Help with information on the prohibition of instruments during Lent and pre-Lent
  • I am curious if anyone has specific information about when the various bans on instruments during pre-Lent and Lent came into force, and what the status of those rules may be at this time.

    I am completely sympathetic to avoiding the abuse of instruments during liturgy.

    On the other hand, there are times when it would be great to be able to use a modest basso continuo instrument. I would like to do Monteverdi's 6-part "Adoramus te, Christe" with my choir during Lent and have my son, who plays the archlute, accompany us with the b.c. part. But it seems that this would be prohibited, right?
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 298
    The document for the EF which has these instructions is De Musica Sacra (1958).

    There are a couple of translations out there online of the whole thing.

    However, the relevant bit is cited by the Liber Usualis, HERE.

    Regarding your Adoremus with continuo, come to think of it, it sounds like you could do it at benediction, because benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is explicitly exempted from the prohibitions.

    Incidentally, recently, although we usually sing O salutaris, Tantum ergo, and Adoremus in aeternum at benediction in their most typical chant melodies, unaccompanied, I have been making a point of doing the metrical hymn-style O salutaris and Tantum ergo when it is Advent or Lent, so as to bring out the fact that the organ can and is being used at benediction at these times. The resulting contrast seems good, and has also the advantage of giving out that the chant is the more festive.
  • Protasius
    Posts: 445
    Regarding when this ban came into force, it is at latest 1600, when the Caeremoniale Episcoporum is published. The chapter on organ and organist contains pertinent paragraphs. I suspect however, that it was much earlier.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 693
    What if vespers is prayed in the context of adoration? Would the exception of being able to use the organ during adoration supersede the prohibition of using the organ for liturgies?
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 298
    The explanation would seem to be this: adoration is not the same as benediction, and the exception is for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament [Benedictione eucharistica ].

    Exactly what the boundaries of the benediction "service" are, for our purposes, might be debatable; but if you are doing Vespers, I think you would have definitely crossed them.
  • Benediction is a solemn liturgical act (adoration on the other hand is devotional), and it can be fully joined to the liturgy of vespers such that the two are celebrated as a single liturgical act. It is specifically provided for in the relevant books, which I don't happen to have at hand.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 693
    I guess I don't understand why the exception is made for benediction when the tantum ergo can easily be sung a cappella. If one is celebrating a solemn vespers or other such service it would seem desirable to have the organ play at least during processions.
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 298
    80. Quoniam organi et magis quoque aliorum instrumentorum sonus ornamentum constituit sacrae Liturgiae, usus idcirco eorundum instrumentorum temperandus est secundum gradum laetitiae, qua singulis dies vel tempora liturgica distinguuntur.

    "Since organ music, and still more that of other instruments, constitutes and adornment of the liturgy, the use of these instruments must accord with the degree of rejoicing that belongs to each day and to each liturgical season."

    This is the general explanation given by De Musica Sacra, that the use of organ is an adornment which should agree to the level of rejoicing.

    Right off, the exception is made for benediction, and later other exceptions are made for certain days and circumstances where there is indeed more rejoicing.

    However, the only exception made for practical purposes is where it says:
    83. c) Item organi tantum aut harmonii sonus permittitur in Missa et in Vesperis, solummodo ad cantum sustentandum.

    The music of the organ or harmonium is also allowed at Mass and Vespers solely to support the singing.


    Which to me says that if you were to use the organ in such fashion, it is not and ought not to be made to be an adornment of the liturgy; rather, it is in this case providing merely the crutch of utility music ad cantum sustentandum.

    I also find it interesting that this crutch is only permitted in Missa et in Vesperis ; which I would argue means that in such times as these prohibitions apply, one can't use organ at all for vernacular hymns before or after high Mass, due to the fact that 1) the exception is only made for Mass and 2) everyone who is singing vernacular hymns before or after high Mass is able to do so for the very reason that they are outside of Mass.

    So, my opinion is that this exception for practical purposes is made in promotion of the singing of Mass and Vespers, even by those who might need a crutch; also implying that if you are trying to sing other hours of the office, you are either biting off more than you can chew, or are demonstrating that you really do have the level of competence where you ought to be able to sing a cappella, like it or not.

    [Pardon the digression; and I think I have said some of this before.]
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,237
    organi tantum aut harmonii sonus
    Is this really singling out reed organs or is it translating Die Harmonie, i.e. a wind band?
  • Richard Mix - De musica sacra:
    63. In addition to the classic organ, the use of that instrument called the "harmonium", is also permitted, but only on condition that its tonal quality and amplitude of sound makes it suitable to sacred use.
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  • JonathanKK - De musica sacra
    84. The organ and the harmonium must remain completely silent during the Holy Triduum, that is, from midnight which begins the fifth ferial in Cena Domini until the Gloria in excelsis Deo of the solemn Mass of the Easter Vigil, and they must not be used even to accompany singing, except as provided in number 83-b.
    Furthermore, the playing of the organ and harmonium is prohibited during this Triduum without any exception and notwithstanding any contrary custom whatsoever, even during pious exercises.
    I submit that the principle that law should be applied strictly (meaning narrowly) implies that pious exercises are exempt outside the Triduum.
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 298
    Example of pious exercise would be, mainly, Stations of the Cross?

    Or are you suggesting that processional and recessional hymns would fall into this category?

    But then, are the processions in and out "liturgical actions"?
  • I think the terms 'pious exercises' and 'popular devotions' are synonymous, but where the boundaries lie I am unclear. I do see it argued that the recessional is not part of Mass, though Fortescue describes in some detail the passage of the celebrant from the sacristy to the altar. I should make it clear I am not a devotee of the EF, I would have preferred a more disciplined application of SC to a rite that, in the opinion of the Council, had become too rigid. (But as I approach four score years I am not holding my breath.)
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,112
    Well, organ can accompany chant, and you can give incipits; I even heard this on Good Friday for the Passion, which was an occasion where a discreet pitch pipe would be better. But for Exposition you could have music. That being said, Benediction usually follows Vespers in the traditional rite, because the rubrics are insanely complicated.

    I think that were one to ask Rome, the rubrics would also apply to Lauds: morning voice is a real problem, and it helps to have organ to give the full incipit of the psalm and antiphon. If not, then use a pitch pipe, and have someone hum the incipits to the cantors.