Is Music Required at Every Mass?
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    To answer my own question, I don't believe it is.

    However, I have repeatedly been told by people that every Mass, including daily Masses, must have singing. Is this written down anywhere? Or is it simply one of those ideas that gets into people's heads and explains why tone-deaf Louise yodels a hymn to start off the weekday Mass? When you suggest silence or simply reading the entrance antiphon, you're met with "but the Church says we have to have singing."

  • Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112, is frequently cited, saying that music is a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. It appears to me that "solemn" does not characterize every liturgy, so that this section cannot be construed as always requiring music. Cf. also the following.

    Regardless of section 112, there are places in music legislation which clearly indicate that music is not required at every liturgy. Consider Musicam sacram, 36: "There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses." The text permits, but does not require, music at a said mass.
    I think there are other places in Musicam sacram that also support your position, but I cannot run them down today. Musicam sacram is not long, nor is chapter 7 (the music part) of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I hold that these two documents as a minimum, and preferably a few more, should be read by every church music director, choirmaster, etc., at least once a year.

    You are right; the church does not require singing at every liturgy. Now you need to let tone-deaf Louise read my letter. She will light up like the sun and say, "Oh, yes, now I see my error. I am so happy to be corrected."
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    "Require" is too strong a word. "Urged" perhaps, that music never be totally "absent from" Mass, "at least on Sundays," I believe, is the way it is phrased.

    Oh, here it is:

    40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

    Save the Liturgy, save the World
  • I would think that parishes that regularly use the Gregorian Missal and celebrate the NO in Latin on weekdays would have an easier time of this, since "all of the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung" are right there, set to chant, ready to go. Of course, that means forming a "chantry choir" in perpetuity to sing for daily Masses throughout the year. I can't say that I see that happening.

    So, what typically happens? The bits that should be sung are read (the psalm, for example) and Father picks a favorite hymn to sing a verse or two of while he walks in and walks out. Maybe the "Holy Holy" will get sung, because somebody starts singing "Mass of Cremation," the only Mass setting they know off-the-cuff.

    For those of us in the typical suburban parish paradigm, what do we do? I think particularly of the frustration I face on a weekly basis trying to cobble together appropriate music for the daily parish Mass on Fridays that our attached K-8 school attends. Psalmody? None set in the style the "kiddies like to sing". The prevailing tastes of the school music teacher have kind of held sway, so it's all Haugen/Haas/Joncas all the time now.
  • Sing to the Lord says:

    116. At daily Mass, the above priorities should be followed as much as possible, in this order: dialogues and acclamations (Gospel Acclamation, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen); litanies (Kyrie, Agnus Dei); Responsorial Psalm, perhaps in a simple chanted setting; and finally, a hymn or even two on more important days. Even when musical accompaniment is not possible, every attempt should be made to sing the acclamations and dialogues.

    because the GIRM says:

    115. By “Mass with a congregation” is meant a Mass celebrated with the participation of the faithful. It is moreover appropriate, whenever possible and especially on Sundays and holy days of obligation, that the celebration of this Mass take place with singing and with a suitable number of ministers. It may, however, also be celebrated without singing and with only one minister.

    The concession in that last sentence was added in order to pacify English and Irish bishops on the Consilium who had complained loudly that congregational singing was Protestant.

  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    Thanks, Paul. I think I'll print paragraph 116 out and keep it in my wallet. The point of music is to sing the Mass texts, not Gladys' favorite three OCP/GIA/WLP hymns.

    In other words, in most places the musical priorities have been stood on their head. No singing of the Mass parts, whether dialogues, litanies or psalms. Instead, we find an opening hymn, a communion hymn and a sung recessional. Again demonstrating the understanding of the Mass as a spoken event around which we pile up some musical decorations.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    As an eastern Christian working for the Latins, I tend to view the idea of a "low mass" as a mistake to begin with. There is no real equivalent for a spoken mass in the east. There is the Divine Liturgy, sung and chanted, and that's it. Perhaps the problems experienced with the OF are the logical conclusion to many bad choices over an extended period of time.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    CharlesW - I'm with you. I spent 20 years in the Russian Orthodox Church before I was convinced of the Petrine claims. I'd be perfectly happy with the Latin Rite Mass if everything were at a minimum chanted very simply. How the Missa Lecta became the norm in the US particularly would be a fascinating point for research.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    I know. If the liturgy is not sacred, perfect, and untouchable, what's so bad about throwing out all the music? Then what's so bad about re-introducing music that's inappropriate? There have been too many fingers put into the liturgy pie that were attached to unskilled, untalented, and short-sighted cooks.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    CharlesW, you just summed up why I see the "no music Mass" so often put forward here as a disaster. If you ask me, it's the "Petrine Claims" Mary mentions which destroyed the Western Liturgy... when the Pope began to see himself as master over the liturgy. But that's neither here nor there, I'll just keep going to Eastern churches when I get a chance.