Sunday 6 September 2009

What to sing at Mass? How to re-enchant Holy Mass: a practical Liturgical Music programme - resources and guidance

We know the principles, reasoning, theories and Church teaching on liturgical music and how it should be presented for use in the Ordinary Form of the Mass in continuity with the Church’s Tradition and the wishes of the Second Vatican Council.

Websites like New Liturgical Movement help us a great deal in giving us this information and alerting us to resources. We won’t repeat that here.

But there is probably a need to have these resources in one place with a basic explanation of the options available and how they can be employed in an ordinary parish setting with limited resources to re-enchant Holy Mass and provide the transcendence, reverence and sense of the sacred that fosters active participation. And, of course, this requires that we SING THE MASS, and not merely to sing AT Mass.

Here is the theory and the practice of how it might be done:

1. The Priest should sing the Priest-Celebrant’s Chant from the Missal: The Vatican’s document Musicam Sacram of 1967 retains the degrees of solemnity (low Mass, Sung Mass and Solemn (or High) Mass) and makes it clear that a Sung Mass (a Missa Cantata) is to be preferred especially on Sundays and feast days. It notes that there are different “degrees” of solemnity that can be employed. The “first degree” of solemnity calls for the singing of:

a. In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

b. In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

c. In the Liturgy of the Eucharistic: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

In practice, this should be the first step and adds greatly to solemnity. It focuses on singing the important prayers and dialogues between Priest-Celebrant and the congregation. In practice, if you are starting a programme of re-enchantment perhaps not all these parts would be sung at first, but the ideal and ultimate aim is clear enough. It is very effective in increasing solemnity and reverence and requires little more than a Priest and the Congregation who can learn the few unchanging parts (“And also with you”, “Amen” etc) that are the same for each Mass.

This alone will do more for the active participation of the people than singing a few poor quality hymns that are extraneous to the Mass.

2. The People should sing the Ordinary of the Mass: This is key. Musicam Sacram calls it the “second degree” of solemnity and involves the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass (the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and the Creed). Musicam Sacram also adds the Prayers of the Faithful. It should be noted:

a. whether the Mass is in Latin or the vernacular, the Ordinary can still be sung in Latin to the authentic Gregorian Melodies (you know: “Latin is to be retained in the Latin Rite”; “Gregorian Chant has pride of place in the Roman Rite and is specially suited to and proper to the Roman Rite”; “the people should know how to say and sung in Latin the parts of the Ordinary” etc). The Gregorian settings of the Ordinary can be found in the Kyriale and the Graduale Romanum for the Ordinary Form, in the Gregorian Missal for the Ordinary Form (available for free download here: [ ]) and in the Kyriale and Graduale Romanum for the Extraordinary Form available for free download here [].

b. The Missa de Angelis (Mass VIII) is often most remembered by the older people in the congregation given that in many places it was used ad nauseam before the Council. Useful as that can be, it is prudent to avoid falling into the same trap as we progress forward to realising the ideal; so, only use de Angelis when absolutely necessary. If you were to teach even one new Gregorian Mass to a congregation, there are better alternatives. For example, Mass XI – Orbis Factor is suggested for use on Sundays throughout the year. Note that:

i. This does not necessary preclude using other Masses (eg Mass XI - Cum Iubilo (traditionally assigned to Marian feasts) which must surely be the most beautiful of them all), although you probably would not choose the Requiem Mass setting XVIII in any other circumstances;

ii. Whilst all the parts of one particular Gregorian setting are usually sung, there is freedom to mix and match (eg Kyrie from Orbis Factor, Gloria and Sanctus from de Angelis, Angus from Orbis Factor).

c. Singing the Creed can be quite a task for most parishes given its length and the fact that one usually hears it in Latin not in the vernacular. When sung, it is usually the Credo III that is used, although Credo I is magnificently Gregorian being of the XIth century).

d. If simpler settings of the Ordinary are needed, some can be found in Jubilate Deo, Pope Paul VI’s 1974 official collection of the core/essential/minimum Catholic repertoire of Gregorian Chant that the People are expected to know). The Pope sent it to every bishop in the world, having had it prepared “to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and with the living tradition of the past. Hence it is that those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse Gregorian chant the place which is due to it”. See here [] and here [ ].

e. Further versions of the Ordinary are set out in the Kyriale Simplex – a sort of simplified Graduale for use in smaller churches – although despite its official status the Kyriale Simplex is largely overlooked in practice because the seasonal propers it uses (rather than daily propers) are an invention that is not in continuity with Tradition and many of the Ordinaries are largely taken from chants used in the Divine Office rather than the Mass. Nevertheless the singing of any Ordinary from the Simplex is better than nothing).

f. If you are in circumstances were part or all the Ordinary simply must be sung in English, at least use English adaptations that are as close as possible to the authentic Gregorian melodies. How do you tell? Compare the Ordinary from the Graduale Romanum against the English version. English adaptations have been variously set, but some good examples are:

i. Those from the Meinrad Kyriale of Father Columba Kelly available here []

ii. the host of settings made available through Musica Sacra, the website of the Church Music Association of America available here []. Note that if you are going to teach congregations the English adaptations, you need to bear in mind the changes to the English translation of the Roman Missal that will come into effect in 2010/2011. This problem would be avoided – as it also has been - by using the official Greek/Latin ordinary instead.

g. Whilst it really is preferable to sing all of the Ordinary in Greek/Latin, an intermediate step might be to sing the simpler texts in Greek/Latin and the others in the vernacular, changing this week to week until all can be sung in Greek/Latin. A common programme is Week 1: Greek Kyrie, English Gloria, English Sanctus, Latin Agnus Dei; Week 2: English Kyrie, English Gloria, Latin Sanctus, Latin Agnus Dei, and so on. Keep at least one or two of the 4 texts in Greek/Latin.

h. Ideally do not omit the Dismissal “Ite Missa est”: the fact that the melody of the Ite Missa Est matches the melody of Kyrie in the authentic Gregorian settings of the Ordinary really helps to “bookend” the Liturgical music of the Mass appropriately

3. The Choir/Schola Cantorum should sing the Propers of the Mass: To “sing the Mass” means to sing the text of the Mass and not merely to sing (hymns) at Mass. The Propers are the parts of the text of the Mass and, being unique to each Mass and therefore changing with each Mass, are said to be “proper” to that Mass. They have generally been the most neglected, even forgotten, aspects of liturgical music since the Council.

The Propers comprise the Introit (Entrance Chant), the Gradual (or maybe the Responsorial Psalm), the Alleluia (or Tract in the penitential seasons), the Offertory Chant and the Communion Chant.

The Propers:

a. Should ideally be sung in Latin to the authentic and official Gregorian chant melodies contained in the Graduale Romanum. They are also in the Gregorian Missal, the publication of the Abbey of Solmes which extracts the proper chants from the Graduale Romanum for Sundays and Major feasts and the Ordinaries). The Gregorian Missal is available for free download here [].

b. Sometimes the lack of time or the complexity of individual proper chants forces you to look for a simpler substitute for the more difficult chants. In general, the Introit and Communio can always be sung to the authentic chants from the Graduale Romanum, but the Gradual, Alleluia/Tract and Offertory are usually more difficult and highly melismatic chants. The following are options:

i. Simpler versions of the authentic Latin Gregorian chants of the Gradual and the Alleluia/Tract can be found in Chant Abrege: the 1926 publication from the Abbey of Solesmes (the same people who bring you the Graduale Roman and Gregorian Missal). This is available for free download here []

ii. Similarly, simplified versions of these longer proper chants have been prepared by Richard Rice and are available for free download here []. Although this collection has been prepared for use in the Extraordinary Form, it is useful for the Ordinary Form to the extent that the propers are common to both forms. This collection provides simplified versions of the Gradual, Alleluia, and Tract for Sundays, and other solemnities. The melodies of the Gradual and Alleluia verses have been replaced with the corresponding Psalm tone for the Introit of the Mass. (Other collections have used the simple tones of the Divine Office, but Richard Rice believes this seems a better solution in the context of Mass.) He says that because the endings of these tones seem overly curt and frequently sound incomplete, he has retained the authentic melody for the ends of verses, with the return of the full choir marked with an asterisk, as in the Liber Usalis (assuming the verse is sung by a cantor or two, which is certainly not required).

iii. Even more simple/abridged versions of the Graduals and Alleluia/Tract for each Sunday can be found in the 1954 Liber Brevior available for free download here []. The Liber Brevior is a reduced but extremely comprehensive version of the larger Liber Usualis used for the Extraordinary Form (see below). However, as such, you need to check that the proper given in the Liber Brevior actually matches the proper assigned to the day in the Ordinary Form.

iv. The verses for the Communion chants are available in Latin in the Communio publication available from Musica Sacra or for weekly download here [] or with the Latin Antiphon coupled with English verses publication available for free download here []

v. A useful resource is a list of the propers in the Ordinary Form, available for free download here []

c. If you have to sing the Propers in English, then, finally after more than 40 years after the Council multiple resources in English are becoming available. The better ones are:

i. A preferred resource is Bruce E Ford’s American Gradual downloadable for free here []. This is preferred because it is an English adaptation of the authentic Gregorian melodies from the Graduale Romanum. A wonderful piece of work.

ii. The Anglican Use Gradual downloadable for free here [], sets each of the proper chants to simple Psalm tones. Don’t be concerned about the “Anglican” reference as this refers to the form of Catholic Rite of Mass which was granted by the Vatican under a Pastoral Provision given to former Episcopolians (American Anglicans) to use when they converted to Catholicism. Importantly, as there is no official English translation of the sung propers, these texts are fine to use

iii. Father Columba Kelly’s propers in English available for free download here []

iv.Some simple Propers from Fr Samuel F Weber (these are "seasonal" however) available for free download here []

d. Where the Responsorial Psalm has to be sung in preference to the more traditional Gradual, then the Chabanel Psalms are widely regarded as very good. They are available here []

e. If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to sing polyphonic work (Masses, motets etc), many scores are available for free download at places like the Choral Public Domain Library here [] Choral Treasure here []. See Choral Net too for general resources including guidance on singing  here []

4. The Singing of the propers is critical to the recovery of Gregorian Chant as the Second Vatican Council wished. It also constitutes the third degree of solemnity indicated by Musicam Sacram which states that singing the following belongs to the third degree: (a) the chants at the Entrance and Communion processions; the chants after the Lesson or Epistle; the Alleluia before the Gospel; the chant at the Offertory; and the readings of Sacred Scripture.

5. The chanting of readings can be done in accordance with the Common Tones set out in the Graduale Romanum and adapted to English

6. The hymns should be sound melodies and sound texts and sung in addition to the chant if required (more about that later).

In closing this should also mention The Parish Book of Chant is also a fantastic resource and is able to be purchased here []

Of course if you are singing the Extraordinary Form, all you need for everything is the Liber Usalis, available for free download here [] and the 1961 Graduale Romanum is available here []

If you need verses to go with the Offertory Chants for Sundays and Solemnities, they are available here for free download here [] adapted from the Offertoriale Triplex. This collection provides verses for the Offertory chants of the Mass for the Sundays and Solemnities of the Church Year, and is intended to supplement the Offertory chants as given in the Liber usualis or Graduale Romanum. It follows the arrangement for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. However, post-Conciliar neglect (benign or otherwise) ensured that the selection and arrangement of Offertory chants are virtually the same for the Ordinary Form. The volume contains an index of titles to aid cross reference.

Hope this is helpful.