Friday, April 21, 2006

Who should sing what?

I have come to think that one of the major problems facing church music is the question of who sings what.

Musicam sacram tells us:
Through suitable instruction and practices, the people should be gradually led to a fuller -- indeed, to a complete -- participation in those parts of the singing which pertain to them.


Two things about this: one, the people are what gets brought, not the music being brought to their level, as we have now. The people are to be instructed and taught.

The other is that phrase “those parts of the singing which pertain to them”. One could take this as meaning the priest’s parts verses the people’s parts.....or, maybe the choir has its own special parts as well?

I propose that the people really don’t need, maybe even ought not, to sing the Proper. We already have this in some respects: the resp. Psalm verses and Alleluia verse today are reserved to a cantor. We are *just* now coming to a greater attention to using the unaltered (un-neutered etc.) Psalm texts from the Lectionary (esp. with the Guimont psalter) for the resp. Psalm, and maybe there is a similar movement for the Alleluia/tract/verse. Maybe it’s just a matter of raising everyone’s awareness of the Propers for the Mass?

On the idea of an “Introit Hymn”, as WLP has begun to advertise. This is a laudable step, but I still think, more and more, what is ultimately needed is a flexible means to make the music entirely subservient to the words, which must not require manipulation to be sung. There are places for hymns in the liturgy: the sequence, and the post-communion hymn. It does at least raise an awareness to the variability of the Proper texts, though.

4 Comments:

At Sunday, April 23, 2006 1:04:00 AM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

I've only attended one Eastern-rite liturgy in my life so please take what I have to say with the realization that I'm over-generalizing from one example --

but it seems like the Eastern-rite Catholics don't have a problem figuring out who sings what. The priest sings stuff, the deacon sings other stuff, the lector chants the readings and the people sing their hearts out in glorious harmony. In fact I don't recall hearing very many spoken words in the whole 2+ hour service, and it wasn't a very big or fancy church. I didn't understand a word (it was all in Ukrainian) but still I had the feeling of fully participating in the service (there was a lot of repetition in the responses, so I got the hang of it eventually).

Maybe the problem is that V2's goal of increasing congregational participation doesn't map well onto the Roman rite, even in its modified Novus Ordo form. Discuss :)

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 2:25:00 AM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

I had opportunities to attend the local Maronite rite liturgies, and likewise, much of it is sung. The congregration does not sing their parts in rich harmonies, but it is not very difficult to pick up as a newcomer. Then again, those of us who read this blog probably can pick up any music fairly readily, so I don't know how an average Latin rite catholic would fare. In the Syriac family of rites, there is much much more things that the congregation say during mass compared to Latin rite. I guess Vatican II wanted to bring some of that congregation participation element into the modern Latin rite compared to the Tridentine rite.

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 2:50:00 AM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

Are there settings for mass propers, especially Entrance and communion antiphons?

Practically speaking, the mass propers work best with a cantor or a choir - for one things, most of the congregation doesn't know that mass propers exist. During weekday masses, I have seen the priest speaking those antiphones. Unless you have the full missal in front of you, it is rather difficult for the congregation to sing the propers also.

The congregation should be expected to participate in the mass ordinary, since after all, it is the part that doesn't change.

At least with communion, we can sort of have it both ways: the antiphon can be sung by the choir, with polyphony, etc., and then have everyone sing the post-communion hymn. Speaking of which, why is this omitted at so many places?

I am not sure how you would implement this sort of thing for the entrance antiphone/hymn. Hymn then antiphone maybe?

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 9:07:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

SC: Settings of the Proper tend to be issued as seasonal portions, and often with paraphrases, like James Biery’s Lent and Advent Communion antiphon sets. (Very nice, btw.) CanticaNova has several seasonal sets.

WLP has “Introit Hymns for the Church Year”, which paraphrase and extend the antiphon and psalm texts to full metered hymns set to generally familiar melodies. A nice idea, and certainly better than our status quo, but as I’ve commented elsewhere, I still think it’s a less than ideal solution.

And of course, the Graduale Romanum is the “reference implementation”.

Post-communion hymns are optional, and if you’re singing a recessional, it can be an awful lot of singing in a short span of time. It’s an option that I think works better if the congregation hasn’t already sung during the Communion procession.

 

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