Wednesday, December 16, 2015

CHANT AND CONTEMPORARY LITURGICAL MUSIC COMBINED: DOES IT WORK?

Is it even possible to get a group like this to sing chant for some parts of the Mass in which they perform? I would say yes, but the group leader might balk, especially the one shown directing in this photo:
 Ever since 1985 I've been in parishes that have pipe organs and somewhat traditional music, meaning organ accompanying the singing.

My only experience with so-called contemporary music was in my home parish in the late 1960's that developed a lousy folk group that sang hits from Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar and some anti-Vietnam stuff. 

In college I went to a parish that had a better folk group but sang the same sort of folk and secular stuff.

In the seminary we sang a variety of music with a variety of instrumentation. It went from traditional to bizarre. It was the late 1970's after all.

My first assignment had a traditional choir with organ and a folk group. The Folk Mass at 12 noon was packed with younger families. The 9:30 organ choir was full but with older folks and some young. The 9:30 Mass heard more singing coming from the congregation, more robust. The 12 noon crowed preferred to let the folk group, which was very good, do the singing.

About three years into that assignment (I was there five years) I encouraged the worship committee to change the name of the folk group to the "contemporary choir" as even in the early 1980's the term folk group was out of date.

It wasn't until the early 2000's some 20 years into my ordination that I started to get more interested in chant, Latin or otherwise. It wasn't until then that I learned that the Propers actually existed for the Introit, Offertory and Communion and for every Ordinary Form Mass in the Missal and that these could be chanted in English also.

To be honest with you, my seminary training in liturgical music focused on hymns and not chant at all. I was totally ingnorant of the chant tradition of our Church which was only about 1,800 years old!

Since 2007 and having a schola that chants the propers for the EF Mass, I began to realize what a no-brainer it is that these be reinstituted into the OF Mass in some form.

But I haven't had any experience (except when visiting local parishes that still have the tired and worn out folk/contemporary style of singing) with contemporary music since 1985.

I realize that we cater today to people's base instincts and what turns them on at Mass rather than tradition and dignity.

But what if there was a blend of contemporary and traditional at a given Mass, like the hybrid Masses so many people despise where Spanish and English are combined or whatever other language that people know even though they know English? I know of young people of Mexican origin in our neighboring parish who are perfectly fluent in English, although their parents aren't, who only go to the Spanish Mass there and thus can't participate in an English Mass because they never go to one although they speak perfect English!

For example, at the procession, there could be a rousing, secular sounding contemporary hymn but once the priest arrived at the altar, the Proper Introit could be chanted in English or Latin or Spanish.

The same for the Offertory and Communion antiphons but then there could be the other contemporary stuff that is so beloved.  And the recessional can be any crazy old folk thing.

How would that work?

If I were bishop, I would mandate that all parishes know the Jubilatio Deo Mass settings that Pope Paul VI tried in vain to establish throughout the world after the needless collaspe of Latin in most parishes following his committee's redesign of the traditional Mass and allowing for contemporary vernacular singing.

Then I would tell all pastors that diocesan Masses at the Cathedral would chant the Propers in Latin and the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith and Agnus Dei in Latin and the Kyrie in Greek.  There might be a salute to other second languages in the diocese in the readings but Latin or English would predominate.

In other words, I would mandate that Latin parts of the Mass be sung in every parish for the winter Ordinary Time cycle. Thus every parish in the diocese would know in common this setting of the Mass.  How kosher would that be?

What do you think?

34 comments:

JBS said...

Father McDonald,

Were y'all told about Jubilate Deo while you were in the seminary? Were the bishops at the time trying to ignore Paul VI, or did they make some now forgotten effort to implement his reform? I've asked others these same questions, but I've never gotten a clear answer.

Not only do I see no problem with the mixture of chant and folk/jazz, I think that is what Sacrosanctum Concilium called for.

Anonymous said...

Are you interested in becoming a bishop? I know it is not "kosher" to appear so overly interested---like the old saying, he who goes into the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal....

Gene said...

Any of that folk/jazz/pop crap is inappropriate for Mass. It is just more inculturation, secularization, and egalitarian nonsense.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Exactly! I know what I'm doing! :)

gob said...

"What do you think?" I think you'd have even fewer people showing up for Mass than you do now. Smaller but purer...that's the way...

What is "so called contemporary music"? Kind of like "so called chant", I guess.

gob said...

The conservative Catholics remind me of the conservative Republicans. They both realize, at some level, that their future survival depends to a significant degree on Hispanic and African people. They know they need them...but the want both groups to kind of surrender their culture and heritage and become eastern European white guys. Puzzling....

Flavius Hesychius said...

I seriously doubt 'conservative' Catholics want Hispanics and Africans to act like Serbians, Bulgarians, or Greeks. Especially considering those people aren't Catholic at all. I also don't think you mean 'conservative' Catholics think Hispanics and Africans should act like Ukrainians, Russians, or Turks. Especially Turks.

Or maybe you're thinking of a different eastern Europe.

Puzzling indeed.

Anonymous said...

we have been working to reintroduce the latin ordinary at our parish for the past few years and were up to the kyrie, gloria, sanctus, mystery,paternoster,and agnus dei. Guess thats why the Bishop is closing our parish? Personaly I think it is a good idea to keep the creed in the vernacular.

gob said...

I meant WESTERN....

Flavius Hesychius said...

Lol, I've heard of Greek musicians being excommunicated for singing the wrong chant tradition in church.

I don't have a problem with contemporary compositions, provided it's appropriate. I'm with Gene that the jazzy, poppy, rocky BS has no place at Liturgy. If I want sloppy, soppy music, I'll just go right down to the local Baptist, Methodist, or non-denominational church.

Why is it that contemporary Latin-rite composers feel it necessary to produce silly music? Contemporary compositions for the Chrysostom Liturgy don't have this issue. 'Gather Us In' was written in 1991, whilst Fr. Gloagolev wrote many of his pieces for Eastern liturgies and vigils in... 1995...

(One could respond that Marty Haugen isn't Catholic... but I'd only ask why his music was being used at all.)

DJR said...

Flavius Hesychius said... Why is it that contemporary Latin-rite composers feel it necessary to produce silly music? Contemporary compositions for the Chrysostom Liturgy don't have this issue.

Unfortunately, not true for Catholics of the Ruthenian eparchies in the U.S. We do indeed have this issue also. The liturgy was revised several years ago.

Some of the tones from "the Green Book" are just awful. If you came to my parish and heard them, you might faint.

I've heard the book referred to as "the Teal Terror." I have a priest friend who absolutely refuses to use it.

TJM said...

gob, and liberal catholics remind me of liberal democrats. They desperately need to keep the people uninformed and dependent on them, otherwise, liberal catholics (and dems) would have no one to feel superior to!

gob said...

You should not end a sentence with a preposition.

Gene said...

To quote Chgurchill, "The correcting of my grammar is something up with which I will not put."

Jan said...

Yes, we do have contemporary musicians making a hash of the Greek on the very odd occasion. Namely, the Kyrie. Can you imagine the Kyrie done to an up tempo jungle type beat? The lead singer beats out: Kiereaaah alayeeeson, followed by his cohorts: Kiereaaah alayeeeson; lead singer: Krisstai alayeeeson, cohorts: Krisstai alayeeeson and so on, and they all come together in a final crescendo in a harmonizing barber shop quartet style: Kiereaaaaaah alayeeeeeeeson. Trust me, you don't want to go there. It is enough to put most people off Gregorian chant for life.

JBS said...

Wagner begot Ragtime, Ragtime begot Jazz, Jazz begot Swing, Swing begot Rock and Roll, Rock and Roll begot Pop, Pop begot Disco, Disco begot Rap, Rap begot Hip Hop, and so on. It will eventually be fourteen generations.

TJM said...

gob, is you would like me to critique your writing style I would be happy to do so. When losing the argument, that's what libs do. Thanks for confirming my views

gob said...

If, not is. (I was not defending myself. I was dismissing you. I guess you missed that.)

TJM said...

gob, "is" that all you can do? Are you the grammar police? Answer the substance of the argument or buzz off

Jusadbellum said...

Gob, the Mass includes Aramaic (Amen) and Greek (Kyrie) and Latin (Agnus Dei) as well as the vernacular. Our churches incorporate Franciscan spiritual insights (stations of the cross) and various devotions (Marian, local saints, Divine Mercy etc.).

So I fail to see how us "white guys" are imposing our Western culture on Asians and Americans rather than INVITING them to join us in this pan-cultural thing called Catholicism.

Last time I checked, the Jewish and Greek influences (and Latin) were not "white western" cultural hegemonic impositions but elements from cultures that pre-dated our European ancestors (mostly barbarian Germans, Scots, Celts, and Scandanavians).

We've ALL had to let go of some of our ancestral customs to adopt a Catholic ethos.

We've ALL had to fuse and blend with other groups with whom our ancestors once fought wars with.

White Euro-Americans are heirs of 2 millennia of intra-ethnic wars and mixing. We are not some unchanging monolithic culture (and neither are the Asians and Hispanics).

It is a colossal mistake to presume ethnicities and cultures are monolithic and cannot blend with others without some sort of violent loss or submission.

John Nolan said...

The nearest thing to genuine folk music would be a Gregorian Office hymn, of which there are many, some very well known like Vexilla Regis, Veni Creator and Ave Maris Stella. Consider:-

1. They are strophic. The melody of each verse is the same; the words are different.
2. The words are more important than the music.
3. They are monodic, not harmonized or polyphonic.
4. They are usually sung unaccompanied.
5. They are modal, not tonal.
6. They are in free rhythm.
7. The melodies belonged to an oral tradition before being written down.

All the above apply to (genuine) folk music. In the 1960s popular song-writers were influenced by this older musical tradition. Paul McCartney's 'Eleanor Rigby' is in the Phrygian mode (Gregorian mode 3). An Irish or Scottish folk musician would find himself in very familiar territory singing the Gloria from Mass IX (Cum iubilo) since it is in mode 7 (Mixolydian), the bagpipe scale. So Chant and certain types of popular music should in theory be able to coexist. So why is pop-derived church music so dire?

Performances of the famous Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 usually alternate chant with elaborate vocal and instrumental music which would have seemed startlingly modern to contemporary ears (Victoria's Requiem, written only five years earlier, seems to belong to a different century). Does it work, and would it have been performed in this way 400 years ago? Opinions differ.

On a different subject, why is 'gob' setting himself up as corrector of other people's typos? As for prepositions, one cannot end a Latin sentence with one, but English has phrasal verbs ending with one or more prepositions. 'I asked him to come in' is perfectly grammatical; only a fool would try to avoid the preposition by Latinizing the sentence to read 'I asked him to enter.'

JBS said...

I'm trying to think of anything constructive, even if contrary, that gob has ever posted here.

Anonymous said...

There is one parish in the Archdiocese of Baltimore (Nativity, Timonium) that does both contemporary (evangelical praise music) and gregorian chant (they usually have the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin) for their Sunday Masses. It seems to work for them, and it is a very flourishing parish. You can find videos of their liturgies online.

Gene said...

Gob is kinda' pitiful, but he is fun...sort of like a slinky...useless but fun to throw down the stairs.

gob said...

If you would review all of my posts, I'm sure that you would find many that would cause you to regret this cruel remark.

CPT Tom said...

Father McDonald,

From experience: I am part of the schola in my parish. We used to sing for six years at a Ordinary form Mass with chanted Latin propers and ordinary, and traditional hymn for the recessional. At the beginning we were told to use contemporary music for the Processional and Recessional. It didn't work. In fact, the Pastoral Administrator who had mandated the contemporary music, had us drop the contemporary music, because "it didn't fit" with the Gregorian Chant. We dropped it for the Six years we sang the chant Mass. We now are singing at a Monthly EF Mass and have moved on.

Jan said...

Gob is just contrary. Let's hope he lightens up for Christmas or come to think of it he will probably find something negative about that too?

gob said...

I wish all of the people here a blessed, holy and happy Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Most of the time though, Gob the slinky throws you down the stairs.

Gene said...

"Cruel remark?" LOL!

gob said...

Eugene, it wounded me to my core.....maybe even to my Corps. Semper Fi.

Jusadbellum said...

Merry Christmas Gob.

if you are a praying person, remember me before the Lord this Christmas.

gob said...

Jusad: The "if" part is a bit snarky...but, in the spirit of the season, I'll let it by without further comment. Merry Christmas. (FYI, the "I" in "if" should be upper case.)

Gene said...

Fr, since you allow Gob to make fun of Semper Fi, you should allow me to say that he is not worthy to even use the phrase. Why do you protect losers like him?