Sing the Mass: Anthology of Music for the Irish Church

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.

9 comments

  1. All such anthologies in the Irish context are more aspirational than anything else. Unfortunately we don’t have a good record at singing (in church, that is.) Our reformed sisters and brothers are streets ahead of us in this matter.
    The fact that the new interlinear ‘translation’ is being imposed from on high coupled with the fact that it is of such poor literary and lyrical quality means that even fewer people will be enticed to open their mouths to sing or even to speak the restorationist verbiage.

    1. While Irish congregations generally are poor at singing, one of the reasons for the National Centre for Liturgy publishing such a collection is to encourage choirs and congregations to sing the new translations together. It is also saddening to still hear emotive phrases such as “imposed from on high”. Surely most church doctrine, therefore, is “imposed from on high”. Gerard seems not to know the lengthy process of consultation with musicians and composers, text writers, theologians well in advance of the publication of the Roman Missal. There are also more moments throughout the missal of great beauty and dignity than there are of “poor literary and lyrical quality”. By singing the musical parts of the mass, we can overcome initial reticence and get to know these texts better. Time will tell…

      1. “Imposed from on high” may sound emotive, but it’s entirely factual.

        There was not a lengthy process of consultation with musicians, composers, text writers, and theologians. Sorry, but I was there and I know. There was consultation of a strictly limited kind: by invitation only, and from on high. The new directives from Rome have done away with publishing progress reports, giving out draft texts to those who wish to see them, and transparency – all part of ICEL’s work until c. 2001.. Everything is now done in secret, and only those selected from above give consultation.

        Those are the facts.

        awr

  2. “In later postings I intend to offer capsule reflections on the Mass settings that would not be familiar in the United States.”
    I look forward to hearing your assessment of these settings. Is there somewhere online to hear or see any of them?

  3. I have long been a believer in a standardized hymnal. Walk into any United Methodist church, and guess what, same hymnal. Ditto for Episcopalians, Lutherans (the ELCA, and the LCMS, have different hymnals, but are standard for the respective churches), and many other Christian Denominations. Why can’t we? While aspirations they may be, the Irish church is taking a step in the right direction.

  4. Siobhan Maguire
    I suspect that one reason there is no national hymnal is that the United States is much larger than Ireland and the Catholic population of the United States is much larger than Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans (both/either synods). Similarly, there are different opportunities available in a large parish than there are in a small parish (or congregation) – it goes both ways. I wonder if we lose anything by not having a national hymnal. I suspect not, given the poor planning/consulting/decision process Fr Ruff reports in the present case.

  5. I am just getting to grips with the new words, but, I also run a small childrens choir in my parish and find that the new hymns are not suitable for young children. They were not impressed when I played a few tracks from the cd , and, I can’t say I blame them. They are great for a formal choir, but we find when we sing simple hymns then our usual attenders at these masses join in with us. Is there any budding musician/composer who can give us something for the early years congregation. The new hymns remind me and some of the parents I work with of the boring Friday afternoons when the nuns would rap us over the fingers and hands if we failed to learn latin texts and songs which we did not understand.. help please on this one??

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