Chant based Eucharistic settings

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polycarp
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Post by polycarp » Fri Mar 03, 2006 11:16 am

The verse chant for the Introit is a commonly used adaptation of the Mode V psalm tone. As such no one has any more right to claim copyright than they would to the C major scale. Various monastic communities use adaptations such as this - some may be the same, others slightly different.

By the way, I'm new to this forum - hello everyone. I'm a composition student and I enjoy singing in choirs when I can. I look forward to much stimulating discussion!

Poly

Merseysider
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Post by Merseysider » Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:34 pm

polycarp wrote:I wonder why Martin Baker didn't feel the need to give examples of musical 'fast food' - it seems Merseysider was readily able to supply several names.

No, Polycarp, I didn't. I gave examples of items which are most certainly not fast food.

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Tsume Tsuyu
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Post by Tsume Tsuyu » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:12 pm

Martin Baker's 'fast food' analogy has made me cross! I agree that there is some poor quality music about. A good deal (but not all) of the music written in the 70s is not worth keeping. But for anyone whose era that is, and who hasn't been exposed to anything else, those hymns are precious to them. They mean something to them. Perhaps this is why they are only very gradually being whittled down with each new hymnal that comes out. Gwyn is right about the repetitive songs. I feel the same about 'praise' songs. They're not all rubbish, exactly, but they all say much the same thing and the words don't challenge me.

I'd like Martin Baker to listen to some of the music written by composers in my parish, because it's really good! And not just in my parish – many of the SSG composers have written beautiful songs and psalm and mass settings that really help to convey the sense of the words.

Farrell and Haas, Walker and Walsh (and many others) set the words of scripture to music that is neither twee nor tedious, yet is not so challenging that it can't be easily learnt by congregations. Not all their songs are great, but mostly they are good, solid songs which enhance any parish repertoire.

I agree (with Martin Baker's comments in his talk given at the Vatican) that active participation doesn't necessarily mean joining in with all the songs. Listening to a beautiful piece can be as prayerful as praying through singing. Though, as someone who is not a Latin scholar and who missed out on the Latin Mass by being born too late, I'm not sure how I can pray through listening when I don't understand what I'm hearing. Parts of the Mass are fine - I know what the translation is - but I listened for years to Panis Angelicus and Ave Verum being sung by our church choir without ever knowing what the words meant! I don't think I did much praying whilst I was listening because the words meant nothing to me.

I don't judge any music by when it was written or who it was written by. Rather, I tend to close my eyes and listen. If the music speaks to me and if I absorb the message of the words, then it works for me, be it plain chant or popular song. In a Mass context, music that speaks to me will enable me to pray whether I can join with the singing of it or not.

I seem to have meandered a bit but, going back to where I began, I think Martin Baker is very blinkered and that's sad. If, as he says, Cathedrals ought to be leading by example and setting standards of excellence, he would do well to look at some of the good contemporary music around and incorporate it into his repertoire!
TT

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Post by Merseysider » Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:00 pm

TT has said beautifully what I tried to say by getting irate. Listening to Anne Quigley's "There Is A Longing" as I write this. Top of my pick of the papal pops.

polycarp
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Post by polycarp » Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:35 pm

At the risk of drawing yet another analogy, consider this:

St Peter's Basilca in Rome stands as a building of enormous integrity as the centre of Catholicism, revered for its many fine qualities, both by those who see it in a religious context and those who appreciate it as a masterpiece of architecture. (Of course, it has its detractors too.)

To spin this out a little further, look also at the new Welsh Assembly building - in its way another focal point and likewise a building of and for the people. It has attracted high praise and will doubtless also attract negative reactions.

However, both buildings balance functionality with form - the prayers of millions set in stone, or the hopes and pride of nation expressed in architecture. The design and implementation was entrusted to skilled professionals - architects and builders, artists and engineers. There was no attempt to curry favour with the masses in a misguided attempt to ensure popular appeal or currency of fashion. Perhaps such an attempt might have meant letting enthusiastic amateurs 'have a go', either in design or implementation. One might argue - 'that's absurd - such a suggestion would be ludicrous in connection with the raising of a building.'

But why do we have no problem entrusting the design and implementation of one of the most powerful and potentially transcendent elements of the liturgy to anyone other than skilled professionals? Whilst we might not all like the overall aesthetic of the designs of da Vinci or Richard Roger, one cannot fault the technical assurance that is an essential part of their reputations as great architects.

Unfortunately, whatever their popular appeal, one can fault much of the 'dross' (to quote an earlier message) that Martin Baker seems to be rejecting, at least on a technical level. At its worse, much of the music in the most popular modern hymnals is bordering on being musically dyslexic. We are selling ourselves and the liturgy short if we say this is ok, even if we think we like it. There is enough bad music in the world without bringing it into the church.

Many would like to see more and more opportunities to 'have a go' and to rebel against the 'elitism' of having professionals doing anything in the church. This may even go so far as depriving the consummate church professional, the priest, of the roles that are proper to him by virtue of his vocation and training.

When will we re-learn the value of taking something FROM the liturgy, provided by those best placed in their respective fields in its service, rather than all clamouring to BRING whatever we wish to it? There's a word for the noise created by this approach - babel.

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Post by Gabriel » Fri Mar 03, 2006 6:32 pm

I too was struck by the 'fast food' analogy. It's rather cheap. But I did wonder what you might compare chant to. Bran? You know it's good for you but you're not convinced by the experience.

Or to push the analogy further what you actually need is a well balanced meal and the many ingredients make that up.

Polycarp's reference to 'form and function' is helpful and I would suggest that the better liturgical music that has been composed since the Council has explored the relationship between liturgical and musical form and function.

I am sure the Society (not that I can speak for it) would welcome the Church employing liturgical musicians in dioceses working with parishes and encouraging good liturgical music up and down the country. There are some dioceses where the Cathedral musicians also work in the diocese doing exactly this - if only there were more.

Gabriel

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Post by Merseysider » Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:00 pm

polycarp wrote: why do we have no problem entrusting the design and implementation of one of the most powerful and potentially transcendent elements of the liturgy to anyone other than skilled professionals?

At least two reasons:
1) Add up all the pros and amateurs of all standards and you still don't have enough to go round – I'm currently working across three parishes and I'm far from a professional. Would the liturgy improve if I was censured?
2) Beware the word "professional" – I know some excellent musicians, skilled in performance, conducting and composition who have no concept of liturgy: chuck together a choral mass, a psalm and a couple of hymns and they're done.

polycarp wrote: There is enough bad music in the world without bringing it into the church.

What is "bad music"? I can't think of any. Not sure I like the atonal or concrete stuff and I can think of a few Victorian parlour songs which make me squirm. "O Lord my God", "Jerusalem" and "The Old Rugged Cross" make we want to vomit but that doesn't make them bad music. There are many musical genres and items and they all have a different functionality: I love Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" but not sure I'd like it at my funeral.

Some of the best liturgical music around today is by people with impeccable musical credentials – Bill Tamblyn and Paul Inwood, to name but two.

It's sad that the people of Westminster appear to be fed a limited diet, based on the cathedral's current music list. http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/ ... diary.html Compare that with Brentwood: http://www.brentwood-music.org.uk/lists/index.htm

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Post by docmattc » Sat Mar 04, 2006 1:04 pm

I've just finished reading Lucien Deiss' book "Visions of music and liturgy for a new century" and it would be well worth every liturgical musician reading it.

He argues that any particular piece of music must fulfill its "ministerial function". Thus a kyrie in which one syllable is stretched over several bars does not do this because the music is not supporting the text, the reverse is true. Such pieces may be musically very good, but no longer serve a post-conciliar liturgy.
This 'ministerial function' concept should actually be how we judge the merits of a piece of music, the musical quality must be good, but this is not the primary criterion, good music may not be good liturgical music.

He suggests that while the choir can sing on their own (but specifically not for the Eucharistic acclamations and gives a good theology of why for the Sanctus especially) they can only do so with the assent of the congregation who feel they can say to the choir "we are happy, at this point, for you to pray on our behalf". We can never loose sight of the fact that there is no place for performance in liturgy.


polycarp wrote:When will we re-learn the value of taking something FROM the liturgy, provided by those best placed in their respective fields in its service, rather than all clamouring to BRING whatever we wish to it?

But the Liturgy is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed as well as the source from which all her power flows (SC 10). We do not only take from the liturgy, but bring ourselves too. Liturgy is dialogue.
Who does one define as those best placed in its service? And how does one judge whether another might be better placed without trying them? I don't think anyone here clamours to bring anything they wish (and I think what you're saying here Polycarp is inflict anything on the congregation) to the liturgy, but strives, after careful consideration to enhance the prayer of their particular community with music suited to the idiom of that community.

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VML
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Qualifications

Post by VML » Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:11 pm

Yes there is no place for performance in the liturgy, and we need to be well qualified to produce, supply, support, music in our liturgy.

But as Gabriel suggests in the thread concerning the post at Leeds, qualified in and for what? The greatest organist, director, chorister, composer may well do wonderful things, but is he a sympathetic accompanist when there are only a dozen older people in the church?

Apart from the obvious shortage of qualified musicians willing and able to make a living in parish music, if you only have seven who turn up for practices and some of those are not inclined to learn to read music, it does not in theory promise well for the liturgy.

But if those seven include not only good voices, but among other things: daily Mass goers; a former personnel officer who, enthused by his involvement with parish youth and Sacramental catechesis, changed career to teach RE; the widow who organises the Eucharistic ministers, etc. These people are immersed in the liturgy, open to all the music I throw at them, and totally committed. Of course they are qualified to do what they do!

I looked at the two cathedral planning lists and I know which one would be home to me.

There is a fine line between liturgy and performance. On Ash Wednesday evening I stood at the lectern during the distribution of ashes, and sang just the 2 refrains of Teresa Brown’s The God of compassion and love, from the current M&L, repeated as necessary, and unaccompanied. It worked well and was well received. I know I could, or should, have made copies and had the others singing too, but apart from the extra effort involved, I don’t think it would have been so effective. Ours is a small church, and I was no more than 6 feet from the procession, so they could hear the words, and I hope, feel involved.

Thanks to Teresa: it’s a lovely setting, and I may copy it for the choir and use it again during Lent.

ssgcgs
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Post by ssgcgs » Sat Mar 04, 2006 8:52 pm

There - appreciation of music published in M&L.

I have asked that Composers' Group music be allowed some space in the Journal.
<post partly deleted at request of SSG Trustees>
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<25 June 2006>


One further thought: the Composers' Group does have the support of several Cathedrals and their music directors, and I should like to foster greater links. I should not like to see criticism driving a wedge between SSG and the cathedral music departments.

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Do it live at a Composers' Group meeting!

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Gwyn
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Post by Gwyn » Sat Mar 04, 2006 9:09 pm

Yes indeed. It is strange that a journal dedicated at least in part to liturgical music seldom if ever contains any. I appreciate though that there are often reviews so I'm probably going off half-cocked as usual :oops:

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VML
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No offence intended

Post by VML » Sat Mar 04, 2006 11:55 pm

I mean no offence to any cathedral music department. It's just that I am no great choral singer, and tho' I love listening to sublime music, I am more involved as a member of the congregation if the music is not out of my reach.

Outside of church music, I sing lots of English traditional song, and when I was learning to be a cantor, I remember reading advice from Fr Gregory (Murray) that a cantor's delivery should be as far as possible according to the principles of good public speaking, rather more monastic than operatic, and 'no trillers or shriekers please!'

There is chant and chant and as has been said in this thread, not all chant serves the word as well as post Vat 2 liturgy demands.

A simple tune like Teresa's one for Ash Wednesday is practical music and does its job enhancing the celebration.

Merseysider
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Post by Merseysider » Sun Mar 05, 2006 10:08 am

ssgcgs wrote: I have asked that Composers' Group music be allowed some space in the Journal


Excellent. Would love to see more music from the Composers' Group. There is still a great need for items which have been tried and tested in ordinary parishes.

Take the Holy, for example: our parish is desperately short of Holys. I can probably hum you a couple of dozen I've used over the years, but by the time you remove:
1) those which have become dated – great in their day but haven't aged too well
2) those which need melody instruments (rather than having them as optional extras)
3) those which have grand Hosanna refrains and are, therefore, perhaps not suitable for weekly use (even though we do use them for larger feasts)
4) responsorial – because this style doesn't work at this point of the liturgy with our particular assembly
Take away that lot and the choice is rather limited. There are many Holys published in collections which, while looking straightforward, are not that singable. (NB I'd highly recommend Martin Barry's Spring Sanctus which we'll be introducing from the Third Sunday of Easter – included in Baptised With Fire but should be much more widely available).

I'd love to see some Holys which members of the CG have written and used successfully in their own situations.

And that's just the Holy. We're also getting a tad desperate for a memorable, singable, through-composed Gloria. There is, undoubtedly, a great wealth of psalms and songs from which to choose but I, for one, would welcome much more service music.

How about an occasional composers' taster pack? – a selection of music from the Composers' Group which we can try in our own parishes? Is that affordable? Would our composers be agreeable? Perhaps just few enough sheets so they can be sent out with the journal without bumping up the postage.

Just a thought.

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Tsume Tsuyu
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Post by Tsume Tsuyu » Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:01 pm

polycarp wrote:Many would like to see more and more opportunities to 'have a go' and to rebel against the 'elitism' of having professionals doing anything in the church.

I'm not a rebel! I don't have a problem with professionals, nor do I have any problem with committed, talented, knowledgeable amateurs. The trouble with musical professionals is that their profession is music, not necessarily liturgy. I can think of several parishes I've visited where the music is technically excellent but smacks of 'performance' rather than an understanding of what the choir is there for. I've heard MDs say that they can't persuade their choir to turn out for Mass if they don't get to sing anything in parts, or get plenty of bits to sing without the congregation. These people clearly don't understand their ministry. Another problem with professionals is that they want to do it for a living and be paid for it. That simply doesn't happen in the Catholic church unless you work in a Cathedral and, even then, most posts are not full time. I'd be interested to know how many full time musicians the Catholic church in the UK has on the pay roll.

Leeds Cathedral is obviously an exception and it sounds as though it is doing great things with the youngsters in that area, but I'd like to know whether they receive liturgical formation alongside their singing training.

The reason I'm passionate about much of the contemporary music (aside from it being so good!) is because I know that those who have written it are passionate about liturgy and anxious to get it right. Of course, you are going to get pieces that are musically poor, liturgically 'iffy' and unlikely to stand the test of time. Unfortunately, some of these have become engrained and will stay for a while yet. Others, whilst they may still appear in hymnals, are being used less and less. Sadly, though, there are parishes where the music ministry is dire. But nothing should be taken away from the hardworking musicians who have probably received no liturgical formation, are not exposed to the wider resources available and are performing a ministry by turning up week after week to support the singing in their parish even if they are not getting it right. Surely, it's the job of the Bishops to come up with a plan to reach these people? Part of that plan may be to pay MDs a proper wage (see various other threads!) for what they do, so they can then require them to have some musical ability and some liturgical formation as part of the job specification.

I hope M&L starts to include a musical offering again. And I hope we manage to get more music on the forum so that those who think that much of what is written today by amateurs isn't meritorious can see just how good some of that music really is!
TT

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PaulW
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Post by PaulW » Sun Mar 05, 2006 5:06 pm

Wearing an editor's hat, I take note of what is being said about including music in the journal and will bring it to the next meeting. We always listen to any reasonable proposal; we cannot always implement them, working within the constraints of time, budget and editorial policy.

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