Friday, November 28, 2014


 It seems to me that the Ordinary Form of the Mass was revised with the purpose of chanting it. In fact, dropping the designations of "low, high and solemn high" for a Mass with Music and a Mass without Music was to assist in allowing for some of all of the Mass to be chanted.

At one time, even after ordination and because of poor seminary formation in the 1970's, I thought a Mass with music meant that we sang hymns during the Mass, like an "opening hymn, closing hymn and maybe something at Communion time." So early on after I was ordained I would insist even at a daily Mass we sang at these places.

Chanting the propers never entered my mind and I never experienced this in the post Vatican II Mass either in my home parish or in the seminary. The first time I heard the propers sung at a Mass, either I was celebrating or attending, was at Most Holy Trinity in Augusta when we started to celebrate a Latin Ordinary Form Mass once a month at our Saturday Vigil. And it was our choir director who did it. I had to ask her where she got these Latin Chants not knowing even by 2000 that these still existed for the Ordinary Form Mass in Latin. Wow!

I do not have a trained voice for singing, but I can carry a tune and people tell me I have a nice voice. I am not a virtuoso and I can't perform a secular song as entertainment although I have a nice singing voice. I have what I like to call a fine liturgical voice that is not geared toward virtuosity. I can chant and sing liturgical music and even lead it. I can chant the priest parts of the Mass in a prayerful, liturgical way without coming across as an entertainer.

I've always sung at Mass and have always know how to chant the opening prayer and preface with relative ease. I do have a gift to improvise the written text of the Preface if I get off note and can recover also without it being too obvious to the congregation.

However up until 1991, I seldom chanted my parts of the Mass except for special feasts and solemnities to enhance these, what was taught to us as "progressive solemnity."

In 1991 I inherited a sung Mass at my new assignment of Most Holy Trinity in Augusta. Every Sunday all the stops were pulled out at the 10:00 Sunday Mass, including the use of incense and Holy Water each Sunday. It was then that I began to sing my parts of the Mass every Sunday.

But it has only been in the last eight years that I've begun to sing all my parts at Sunday Mass, including the Sign of the Cross, greeting, introduction to the penitential act and all other parts. I even chant the epiclesis and words of consecration for the Eucharistic Prayer.

What do you think? Is the Ordinary Form of the Mass made to be chanted or not. Do you prefer the priest parts chanted or spoken?

In fact even at our daily Mass, we chants the congregational parts for the Alleluia, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Lamb of God. The Congregation is led by the lector to recite the Introit and Communion Antiphons from the missalette. We chant the congregational parts in Latin, which our daily Mass congregation knows by heart.

Doing this for daily Mass would not be permitted in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.


Vox Cantoris said...

The fundamental problem is the 1967 document, Musicam Sacram. This document, in its desire to remove the strictness of the Read, Sung and Solemn Masses, put forward the practice of "progressive solemnity." Sing what you can without regard to the previous structure. It encouraged that the whole Mass be sung but sanctioned that one could sing what one could manage.

The second problem and perhaps the worst of it was the permission to actually substitute the Sung Proper (Introit, Offertory and Communion) with a hymn.

Up to that point (and remember, this was not the manufactured (quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict) liturgy of Paul VI but the slimmed down "tridentine" rite; the Proper had to be said (in a Read Mass) or sung (chanted melismatically or in psalm tone or in polyphony). That wretched document and that one paragraph is where we can point to for the destruction of the chant and the propers.

It also admonished choirs who sang all the Propers without the people. The people have no business singing the Propers, that is the domain of the choir/schola; the people's part was the Ordinary.

Until we get over this idea that the people must sing everything we can never restore these liturgical sung texts.

In the EF Masses which I lead and conduct on a typical Sunday, the people sing the following:

Processional Hymn in English
Sprinkling Rite
Marian Antiphon
Recessional Hymn

Until that is revoked and the Propers (said or sung) in the Ordinary Form with the restored Offertory chant (now only permitted if sung) are mandated, we will not see a restoration of the sacred liturgy.

On a further note, it is incumbent upon every layman or laywoman working in the Extraordinary Form to follow the rubrics and norms and to humble themselves to them. If you are not able to man up to that then stop doing it. We don't need the errors of those who destroyed the liturgy in from 1964 to 1967 and then again in 1969 to creep in to the venerable rite. If you can't do the rite, right, then don't do it at all!

Ryan Ellis said...

Chanting the Roman Canon is not part of the tradition of the Latin Rite. It should be silent. But the rest, I agree, should be sung.

John Nolan said...

This is quite a difficult problem to address, since the Consilium which produced the Novus Ordo Missae of 1970 seems to have been pulling in different directions. There is much to be said that in addressing the perceived problem of the Low Mass the idea of a sung Mass (normative in the Eastern Rites) with a dialogue between priest and people replacing the PATFOTA of the older Rite and having much more of the Mass sung, was justified. The OF when done in Chant has a musical symmetry which the Old Rite lacks. Unfortunately, this was only apparent to those who were used to hearing the Novus Ordo in Latin.

Since the 2011 translation which included a lot of music integral to the text it was hoped that the 'missal chants' would become normative and the 'four hymn sandwich' which had been reprobated by Bugnini's Consilium in 1967 would at last decline. The CMAA has done sterling work in making simple English versions of the Propers available but it is difficult to gauge what effect this has had on ordinary parishes.

I would agree with Vox Cantoris that Musicam Sacram 1967 is unsatisfactory. Like the documents of the Council it is deliberately ambiguous. What one sings or doesn't sing on a Sunday before the Asperges is irrelevant, and since there is no recessional in the Roman Rite you can sing what you want.

Father Kevin Estabrook said...

For both daily Mass and Sunday Mass, I chant the Kyrie, Collect, Alleluia w/ Verse, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface, Sanctus, Mysterium Fidei, Memorial Acclamation, Doxology, Agnus Dei, sometimes the Our Father, Prayer After Communion, Blessing, Dismissal.

I'd like to chant the whole Mass some time.

For the past four years or so, I've exclusively used the "Simple Tone" (see Appendix 1 of the Roman Missal). However, this past All Souls Day I started using the "Solemn Tone" without "practicing" with the congregation before hand (their sung "Amen" is different). By the end of Mass they had it ;-)

I was concelebrating a funeral and the celebrant started chanting the Canon. I think I had looked at it once or twice. He had me chant the concelebrants parts and it turned out pretty well. I've chanted the Canon once or twice in the past few years...maybe on Immaculate Conception & Christmas.

I've chanted the Gospel a few times (Immaculate Conception) and the folks seemed to benefit from it.

Rood Screen said...

Ryan Ellis,

I could agree that the Roman Canon should not be sung (its wording was certainly not intended to be heard by a congregation), but since the new Eucharistic Prayers are now with us, perhaps they should be sung.

Gabby said...

I'll take all the chant I can get! I'd love to attend one of the Masses you celebrate.

Unfortunately our last 3 Pastors have not chanted anything. Going back 4, that Pastor knew that his voice wasn't great (I heard him hit a particularly sour note that made the baby in front of me shudder) but he was determined to chant the Preface and the Doxology. I'd sometimes walk in on him at the altar in an otherwise empty church, practicing the Preface over and over again.

Seeing his persistence gave me the courage to chant Evening Prayer, even the Thanksgiving for Light, on the few occasions that I had to be the leader of prayer.

Marie said...

Vox Cantoris, you forgot to mention the Introit.
As regards the OF, I know for a fact that EPIII has been set to chant. Trouble is, when the priest has been doing it often enough when the entire kindergarten class was present, a lot of those kids had memorized it and it took a lot of hushing up to stop them from chanting with the priest. LOL!
I, too, am part of our ladies' scola in our EF. Sometimes we alternate with a single-voice male cantor for the Propers, but most times, it's just us. We also lead the congregation in chanting the Ordinary. And yes, our elderly priest chants his parts, including the Gospel.

Here's our program:
Asperges or Vide Aquam [during Easter] - This is not a part of the Mass but a separate rite.
Opening Hymn in English.
Introit - by the scola
Kyrie - by the congregation, varies with the season. Gloria in Excelsis - same setting as the Kyrie.
Epistle - chanted by a deacon, if he's around. Otherwise, read silently by the priest.
Gospel - chanted by the priest.
Credo - We know at least three different settings.
Offertory Antiphon - by the scola.
Preface - chanted by the priest
Sanctus - same setting as the Kyrie and Gloria.
Pater Noster - by the priest only, except for one line before the Amen.
Agnus Dei - Same setting as Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus.
Communion antiphon - Beginning this Advent, our scola will start chanting the psalm/canticle that goes with the Communion antiphon - instead of a Communion hymn. For example, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Communion antiphon, "Gloriosa", will be interspersed with the verses of the Magnificat.
[Our priest likes leading brief after-Mass prayers like the Hail Holy Queen and the Prayer to St. Michael, or a Benediction after Mass on the last Sunday of each month.]
Closing: Marian antiphon of the season [Alma Redemptoris Mater for Advent.]
Even with all that chant, we have enough deep silence from the Offertory chant through the Canon of the Mass until the Pater Noster.
And yes, we sing everything acapella, since none of us can play the organ.

Mr. C said...

I commend your readership, FRAJM, to Ordinary Setting and recording of THE MASS OF ST. PHILIP NERI, a recent release composed by Paul Jernberg and performed by an actual celebrant, deacon, chanting lectrix and the ever-transcendent Schola of St. Peter the Apostle (Chicago) under the redoubtable Professor J. Michael Thompson. Incorporating both "Gregorian" and "Orthodox" music forms and ethos, the entire Mass is sung exquisitely on the recording from Introit onward. Please pass this onto your wonderful DoM, she will enjoy it immensely. We are transitioning to it out here in California, unveiling all of the Ordinary movements at Christmas.

Православный физик said...

I agree with vox, but if we're going to have a sung Mass, all of it should be sung (including the confiteor)

John Nolan said...

'Lectrix'? Sorry Charles, there's no such animal, and you'd be hard pressed to find an instituted Lector or Acolyte outside a seminary. Agree with you about the Jernberg setting, though.

Mr. C said...

I kinda had my tongue in cheek, John, in trying to succinctly list the lector as a female chanter. Didn't mean to be all anti PC or traddie.

Gene said...

I like "Lectrix. We could have a school for training them and call it "The Lectrix Company." An overbearing lectrix would be a domilectrix, when a lectrix was particularly inspiring or impressive, we could say that the atmosphere had "electrixity. This has real possibilities...

John Nolan said...

I've noticed that in America the term 'lector' is used for 'reader' which is unfortunate since Lector is an instituted ministry which is reserved to men. However, an all-female schola would require a 'cantrix' which equates to the rather nice English word 'songstress'.