Thursday, January 26, 2012
MUSIC, MUSZAC OR CHANT--THAT IS THE QUESTION
Technically the music of the Catholic Mass is not hymnody but rather the singing of all the parts of the Mass that should be sung. This would include the official Introit and Offertory and Communion chants. Normally these are meant to be sung in a "Gregorian Chant" style or some modification of it including Polyphony and in Latin or the vernacular in the OF Mass. But it includes almost every other part of the Mass from the Sign of the Cross to the Credo, Eucharistic Prayer and final Blessing. This would include the singing of the Scriptures and Gospel! How many have heard that happen in an OF Mass?
What should be sung is normally what is not sung but rather an undo emphasis on hymns. Keep in mind though that in the Low EF Mass four hymns can be sung even though not a word of the Mass is sung--Opening, Offertory, Communion and Recessional. In the old days these were hymns borrowed from popular devotions and most Marian hymns so the selections had little or nothing to do with the Mass and the themes of the Scriptures. This is an aberration in the Latin Low Mass, but accepted practice.
At least in the High or Sung Mass of the EF, all that is suppose to be sung is--but it is permissible to do additional anthem. Our practice of a vernacular processional and recessional may or may not have been done in Pre-Vatican II times for the High Mass, but I'm not certain and so what we do here may not be kosher. But certainly additional Latin anthems were always sung at the Offertory and Communion even though these are not prescribed.
But back to the OF Mass as experienced by most and what they hear today in their parishes. The emphasis is on hymns, isn't it? And even the parts of the Mass can be set to secular sounding melodies, but these are more difficult to judge as appropriate or inappropriate. And the sad fact is that so many options of styles of music are incorporated into the Mass no one really realizes that there should be a distinctive style that is a bit more narrow rather than expansive. Most new music or music that is sung today would be better used in non-Mass, non-Liturgical experiences of prayer and popular devotions.
It is also permissible and the norm now that the official chants at the entrance, offertory and communion are totally discarded and legally so and substituted with hymns. Sometimes these hymns are of dubious quality and theology and the appropriateness for Mass may well be questioned, just as one might question the use of exclusively Marian vernacular hymns at an EF low Mass.
At St. Joseph we know chant versions of all the parts of the Mass in the vernacular and two other more modern settings known as the Mass of Creation and The Mass of Sing Praise and Thanksgiving both of which are enthusiastically sung by our congregation. However liturgical purists would show disdain for these secular sounding settings of the Mass.
All our hymns are accompanied by organ and thus are "traditional" in that sense but from a wide variety of sources, pre-Vatican II vernacular hymns, Protestant hymns adapted for Catholic use and modern Catholic hymns.
For over a year though, our cantor chants the official Introit as the Procession begins and segways into the vernacular hymn and the same is true of the Offertory and Communion Antiphons.
We have yet to learn an English Creed, but the days are coming for even that at our choir Mass at 9:30 AM.
Like religion and politics, the style of music in our churches probably should not be debated in polite company.