women singing the propers - arguments and documents supporting the practice
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    I would love to see any documents or arguments supporting women singing the propers of the Mass (in an EF context of course).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    Women singing Propers in EF. No! Women be home having kids, cooking, and cleaning house. Was it women singing Propers in 19th Century Russia? It was not. Is outrage!!!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,369
    Aw, the heck with it. Women prefer to play the tambourine anyway. If you can find any good tambourine propers I will sing and play. Otherwise you guys can just do everything yourselves.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    Tee hee hee LOL
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,894
    Nuns/Sisters sing the Proper/Ordinary of the Mass. Nuns/Sisters are Women. Therefore Women sing the Proper/Ordinary of the Mass.

    Unfortunately that's Logic, and many of the amateur rubricians who dig up things by Pius X and take them out of context don't think logically.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    Musicae sacrae, 1955:

    74. Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough choir boys, it is allowed that "a group of men and women or girls, located in a place outside the sanctuary set apart for the exclusive use of this group, can sing the liturgical texts at Solemn Mass, as long as the men are completely separated from the women and girls and everything unbecoming is avoided. The Ordinary is bound in conscience in this matter."

    So put the mixed choir in a distinct space with men on one side and women on the other side, and tell the women to stop pinching the men.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 901
    Helpful forum discussion here and article by Jeffrey Tucker here.
    Thanked by 2Ben Yanke CHGiffen
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,127
    The principal misunderstanding had to do with the term "choir." Before Pius XII, "in choir" was reserved to males (as was 'altar-server' until JPII.) Pius XII changed that, allowing women to sing "in choir" instead of requiring boys for the S & A parts. Although it was a somewhat technical legislative re-write, Pius XII simply approved what had been going on for years: mixed-voice (SATB) choirs.

    Chonak's reference is the correct one.

    N.B.: nothing in that cite precludes women from singing the Propers; further, the logical extension of #74 is that 'if there are not enough men' then women (or girls) may sing the liturgical texts.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,369
    Now THAT"s a tambourine song!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    Like the Weather Girls. Those ladies can sing!
  • Documents: what Chonak said

    Arguments, off the cuff:
    1) five propers/ mass is hard work for volunteer singers. Dividing the labor can help.

    2) unlike altar serving, a large part of the work involved in singing in a schola is... scholastic, in that it requires education. We educate girls and women, and have for a long, long time. Often they are educated along with boys and men, sometimes not.

    3) perhaps the greatest motivator for me personally to train girls and young women is that it fosters vocations to religious life, and we are sorely in need of nuns.

    4) girls and women are able to give great glory to God through their singing of the liturgical texts.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    Ex 15:19-20
    For the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea on them, but the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea.
    Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.
    Miriam answered them, "Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    Was this Miriam properly covered so EF man could not see naked elbow and get aroused with impure thoughts? Did she sing Propers?

    Kidding, of course. I can't see any rational reason for restricting Propers to men. Priesthood yes, since there are valid theological reasons for it, but not the singing of Propers. In many parishes today, if you restricted singing, reading, and altar serving to men, you wouldn't have anyone doing those jobs.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    Are we to understand, then -- speaking only in the context of the TLM, of course -- that women are now, to borrow a phrase, to be "ordinary" singers in church? The documents of the time granting permission for women to sing, such as T le S and Musicae Sacrae, always speak in grudging terms about what might be permitted " where it is impossible" to have men sing. Only in these "extraordinary" cases, it seems to follow, can women be allowed to sing.

    Is that a correct understanding, then? Is it always the preferred option -- or indeed, mandatory when at all possible -- to have an exclusively male choir?
  • Mark, you have a point.
    As far as the "on the ground" level, I wonder about EF communities where women sing the propers,
    1) have any problems of indecency arisen?
    2) are men pushed aside in any way?
    3) are women agitating to be servers or priests?

    I can't imagine an affirmative answer to any of the above... but I'm willing to learn.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,454
    Happy to report from the ground here, Mary Ann, that we have no problems like that in our EF mixed schola. [Hope the men don't find out I said this, but I find that's it's usually the men who have trouble reading the neumes and staying on pitch. Maybe I'm biased, but the women (and girls) seem far more adept at chant.]

    It's also very nice having a mixed schola since the options for mixing it up---alternating between verses or singing with all the men on one thing, or the women on another, or all together are so much greater.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw
  • I wonder if the work of Justine Ward and her collaboration with Solesmes was looked on as disobedient or scandalous in any way at the time? Maybe it was?

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    Tell those singing women they are welcome at my place anytime. :-)
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,894
    What about Concilliar and Post-Concilliar Documents? They apply to the EF, too, because the EF is part of a living Tradition; it's not a museum piece to be celebrated 'As I remember it in my childhood'.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    I don't know about your particular neighborhoods, but in mine it is so difficult to get people (especially men) to commit to working for Christ that anyone who is willing to sing is welcome to help my schola serve the mass.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,755
    I'll play Devil's Advocate here - I think propers should be done by men exclusively. We have enough men to sing them, and they do a decent job. The wimminfolk in my choir still have plenty to do - sing the Ordinary, sing motets (we do a lot of SA from Lassus's Bicinia) and alternate verses with the men at Vespers. Does that make me a chauvinist liturgical stick in the mud? I guess. But I've never had problems with the men in my choir, in which I seemed to have lucked out.

    But to clarify - are we talking about men and women singing together on the same proper or assigning the Introit and Offertory to men, and Gradual/Alleluia to women, for example?

    Further, at what point does "not enough" become "enough"? If you had enough men who could sing proficiently, would you still recruit the ladies into your choir?

    And yes, I am a founding member of the CMAA Chapter of G.R.O.S.S. - Get Rid of Sloppy Sopranos
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    are we talking about men and women singing together on the same proper or assigning the Introit and Offertory to men, and Gradual/Alleluia to women, for example?

    Both, though the sound of split choirs can be very nice.
  • epmurphy
    Posts: 4
    Well in that case, Stimson, I'll have to put myself down as a founding member of G.R.A.B. (Get Rid of Atonal Basses) and G.R.O.U.T. (Get Rid of Overconfident, Underachieving Tenors).

    On a more serious note, though, I do think that this is an area where necessity and local customs have always trumped and will probably continue to trump capital-T Tradition. Perhaps it can be argued that if you live in a best-case-scenario parish with a group of skilled and enthusiastic male singers you can have them singing the propers exclusively, but I would much rather have a beautiful choir of mixed voices than a hesitant and unenthusiastic group of men mumbling their way through the propers.
    Thanked by 2BruceL mrcopper
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,454
    Ahem. As President of WANGH (Without Altos Nothing Good Happens), I propose that mixed scholas singing the G.R. Propers is a most enlightened concept.

    Practically speaking, I've found that having a range of voice types helps to achieve a good blend, and having ALTO voices in particular helps considerably in connecting the upper and lower registers of voices singing chant.

    Our cantrix has a lovely, vibrato-less, clear, pure soprano voice and intones most of the propers and sings the verses on the Introit and the Communion antiphons. My husband usually intones the Gradual and the Alleluia, and he and I sing the Alleluia verse together since we have more time to practice together than the others. Nothing is more fun than singing that Alleluia verse with my DH. After singing the propers together for four years, I can follow his lead intuitively and somehow it works.

    Actually, the SSPX in France regularly employs mixed scholas at their TLM's, so even they, as hard line as they are, are more progressive at least in this area than some Latin Mass folks in the U.S. : )
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    CMAA needs to consolidate those fine organizations with what we have in California, all of which I founded with the counsel of francis, Noel and CharlesW-

    Directors In Solemn Testament Undertaking (the) Retirement (of) Basses Exhibiting Dumbness (DISTURBED)

    Fellowship (of) Lovers (for) Altos With Large Expanse (of) Sartorial Sound (FLAWLESS)

    General' Nullifiers Institutionally Granted (to) Harass Tenors (who) Believe (their) Own Idolatry (and) Lore (and) Stories (G' NIGHT BOILS)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,666
    Behold... all things are made NU.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,894
    But the SSPX in France is too liberal for most TLM-ers in the US.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,454
    That's precisely what attracts my husband and me to their way of celebrating the EF, Salieri. (With all necessary caveats, of course. We do not endorse in any way the extra-eccelesial attitude and actions of the SSPX, etc., etc.)

    My husband who was in the SSPX until he was about 18, claims that Msgr. Lefebrve was never a hard-liner on the Mass. He remembers as a young boy hearing one of the hardline (now sedevacantist) American SSPX priests complain of how he had said to Msgr. Lefebrve, "If we accept the 1962 Missal, what's to stop us from accepting the 1965 Missal?"

    And my husband never forgot the answer Msgr. Lefebrve gave the priest: "If that's all they were asking us to do, we would do it."

    So he learned right then and there that there was a divergency in thinking between the Americans and the French and he made up his mind that he preferred the French way of thinking-- with all necessary conditions, of course, as it better reflected the mind of the Church.

    If Pope Benedict was so clear in his teaching that the two forms of the Roman rite should inform one another and there should be "a liturgical reconciliation" between them, the question can in all honesty be asked, "Which approach toward celebrating the EF is closer to the mind of the Church and the original Liturgical Movement before it was "hijacked"---the French traditionalist praxis where nearly everyone sings or says the responses, or that very large segment of the American traditional praxis where generally the choir makes the responses, or in the Low Mass, where only the altar boys make the responses?

    Or, to put it a final way, what would most people coming from the Novus Ordo be better able to relate to:

    A) the vibrant sung Mass from St. Nicolas du Chardonnet at Paris which is well-known on YouTube, or

    B) the silent Low Mass which a sizable number of American traditionalists seem to prefer?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,911
    Epmurphy, but atonality is part of he fun! What would uncle Schoenberg say?
  • Another, practical, reason to include women in the singing of propers- it might be bad publicity.

    What I mean is that more universal types of trads usually find it odd and and tend to eschew (often American) communities as being needlessly narrow. I've had Catholics from Holland, Kenya, Poland, Mexico, and France tell me this is a litmus test for them. They express a reluctance to join a EF community with the practice of excluding women for (what they see as) no good reason.

    I'm afraid some of it can be chalked up to WAMTTA!
    We are more traditional than anyone! And don't forget it!

    Misplaced zeal, some might call it. Whereby EF communities STF.
    Shoot themselves in the foot.

    The weird thing is when OF communities- and colleges!- follow this practice. See WAMTTA, above, perhaps...
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JulieColl
  • And, as a high soprano, I have to concede Melo and Julie's observations regarding choral altos (especially mezzo babes) singing chant-
    Alto loveliness trumps all
    Thanked by 1Jenny
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    I think many problems in U.S. traditional Catholicism can be chalked up to the influences of Calvinism, Jansenism, and Irish spirituality. I wouldn't wish any of those on my worst enemy. LOL.
  • Take out the Irish bit and I agree, W.

    We were simply too crushed for too long by the Brits to have the brilliant liturgy that was our right. Then we got used to it, isolated and persecuted as we were, and mistakenly (though understandably) let it define us.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    So far the responses here seem to hinge on people's feeeelings (whoah-oh-oh feeeeeelings) ...
    Or, to put it a final way, what would most people coming from the Novus Ordo be better able to relate to

    ... and, of course, on what's popular:
    Another, practical, reason to include women in the singing of propers- it might be bad publicity.

    Is that how the Church makes determinations on the liturgy? Or on anything else? (And what then if people can "relate to" women priests, and the all-male priesthood is "bad publicity"?)
  • Again, point taken, Mark.
    Perhaps what you're missing is that the Church also decides some liturgical matters through common practice.

    Like girls and women chanting propers, which is a far cry from agitating for the impossibility of women "priests". Oh, the silliness! Do you have a problem with nuns like St. Hildegard and St. Gertrude? Justine Ward? Might you be able to answer some of the "on the ground" questions I asked earlier?

    When the girls and women I train start agitating to be servers and priests, I'll reconsider. Until then, I don't see any good reason not to educate them in the propers. So far, the fruit has been several young ladies discerning vocations, and several others wanting to pursue music degrees. Same with the teen guys. That's fine fruit, by anyone's standard.

    The fruit of excluding girls women from singing propers? I don't see it. Going further- Scholas should not be men's clubs, like (what can be) the fine practice of a hunting club or smoking club. Scholas that turn into clubs trivialize the work they do. If one wants to be part of a men's group of chanters, one should enter religious life, and not direct frustration at one's missed vocation by excluding girls and women outside of a monastic setting. That is neither true charity nor chivalry.

    Boys and men are plentiful in the program I lead. Men outnumber women in the adult choir, and have for some time. We learn a lot together, and then I can assign most of the propers to different groups, with good result.
  • Ben, you had to know this would happen. It's kind of a recurring pimple.
    What are your thoughts on the matter, anyway? I'd be interest to know how you weigh this issue.
  • And Mark, your feeeeeelings are based on your interpretation of the relevant legislation.
    The actual and sometimes ancient allowance of most of Catholicism differs with your feeeeeelings.

    So perhaps your interpretation, and the application if it, needs to be reevaluated.

    Do you direct a schola or sing in one?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    The decision about whether the conditions for a mixed choir are met is a liturgical decision, and therefore up to the pastor of the church (or whatever priest has responsibility for the TLM celebrations). Often he will delegate it to the music director. Elements in the decision include the repertoire to be performed, the availability of singers, their skill and experience levels, their need and availability for rehearsal, and perhaps other elements. It's a prudential judgment.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen kenstb
  • hilluminar
    Posts: 111
    I think women not singing propers has something to do with the fact that women represent the Bride of Christ, the Church. They therefore sing what is common to the whole assembly of the Church, which is the Ordinaries and responses to the priest.
    The Propers change each week and therefore are not what is "common" to the whole assembly of the Church. They are "in contrast" and are therefore better represented by men.

    I have to agree with StimsonInRehab. Also, if you have only one man to chant the Propers, but he chants proficiently and well, that would constitute enough men to chant the Propers. An occasional motet is fine for those women who want to sing more than just the Ordinary.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • An occasional motet!
    Liturgical stinginess, and condescending anti-chivalry at its finest- lol!

    What do you think women, brides of Christ, in a convent do? Did you think this through? More silliness.

    I'm curious- do you lead or sing in a schola that sings at least once a week? Your "one man singing the propers is sufficient" theory would not work well in practice. Supposing that one single singer gets sick, called away on business, goes on vacation, or moves- and he will do at least one of those things in any given year- what do you do?

    This is where prudential judgment and formation of an actual schola- or a few of them- is needed for liturgical stability in a community.

    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • Prudential, Chonak.
    Yes, indeedy.

  • Does anyone, anywhere really fear even tiny numbers of women in EF communities nudging themselves into the sanctuary and pining to be ordained? It's truly hilarious! I would wake up my whole house if I thought of it another second...

    The only picture I can imagine is Kathy with her tambourine ungraciously clanking on the seminary gates.

    Kathy- how could you?????
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,225
    Another ground report, from the TLM in London, England... N.B. Our group of Choirs sing in 4 churches each week, with another monthly.

    1. The vast majority of the PIPs have no knowledge of Sacred Music Legislation.
    2. The majority of the PIPs enjoy listening to the chant and occasional polyphony.
    3. Up to a third of our PIPs do not believe in Congregational singing.
    4. Up to Half of our PIPs will join in with their parts of the Mass, this varies widely between the Churches. We also sing a wide range of the chant Ordinaries...
    5. Our Priests are generally happy for us to make all the decisions, (we only occasionally get requests to sing certain ordinaries.)
    6. Most of our choirs are mixed, although we have one ladies only choir (Schola Sanctae Scholatisticae), we also have one schola that is generally male only because they regularly sing in Choir (i.e. from the sanctuary).
    7. Our choirs usually have more men than ladies, although the ladies can out number the men on a regular basis.
    8. Around once a month we sing polyphonic Propers / Motets.
    9. A very small number of PIPs object to the ladies singing the Propers, but strangely are more than happy for the Ladies to alternate or even be cantrix for the Ordinaries.

    While I prefer singing in choir (vested), the possibilities offered by mixed choirs are an excellent consolation. While we mostly use male cantors vs mixed choir, we find alternating between men and women is always very popular with our PIPs, and our Ladies have excellent voices. When alternating the Ordinaries we find it is better for the Ladies to cant, with the men joining in with the congregation. When we do it the other way the PIPs seem to stop singing to listen!
    Also Polyphony is so much easier with a mixed choir.

    As for the legislation this was written in another time, and so does not read very well to modern eyes.
    In those days now many churches had the men and women sitting on separate sides of the church?
    How many choirs sang in choir i.e. from the sanctuary?

    While we may worry about such things it appears not to be a big deal in our TLM communities here.
  • More reason to get to London- 4 choirs working together? Fantastic. Great detail of choir practices, thank you.

    Two of our sons are named for English martyrs- St. Thomas More and Bl. William Andleby. Keep it going in England! I'm really encouraged to hear of your success.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    I have a children's schola for 6-9 year olds, however we always refer to it as the boys schola and the girls schola, the children naturally gravitate towards their own gender.
    We do Eucharistic Adoration, and at first I had a rota with all the children on it to help set up the altar. However I feel we should still be encouraging men only acolytes, and that means starting with boys only altar servers. So I talked it over with the girls schola. I mentioned how god might be calling some of the boys to be priests, and learning how to set up the altar was part of that training, and might help them discern their vocation. Then I asked for comments, and was there any way we could help the boys? The girls, after discussion, agreed that it was a good idea for the boys to be in charge of preparing the altar, and the girls would each light a candle at the shrine of our Lady, and pray for some 'special intention'.
    They all seem happy with the arrangement, and no one feels left out.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,755
    I would like to chime in again with a few comments -

    1. Our community is not part of the SSPX.
    2. Our community is not one of those unfortunate "Low Mass Without Hymns" that abounds in the tradosphere today. We are dedicated to music in the liturgy.
    3. We sing fairly regularly, and we sing a mix of chant, hymns, and polyphony.
    4. We have had ladies singing propers before in our church.
    5. As I've said, women are indispensible when it comes to the singing of the ordinary, as well as the singing of Vespers, extra chants during mass, and motets, many of which they do themselves.
    6. All the same, we now have the men sing the propers alone, since we are trying to be faithful to the writings of Pius X. Yes, we know that there are documents after Tra Le which make allowances, but even those documents take it as granted that male scholae should be encouraged.

    Musica Sacra, no. 74Where it is impossible to have schools of singers or where there are not enough choir boys, it is allowed . . .

    Sacrosanctum Concilium, par. 115 "Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training.”

    Dr. Wilson, in regards to your three questions which you think are rhetorical -

    1. I have seen a friendship between two dear friends of mine disintegrate over their affections for a female choir member. Nothing of the surreptitious bottom-pinching sort, but the temptation is still there, and things of this sort have happened.
    2. I have sung with TLM parishes where the throng of what can best be called the "Teen Girl Squad" leads to a general apathy among the men of singing at all. I mean, what dude would be caught dead singing "Bring Flowers to the Rarest"?
    3. Regarding whether or not women singing the propers have the urge to join the priesthood, does your average young girl serving as an altar server really have a innate desire to join the priesthood? No. Does that mean that it should be encouraged?

    Again, I will say that I have no problem with the idea of multiple scholae being formed at a certain church - indeed, it would help enrich the liturgical life of a parish - but, ceteris paribus, if we have a competent number of men who can sing the propers, and we do, we would just as soon have the men sing the propers.

    I apologize if my thoughts on this subject paint me as some philistinic gynophobe. I promise that I'm not, at least consciously. I'd like to think we agree on 95% of what's being said here; especially regarding using music to foster vocations. But the words of Pius X should not be brushed aside, I think, without due consideration.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,755
    Alas, also, I feel my G.R.O.S.S. reference was misunderstood . . .
    307 x 300 - 33K
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • 5. As I've said, women are indispensible when it comes to the singing of the ordinary, as well as the singing of Vespers, extra chants during mass, and motets, many of which they do themselves
    You've left out the part about how they can work in the fields, take a moment's break, give birth, and go right back to work again!
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,475
    You've left out the part about how they can work in the fields, take a moment's break, give birth, and go right back to work again!

    ...and keep their heads covered as a sign of humility and submission. :-)
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,755
    Sheesh, I say I prefer men only to chant the propers and all of the sudden I feel like my user name is Petruchio1903.

    And don't get me started on veils!
    Thanked by 1JulieColl