Monday, May 01, 2006

A Trek Through Musicam Sacram

I thought it might be very edifying for me and some of our readers to trek through some pertinent documents relating to liturgical music, starting with Musicam Sacram. Though I won't be able to provide the liturgical insights that others in the blogosphere could, I shall do my best to stir up some discussion.

Basically, I'll post every few days with a small portion of MS and any thoughts I have on the section at hand. I invite you to bring your knowledge and/or questions to the table in the combox and this will be a worthwhile experience for all.

The complete text can he found here.


At Monday, May 01, 2006 1:16:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Ahh, MS. A confusing document, I think. Looking forward to the discussion.

At Monday, May 01, 2006 5:18:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

Let's start here (see comments below):

II. Those With a Role in Liturgical Celebrations

15. The faithful carry out their proper liturgical function by offering their complete, conscious, and active participation. The very nature of the liturgy demands this and it is the right and duty of the Christian people by reason of their baptism. [13]

This participation must be:

a. internal, that is, the faithful make their thoughts match what they say and hear, and cooperate with divine grace; [14]

b. but also external, that is, they express their inner participation through their gestures, outward bearing, acclamations, responses, and song. [15]

The faithful are also to be taught that they should try to raise their mind to God through interior participation as they listen to the singing of ministers or choir.

This section should be printed and kept in the wallet of every good church musician. On the occasional time that I program the choir to sing something on their own (w/o the congregation), I get the same couple of people saying,"you can't do that. It's a performance. The people are primary musical group of the church." Typical NPM crap that I have to fight.


At Monday, May 01, 2006 10:54:00 PM, Blogger PrayingTwice said...


You trying to steal my thunder or what?


At Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:39:00 AM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

Please pray for me that I can have some fruitful discussion regarding this document with my director of worship, who is our associate pastor and a former long-time church musician. He tends to be of the opinion that choirs should not perform (maybe just not our choirs :) ), although not strictly.

I am not sure where to even begin thinking about things of this document in my campus ministry. At the moment, "programming something that is choir only" is not even thinkable, considering that the choirs only meet right before mass, and it is a struggle just to learn the Entrance/Offertory/Communion/Recessional songs in time for mass. I have done some simple songs as choir only, or have used instrumental ensembles. It seems that the assembly is impressed by the sheer fact that I make sure everyone starts singing together and end together.

With no full-time music minister, and a handful of student volunteers who are "choir directors"
(myself included), I am not so sure how to improve the situation substantially (we also don't have money to hire one). One helpful thing would be to have a weekday practice, just like every other church out there. Apparently before I started attending, for very long time there was no such thing as a weekday rehearsal. Question is, who would lead the rehearsals. Since all of the 4 Sunday masses use the same music, I could lead rehearsal for everyone, but that puts a lot of burden just on me.

Another issue is finding people to sing - at this campus ministry, the choir number fluctuates constantly, with very high turnover, such that it is difficult to establish something that will stay put (use of Gregorian Chant, for example). Under the current circumstances, we are happy to "get by." Which is rather sad.

Part of the issue is that the local parishes that have established music ministry draws talented singers away, and thus also leads to them saying "Well, the liturgy isn't as good at the campus ministry." You can't have a decent ministry without good singers; you can't get decent singers without something that will make them want to join.

Anyway, enough of my lamenting. Slowly I partaking in the improvement of the music ministry at my campus ministry. I hope the upcoming discussion of the SM document includes something on making it possible even at places like mine.

At Tuesday, May 02, 2006 11:29:00 AM, Anonymous moconnor said...

In response to scholarchanter:

Campus ministries are tough for a couple of reasons. First, you have a young crowd and usually a pastor who wants to "minister" (what a Protestant term!) to that younger crowd by trying to pander to them. Some of them will eat that up, btw. Others will see it for what it is and go elsewhere. This affects music in a big way. You will be forced to use the pseudo-pop that is not even "contemporary" anymore. It just seems more contemporary than chant.

The other problem, as you say, is the high turnover (at least every 4 years). You can't build a group that way. The best you can do is gather some talented folks to lead the music. They should at least be willing to meet on a weeknight to prepare. If you can't find at least 4 people to do this, then I say you should just volunteer to plan the liturgy and lead it yourself. For campus ministries, volunteer is the key word. If you can volunteer your time and energy, you will find others willing to help. I guarantee it.

Good luck!


At Wednesday, May 03, 2006 8:45:00 AM, Blogger CastCantor said...

I am a cantor/choir director in a college town; I am fortunate that it is a small town and the only Catholic parish in the county. We lose singers to the Trid Mass 40 minutes north and the Evangelicals outnumber the Catholics by a wide margin. My choir is a mix of faculty and students from the college, plus a few homeschoolers and high schoolers. The faculty members are the stalwarts.
I also have a Lutheran, a girl who was raised Jewish but who is now mulling her options, some interested ex-Anglicans from a church that just closed, and an Eastern Orthodox singer. If you can't find Catholics, you might be able to find some singers from other "Faith Traditions". I am trying to get them all to be cantors too, so they feel more involved and (hopefully) will show up more for choir.
But I feel for ya. Finding a time to rehearse is darn near impossible. I give them music and practice CDs to help fill in the gaps. I also make sure there's water in the loft, and I bring snacks to the rehearsals we do have. I send a lot of emails about liturgical stuff to keep choir at the front of their brains. It seems like a lot of work when they should be showing up for the glory of God, but it's gotten them in the door and has helped some of them come back. I also ask them what THEY want to do -- give them a set of choices and have them choose. (Will it be the Mozart or the Elgar "Ave Verum"?)
I have had some success in programming some of the same music they are practicing in choir -- Mozart "Ave Verum", Faure "Cantique De Jean Racine," Hallelujah Chorus, etc. -- so they don't have to rehearse as much because they know it, I can get "guest" singers for the one week I use that piece, and often they are glad to sing it in a church rather than in a concert hall. Father's public support of the choir has also helped.
Keep on making sure that the communal parts of the liturgy -- the hymns, responses, etc. are beautifully played and sung by . . . you. That will attract regulars to the church and from them you may find choir members. Best of luck to you!

At Thursday, May 04, 2006 11:00:00 PM, Blogger ScholarChanter said...

We do have the associate pastor who is very much into doing liturgy correctly, which helps a lot, and he has brought in the use of OCP Respond and Acclaim over the Haugen-Haas psalms for one thing. Thanks for your prayers.

Anyway, back to the discussion:
The Easter season is a good time to bring in music for the mass propers. The sequences for the solemnities lend themselves to being sung by the choir or the cantor only. And once people are become familiar with this, making other parts of the mass propers "choir-only" would probably go over a bit easier.

At the same time, I have a story to share:
I attended the Corpus Christi solemnity in 2001 at the Fullness of Truth conference in Steubenville OH at FUS. The music was led by Jim Cowan himself (the hosts of CantateDeo may remember the Holy is the Lord books from Franciscan Press, and many of the songs were by Jim Cowan). The Solemnity sequence was done in a somewhat Taize-like style, where the assembly could sing along the text in an ostinato pattern. Once the assembly got itself going, the cantors started adding harmonies, and some people started singing the harmonies as well. It was my first time hearing the sequence done in this way, but it was rather practical and effective.

At Thursday, May 04, 2006 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

SC: As I’ve come to realize, the problem isn’t always the people at large. The problem is the very vocal (and often influential) minority that insists on congregational singing at any cost.

At Friday, May 05, 2006 2:03:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

cantor said it! Everywhere I go, I run into these NPM brainwashed folks who, with great intentions mind you, say that the congregation has to sing everything. This flys in the face of the fact, that most congregants don't want to sing anything. My wife is a perfect example of a congregant that just wants to be left alone in the singing department. She doesn't mind reciting the pater noster, but don't ask her to sing it (especially the lame Celtic mass version!). In any case, we need to abolish the mumbling that goes on during the offertory and communion. My answer is to give them the simpler parts of the liturgy. They seem to sing those things just fine. Congregations rattle the walls when they get to chant the pater noster. We need MORE of that.

Gettysburg, PA

At Friday, May 05, 2006 8:35:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

And previously pointed out, Musicam sacram explicitly encourages congregational singing of the Proper.

I really think that “third stratum” of singing applies only for people who train or are just *good*. In other words, having sung Propers at *all* is an optional thing, to be done only once the Ordinary and other acclamations are done. I would really only envision a congregation singing the proper Introit if that congregation is very well-trained (i.e. monastic communities, or a world where Catholic music education were just that!).


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