Each summer the Irish Church Music Association holds a week-long gathering consisting of sung daily prayer and Eucharist, plenary sessions, breakout sessions on topics of particular interest (e.g., Gregorian chant, new psalmody and hymnody, church music in Irish, etc.), and wonderful time for socializing and fellowship. This summer’s 42nd annual gathering marked the launch of a new and welcome musical resource called “Sing the Mass: Anthology of Music for the Irish Church.” Prepared by the Irish National Centre for Liturgy in association with the Advisory Committee on Church Music of the Bishops’ Conference of Ireland, this anthology provides compositions for use with the new English translation of the Roman Missal in anticipation of the International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Ireland in June 2012.
The anthology appears in three formats: a hand-missal-sized “Choir/People Edition” containing the melody lines with choral harmonies, a large-format “Accompaniment Edition” containing everything in the “Choir/People Edition” with keyboard accompaniment and (often) obbligati instrumental parts, and a 2-CD recorded version of the compositions contained in the printed editions. All are available from Veritas Publications (www.veritas.ie).
In addition to the chants from the Roman Missal, “Sing the Mass” provides seven complete Mass settings: Ephrem Feeley’s “Mass of St. Paul,” Liam Lawton’s “Glendalough Mass,” Columba McCann’s “Mass of St. Columba,” Bernard Sexton’s “Mass of Renewal,” Seóirse Bodley’s “Mass of Peace,” the Paul Décha/Jean-Paul Lécot/Lucien Deiss/Byzantine chant “Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes,” and Fintan O’Carroll’s “Mass of the Immaculate Conception.” An appendix provides various chants from Thomas C. Kelly’s “A Mass for Peace,” as well as individual elements of the Mass by Kevin Mayhew, Margaret Daly, Peter O’Kane, John O’Keefe, and Tom Egan. A special bonus is the anthem commissioned for the Dublin Eucharistic Congress, Bernard Sexton’s “Though We Are Many.” (I hope that publishers in the English-speaking world outside of Ireland will consider publishing this eminently useable Communion processional.)
An interesting question is raised by such a publication. The Office for Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops through its Secretariat does not issue an official national hymnal nor (in this case) an officially sanctioned set of musical settings for the new translation of the Order of Mass. Creating and distributing these settings are left to for-profit and not-for-profit publishers and various internet and local initiatives. This has resulted in a plethora of settings (100+ at my last count) of varying quality and usefulness. I suspect that eventually certain settings will become standard because of a combination of market forces and adaptability to the musical skills and tastes of local worshiping communities. In contrast, the Irish Centre for Liturgy has provided a limited number of settings for the worshiping communities of their territory, which will probably result in a common repertoire of Mass parts surfacing more quickly in their country. (I would be interested to have some of the Canadian readers of this blog to comment on the Mass settings commissioned and distributed by the Canadian Conference of Bishops.)
I would like to thank my friend Fr. Paul Kenny who was responsible for much of the behind-the-scenes preparation of the scores for publication for providing me with copies of “Sing the Mass.” In later postings I intend to offer capsule reflections on the Mass settings that would not be familiar in the United States.