Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

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Dom Perignon
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Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

Post by Dom Perignon » Wed Jun 10, 2015 11:02 pm

On another thread Tom_Neal wrote:

"I expressed a concern that the Society of St. Gregory––which, after all, is named after the originator and codifier of Western liturgical chant (hence the term ‘Gregorian’ chant)––is apparently doing nothing to promote the singing of plainchant, despite the fact the Church has affirmed time and time again that it is the principal and foremost form of liturgical music; it is the ideal to which we, as Catholic musicians, should work towards and uphold. All other ‘church’ music is judged by its relationship to Gregorian chant.

Now, some members of this discussion forum seem very happy to refer to “the documents” and the rubrics without actually quoting them or attempting to understand them in context (again, see Southern Comfort’s message on Sat May 30, 2015 9:48pm). There are two points to make here:

(a) For those of us used to following the rubrics and instructions of the Traditional Latin Mass (let’s say the 1962 Missal, for example), the first thing we notice when opening a copy of the New Roman Missal is that there are hardly any rubrics. For a few decades it was thought this meant the instructions on the Mass were ‘simpler,’ and that the priest, servers, music director, and congregation could essentially conduct the Mass in whatever manner they pleased, providing they essentially stuck to the text on the page. This, of course, is completely mistaken. When the Council fathers issued the New Roman Missal, it was intended that Mass would continue to be celebrated with all the norms and customs (as regards gestures, genuflection, orientation of the altar, reception of the Blessed Sacrament, choice of music, etc.) that had always been recommended in the Mass. The few rubrics which they provided in the New Missal were simply guides or reminders. In short: the hermeneutic of continuity was presumed––somewhat naïvely, we might say (and, my goodness, that naïvety has cost us dearly, with tragic consequences). Communion on the hand was never recommended; celebration versus populum was never recommended; the Mass in English was promulgated, but the principal form of the Mass remained in Latin (the Latin OF remains the true ‘ordinary form’; don’t forget the English Mass is a ‘translation’ of Latin, no the other way round). In the same way, new styles of contemporary music at Mass were unofficially mandated (including by the example of some Papal Masses); they were never officially mandated. Hymns, contemporary-style music, and ‘sing-along’ Masses were tolerated (and even encouraged by some personalities in the Church), but they were never recommended. This is a very important point to bear in mind. The ideal, in other words, remained Gregorian chant––and this, of course, was expressed explicitly by the Second Vatican Council in the document we discussed earlier on this forum.


(b) A few months ago Cardinal Kasper admitted in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano what many of us had strongly suspected for some time: that ambiguities were deliberately inserted into Vatican II documents in order to leave them subject to a multitude of interpretations. (You can see a report, together with links to other reports, here: http://pblosser.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/ ... er-in.html) It cannot be denied that this multitude of possible readings of the Council documents has led to chaos, confusion, and abuse; this is the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II,” which claims the secularist principles of revolution and rupture over the Catholic principles of tradition and continuity. This is how some of us can cite a document from the Council with one interpretation, and others can cite the same passage with a wildly different view.

Read in the context of this institutionalised vagueness and ambiguity, the Council fathers’ very clear position on liturgical music seems even more striking. The Consitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963) said Gregorian chant is “specially suited to the Roman liturgy,” and “other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (SC 116) What’s more, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal repeats this same point, and devlops the idea: “All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy.” (GIRM 41) This last point is particularly important. Gregorian chant may be appealing because of its historical, traditional, and universal perspective––which forms a link with the whole Church, in heaven and on earth––; but from a practical point of view it is the best form of liturgical music because, as Gerald Dennis Gill put it (in Music in the Catholic Liturgy: A Pastoral and Theological Companion, p.25), chant “works as music and rite are intended to work together.” The same author continues: “The text and sound of the music serve the rites in terms of their nature and meaning––the ritual and spiritual dimensions––and enjoy great availability to the multiplicity of cultural contexts. In this sense, Gregorian chant possesss a very high quality as liturgical music.”


Tom_Neal went on to say:

"GREGORIAN CHANT IN HISTORY

In one message I wrote: “[…] it is tragic that Gregorian melodies which were known and sung by the faithful for centuries, have in some parishes been abandoned.”

First, notice I said 'Gregorian melodies,' and not 'the entire Gregorian Graduale.' Mass VIII (‘de Angelis’) is a Gregorian melody, as is the Salve Regina––despite John Ainslie’s claims that they are not (Mon Jun 01, 2015 8:49am on another thread). Notice, also, I simply claimed Gregorian melodies were known by the faithful; I did not claim it was the only music sung by the faithful!

Nevertheless, in response, Southern Comfort wrote: “The faithful did not known them and did not sing them. A smattering of historical knowledge demonstrates that in fact Gregorian melodies were not sung by the faithful for centuries in the vast majority of parishes. Other music was used to fulfil the requirement to sing the Latin text.”

This simply isn’t true. I would very much like to see the research on which Southern Comfort’s claims are based. I’m afraid, to me, Southern Comfort’s comments smack of the 1970s. We all know the type of comments: “all that old, backward, medieval nonsense has at last been thrown out; nobody ever understood it anyway, and they certainly didn’t join in; it was all so difficult and inpenetrable; for the first 2,000 years Catholics were all ignorant peasants who didn’t have a clue; we’re so much better than that.” This is not a voice of authority, it is propaganda. It is not only un-Catholic, it is anti-Catholic. For anyone tempted to still think like that––although I think most of them have now passed on (May they rest in peace)––I would remind them that this was the Mass and the music known to, and sung and celebrated by, Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, Thérèse of Lisieux, and literally thousands of other saints. It is impossible to be Catholic and yet despise tradition. It is impossible. Either one is traditional, or one is not a Catholic.

Anyway, back to Southern Comfort’s claims. Rummaging around any Catholic choir library (if it wasn’t destroyed in the 1970s) will throw up little booklets issued by the Bishops’ Conference in the 19th and early 20th centuries, containing the basic Gregorian chants that almost everyone knew and sang whenever possible. These booklets contained some of the Gregorian Masses (I, VIII, IX, XI, XVII and possibly XVIII, I think); the Asperges me and Vidi aquam; the four Marian antiphons; and a handful of devotional chants in honour of, for example, Our Lady and the Blessed Sacrament. These booklets were around even before the monks of Solesmes undertook their monumental revival of the medieval repertoire. Sometimes these melodies appear in simplified versions; but nevertheless, they derive from Gregorian chant. Of course, let’s not forget that before the Council, ‘said’ Sunday Masses (i.e. Low Masses) were much more common than they are in the New Mass.

Now here is a vital point. Even if Gregorian chant had been rarely practised before the New Mass was created (which I’m not conceding), that is not a valid argument for saying it shouldn’t be sung now. As organists and music directors, we should be constantly striving for the best form of liturgical music, regardless of what was or wasn’t sung in the past. When Popes and Councils speak of music, they always speak of the ideal––of what should be practised. History, tradition, and now the Second Vatican Council have all decreed that Gregorian chant is to be given “pride of place” among all liturgical musics because its character, style, and spirit best conforms to the spirit of the liturgy. It really is as simple as that. The arguments for promoting Gregorian chant ought never to be historical (“this is what used to be done”) but idealist (“this is what ought to be done”).

Practical experience has taught me that if you adopt a can-do, idealist approach when it comes to the choice of liturgical music, then almost nothing is impossible. But even if your parish choir genuinely can’t cope with chant (and I’ve yet to find a single choir which can’t), there are many other options which are within the spirit of chant and therefore truly liturgical. Jolly ‘um-pah’ worship songs are never, ever, ever the answer. How can they be, when the spirit of that music is so opposed to the spirit of the liturgy?"


Tom_Neal then said:

“FOR ITS OWN SAKE?

I was deeply concerned to read the following comment by John Ainslie: '[the role of the SSG] was always primarily to foster participation in the liturgy, not to promote Gregorian chant just for its own sake.' I really hope I’m not putting words into John’s mouth, but this comment seems to me an accusation––and, if I may say, inverse snobbery.

It seems to me to smack of the cheap accusation, made constantly to people like myself (much less now than ten years ago), that we are wedded to the outward forms of Tradition 'for its own sake'. To put it simply: 'it’s all shallow and frivolous, dressing-up and playing churches, swinging incense, dripping in lace, and advocating overly-complicated and antiquated forms of liturgy and music for their own sake, and which are completely irrelevant to the modern Church.' This, of course, is utter nonsense. For every slightly bonkers ‘backward-looking’ Catholic you show me, I could show you ten so-called ‘modern’ Catholics who have lost the faith altogether. There are problems on both sides of the aisle, so neither party can afford to sling mud at the other. The difference is, when someone like me challenges the lamentable status quo of modern church music and liturgy, we’re labelled liturgical snobs (which, I suppose, is deemed to be somewhat worse than being an ignoramus) as though we’re concerned only with the outward forms of liturgy and music 'for [their] own sake'. But don’t you think, in an era which has seen vocations and church attendance plummet like never before, that we might have some theological objections to contemporary church music, and theological reasons for promoting Gregorian chant?

No-one here is advocating the promotion of Gregorian chant 'for its own sake,' whatever that means. Indeed, I hope no-one on this forum would promote any liturgical music 'for its own sake'––or, for that matter, for their own sake. A true Catholic musician can never be ‘attracted’ to any form of liturgy or music––whether ancient or modern––'for its own sake'. To be wedded to beauty and outward form is un-Catholic; just as being wedded to ugliness and a revolutionary attitude is un-Catholic. Just as the sacraments are outward signs of greater Truths, so true Catholic liturgy and music are merely outward expressions of greater Truths and of inward prayer. The emphasis is not on the outward form, but on the inner meaning and intention. The difference is that the inner meaning and intention shapes, defines, and dictates the outward form. The outward form, on the other hand, must never interfere with the inner meaning or intention––or even give the impression that it is.

The problems start, therefore, when the outward form begins to obscure or even change the inner meaning, thereby confusing the faithful and, sadly, leading to weakening and eventually destroying the faith. This is why a pop-style song is completely unthinkable during Mass. If one truly believes––which, as Catholics, we do––in the Mass as a sacrifice, and in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, then how could we tolerate in the midst of the sacrifice any kind of banal, unsavoury, secular music, which focuses only on the human self, not God, and which is comparable to music played in night clubs and teenage discos? As Catholics, then, it is obvious that some musics are appropriate for the liturgy, and some are not. Granted, we eventually reach a point where it is hard to define what is liturgical and what is un-liturgical, but that is a long way down the line; the basic rule is very easy to determine, and the Church and the documents of the Second Vatican Council have always been very clear on this matter.

When the spirit of outward form completely unites with the inner meaning and intention, as it does so clearly in Gregorian chant, then we truly encounter the 'beauty of holiness'. This is why the Church has affirmed time and time again that Gregorian chant is to be given pride of place in the liturgy. The Church has never decreed, nor could it, that any form of music––traditional or modern––should be pursued 'for its own sake'."


Southern Comfort responded:


"Tom_Neal wrote:
'First, notice I said 'Gregorian melodies,' and not 'the entire Gregorian Graduale.' Mass VIII (‘de Angelis’) is a Gregorian melody, as is the Salve Regina––despite John Ainslie’s claims that they are not. Notice, also, I simply claimed Gregorian melodies were known by the faithful; I did not claim it was the only music sung by the faithful!
'

- In context, your implication was that the faithful knew and sang the Gregorian Propers. I am glad to see you retreating from that position.

Tom_Neal wrote:
'[b]Nevertheless, in response, Southern Comfort wrote: “The faithful did not known them and did not sing them. A smattering of historical knowledge demonstrates that in fact Gregorian melodies were not sung by the faithful for centuries in the vast majority of parishes. Other music was used to fulfil the requirement to sing the Latin text.” This simply isn’t true. I would very much like to see the research on which Southern Comfort’s claims are based.
'

- Once again, you were talking about the Propers. It is true that in the vast majority of Catholic churches for centuries the Propers were not sung to the 'authorised' chants but to other music: fauxbourdon chants of different kinds, polyphonic settings, operatic solos, Chorales, other chants for the Propers, or even the tonus indirectum, to name but a few. Very few places had the resources or even the willingness to sing the Gregorian settings. In those that did, the majority used not the chant that you are advocating but the bastardised Ratisbon edition.

The people did know some other simple chants, and we have already talked about the 17th century French Missa de Angelis, Credo III, the simple Salve Regina, etc.

Tom_Neal wrote:
'I’m afraid, to me, Southern Comfort’s comments smack of the 1970s. We all know the type of comments: “all that old, backward, medieval nonsense has at last been thrown out; nobody ever understood it anyway, and they certainly didn’t join in; it was all so difficult and inpenetrable; for the first 2,000 years Catholics were all ignorant peasants who didn’t have a clue; we’re so much better than that.” This is not a voice of authority, it is propaganda. It is not only un-Catholic, it is anti-Catholic. For anyone tempted to still think like that – I would remind them that this was the Mass and the music known to, and sung and celebrated by, Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio, Thérèse of Lisieux, and literally thousands of other saints. It is impossible to be Catholic and yet despise tradition. It is impossible. Either one is traditional, or one is not a Catholic.'


- My comments come from a deeper knowledge of the history of liturgical music than you apparently possess. I am not at all about simply throwing out everything that was old, but about using our heritage with discernment, like the wise householder who brings forth things both new and old. I notice, though, that you seem not to understand that today's liturgical context is completely different from that of the previous 1500 years, so it is inevitable that music choices will reflect that.

Tom_Neal wrote:
'Anyway, back to Southern Comfort’s claims. Rummaging around any Catholic choir library (if it wasn’t destroyed in the 1970s) will throw up little booklets issued by the Bishops’ Conference in the 19th and early 20th centuries, containing the basic Gregorian chants that almost everyone knew and sang whenever possible. These booklets contained some of the Gregorian Masses (I, VIII, IX, XI, XVII and possibly XVIII, I think); the Asperges me and Vidi aquam; the four Marian antiphons; and a handful of devotional chants in honour of, for example, Our Lady and the Blessed Sacrament. These booklets were around even before the monks of Solesmes undertook their monumental revival of the medieval repertoire. Sometimes these melodies appear in simplified versions; but nevertheless, they derive from Gregorian chant. Of course, let’s not forget that before the Council, ‘said’ Sunday Masses (i.e. Low Masses) were much more common than they are in the New Mass.


- The little booklets, cards, etc, that you refer to date mostly from the 1930s, precisely the time when the Society of St Gregory was attempting to revive the practice of plainchant in parishes. (You see, there was little or no plainchant in parishes before that, and what there was was not genuine chant, as we have already discussed.)


Contributors are invited to continue this thread - but please be concise, stay on topic and stay within the rules of the forum!
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alan29
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Re: Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

Post by alan29 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:39 am

Maybe Tom could share his understanding of the phrase "all things being equal."
It seems to me that the widespread use of non-gregorian propers, and of the spuriously gregorian De Angelis etc demonstrate that outside monastic and cathedral settings with their concentrations of expertise, the almost universal position of the church has been that gregorian chant is to be avoided.

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Re: Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

Post by Chris » Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:55 am

alan29 wrote:Maybe Tom could share his understanding of the phrase "all things being equal."
It seems to me that the widespread use of non-gregorian propers, and of the spuriously gregorian De Angelis etc demonstrate that outside monastic and cathedral settings with their concentrations of expertise, the almost universal position of the church has been that gregorian chant is to be avoided.


'All things being equal'

is a translation of the ablative absolute ceteris paribus.

Various commentators and scholars have tried to provide a clearer interpretation of the phrase to either strengthen or weaken the argument for the use of Gregorian chant.

eg

a) Summing up Joseph Gelineau’s position, Anthony Ruff states that ‘in effect chant has priority only when other factors do not overweigh’, such as functional value, pastoral concerns re language etc. Ruff, Anthony. Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform: Treasures and Transformations (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 2007), 321-332

b) Joseph Swain sees the reasoning for ceteris paribus in SC 116 as ‘to accommodate local conditions that might obstruct the use of plainchant or warrant its replacement by something more suitable…’ Swain, Joseph P. Sacred Treasure: Understanding Catholic Liturgical Music (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2012), 321.

There are many other such examples of explanations/ understanding of the phrase 'All things being equal.' In most cases, the authors use their understanding to defend their particular understanding of the role of Gregorian chant.

It should be noted that the use of ceteris paribus in SC 116 is the only time the phrase is used in the liturgical constitution, so we can not refer to other examples as a hermeneutical key.

alan29
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Re: Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

Post by alan29 » Thu Jun 11, 2015 11:45 am

Chris, that would certainly be my understanding too.
However I am interested in Tom's understanding.

Southern Comfort
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Re: Gregorian Chant - Conciliar/Post-conciliar Documents

Post by Southern Comfort » Thu Jun 11, 2015 6:27 pm

I think that, somewhere on the thread that Dom Perignon has now split up into several parts, I mentioned that Musicam Sacram (1967) gives us this:

50. In sung liturgical services celebrated in Latin:

(a) Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place, other things being equal.[34, quoting SC] Its melodies, contained in the "typical" editions, should be used, to the extent that this is possible.


In other words, MS could be interpreted as saying that Gregorian chant has its place in sung liturgical services celebrated in Latin, but not in spoken services celebrated in the vernacular, for example. So "other things being equal" would refer to Latin sung celebrations.

I personally wouldn't be as rigid as that. I have been present at many celebrations where Latin chant (even if was only Kyrie XVI and Agnus XVIII) has been integrated into a mosaic of other styles, and has worked well. I do think, though, that trying to sing full-blown Latin propers in the context of an otherwise vernacular celebration would not necessarily fit so well. I have been present at several Masses in recent times where the chant stood out like a sore thumb. It was, to use Aidan Kavanagh's phrase, like putting a Baroque dome on top of a dairy stand. But I have also been present at one where it seemed to fit in. This is to do with how it is sung as well as what is sung and when.

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