Realising Bishop Alan's hope

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Nick Baty
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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Nick Baty » Tue Jun 18, 2013 9:50 pm

John Ainslie wrote:Perhaps.. we should obey the priest/deacon's instruction to 'Go in peace' and do so promptly!
Unless you're a frustrated chorus boy like me and you need that big final number!

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by dmu3tem » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:05 pm

Bin the missalettes. They are of no use. Give the assembly a simple printed sheet with hymn texts psalm response etc all in one place. And they really do get used to reading the dots after a while


Would that I could. Unfortunately I (like many church musicians) have no control over such policies. I have to work with the Missalette in front of me. This is the reality I (and - I am sure - many others) face.

Dare I suggest it, but the thought has also crossed my mind that when people propose using other texts they are not just evading this reality but are determined not to use the Proper texts in the Missalette, especially when they argue (no doubt correctly in a strictly 'legal' sense) that these texts are not prescribed by authority. Yet if they are not prescribed by authority why are they there? If, as has been suggested by some (e.g. in the latest issue of the Monastic Musicians Newsletter), this is due to some sort of accidental evolutionary process, why have the liturgical scholars 'employed' by church authorities permitted such anomalies to persist? This seems contrary to what advocates (including the last two Popes) of 'an authentic liturgy' actually want.

Speaking personally I dislike many of the Commonion and Entrance Antiphon texts; so I fully understand why some people might be tempted to set them to one side and replace them with something else. I also dislike the concept of 'an authentic liturgy' and am sufficient of a Protestant to believe that a liturgy should serve the needs of the particular congregations that use it, instead of being something handed down from past (Roman) traditions that has to be preserved at all costs.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Nick Baty » Thu Jun 20, 2013 5:46 pm

dmu3tem wrote:Unfortunately I (like many church musicians) have no control over such policies. I have to work with the Missalette in front of me.
Why? Who made the decision that you must have a missalette? And what reason has been given when the issue has been raised?

If you must use the missalette, you are starting the job with both hands tied behind your back. And this raises quite a few questions – apart from the fact that the editors of aforementioned object are making decisions which affect your worshiping community.

Do you ever begin with a hymn? If you do, you are not sticking to the missalette anyway. And where does the hymn come from? A book perhaps – so you're already asking the assembly to juggle two objects. And what if the hymn is not in the book you have? Do you simply not use it? Communion songs are best sung from memory – as the assembly is moving – and limited to few words or repeated phrases so, again, the misalette is redundant.

And how do you cope with psalms? On Sunday, we'll sing Bernadette Farrell's Psalm 62: "My soul is thirsting, thirsting for you, my God, for you my God". Tricky when the arrangements of words in the missalette is "For you my soul is thirsting, O God, my God." And some missalettes prescribe texts for the Gospel greeting – do you use these even when they are poorly chosen?

On the subject of word patterns, if you use the missalette you will never be able to sing Bakhita Acclamations (See Celebration for Everyone) by a certain Scouse musician as the memorial acclamations are "When we eat this bread and when we drink this cup...." and "Save us, save us, Saviour of the World..." or Coventry Gloria by a Brummie composer because of the assembly refrains. You might not wish to – but anything north of the Watford Gap has to be worth a try.

And what happens if you pick up a great new Communion Song at a summer school or other conference? It might be perfect for you community but you avoid it because it's not in the missalette?

I know I've ranted about this before but I really believe the missalette and/or people's missals is/are the greatest hindrance(s) to liturgy. Simply saying we have to use them means you are starting out several yards behind everyone else. And I really don't know how you cope.

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by contrabordun » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:15 am

We're drifting OT here, but I think you're overstating it Nick. A missalette is just another constraint on one's repertoire choices: one among many, of which the overriding ones are invariably the time and the skills of the people tasked with choosing, preparing and leading that repertoire. There is a practically infinite number of pieces of music that won't ever be done in any given parish because the person choosing the music would need several lifetimes merely to encounter them all and a similar number which would never be done because the resources aren't available. Missalettes are convenient - for the congregation as much as anybody - which is why they're almost ubiquitous and it's a big statement to say that ditching them would be beneficial overall.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Nick Baty » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:39 am

Yes, C, one of the things which constrains but a constraint which can be easily be ditched. What do you find convenient about the missalette? Can you name one single benefit?

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by contrabordun » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:25 am

I know the congregation will have the words of the response in front of them and will be following the verses and will thus know what to sing and when to sing it. I don't need to do anything to bring this happy situation about. (I don't have an issue regarding the Communion Antiphon, because our practice is utterly off-piste at that point and we sing hymns at Entrance and Offertory anyway).
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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Nick Baty » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:50 am

contrabordun wrote:I know the congregation will have the words of the response in front of them and will be following the verses and will thus know what to sing and when to sing it.
You don't need a missalette for that - the cantor simply has to raise an eyebrow or look up from the ambo. And the missalette limits your choice of setting and your choice of psalm when an alternative is given or when you wish to use one for the season rather than the day. Also, missalettes take the assembly away from the focus of the action - if you have those which include readings, chances are the good folk will be concentrating on the bits of paper rather than the reader. Our assembly has a sheet with everything they need, including the words and dots of the psalm (but not the verses, unless we're doing something with an unusual pattern).

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Southern Comfort » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:21 am

contrabordun wrote:Missalettes are convenient - for the congregation as much as anybody - which is why they're almost ubiquitous


I disagree. Only a minority, even a small minority, of parishes still use missalettes. It may be that most do in your part of the world, but not elsewhere. J.F.Neale's print-run is tiny compared with what it used to be; I have seen the Catholic Printing Co of Farnworth's Jerusalem Mass Sheet only twice in the past decade (they may still have a residual loyalty in the Manchester area); once in a blue moon you will encounter a missalette from the Catholic Book Co in Northern Ireland though they may have stopped producing them now.

I only rarely see actual missalettes in my travels around. What I do see, however, is a quite a lot of places giving out Redemptorist pre-printed-on-one-side bulletins and Mass sheets, some versions of which contain the texts of the readings. (And yes, the Redemptorists do produce an actual missalette too — their green Mass leaflet — but these are not often encountered.) I also find, but to a rather lesser extent, a number of parishes producing (as Nick does) their own tailor-made Mass sheet each week.

dmu3tem wrote:Dare I suggest it, but the thought has also crossed my mind that when people propose using other texts they are not just evading this reality but are determined not to use the Proper texts in the Missalette, especially when they argue (no doubt correctly in a strictly 'legal' sense) that these texts are not prescribed by authority. Yet if they are not prescribed by authority why are they there? If, as has been suggested by some (e.g. in the latest issue of the Monastic Musicians Newsletter), this is due to some sort of accidental evolutionary process, why have the liturgical scholars 'employed' by church authorities permitted such anomalies to persist? This seems contrary to what advocates (including the last two Popes) of 'an authentic liturgy' actually want.


That PMM article reminds us, among other things, that the proper texts are no longer proper in the sense that they once were (they are now one option among several), that the Missal antiphons are not intended for singing but for recitation if there is no singing, and that they were only retained in the 1970 Missal to appease the plainchant people, all things which we have discussed in other threads. Yes, it is an anomaly, but not the only one in our liturgy by any means. We are still very much in a transitional stage, and transitions are anathema to some who want everything cut-and-dried — hence the attraction of returning to an older model.

Talking of anomalies, I wonder how many other people remember when missalettes carried not one but two sets of antiphons and prayer texts? The National Liturgy Commission version and the ICEL version. The NLC translation was produced here in England and Wales several years in advance of the ICEL version (which, while appearing in 1973, was not offiically promulgated here until 1975). When ICEL appeared, the two versions co-existed for quite a long time, and in fact the permission to use the NLC texts has never been formally rescinded — another anomaly. Back in the 1970s, therefore, it was not possible to talk about proper texts because there were two different propers!

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by contrabordun » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:08 am

Ah - terminology conflict - we use the Redemptorist handouts, too...I was assuming that the anathema was to be applied to those, also.
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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by dmu3tem » Thu Jun 27, 2013 5:33 pm

Many thanks for the responses to my contributions on this thread. Many ask why I stick with the Missalettes. Apart from the answers given by myself and contrabourdon there are two personal ones:

[1] As a composer I 'like' the challenge of setting 'difficult' texts; although I also moan about them.
[2] I regard myself as a musician only, not a liturgist. I am therefore inclined to leave liturgy to the clergy. After all they are the people who have to conduct the service. As a musician I work with what is put in front of me; which in most cases is the missalette.

I also see I have been asked about hymns. Personally I like the often derided 'four hymn sandwich'. I also note that congregations are more likely to sing hymns than anything else (provided they know them). In the Catholic church especially hymns have usually been the basis at parish level for getting congregations to sing. To substitute antiphons for hymns seems to be a big mistake, as one is throwing away 40-50 years work.

Now that does not mean I oppose antiphons per se; but I think they should be in addition to hymns, if they are used at all. That was what I began doing in the last Catholic parish where I worked. There is no doubt though that the Missalette texts are hard to set for congregations; so I tended to take the easy way out and set them for solo singers and choirs. One way round the difficulty I have recently used (where appropriate) is to set the opening 'incipit' as a response for congregation leaving the cantor to sing the rest of the text.

Much play has been made about the processional character of entrance and communion antiphons. In my experience as a composer I find this musically and textually limiting. Musical repetition by itself is OK - as hymnody demonstrates - but if you add repetition of texts there is a distinct danger of 'vain repetition' of often banal sounding slogans (as sometimes happens with Taize). The way round this is to use something akin to the Responsorial Psalm. This in itself is an effective format; but if used for entrance and communion antiphons as well the device can 'pall'.
T.E.Muir

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by VML » Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:21 pm

There is a good deal of sense and food for thought in that post, Thomas.
We have tried various Taize chants at Holy Communion, and encouraged the people to sing, and mostly this works, but last week we had FHC, a packed church, and a large number of first communicants. I was, for the first time in many years, not involved with the music. We sang Ubi caritas, and truly it sounded banal after almost 10 minutes and no verses. There were actually comments to that effect.

Hymns have a big place in our culture and worship, and I don't think it is sensible to discourage them. With the best will in the world, most of our congregations are not going to absorb the antiphons even if they sing some of them on the day.
There is a good deal of catechesis in many hymns, (as well as lots of tosh in some, I admit). Words that are sung, to a good tune with a pattern and rhythm, can enter our subconscious.
'Christ is made the sure foundation.'

I have a soft spot for our Missalettes: Having everything in front of him has brought one son in law to Mass with his family.

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Gwyn » Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:28 am

The Chant Café periodically publishes metrical versions of the Entrance and Communion antiphons in English for various Sundays, Feasts and Solemnities.

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by alan29 » Sat Jun 29, 2013 2:49 pm

I also agree with much of dmu3tems post.
I would add that there is a danger that parishes could find themselves with their music being limited to what the local person composes. That becomes even more true when copyright difficulties are put in the way of publication. Just how narrow a range of music is too narrow?

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by Nick Baty » Sat Jun 29, 2013 3:18 pm

But on this issue there are few (if any) copyright problems.

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Re: Realising Bishop Alan's hope

Post by dmu3tem » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:01 pm

I recently completed a new setting for the 17th Sunday of the year. Readers might be interested in how I structured the texts supplied in the Missal (I use both of them):

Introduction: 2 bars to set up the basic tonality (F major)

Musical material A1(2 bars)
Cantor: sings the opening phrase of the first text.

Congregation: Ditto

Musical material A2 (2-3 bars)
Cantor: sings the concluding phrase of the first text.

All the above is then repeated, but with a more developed accompaniment.

Musical material B (a through-composed passage developed from a Gelineau type chanted framework) (A minor tonality moving back to F major)(8 bars)
Then follows the setting of the second text taken from the Beatitudes: 'Blessed are they... etc.'

Then Musical material A1 and A2 with the first text as before; but with another modified accompaniment to round the whole thing off. (5-6 bars)

I have also scored this for STB solo voices and a more developed part for Piano (with an alternative version for Full Organ) as a purely choral piece written with trained singers in mind.

If anyone wants to see a copy for study purposes please let me know along with their e.mail so that I can send a file by attachment.
T.E.Muir

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