Psallite: a new Mass proper
They don’t want to sell it this way, probably because so few now know what the Mass Proper is (even including those who purchase music for liturgical use), but that indeed is what I see here:
What Psallite gives us is three types of song: “Song for the Week” (Entrance/closing), “Song for the Word” (after 1st reading), and “Song for the Table” (Communion). Putting aside the flower-child-y ring of the names, it’s a laudable idea: to create music that “catches” so people take it with them and make it part of their “life’s soundtrack”. And, at least insofar as the “Table songs” go, it is also based on tradition; Gregorian Communions are often tied to the Scripture readings of the day and generally have non-psalmic antiphons.
I have to confess, I just don’t like this collection. The music, which I hear colleagues praise as inspired and so forth, seems to me so bland and uninteresting. (Could be my own bias, as I often write music quite similar in form and function to these pieces.) The sample recordings don’t help - the singers (presumably the composers) sound awfully rag-tag and give amateur musicians little to which they might aspire.
The description is a little curious: “inspired by the antiphons and psalms of the Roman Missal”. Antiphons and psalms in the Missal? (I’ve corresponded with a couple of the composers, and I still don’t really have a straight answer on what exactly that means.)
What is nice, though, is how a collection like this might focus people’s attentions on the idea of what traditionally is called a Proper of the Mass. It could help other projects to bear fruit, especially if translations/adaptations of the Proper could be made that are:
- freely usable and adaptable
- faithful to the Gregorian texts
- easily able to be set to music, be it metered or unmetered
The above is what I would rather see come of the efforts at a standard body of sung texts than a generic corpus of hymns.
Incidentally, Adoremus has commented briefly on this collection; sadly, though, they look no further than the choice of translation used for the psalm verses. I agree that using the 1993 Grail is a poor choice in light of the direction in which things are moving overall, but Psallite is much more significant for its other characteristics. (Might I suggest that comments refrain from repeating Adoremus’s condemnation of the translation, instead focusing on the effort itself?)