Traditional or Contemporary?

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IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:29 pm

I apologise again for infuriating the SSG stalwarts and challenging the status quo but I have to disagree.

Gwyn wrote:Might we be guilty of applying too broad an interpretation to "...or another chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year," ?
Some places see this as licence to simply have hymn (which may or may not be appropriate).


I quite agree with this.
We all know all of the quotes from pope after pope and all the documents about the importance of chant and yet we still interpret the documents in a way which suits us best and fits into what we want.

JW wrote:As parish music directors, are we guilty of adversely affecting people's worship by imposing our own advanced musical taste?


My initial point, which I admit may have been slightly badly made, was that no-one ought to impose any musical taste of any particular style, but rather that we should sing the music which is already there and provided for us.

Consider this.

How good would it be to show up to a choir rehearsal or Mass and know that everything you were going to need was all there ready and waiting for you? All without the need for anyone in the parish to exert their own agenda or musical preference (relating back to the original purpose of this thread).

Yes, the chants are difficult, but they have been so for over 1000 years. Are we saying that people are too thick to get the hang of them? Were the faithful of the last few centuries too thick also? Are we really saying that to exclude them in favour of more learnable/ singable/ congregation-friendly music is the best way to do true justice to the holy sacrifice of the Mass?

The big danger with allowing people the freedom to choose what they want (for whatever reason they want) is that one style/ way of doing things will triumph over another based solely on those person's tastes/ agenda, thus creating a sort of 'para-liturgy' which is more focused on them/ their own ideas/ their own (mis)interpretation of GIRM than it is on God.

I would rather things were more prescribed and the decisions were taken out of our hands, then our own egos wouldn't come into it. Sorry, radical, I know.

Southern Comfort
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by Southern Comfort » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:48 pm

IncenseTom wrote:Yes, the chants are difficult, but they have been so for over 1000 years. Are we saying that people are too thick to get the hang of them? Were the faithful of the last few centuries too thick also? Are we really saying that to exclude them in favour of more learnable/ singable/ congregation-friendly music is the best way to do true justice to the holy sacrifice of the Mass?


No, we are not saying that people are too thick, but that the chants are too difficult. IncenseTom seems to think that the faithful of the last few centuries sang these chants without difficulty. Even the majority of choirs never sang these chants in years gone by. Only the most proficient choirs were able to sing the chants themselves. The remainder either chanted the texts to approved formulae such as the tonus in directum or to tones such as those written by Dom Laurence Bévenot and others. The people never sang them at all.

It is time that we stopped imagining a Golden Age which never in fact existed, and which certainly cannot exist today in a vastly different ritual context.

The best way to do justice to GIRM and the Roman Rite is to exercise the three judgements: liturgical, musical and pastoral. IncenseTom is encouraging us to add a historical judgement to those three. I suggest that this risks inserting an antiquarianism into the mix, and that this is not helpful.

On this feast of St Gregory, may I take the opportunity to say "Happy Feastday, Everyone!"

IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Tue Sep 03, 2013 6:40 pm

Southern Comfort wrote:It is time that we stopped imagining a Golden Age which never in fact existed, and which certainly cannot exist today in a vastly different ritual context.

The best way to do justice to GIRM and the Roman Rite is to exercise the three judgements: liturgical, musical and pastoral. IncenseTom is encouraging us to add a historical judgement to those three. I suggest that this risks inserting an antiquarianism into the mix, and that this is not helpful.

On this feast of St Gregory, may I take the opportunity to say "Happy Feastday, Everyone!"


I have never known a 'golden age' but I long for one. I am 25 years old and have only ever known a situation where musical choices are dictated by those who think they know best, such as many people in the SSG who emphasise the word 'pastoral' to justify musical choices because "folk like to sing x and y". It is not about what people like and dislike.

All I am arguing in favour of, is a situation where no person or persons is/are able to exercise considerable influence over the music and seriously effect in any direction the experience of those at Mass, but where the music sung is as closely wedded to the liturgical action as possible, and which is promoted by the church in her wisdom. It is time people stopped doing what they want because they think they know best.

Yes, happy feastday. I wonder what St Gregory would make of our liturgies today, or the dear old bird which whispered in his ear.

alan29
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by alan29 » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:02 pm

Its maybe worth remembering that the plainsong propers were developed and sung by cathedral and monastic musicians and designed to "show off" the skills of the performers as well as glorify God. Establishments took great pride in their musicians and weren't above bribery and kidnapping to increase their musical renown. Given that these were full-time, highly trained and professional musicians the question needs asking whether or not that repertoire is suited to parish use. Certainly I have never heard a normally staffed parish attempting it .... and I shudder to think of the outcome in most cases. Quite simply this was never conceived as parish music let alone as congregational.
So what are we left with? Settings that try to ape plainsong? Chanting the texts to psalm chants to get them sung at all? Then what do the assembly do? Try to "pick up" on a single hearing something that may not be that memorable but at least gets the words sung because they are the words that are there?
People talk of culture and tradition. In my 50+ years of involvement with the liturgy and its music I have become more certain that in the UK our culture actually is to sing hymns, and its is actually our tradition as Catholics to sing them too - since we as congregations have (almost) never sung the propers.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by Nick Baty » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:24 pm

IncenseTom wrote:...such as many people in the SSG who emphasise the word 'pastoral' to justify musical choices because "folk like to sing x and y". It is not about what people like and dislike.
I am not an SSG stalwart – I am not even a member of the Society – but I do know that what you describe is the antithesis of what the SSG stands for. I will reply more fully when the effects of this evening's rioja have worn off. But let's be clear about one thing: the propers are not proper in Years B and C. They are proper in Year A and are then simply repeated – most improper. And let's not confuse styles of music – chant or otherwise – with what is textually proper.

Ian Coleman
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by Ian Coleman » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:57 am

Many good points have been made on the subject of chant Propers. Two details need highlighting however. Firstly, it is by no means clear that the Propers were developed by 'Cathedral or monastic musicians'; the origins of the Propers, and indeed the earliest strands of the Gregorian tradition are not so easily discernible. Nor does a Cathedral or monastic origin imply a 'professional' attitude to music; these categorisations are totally anachronistic when considering the origins and development of the chant.
But what is relevant, especially to the question of how difficult these chants are, is the difference in context between our musical world (such as it is) and the musical world of what might be termed 'the Gregorian era'. In particular we should consider firstly that the yearly round of chant-Propers was learnt orally, over many many years, and therefore many many liturgical cycles, and that this learning process often started at a very young age. Secondly, we should note that the chant repertoire is an organic whole, with family resemblances between chants, modal categories of melodic shapes (especially in the melismatic portions, where the melodies seem to take wing) and subtle rhythmic patterns. All of this is conducive to a sort of 'holistic 'learning, as part of a spiritual discipline, which we have entirely lost now. It was probably lost at the point when liturgical music shifted to a predominantly written culture. It is not, however, impossible to regain some at least of this spiritual learning process, as I have found by experience.
Finally, any sense of display or showing-off in the Cantor's or Schola's art was always seen as an abuse. The point of the more elaborate chants was not to display the singers' skill, but to participate in the ineffability of the divine praise (e.g. in the Alleluia jubilus) or lead the hearers into a more profound meditation on the (usually Scriptural) text of the song, remembering that these texts, on the yearly cycle, and often recurring frequently within that cycle, would have been much more familiar to the listeners than practically any of our Proper texts today.

IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:18 pm

Ian Coleman wrote:Many good points have been made on the subject of chant Propers. Two details need highlighting however. Firstly, it is by no means clear that the Propers were developed by 'Cathedral or monastic musicians'; the origins of the Propers, and indeed the earliest strands of the Gregorian tradition are not so easily discernible. Nor does a Cathedral or monastic origin imply a 'professional' attitude to music; these categorisations are totally anachronistic when considering the origins and development of the chant.
But what is relevant, especially to the question of how difficult these chants are, is the difference in context between our musical world (such as it is) and the musical world of what might be termed 'the Gregorian era'. In particular we should consider firstly that the yearly round of chant-Propers was learnt orally, over many many years, and therefore many many liturgical cycles, and that this learning process often started at a very young age. Secondly, we should note that the chant repertoire is an organic whole, with family resemblances between chants, modal categories of melodic shapes (especially in the melismatic portions, where the melodies seem to take wing) and subtle rhythmic patterns. All of this is conducive to a sort of 'holistic 'learning, as part of a spiritual discipline, which we have entirely lost now. It was probably lost at the point when liturgical music shifted to a predominantly written culture. It is not, however, impossible to regain some at least of this spiritual learning process, as I have found by experience.
Finally, any sense of display or showing-off in the Cantor's or Schola's art was always seen as an abuse. The point of the more elaborate chants was not to display the singers' skill, but to participate in the ineffability of the divine praise (e.g. in the Alleluia jubilus) or lead the hearers into a more profound meditation on the (usually Scriptural) text of the song, remembering that these texts, on the yearly cycle, and often recurring frequently within that cycle, would have been much more familiar to the listeners than practically any of our Proper texts today.


Hear! Hear!

Just what I was trying to get at - take the musicians ego's out of it all together. Leaving aside (if we can) the debate about the one year cycle, the difficulty of chant, individual taste, etc, my main point was thus: Should we not be working towards a situation where the tastes, opinions, sympathies, whims, of the parish music director are no longer of the significance which they are currently, that one person or group can no longer have so much influence over the liturgical experience of all assembled, that all those arguments about traditional and modern hymns and what should be used when all disappear?

To take the control away from us lot who hold all the power would certainly allow me personally to engage more fully with the prayers of the Mass instead of playing each hymn and trying to asses the level of congregational backlash by judging the enthusiasm of the singing.

JW
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by JW » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:04 pm

IncenseTom,

Is it the case that you are arguing for all music at Mass to be centrally imposed from Rome, irrespective of the ethnicity, traditions or abilities of local churches? You cannot have the same music in a cathedral as in a mission church in rural Ghana.

Be careful what you wish for! What happens if you, as a member of the congregation, can't stand what is imposed for a full year? I suspect that, given free reign, Blessed John Paul II might have inserted some Polish music somewhere along the line; Benedict XVI may even have re-habilitated Mozart despite the prohibition in the old US 'black list'. Don't assume that the powers that be are necessarily in favour of nothing but chant.

Please also note that it is not the parish's Music Director, but the Parish Priest who is ultimately responsible for the liturgy, including music, in his parish.
JW

alan29
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by alan29 » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:13 pm

I am trying to get my head around the notion that having a special group of musicians performing at the assembly is leaving peoples' egos out of the equation.

IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:12 pm

JW wrote:IncenseTom,

Is it the case that you are arguing for all music at Mass to be centrally imposed from Rome, irrespective of the ethnicity, traditions or abilities of local churches? You cannot have the same music in a cathedral as in a mission church in rural Ghana.

Be careful what you wish for! What happens if you, as a member of the congregation, can't stand what is imposed for a full year? I suspect that, given free reign, Blessed John Paul II might have inserted some Polish music somewhere along the line; Benedict XVI may even have re-habilitated Mozart despite the prohibition in the old US 'black list'. Don't assume that the powers that be are necessarily in favour of nothing but chant.

Please also note that it is not the parish's Music Director, but the Parish Priest who is ultimately responsible for the liturgy, including music, in his parish.


alan29 wrote:I am trying to get my head around the notion that having a special group of musicians performing at the assembly is leaving peoples' egos out of the equation.


1. I just happen to think that on a parish level the experience of the faithful is too heavily governed by those responsible for music. Yes, the PP is ultimately responsible, but as we all know, that can all too often compound the problem. Some folk may (and do) say, "I go to St. X's now because the music there is lively and upbeat", whereas others may say, "I go to St.Y's because they don't bother with any of that happy-clappy rubbish". Why is there such a gap? Why are there these divisions? Divisions which are wholly created by those responsible for choosing the music.

2. On a local/ diocese level, support/ guidance for parish musicians is varied on a number of levels. This can lead people to think, "never mind about what goes on elsewhere, this is the way we have always done things here". Alternatively, in places where there are more active musicians/ liturgists, people can go to a training event and be told things like, "this collection of pieces will transform your music at Mass.....did I mention that I wrote them?"

3. On a national /international level, I think the guidelines allow too much freedom and that this leads to people to do things as they see fit, which leads back to point 1.

The scenario JW describes is, of course, never going to happen, but on balance, I would welcome a move in that direction, if only in part so that people don't define themselves and divide up into camps of "we like it this way" and "we like it that way".

The arguments about music at Mass in parishes and elsewhere (including on this forum) are driven by personal taste and people deciding that their way of doing things is not only the right way, but the only way. Now, I wouldn't mind being freed of this.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by Nick Baty » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:33 pm

I'm not quite sure where Tom's coming from. I do understand that the tastes of the parish music leader and/or parish priest can have a detrimental effect but that means the job isn't being done properly. A decent parish MD will:

1) Study:
a) the Liturgy of the Word weeks, preferably months, ahead.
b) the music which is available from the biggest variety of sources available.

2) Plan:
a) short term, considering items which illuminate the Gospel of the day
b) long term: Particularly now when we're having to rebuild our repertoire in line with the new translation.

3) Implement:
The hard slog of weekly/monthly preparation and execution

4) Listen
a) To how people respond to your invitation to sing
b) To what they tell you over coffee or a pint after Mass

5) Respond
Continue your planning in the light of how your assembly sings and what they've told you they love/hate. (Yes, taste does matter here – you can't help people to pray while singing a communion processional they loathe – and if they like it they'll raise the roof.)

6) Repeat steps 1-5
You can't stop. You can't sit back – however comfortable your laurels. Perhaps you now have six sets of eucharistic acclamations which the folk are singing really well. But do you have enough communion songs? Do you need another Gloria?
It's a never ending process but so very rewarding. Witnessing the assembly move into song and through song into prayer is the greatest payment you'll ever receive.

IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Wed Sep 04, 2013 9:13 pm

I think Nick's post makes a lot of sense, but I would just like to play devil's advocate one final time if I may.

The issue of responding to people's taste has, I would argue, gone too far. For several months I have felt that I go for a coffee after Mass for everyone to give me their 'feedback' on what sort of a job I've done. I would love to be able to silence every single one of them, on all side's of the taste spectrum, by saying, "we're singing what we're supposed to be singing, and your personal taste doesn't come into it, and neither does mine".

I'll leave it there now - promise.

nazard
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by nazard » Wed Sep 04, 2013 9:23 pm

alan29 wrote:I am trying to get my head around the notion that having a special group of musicians performing at the assembly is leaving peoples' egos out of the equation.

This is a very general criticism which can be levelled at anyone doing anything for the parish. Is the chap up that shaky ladder trying to fix the lights just on an ego trip to show everyone what a good electrician he is?

Mr Stoat
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by Mr Stoat » Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:11 am

Nick Baty wrote:I'm not quite sure where Tom's coming from. I do understand that the tastes of the parish music leader and/or parish priest can have a detrimental effect but that means the job isn't being done properly. A decent parish MD will:

1) Study:
a) the Liturgy of the Word weeks, preferably months, ahead.
b) the music which is available from the biggest variety of sources available.

2) Plan:
a) short term, considering items which illuminate the Gospel of the day
b) long term: Particularly now when we're having to rebuild our repertoire in line with the new translation.

3) Implement:
The hard slog of weekly/monthly preparation and execution

4) Listen
a) To how people respond to your invitation to sing
b) To what they tell you over coffee or a pint after Mass

5) Respond
Continue your planning in the light of how your assembly sings and what they've told you they love/hate. (Yes, taste does matter here – you can't help people to pray while singing a communion processional they loathe – and if they like it they'll raise the roof.)

6) Repeat steps 1-5
You can't stop. You can't sit back – however comfortable your laurels. Perhaps you now have six sets of eucharistic acclamations which the folk are singing really well. But do you have enough communion songs? Do you need another Gloria?
It's a never ending process but so very rewarding. Witnessing the assembly move into song and through song into prayer is the greatest payment you'll ever receive.


Not much to say in my first contribution to the forum, but Nick's post is one of the best I have seen. I TRY to live up to the points he makes. Oh - and how do I change my password please? Can't seem to find anything in my "User Control Panel"............ /

IncenseTom
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Re: Traditional or Contemporary?

Post by IncenseTom » Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:26 am

Welcome Mr Stoat! Take no notice of all my ramblings on above- I'm usually way off the mark it seems!
I can't remember about the password, but I'm sure one of the moderators will be able to point you in the right direction.

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