purpose of music in the reformed rite.”

    I’ve only attended a few high Masses in the extraordinary form and it was immediately apparent to me — with no real musical or liturgical training — how integral music was to the liturgical action (whether or not the style of the music suited my tastes). Even if I didn’t completely understand it, it clearly had some deliberate purpose.

    In comparison, the music at my reformed rite parish does not seem at all necessary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and well-performed by various music groups, but it seems to be just another part of the general ambience.

    In the reformed rite, is music actually intended to be anything more?

    1. No, music in the preconciliar rite is NOT coordinated with the priests’ actions. I wrote a big book on topics such as this. The priest had to say every word of the Mass in the missal, duplicating words sung by choir (or deacon), so it didn’t really matter when the singers sang those same words. The priest would quickly recite the Sanctus and the beginning of the Canon while the choir kept singing the Sanctus. The priest could start his offertory rites while the choir was still singing the Creed, because the priest was long since done reciting the creed. That’s why it got called a credence table, BTW, from which we get credenza.
      In the liturgy reformed according to Vatican II, everything is coordinated structurally with the ritual. E.g., what is the priest doing during the Resp Ps? Praying along with everything else.
      Maybe you don’t like the style or rendition of the music in the latter, maybe it’s not prayerful or holy or whatever to you. But that’s a different question. I’m speaking of integration into ritual structure.
      awr

    2. Music in the reformed rite is integral – every Mass includes the singing by the assembly of the Alleluia, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation and Amen.

      In the Tridentine Rite there was no music at Low Mass (happy to be corrected) and music at High Mass was often sung by the choir. Contemporary records show that the music – eg The Sanctus – would sometimes extend over the eucharistic prayer, pausing for the words of institution.

      One could argue that music is far more integral to the Ordinary Form than it is to the Extraordinary From.

      [Edit] Fr Anthony – we were writing similar things at the same time. Great minds?

      1. The most significant musical reform of the Mass occurred in the 1950’s when Pius XII formally allowed hymns to be sung during Low Mass – one at the beginning of Mass, one during the Offertory, one at Communion and one at the end of Mass. The impact of this “tradition” still lingers in places where hymns are sung without singing the parts of the Mass.

      2. Nick, thanks for your helpful comments about music. I hope I can give a few points of information.

        You’re very right that a great deal of Low Masses were of the ‘silent’ variety. However, there was a healthy tradition and widespread practice of a Low Mass with hymns. This was perhaps most beautifully exemplified in the Deutsche Singmesse, where the congregation would sing throughout the Mass, using hymns in the vernacular that mirrored the liturgical actions of the priest at that moment. As the name implies, this custom began in Austria-Hungary, the Catholic German states, and spread from there with German cultural groups.

        In addition to this, with the advent of the so-called Dialogue Mass, the congregation was encouraged to recite the responses in the Ordinary of the Mass along with the servers. The people were also invited to sing the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in Low Masses where this was done. The people could also say the ‘Domine, non sum dignus’ with the priest before communion. These practices were widely popularized in the USA as ‘praying the Mass.’

        The Deutsche Singmesse was an old custom, going back to the 18th century. The Dialogue Mass was instituted throughout the first half of the 20th century, in particular the second quarter of the same. These can all be seen as organic developments in the liturgy, and even instances of inculturation of the traditional Roman Rite.

      3. Timothy – all very true. I would only add this. The German langauge sources repeatedly point out that the 18th century Singmesse had its roots in earlier customs going back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and also to the pre-Reformation Middle Ages. Vernacular singing at Low Mass (and High Mass) was surprisingly widespread in German-speaking (and Hungarian and Slavic) regions.
        awr

      4. Thank you for that, Father Ruff! I seem to recall you wrote a book on this very topic – I will add it now to my next order from Amazon. Now that’s some good summer reading! 🙂

  9. I will be singing in the bass section for the Pope’s Mass. I have attented rehearsals over the last few months.

    “Works by two Birmingham archdiocese priests have been dropped from the papal Mass to beatify Cardinal Newman in favor of music by sixteenth-century composers. The modern compositions – a “Gloria” by Fr Alan Smith and Eucharistic acclamations by Fr Peter Jones – have been jettisoned in favor of more traditional music by William Byrd and Claudio Monteverdi. …

    The above statement is simply not true.

    Alan Smith is not a priest.

    The Smith / Jones acclamations were not jettisoned in favo(u)r of Byrd & Monteverdi. Works, but not acclamations were planned to be sung by these composers anyway.

    The Smith / Jones acclamations are thoroughly traditional and were intended for participation by all – congregation / choir / schola / keyboard (organ) and instruments.

    Alan Smith’s Gloria is, in my view, excellent – as are the Peter Jones acclamations – both contain an urgency, excitement, singiblity and very powerful musical content.

    The Smith / Jones (Fr. Peter is a priest!) were replaced by the (superb) MacMillan Mass. This, in my view, is very beautiful and powerful, although, again, in my view, does not have the urgency or dialogical nature of the Smith / Jones acclamations.

  10. Contd.

    “Fr Timothy Menezes, who is helping to coordinate the liturgy … said that, despite his admiration for the music of Jones and Smith, organizers opted for James MacMillan’s Mass setting instead “because he is an internationally recognized composer.” …

    This, regrettably is all too true.

    Please, do not get me wrong, the MacMillan Mass is excellent, but I can’t help thinking that for an event like this, it will reduce the voice of the congregation to silence.

    1. Please, do not get me wrong, the MacMillan Mass is excellent, but I can’t help thinking that for an event like this, it will reduce the voice of the congregation to silence.

      I rest my case. Thanks, John

      Of course MacMillan is a well-respected and talented art composer, like many others writing today. But that doesn’t mean that you’re any good at writing music for a postconciliar liturgy, particularly when your experience of liturgy is limited to your own small ordinary Scottish parish and Westminster Cathedral, which of course is not small and ordinary at all, and when your interaction with other composers working in the field of Roman Catholic liturgy is minimal. (In the US and Europe there have for 40 years been groups of liturgical music composers who support and critique and educate each other. A lot of formation has taken place as as result. I’m not aware that MacMillan is a member of any such group.)

      On a point of information, all the pressure to use MacMillan at all papal Masses during the British visit in September came from a single Scottish bishop (I won’t name him here). Thousands of choir members in Scotland as well as England had already started rehearsing the Smith / Jones / Fitzpatrick music when the order came through to change to MacMillan. Think of the expense involved in reprinting thousands of scores, apart from anything else. If the two directors of music had not been clerics, they would have stuck to their guns.

  11. Cont.

    Perhaps this is getting off-topic, but to me, the tragedy of the modern music industry is that artists who are already internationally recognised (nothing wrong with this), are opted for at the expense of equally talented artists who are not well-known, and remain ignored.

      1. Huh? Are those American publications?
        Kidding. And teasing myself as an ‘ugly American.’ I actually do check their websites every so often, but that doesn’t mean I catch everything. I welcome tips on these things from you, Nick, and from anyone else.
        awr

  12. Kathy – John Quinn just gave you the specifics. Guess you can continue in the vein of the Scottish bishop who intervened politically but these decisions have little to do with the liturgy, the community involved, etc.

    More of the authoritarianism and I know what is right for the “little people”. Again, you start with what is best for the “community liturgy” not starting with whether this piece of music is better than that piece (when both are very good) or because certain words in that music may or may not convey the proper pre-VII meaning that you want to convey. That is starting with accidents rather than starting with the big picture.

      1. Angry Left: Maybe so. But how does this relate to the questions I just posed? Once again I’m having trouble following your logic.
        “Ad hominem” means attacking a person, quite apart from the arguments advanced. It doesn’t mean “being personally offended” because you can’t answer the arguments.
        awr

  13. Obviously MacMillan’s focus as a composer is music for the concert hall rather than worship. And it may indeed be the case that his settings for the Newman Mass have been improved by Peter Jones’s suggestions. But it is not as if MacMillan has never composed successful congregational music before. His Galloway Mass (at least among my limited sample set of a few East-coast Episcopal congregations) is well-known, well-liked, well-sung, and liturgically appropriate.

    I wanted to offer this counter-example as a reminder to Mr Inwood that the Spirit blows where it will. While liturgical guild composers may profit from their discussions and mutual critique, they should realize that other composers might benefit from standing apart from the fray … even from “splendid Scottish isolation.”

  14. ” … other composers might benefit from standing apart from the fray … “. Perhaps. But might they not benefit even more from joining in with the discussions and mutual critique of their colleagues writing for the liturgy?

  15. Replying to Paul Mason (above, but the system won’t allow me to post there): “The most significant musical reform of the Mass occurred in the 1950’s when Pius XII formally allowed hymns to be sung during Low Mass…”

    Yes, that was a major shift. Pius X might have had a bigger impact in 1903 when he wrote in “Tra le sollecitudini”: “This chant be restored to the use of the people, so that they may take a more active part in the offices, as they did in former times.”

    Yet, that’s one instruction which still isn’t heard in one or places here in the UK. Although, perhaps it’s not a bad thing: the same document bans the use of pianos “as also that of all noisy or irreverent instruments such as drums, kettledrums, cymbals, triangles and so on”. And he also says that singers in church have “a really liturgical office, and that women, being incapable of such an office, cannot be admitted to the choir”.

    1. Yet more papal far-sightedness.

      Oh well, while he (or Cardinal Merry del Val) was writing this stuff, he wasn’t heretic-hunting.

  16. In fairness, a forum such as this encourages quick, brief pronouncements and discourages nuanced discussions. So perhaps I need to lower my expectations. But I’m at a loss to make sense of the following statements by Mr. Inwood:
    1) “splendid Scottish isolation” Is there a convincing argument that the composers “approved” by liturgical publishing houses do not work in their own “splendid isolation”?
    2) “not renowned for his liturgical savvy” Renown in the world of liturgical music composers might – just might – have to do with whether one belongs to an exclusive club. Is “savvy” the same as knowledge or does it suggest something different? If so, what?
    3) “user-friendliness to congregations” Not having seen or heard the new Mass setting, this may or may not be true. But I want evidence, please.
    4) “we are told, the results were not always wonderful” By whose standards? And what exactly are the standards?
    Inwood locutus est . . . ?
    And thank you, Mr. Saley, for your comment about the “liturgical guild [of] composers.” Isn’t it possible that the usual liturgical composers are a tad too comfortable with the status quo?

  17. “3) “user-friendliness to congregations” Not having seen or heard the new Mass setting, this may or may not be true. But I want evidence, please.”

    Br. (Dom?) John-Bede – I have seen and heard both settings -and the nearest thing to evidence I have is this:

    I have been a parish music assistant since 1995, and I think have got to know some idea of what people will sing (although congregations always surprise me!)

    On rehearsing (singing in the choir) for the Smith / Jones setting, I found the congregational parts to be ‘instantly singable’. The Smith Agnus Dei, for example, is extremely straightforward (not unlike Haugen’s Alleluia in the revised Creation Mass). It is, in my view, one of those pieces that seems on first hearing, or look at the score to be very austere – but really comes to life when sung.

    The MacMillan Agnus Dei is, in my view, incredibly beatiful – but I just cannot see congregations getting this in one go. Please, do not get me wrong, I am not saying that the Smith setting is instant and thus disposable (I think it could be very enduring). Also, I am not saying that congregations would not eventually sing the MacMillan.

    However, if we are looking at the maximum congregational participation in an event where a new Mass setting is used, I am convinced that the Smith / Jones has it.

    As far as I am aware, the Thomas More Group has, or at least had regular meetings – one of them an ‘open’ one at Newan College (Birmingham,…

  18. John Quinn, Thank you for your helpful observations. Again, perhaps it is unrealistic to expect full explanations of one’s opinions (especially controversial opinions) in a forum such as this. But efforts towards that end are much appreciated.
    I too have been pleasantly surprised by what congregations are capable of musically.

  19. Fr. Ruff,

    Just a point of clarification: when celebrating the Missa Cantata in the extraordinary form the celebrant does not begin the offertory rites until after the creed has been completely finished. The Priest cannot begin the offertory rites until after the creed is complete. Upon its completion he kisses the altar, and while facing the people sings Dominus Vobiscum. Afterwards he sings Oremus and the schola begins the offertory chant. Meanwhile the subdeacon bring the chalice and paten to the altar while covered in a humeral veil. The only ceremonial action at the altar will be the spreading of the corporal by the deacon but after the choir has sung the “Et Incarnatus Est” of the creed. After this he will return to the sedilia. In some of the Benedictine Monasteries in France that use the older form they will only sing the Creed according to the Gregorian Formulas and the Sacred Ministers at least in some instances sing the Chant with the rest of the Monks.

    If by offertory rites you meant the Canon then, yes the priest celebrant begins the silent Canon while the Sanctus is being sung.

    1. Fr. Pedersen – thanks much for the correction! I trust your knowledge of the rubrics (while trying not to be too proud that I’m not very experienced in the preconciliar liturgy!). I was going off the practice in Europe since Trent, based on all the research for my book. But that doesn’t mean it’s what the rubrics said or say.
      awr

  20. Stephen Saley said But it is not as if MacMillan has never composed successful congregational music before. His Galloway Mass (at least among my limited sample set of a few East-coast Episcopal congregations) is well-known, well-liked, well-sung, and liturgically appropriate.

    I do not know if you are referring to the St Anne Mass, which I think is his only published congregational setting on this side of the Pond, but if so, it is notable for its Scottish snaps, angular melodic lines, leaps of 7ths, etc, all of which make it difficult for the average congregation to get hold of. Although this has been published in a national hymnbook, experience shows that it is not widely used and, where it is used, it is not loved by congregations.

    While liturgical guild composers may profit from their discussions and mutual critique, they should realize that other composers might benefit from standing apart from the fray … even from “splendid Scottish isolation.”

    One of the tasks of a liturgical composer is that of getting under the skin of those s/he writes for. That comes with years of experience, and with being aware of how others have tackled this. I think James MacMillan would now be writing so much more useful liturgical music had he gone through the same apprencticeship as others have.

    (ctd)

    1. (ctd) Another aspect of the liturgical composer’s craft is technique allied with experience.

      To quote another Scottish example, the music of John Bell for the Iona Community is of a high standard textually as well as musically, and liturgically very appropriate. I would not have traveled the length and breadth of the US in the 1980s introducing it before it was even published by GIA if I had not been convinced of that.

      But John has produced most of his work in comparative isolation from his colleagues elsewhere in the British Isles; and he has a tenor singing voice. What this means is that some of his best-known music needs transposing down a whole step in order to make it more usable by ordinary congregational folk. (John is not the only tenor-voiced composer of whom this is true.)

      If he had taken the opportunity for interchanges with his colleagues, he would have found this out a long time ago, before his music appeared so widely in print as it now is. And his music would be even more of an essential component in every liturgical musician’s repertoire planning than it already is.

      This is the kind of thing I am talking about. We can all learn from each other.

      And in the case of basic liturgical formation, I think it is essential. There’s far more to being a liturgical composer than simply setting texts to music. I have written about this at length elsewhere, so will not rehearse it all again here.

    2. And finally, to echo John Quinn’s post above: I have not yet seen MacMillan’s Agnus Dei, but I am really looking forward to it because people whose opinion I respect tell me that it is a miniature masterpiece — but, they add, really only singable by choirs, not congregations. There is a place for that in our liturgy, of course. However, there is no place for settings of the Sanctus, for example, which deprive the people of their voice.

      How much more wonderful it would be if the Papal Masses were to contain music which integrated both choir and people as equally essential components of a common enterprise. It’s possible to do this — if you know how!

  21. Just to clarify – the St. Anne’s Mass and the Galloway Mass are different Masses.

    We have tried the St. Anne’s Mass at my parish with some reasonable success.

    We also tried the (superb) Galloway Mass. However, this was not really successful. In fact we (choir, musicians, a member of the congregation) found this was not working when people began to try and sing it. A music critic and broadcaster in the congregation pointed out that this sort of music relies on accuracy for its effectiveness, which is why it does not really work in an average parish.

  22. However, the Sanctus of the Newman Mass is one which I think might be singable for congregations. Fr Peter has asked J MacM to put in some repeats in this – and I think that this might work.

    “How much more wonderful it would be if the Papal Masses were to contain music which integrated both choir and people as equally essential components of a common enterprise. It’s possible to do this — if you know how!”

    – I could not agree more.

  23. “One of the tasks of a liturgical composer is that of getting under the skin of those s/he writes for. That comes with years of experience, and with being aware of how others have tackled this. ”

    I might add that this applies not only to composers, but to parish music assistants (such as myself), who browse the 1,000’s of publications for those gold nuggets – scriptural and liturgical music that people will sing, remember, and pray!

  24. James MacMillan has come out with a few statements which are seen as inflammatory by some and yet have made him a poster boy for others. The story about whose music is being used where during the Papal visit has become the most divisive liturgical debate of the year!

    In 2006 MacMillan said most “serious” Catholic musicians are “repulsed by an increasingly rigid misinterpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms on music”.

    There are at least two British publications which see MacMillan as the saviour of liturgical music not because of what he’s done but because he is not named David Haas, Bernadette Farrell or – in one particularly vicious British blog – Paul Inwood.

    The ad hominem argument is that if you write art music for choirs you’re OK. If you write singable music for the assembly then you’re a left wing progressive who should be burned at the stake with bundles of music by Marty Haugen. (Continues)

  25. (Ctd) I remain open-minded about MacMillan. At a conference of Catholic musicians here in Liverpool last year, he was asked why, as an advocate of art music, he’d not written anything liturgical which fully employed choir and assembly. (He’s written choral Masses which are not suitable for the liturgy and simple assembly music – perhaps the Papal Mass is his opportunity to combine the two?)

    I know that, in his parish, MacMillan has brought together a choir of ordinary parishioners who sing complicated choral pieces and he is, surely, to be praised for this – as long as the assembly is able to sing that which is “rightly theirs” (Sacrosanctum Concilium).

    Sometimes it feels that, here in the UK, MacMillan’s greatest enemies are those who use him for their own ends – those who claim to be his fans.

  26. My own hermeneutic for liturgical music in the OF is to have a rebuttable presumption in favor of music that works well and sounds good without accompaniment. That’s not saying no accompaniment; it’s just that music that relies on accompaniment to do what the voices are not able to do is likely (though not certain) to be less than desirable. I also think it forces composers who think through their fingers to think through their mouths (and preferably, a mezzo or baritone mouth, since the bell curve distribution of female and male voices peaks tall in the mezzo and baritone ranges – true SATB-voiced composers take note, puhleeeez – I too have encountered music written obviously by a Tenor I who was not aware his voice was a tiny minority in the distribution of voices).

    It is possible to do what might be classified as “high” musical settings of the Ordinary with congregational participation. Folks like Theodore Marier (who got composers like Jean Langlais to include congregational parts in such settings) were thinking this way 40 years ago or more, and the work has stood the test of time.

    There is a great deal of choral compositional talent out there in the English-speaking world. In the USA, choral singing is the #1 volunteer activity, and choral concerts are well attended (though choral music is virtually absent from the consolidated airwaves) and it’s probably the region of classical music where new music is most eagerly embraced. That said, music education in public schools is a shadow of what it used to be, due to curricular and budgetary requirements, and The People do not own music the way they once did; that reality must be engaged in these discussions.

  27. Thanks to all who responded to my question. It certainly gives me something to think about.

    I wholly agree with the observations on the low Mass. Having attended several, I now understand the enthusiasm which many embraced the reformed rite.

    As to the high Mass, I’m not so sure. Note my impressions were not directed towards the “coordination” of the music with the “priest’s actions”, but towards a sense that the music was integral to the overall liturgical action of the Mass itself. Some of the commenters seemed to confirm my impressions that it was impossible to have a high Mass without music.

    Which, it seems to me, is entirely different than saying music in the reformed rite must be coordinated with the priest’s actions. If this is just a way of saying that no one can sing unless everyone sings at the same time, then isn’t it correct that music in the reformed rite plays a less integral role than in a high Mass in the extraordinary form?

    If we can have any Mass in the reformed rite without needing any music at all, what is liturgical music now — just another incidental like the flowers, etc? Or, ideally, should it be considered something more?

  28. I was alerted to the comments on your blog by a friend. I was angered by some of them. In the circumstances, Damian’s response seems measured and balanced

  29. Mr. Klant: You are right. Originally, the terms high and low referred to pitch, not to ceremony. A Low Mass is spoken by the celebrant; a High Mass is sung (at a higher pitch than the speaking voice). In the United States, High Mass is used interchangably with Missa Cantata, and Solemn High means a sung Mass with Deacon and Subdeacon.

    Some posters here write as if it were settled for all time that the people must always sing the Ordinary. I do not agree. Especially at a one-time event like this. The busy-ness of the Novus Ordo Mass is disconcerting enough on its own, let alone trying to sing a new setting instantly. Plus, it is an excercise in futility: even if it were a well-known setting, only half the people would sing, at best. Interior prayer works just fine.

    I’m familiar with Mr. MacMillan’s music; it is wonderful. Thank God more far-seeing heads prevailed.

  30. “Some posters here write as if it were settled for all time that the people must always sing the Ordinary”.

    Not necessarily. The “Ordinary” usually means: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. But they should always sing the acclamations: Alleluia, Holy, Memorial Acclamation and Amen.

    And the only reason that all can’t join in, is the choice of texts which are not yet authorised for use in the UK – therefore, any setting will be unknown by the assembly which, regardless of whose it is, seems a strange move at such a big event. (And, please note, that is not a comment in favour of, or against, anyone’s music – just a practical thought.)

    Before Coventry ’82, the music was disseminated to the dioceses in the Birmingham Province, and through them to schools and churches, and was used at several diocesan events. Therefore, on the day they sang “like Billy-o”, to quote one observer.

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