Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

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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Ephrem Feeley
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by Ephrem Feeley » Sun May 31, 2015 2:12 pm

I think the concern is over whether Gregorian chant will become something like a museum piece in the history of Christian music, sung by the rare cathedral choir, or included as concert items by specialist medieval groups. Certainly much of it will go that way. But there are many gems in the Gregorian repertoire that will hopefully remain: John Ainslie has mentioned the Kyrie from the Missa de Angelis, the Salve Regina and Regina Caeli that still are somewhat in the common repertoire. Choir directors need to source this music and include it appropriately in their music programmes. Liturgical composers also need to find new ways of presenting chant - John's Proper Chants, Chris Walker's Belmont Mass, and some (but very little) of my own music, for example. A look at music published by the US giants, or a perusal of the liturgical music broadcast by, say our own national broadcasting station here in Ireland, reveals that there is very little chant being done, published or promoted these days. No wonder that some lament the loss...

alan29
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by alan29 » Sun May 31, 2015 2:19 pm

Are De Angelis and Credo 3 actually proper Gregorian chant? When compared to the rich repertoire of Propers?

IncenseTom
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by IncenseTom » Sun May 31, 2015 4:10 pm

I have much sympathy with you, Tom, having felt like I was going round in 'liturgical circles' when having these very discussions in the past on this forum. There are some who seem to have a very different interpretation of the documents than we do.

For what it's worth for those who are interested, the chant repertoire in my own parish includes:
Gloria from 'De Angelis'
Missa XVIII
Agnus from XVII for Sundays in Advent and Lent
A chant-based Kyrie by Andrew Wadsworth
Kyrie Orbis Factor
English Missal Tones
Ave Verum Corpus
Salve Regina
Regina Caeli
Responsorial psalm always includes chanted verses (rather than metrical)
We very rarely use something from the Graduale Simplex

I am particularly pleased that we sing Ainslie's English Proper Chants almost every couple of weeks, depending on how well the choir get on with them.

We very often sing a normal hymn at the beginning and then follow immediately with the EPC Entrance Song for the day during the incensing of the altar, however, we do sometimes just sing the EPC for the whole entrance procession. People DO join in with the refrain too, and we often receive positive feedback about this being a very 'holy' or 'solemn' start to the Mass and it setting the right 'mood'.

Similarly, we often use the EPC during Holy Communion.

People seem to fully accept this, as we combine it with hymns (more on the traditional side, but the modern ones certainly do have their place)

I am in total disagreement with others who have made comments about the 'rhythmicless' nature of chant being a negative point. The ebb and flow which is fundamental to chant works well at 'processional' moments, in my humble opinion - who needs a strong beat to walk to? We're not in the military!

Furthermore, not being able to 'box' chant into regular bars with regular beats communicates a wonderful sense of the timelessness of God - perhaps this is part of what people feel when they say that it sets the right 'mood' or is why many, including Tom, feel that it seems such a natural part of the liturgy.

oopsorganist
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by oopsorganist » Sun May 31, 2015 5:56 pm

Would "Pride of place" mean that Gregorian chant is for special times and places rather than a project for parish usage?

The trouble with singing anything in Latin for me is that I really cannot get my head round reading the notes and reading a foreign language at the same time. I was not smart enough to be in the top (Latin) set when at school so that now, many years later, when I encounter Latin, I know I am not smart enough to read it. I was told I could not do it so of course, now, I can't. I can't sing in French either, and I was taught French a bit.

But I know I am not typical of the society members. I find chant of any sort quite hard because it makes me want to laugh. This is maybe because when my own children were middling and were squabbling and telling tales, I used to only listen if they could sing in operatic or church chant style. This resolved lots of arguments in our family.

I do know that when the society meets to sing there is lots of chant and the society also provide workshops during the summer in such things for those who are interested. But that might not be readily apparent in every issue of the magazine. Certainly would more be if lots more people asked for it.

It is only place and organisation I have encountered in mumble mumble years of life that does actively discuss, use, value, teach chant. :|
uh oh!

John Ainslie
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by John Ainslie » Mon Jun 01, 2015 8:49 am

alan29 wrote:Are De Angelis and Credo 3 actually proper Gregorian chant? When compared to the rich repertoire of Propers?

In my view, no, they are not - and both Salve Regina (simple tone) and Regina coeli come into this category. Their uncompromising major-key tonality sets them apart from the older, modal repertoire. Their assignment to modes 5 or 6 is a nonsense.

It should be noted that the latest (3rd typical) edition of the Roman Missal has incorporated the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass XVI and the Gloria from Mass XV - which are very ancient indeed. The ICEL translation has provided an English version of these (IMHO, not very successfully). This attempt at standardisation dates from the 1958 Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Rites (as it then was). The SSG recorded these on a 1960 EP 45 rpm vinyl disc (remember them?). The inclusion - instead - of the Latin Missa de Angelis in the current CTS Sunday Missal is contrary to this, even if it does appear opposite the ICEL version of Masses XV/XVI.

Nevertheless, one has to ask why 'late' Gregorian chant has found favour over the older modal settings. In my view, they have a melodic line and tunefulness which, together with their major-key tonality, make it easier for non-musicians to learn and more attractive for them to sing. I think many people would say that they enjoy singing these. Did modal chant ever become popular in this sense? Or was there a real - and intended - medieval rood-screen chasm between monastic chant and popular religious folk music (e.g. carols)?

Southern Comfort
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by Southern Comfort » Mon Jun 01, 2015 9:05 am

IncenseTom wrote:I am in total disagreement with others who have made comments about the 'rhythmicless' nature of chant being a negative point. The ebb and flow which is fundamental to chant works well at 'processional' moments, in my humble opinion - who needs a strong beat to walk to? We're not in the military!

Furthermore, not being able to 'box' chant into regular bars with regular beats communicates a wonderful sense of the timelessness of God - perhaps this is part of what people feel when they say that it sets the right 'mood' or is why many, including Tom, feel that it seems such a natural part of the liturgy.


I don't think that those who have commented on the rhythmic fluidity of the chant are making a negative criticism. We are simply observing that this makes it difficult for non-musician-congregation-people to sing. The rhythmic fluidity in itself does of course convey a sense of timelessness, as you say. But that doesn't mean that everyone has to sing it (and, often enough, make a hash of it). There is certainly a place for it, but not as the universal song of the people.

The question of whether rhythmic fluidity is the right thing to accompany a procession is an entirely different question. No one is asking those in the procession to march in step, but one might ask whether rhythmically wayward monodic chant is the best thing to accompany a procession at all. Or to bring to life an acclamation, come to that. The hymn Puer natus in Bethlehem works well as a processional chant because it is rhythmically fairly taut and the chant is syllabic. A prolix, melismatic Introit is a different animal.

In other words, Gregorian Chant may be entirely appropriate at some points in the liturgy, but not at others. By appropriate, I mean "fitting in with the mood and intent of the rite at that point". We are no longer living in a mediaeval period where chant was all there was. For better or worse, we now live in a very different musical and cultural world, and the way in which we worship is notably different from how it was in former days. More participatory, less passive. More prayer, less pomp. That being so, the kind of music that we use will need to be different.

Using music from the great heritage of the past needs to be done with much greater discernment now than was necessary in bygone eras. You can't just drop a dollop of chant into every "slot" and assume that it will do the trick. Sometimes it will, but often it won't. A good and wise pastoral musician knows the rite thoroughly enough to be able to make this discernment. This, of course, doesn't just apply to the chant. Those who like to sing Mozart masses need to apply the same discernment, as do those who like the music of Taizé or the St Louis Jesuits.

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keitha
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by keitha » Mon Jun 01, 2015 6:02 pm

Tom_Neal wrote: "it is tragic that Gregorian melodies which were known and sung by the faithful for centuries, have in some parishes been abandoned. Praise God we are finally seeing a return of this music into ordinary parishes; but there appears to be no effort from the SSG, which I find both surprising and rather worrying."

Just to be clear - the SSG very much supports chant and the propers (both English and Latin). For example, there were chant workshops led by authorities on singing Gregorian Chant at both the 2013 and 2014 SSG Summer Schools. There won't be one this year, but it will return, I am sure. The SSG (with the support of the Liturgy Office) also compiled "The Processional" - updated in 2012 following ICEL's issuing of the Antiphonary, which contains the Entrance and Communion Antiphons (and other antiphons) of the Roman Missal. The Processional (available on the Liturgy Office website) contains all the texts (in English) for singing the processional songs of the Mass from the Church's primary sources and is intended to be used by composers as a source book for setting the "propers" (and it has been!), together with applicable psalm references.
Keith Ainsworth

IncenseTom
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by IncenseTom » Mon Jun 01, 2015 6:21 pm

keitha wrote:Tom_Neal wrote: "it is tragic that Gregorian melodies which were known and sung by the faithful for centuries, have in some parishes been abandoned. Praise God we are finally seeing a return of this music into ordinary parishes; but there appears to be no effort from the SSG, which I find both surprising and rather worrying."

Just to be clear - the SSG very much supports chant and the propers (both English and Latin). For example, there were chant workshops led by authorities on singing Gregorian Chant at both the 2013 and 2014 SSG Summer Schools. There won't be one this year, but it will return, I am sure. The SSG (with the support of the Liturgy Office) also compiled "The Processional" - updated in 2012 following ICEL's issuing of the Antiphonary, which contains the Entrance and Communion Antiphons (and other antiphons) of the Roman Missal. The Processional (available on the Liturgy Office website) contains all the texts (in English) for singing the processional songs of the Mass from the Church's primary sources and is intended to be used by composers as a source book for setting the "propers" (and it has been!), together with applicable psalm references.


This is a welcome comment from my point of view, in terms of the SSG (and the Liturgy Office) promoting/ making provision for the 'Propers' to be sung.

However, contributors to this forum have in the past told me that:
1. The 'Propers' are not proper in the way they once were
2. The Entrance and Communion Antiphons are intended to be recited and NOT intended to be sung
(I would link to the relevant threads if I could remember what they were)

Clearly, point 2. is at odds with the thinking behind John Ainslie's English Proper Chants, and the advice and recommendation of the SSG and Liturgy Office in their publication/ promotion of "The Processional" which, as Keitha says, is provided for composers when setting the 'Propers'.

In terms of point 1., I have to say that I believe the Entrance and Communion Antiphons are the Propers (despite what I've been told in the past), and that if the SSG and Liturgy Office have provided a resource for composers, I have to conclude that they are intended to be sung.

I'm afraid this is the interpretation I have drawn and the opinion I have formed, and I reckon there might be a growing number of parishes thinking along similar lines.

alan29
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by alan29 » Mon Jun 01, 2015 6:45 pm

I find the notion that the faithful were familiar with much chant in the past an interesting one. I wonder if it is true in most parishes apart from De Angelis and Credo III, that is. I only go back as far as the 50s in a pretty standard city parish where we had a "choir." Propers were sung to harmonised diatonic chants, and the commons were usually by Tozer or some such. Even the Pater Noster was appropriated by the choir. Just awful, awful music horribly done.
Now it may be that this was untypical and that parishes in towns and villages across the church from continent to continent were using the undoubted riches of the Liber Usualis weekly. Or maybe not. it would be interesting to see some research on it.

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keitha
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by keitha » Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:16 pm

I think it is true that the [pre 2002] entrance and communion antiphons of the Roman Missal were intended to be said and not sung. Archbp Bugnini (Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship at the relevant time), in his "The Reform of the Liturgy" said that "...the entrance and communion antiphons of the Missal were intended to be recited, not sung, and to inspire the creation of suitable songs in the vernacular." That is not the case with the 2002 Missal - and following the publishing of the 2010 English Translation, there have been many statements from members of ICEL that the "propers" can be sung.

In his foreword to The Processional, Bp Alan Hopes, Chairman of the Liturgy Committee of the Department for Christian Life and Worship, said "The Missal also contains a richness of biblical texts in the antiphons. These short phrases from the psalms and other parts of scripture are the authentic voice of the Church in the liturgy. Though hymns and songs, often scripturally inspired, have enriched the liturgy and have been an effective way of engaging people's hearts and minds in the celebration, I am glad to see that work is being done to make available to composers... the riches of the Church's provision.' He went on to say, "When the Bishops' Conference Department for Christian Life and Worship received The Processional they not only approved the project, but welcomed the intention that the processions at Mass should be accompanied by song taken from the scriptures...and I hope that it will inspire composers to create new songs and chants to enrich the liturgy."
Keith Ainsworth

JW
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by JW » Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:47 pm

Without getting too embroiled, perhaps it's worth refreshing our memories about the Bishops' Liturgy Office 1997 document concerning priorities for singing at Mass: http://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Music/Singing.pdf.

And it would be good to see the OP's evidence that young people prefer chant to everything else. I find the opposite where I am. And most Catholic young people give up attending after confirmation, so aren't present to voice their thoughts.

I'll share with you our latest horror story.

When I ran the music here, a choir member set up a youth group to sing at Mass once a month. I impressed the importance of using New Translation Mass Settings. So, a year after standing down, here's a conversation I had with one of our youth leaders on Friday.

"How's the youth group doing?"

"Really well, they're getting so confident they're going to do the Peruvian Gloria accompanied only by a solo drum on Sunday"

You can imagine my thoughts :-@ -
JW

JW
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by JW » Mon Jun 01, 2015 7:59 pm

And the clergy need to set the people a good example as to singing at Mass. I suggested to a bishop recently that he might like to sing the Preface Dialogue and the Doxology; he said "Oh no, I don't do that". And if you ask many people if they sing during Mass you'll get the same response.

On the plus side, Our PP has started to sing the Preface.
JW

Tom_Neal
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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by Tom_Neal » Mon Jun 01, 2015 8:48 pm

Wow! There’s so much to take in and think about from all the above comments. But if I may, I’d like to bring the discussion back to the points I raised in my letter, and some of the issues which arose in the first few responses: singing the Proper of the Mass, and promoting the singing of Gregorian chant in general.

First of all, please note that these are two separate issues. Some comments above (e.g. Southern Comfort, Sat May 30, 2015 9:48pm) seemed to think I was demanding that all parishes should sing the complete Gregorian Latin Proper at every Mass; that such a feat was very easy to accomplish; and that this is what had been the norm before the Second Vatican Council. If you reread my original message, you’ll see I made no such claims!

Rather, I am advocating the singing of the Proper––in English, if the Mass is being celebrated in English––in whatever manner is possible (simple psalm tones, simple English Propers, Gregorian chant…). If the SSG is, in fact, promoting the singing of the Proper, then it is doing so rather timidly; no mention was made of it in either of the two publications I was sent by the society.

My advocacy of singing Gregorian chant is an entirely separate issue from singing the Proper; I think that was clear in my original letter. I have attended some parishes where they sing a Gregorian Ordinary (Mass VIII ‘de Angelis,’ for example) together with a simple English version of the Proper; and it works very well.

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Re: Music and Liturgy: Letter to the Editor

Post by Dom Perignon » Tue Jun 02, 2015 6:25 am

I locked this topic at this point (as it began to cover too many separate topics) and split its continuance out into separate threads to make it easier to follow and to contribute. Please, however, try to keep postings reasonably concise!
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