Thursday, April 20, 2006

free issue of “Sacred Music”

Enjoy - great article on the intrinsic properties of each type of chant (Introit, Offertory, Gradual, etc.).


At Friday, April 21, 2006 2:31:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

It's Prof. Bill Mahrt! He is the man. Seriously. He is responsible for some of the best Novus Ordo liturgy that I've ever heard, though it's basically a free time activity for him and it's at a small parish. His Good Friday liturgy puts tears in my eyes.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 2:45:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Enh, except the Ordinary really can’t be done polyphonically anymore: Agnuses and Glorias, ok, but not Sanctuses, and I don’t think Credos, either.

(He advocates for polyphonic Ordinary settings in the article.)

At Friday, April 21, 2006 3:12:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

Why can't the Ordinary be done polyphonically? Is it absolutely necessary that the congregation say all the responses?

Credos could be done in alternatum, with the choir sections polyphonic and the congregation sections in plainchant (with a modest organ accompaniment to help them along). Whenever we sang the Credo in Germany with a choir, it was always done in alternatum (though I haven't heard a polyphonic / plainchant version like that yet).

How is the Sanctus different from the Agnus Dei?

I really like what the Holy Father has to say about "utility music," namely that it's useless. OCP has a hymn with the same melody but slightly different texts for each day of the Triduum; it's not only boring, but completely inappropriate to use the same melody on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Of course by Easter Sunday the congregation will have the melody memorized, but what good is that? It's completely uninspiring.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 4:42:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Apparently my memory failed me re the Agnus:

GIRM 52:
After the Act of Penitence, the Kyrie is always begun, unless it has already been included as part of the Act of Penitence. Since it is a chant by which the faithful acclaim the Lord and implore his mercy, it is ordinarily done by all, that is, by the people and with the choir or cantor having a part in it.

GIRM 53:
The Gloria is a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb. The text of this hymn may not be replaced by any other text. The Gloria is intoned by the priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir, or by the choir alone. If not sung, it is to be recited either by all together or by two parts of the congregation responding one to the other.

GIRM 68:
The Creed is to be sung or said by the priest together with the people on Sundays and Solemnities. It may be said also at particular celebrations of a more solemn character.

If it is sung, it is begun by the priest or, if this is appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir. It is sung, however, either by all together or by the people alternating with the choir.

GIRM 79:
Acclamation: In which the whole congregation, joining with the heavenly powers, sings the Sanctus. This acclamation, which is part of the Eucharistic Prayer itself, is sung or said by all the people with the priest.

GIRM 83:
The supplication Agnus Dei, is, as a rule, sung by the choir or cantor with the congregation responding; or it is, at least, recited aloud.

So, only the Gloria is actually fair game for polyphony - normatively, anyway.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 8:11:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

Not so. The GIRM is essential as a descriptive guide to the mainline parish liturgy but it is not primarily a prescriptive guide--and if you understand that, you begin to understand its descriptive tone, why it is that Benedict XVI has specifically said that a polyphonic Sanctus is perfectly great, why full Mass settings are used at the National Cathedral and many other Cathedrals and parishes, and why the Brompton Oratory does them all the time.

There is a great deal of confusion stemming from the attempt to parse out every syllable of the GIRM, but this is just an unproductive path.

By the way, thank you so much for linking this issue of Sacred Music. The journal needs more attention, and the CMAA needs support for all the great work they do for the future of beauty in Catholic liturgy.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 9:54:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...


Then what does Joe Q. Guy-in-the-pew sing, if they are singing a polyphonic Ordinary? It wouldn’t make sense, liturgically, to put all the time and effort into a polyphonic Ordinary and then use hymns/songs for the Proper; the energy is better invested in chanting the Proper, then using an easy, attractive congregational Ordinary (i.e. Mass for the City or Community Mass).

I’ve read many of the assertions regarding choral this and that to replace the people singing them. Of course I love choral music, or I wouldn’t be a parish music director.

It seems to me, though, that if we are normatively to permit choral Sanctus settings that exclude the congregation from singing, then the GIRM shouldn’t explicitly say that all the people sing it. I don’t think my reading constitutes “parsing every syllable” so much as just reading it at face value. In a sense, the reasoning that “the GIRM lists chant as option #1, so it is preferred” is much more along that line than my reading.

Such literal readings may indeed be unproductive given the current document. We have had so much diversity in the past 40 years, and now the first generation of people who learned about Vatican II as a history lesson has begun to assume positions of influence....and *we* all see the results of V2 as a radical shift, so we are quick to dismiss what the older generation did as being a product of its day and age.

I’ve really begun to wonder just how readily we will be able to reconcile the idea of congregational singing with our musical tradition. I do think it a shame if we would never be able to sing/hear the Pope Marcellus Mass in its real context; at the same time, it seems we are quickly headed toward what the “other side” has been saying: the de-valuement of the congregational singing that *is* very clearly advocated in conciliar and post-conciliar documents.

At Friday, April 21, 2006 10:47:00 PM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...


First off, thanks for reading our blog. We both appreciate all the work you've done recently to promote chant in the liturgy through your blogs and your articles.

Secondly, I know this issue came up in the past between you and another blogger, but I can't remember where or who with. Could you link to that older discussion so I can re-read it and Cantor can read it for the first time?

Thirdly, the only other time I've seen this "descriptive/prescriptive" dichotomy is when I heard a debate where an anti-catholic was trying to explain away the numerous passages denigrating "once saved, always saved" by resorting to the "descriptive" interpretation. In other words, I don't know if I'm buying your argument. I don't know how GIRM 79 could get any clearer that the whole congregation sings the Sanctus.

You seem to be advocating a very liberal interpretation of the GIRM and I don't believe that is your intent.

At Saturday, April 22, 2006 7:49:00 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

Well, I don't claim to have all the answers, and the GIRM is clearly describing the way the Mass should usually be experienced. If people did nothing but adhere to it by the letter, we would be vastly better off. I can recall reading a long, several-part series on the GIRM in Today's Liturgy that failed to mention that chant and poly are the two styles of music mentioned in the GIRM by name!

But many liturgists have said that we can go too far when we use the GIRM to claim a normative rule against a practice that accords with tradition, has been endorsed by the Pope, is used in major Cathedrals etc. In precisely the areas you are discussing, there is imprecision--and I think we can regret that experienced musicians were not more closely involved in drafting this document.

All that said, I agree that it is usually best to have everyone sing the Mass ordinary. So long as we are intending what the Church intends, and we assist in helping people pray, we are doing well. One reason I like having people sing the Ordinary is that it helps people become familiar with the Latin, and so increases attachment to tradition. This is all to the good.

But when someone tries to claim that the whole of the renaissance polyphonic tradition has been banned insofar as it applies to the Ordinary, this is just going too far. After all, the Pope himself attends liturgies often that use full Mass settings, and he says glorious things about them.

One final comment: our own schola does not do full settings, and we don't really aspire to (except in very special cases). We are too busy working through propers and motets, and finding ways familiarize people with what liturgical music is suppose to sound like.

At Saturday, April 22, 2006 7:53:00 AM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

By the way, I hope to see you at the Colloquium:

Anything you can do to alert others would be great. There is no budget for advertising ;)

At Saturday, April 22, 2006 8:27:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

I don’t think the *document* is imprecise - it does clearly say that all sing the Sanctus. If, however, we are to reconcile this to tradition and allow a polyphonic all-choral Sanctus, then the document needs modification to allow explicitly for this, even as a rarity.

Interesting about the “Today’s Liturgy” article, esp. since the mention of chant and polyphony is something new in GIRM 2000, and the changes in that document from GIRM 1975 have been the topic of such discussion.

Jeff, what does the congregation sing at the Masses you mention with polyphonic Ordinary settings?

Can’t say if either of us plans to attend the colloquium. Gotta maintain anonymity. ;-)

At Sunday, April 23, 2006 9:24:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

If there is a polyphonic Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, the people will enthusiastically sing the Credo and Pater Noster, and simplified settings of the Gradual--which is quite an undertaking actually.

By the way, see if you like this ad for the colloquium.

At Monday, April 24, 2006 1:55:00 AM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

The "standard" mass settings used in Korean languague liturgy is written in a alternating congregation - choir fashion, where the choral parts are very choral, and the congregation parts are indeed plainchant-like.


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