Christmas Greetings

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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Dom Perignon
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Christmas Greetings

Post by Dom Perignon » Wed Dec 24, 2014 7:13 pm

This is to wish all members of the Society of Saint Gregory and our non-member friends who participate in the forum a very happy and holy Christmas...and may your liturgies and the music in them go well! :)
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PhloridaPhil
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by PhloridaPhil » Thu Dec 25, 2014 7:48 pm

Christmas greetings to you too!

Christmas here is a little different ... no snow, temps of around 80 degrees, 1200 for one Mass in a banqueting hall, poinsettia (red Christmas flowers) engulfing the altar, sermons on scrooge and Christmas Carol, being informed that Santa's 'ho, ho, ho' is derived from Holy, Holy, Holy (dubious).

Furthermore they invert the first and second half of O little town of Bethlehem and sing it to a schmulzier toon, they don't appear to know Once in Royal and away in a manger is another toon altogether.

Gastronomically I really yearn for Christmas pudding. Cookies are no alternative.

Phil

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Gwyn
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by Gwyn » Thu Dec 25, 2014 8:49 pm

Christmas greeting to one and all.

There was a delightful televised Midnight Mass from Arundel Cathedral on Christmas Eve. First class singing. There was an Inwood-esque sung Gospel.

Nadolig Llawen.

Gwyn.

John Ainslie
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by John Ainslie » Mon Dec 29, 2014 5:49 pm

I stumbled upon the Papal Night Mass (at 10 pm local time) on Sky Arts 2. The Ordinary in Latin Cum Jubilo - a refreshing change from De Angelis - and led by a choir who despite rather than because of their furiously arm-waving conductor sang the best Gregorian chant I have ever heard from St Peter's. Most un-Sistine-Choir-like - and indeed where has the Sistine Choir with its bellowing tenors gone to? No polyphony except for a psalm verse at the Gospel Acclamation and another at the Offertory.The 72-page people's booklet gave all the chant in chant notation, with English and Italian translations on the opposite page throughout. Credo III interlarded by an Et Incarnatus Est movement from a Mozart Mass sung by a soloist and accompanied by an orchestra who didn't feature otherwise: an interesting way of celebrating that particular Christmas kneeling point. At the end, procession to the crib with the Pope carrying the statue of the infant, preceded by a dozen children with flowers who each got a papal kiss at the crib, during which Adeste fideles sung in Latin with descant and organ - in the Willcocks arrangement!

I watched the Arundel Midnight Mass on iPlayer on Christmas morning. Though I had been doubtful about the Gounod Messe Breve in C, especially for the Sanctus, I thought it worked rather well, even though having the congregation stand throughout the Kyrie and Gloria was rather unnecessary. We used to sit for such choral occasions.

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VML
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by VML » Wed Dec 31, 2014 8:51 pm

Thank you John for that detailed account. Hoping everyone's liturgies went well, and wishing all here and your families and parishes many blessings in 2015.

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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by VML » Wed Dec 31, 2014 9:23 pm

Thank you John for that detailed account. Hoping everyone's liturgies went well, and wishing all here and your families and parishes many blessings in 2015.

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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by Southern Comfort » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:29 pm

John Ainslie wrote:I watched the Arundel Midnight Mass on iPlayer on Christmas morning. Though I had been doubtful about the Gounod Messe Breve in C, especially for the Sanctus, I thought it worked rather well, even though having the congregation stand throughout the Kyrie and Gloria was rather unnecessary. We used to sit for such choral occasions.


I was intrigued by John Ainslie’s comment and decided to watch the full video of the Arundel Midnight Mass to see if I agreed. It is worth saying that the whole programme made for an effective TV broadcast for the watching multitudes on their sofas. For this liturgical nerd, however, it did leave quite a lot to be desired.

Several compliments, first of all.

Cathedral Dean Tim Madeley, standing in because there is currently no diocesan bishop, did extremely well as presider. Particularly notable was the pause after his homily, which lasted for a full 40 seconds in toto ― well done to him! Perhaps former Bishop Kieran Conry’s own presiding style, in which he expertly holds silences for as long as several minutes at a time, has had some influence. Normally TV producers are uncomfortable with lengthy silences, but this one worked well.

Deacon David Clifton confidently sang the Christmas Gospel to an interesting and more elaborate variant of the customary tone, with an even more interesting harmonisation ― imagine the reciting note A harmonised not with F sharp minor or A major but with a D major chord, and leading note G sharp harmonised with a chord of E major with D in the bass, giving a sort of Lydian or 5th-mode effect instead of the usual Aeolian. It was very effective and made the proclamation appear to “float”.

A girl read the 2nd reading excellently ― to those watching as well as those present, an object lesson in pacing, pitch, tone colour and communication in general.

The grapevine says that a significant number of “ringers” were brought in to augment the cathedral’s usual complement of choristers, but there were some very nice individual voices. The choir sang rhythmically and in tune, and it was good to see so many young people involved. The choral Et incarnatus in the middle of Credo III was a very effective setting that I did not recognise, though the congregation had evidently been told not to kneel until after the words “et homo factus est” instead of before, presumably in order not to make noise while the music was in progress.

Visually there was some excellent camera work.

Now back to John Ainslie’s comment which I’m afraid I don’t agree with.

I can’t think of any circumstances which justify a church, even a cathedral, flouting the provisions of GIRM 79b. The usurping of the people’s Acclamation at the Sanctus with the Gounod Missa Brevis choral setting was a breach of liturgical law, and doing it before the eyes of the world on television makes it even more regrettable. Yes, establishments such as Westminster routinely also do the same kind of thing, but that doesn’t make it right.

GIRM para 79h refers to the people’s Amen after the doxology. Nowhere does it mention the discountenancing of the congregation (some folk did not know whether to get up or continue kneeling) by the choir then immediately singing another, longer Amen (in this case, the bombastic Gounod). The impression given was that the people’s acclamation was actually not very important and now here was the real one!

These instances, in addition to others such as the Gounod Kyrie and Gloria, and an attractive modal Alleluia that however included fast-moving high notes (E flats and Fs) which would have been hard for the people to sing (and indeed it seemed that they did not), for me confirmed the impression that for significant stretches of time the broadcast was actually a concert Mass with incidental liturgy. The presence of concert organist Daniel Moult, bumping the cathedral’s own organist, presaged what was to come with the Gounod. Moult is a fine solo player, but in this liturgical context there was much flatulent filling-in to cover gaps which did little except prove that even after refurbishment it is still possible to play the Arundel Hill organ out of wind. Every single congregational response was accompanied, sometimes with “unusual” harmonies.

In the choir, Latin pronunciation was not always what one would have wanted (“miz-er-rare-ray noh-biss” and the Anglican “Sabayott”, as well as an Orthodox-style “al-le-loo-ee-ah”). This was aided and abetted by some of the BBC’s subtitles. Those who produce them are never very happy with Latin, and so, among many other bloomers, we had “et incarnates” (something to do with buttocks?), “Filo” (pastry?) instead of “Filio”, and of course Adeste “fidelis” instead of fideles. The subtitle English translation of Credo III, amusingly, mostly consisted of the 1970 ICET version (e.g. “seen and unseen” and “one in being with the Father”), rather than the one we now use. (That sort of thing also frequently happens in printed orders of service in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome! Perhaps no one has told them that new words were imposed on us…)

A major shortcoming seemed to be that by the time the end of the Collect was reached the congregation had actually been standing for the best part of 20 minutes! The introductory rites appeared very much overloaded. Entrance Hymn (three verses of Adeste, fideles), followed by putting more incense in the thurible, then sprinkling, incensing and a lengthy blessing of the crib, followed by the Angelus (I’ve never heard of interpolating that devotion into Midnight Mass, and it doesn’t make very good television), complete with all the Hail Marys (we would have another Hail Mary later at the end of the intercessions) and collect prayer (presumably because it was not too far from midnight and references the incarnation), then a procession to the sanctuary with the last verse of Adeste + organ filler accompanying a lengthy incensing of the altar, etc, followed by all the “normal” opening rites of the Mass including the sign of the cross and greeting (even though the presider had already greeted everyone earlier), a spoken “I confess” and absolution before the Gounod Kyrie and Gloria, and finally the Collect prayer of the Mass. I found myself wondering both why a more streamlined and user-friendly format was not adopted (for example, procession + hymn, greeting and blessing of crib, return to sanctuary and Gloria + Collect), and also why a choir-only Kyrie was thought necessary when GIRM 52 makes it clear that normally the Kyrie is sung by everyone. (And while we’re at it, we really need to get away from the misconception that every movement of a Mass setting needs to be sung. That was true in Tridentine times; it is no longer true today.)

The “Benedict” altar arrangement of six large candlesticks and large crucifix on the altar table usually suffers from making the presiding priest look as if he is caged behind bars. At Arundel, however, the altar is so long that the candles can be placed well out of the way at either end. However, it had not previously struck me that another flaw of the “Benedict” arrangement is that the crucifix occupies the location where the Book of the Gospels should be placed, requiring the Book to be processed round and placed on the “wrong” side of the altar (i.e. the side furthest from the people) where on this occasion it was pushed towards the middle in order not to prevent the presider from kissing the centre edge of the altar.

It was unfortunate that only one-third of the cathedral received Communion, even though there would have been time for most of the rest of them to receive as well during the singing of Silent Night and Away in a Manger after the Communion motet. Instead, we had shots of the seated congregation singing the two carols while nothing else was going on at all. One imagines that this was a decision by the producer rather than the diocese’s media advisor (does such a person exist? Other dioceses still have them).

Despite the excellent camera work, there was also some not so good and even distracting camera work (think of slow spinning in the roof of the crossing before descending to ground level, or shots which don’t show a new speaker because the producer has “lost” him or her). There were also far too many shots of the BBC’s floodlights on ugly steel battens while the cathedral’s own sparkling chandeliers unaccountably remained resolutely switched off (perhaps they had not managed to replace dead light bulbs?!).

If you think all this carping is unnecessary, the fact is that the Catholic Church has very few opportunities these days to display its liturgical qualities on national television. That is why it is so important that we get things right. In days gone by, when the BBC had already stopped the regular broadcasting of Sunday Masses but ITV still did so, there were actually training courses for TV producers to help them understand the actions and more importantly the values that the Church wants to put across (which may not always be the same as providing a good spectacle). We badly need a similar aid on the much rarer occasions that we now have, especially as these now take place almost exclusively in cathedrals rather than parish churches and, for better or worse, parish churches tend to model their practice on what cathedrals do. The England and Wales national TV Mass broadcast guidelines that were produced in the 1980s/90s presumably still exist. Perhaps it is time to reprint them and make sure that they are utilised.

alan29
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by alan29 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:16 am

I saw that the broadcast was from Arundel and turned on.
Sadly I turned off again after about three minutes.
If you are going to usurp the peoples' role with a concert mass, surely you shouldn't be doing it with something so very third rate.

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Gwyn
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by Gwyn » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:40 am

Truly uplifted, I loved (almost) every second of it. My only complain is that Arundel cathedral is too far for to travel on Sunday mornings for me to be a regular punter-in-the-pew.

IncenseTom
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by IncenseTom » Tue Jan 06, 2015 2:35 pm

I too thought the beginning felt slightly disjointed. They could have easily sung the 4th verse of O Come all Ye Faithful during the sprinkling and incensing of the crib and then sung the 'Dominus Dixit ad me' for the procession to the sanctuary and incensing of the altar???

That's how we did it at St. Anne's, Keighley.

Without getting into it, there were one or two other moments which I thought seemed a bit 'odd', but then again, heavens knows what people would make of it if our Midnight Mass had been broadcast! On the whole, well done Arundel.

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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by oopsorganist » Wed Jan 07, 2015 9:32 pm

Thanks for that post SC.
I was a bit worried when I watched it because the Acclamations were all in Latin and I didn't think that was right.

It would seem that the congregation's part in the music was singing Away in a Manger.........

..........But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes. oh yeah?... bless all the dear children in Thy tender care.......
this is a nursery rhyme now surely?

And Silent Night is the demo tune of every children's keyboard.....sigh sigh.

I am fed up with Away in Manger/Silent Night in my parish (oops ex parish) and I don't know if soothed or inflamed, to view the same boggy carols on telly amidst all the high falutin' stuff.

(If the Church becomes a place of performance or, a cultural heritage organisation, then it is big trouble). Every time you hear the word heritage combined with Christian, you can hear a museum calling....
uh oh!

alan29
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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by alan29 » Thu Jan 08, 2015 10:38 am

I know what you mean oops.
Trouble is Christmas masses are attended by cultural Catholics who go for a bit of nostalgia and glow, not necessarily to be shaken up by the momentous idea of God breaking into the world to be born in a hovel as a soon to be refugee. Better to keep it at the level of 8 year olds.

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Re: Christmas Greetings

Post by John Ainslie » Fri Jan 09, 2015 2:20 pm

Of course SC is right about the Sanctus. It only shows (a) how easily well-sung music can be a siren voice, (b) how watching a televised Mass from the comfort of an armchair at home is a wholly different situation to being a worshipper actually present at a liturgical event. Did I feel challenged to participate in - feel part of, take part in - either Mass (St Peter's or Arundel)? In all honesty, no, I wasn't. Yes, seeing/hearing the Pope's Mass and homily drew me into the celebration of Christmas in a generic sense, but that was probably (1) because I was not going to a Midnight Mass myself, (2) because it was taking place at the actual time I was watching it and was in therefore for me a Midnight-Mass substitute. As for my watching the Arundel Mass sometime later at my convenience, I have been asking myself this question: just why was I watching a recording of a previously completed religious event? If I had been in the congregation at Arundel at Midnight, would I have thought differently? I rather suspect that I would have.

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