Styles of instrumental music in Mass
  • I'm sure this has been discussed to death, and I remember it coming up recently. My wife is a flautist, and as music director, I would like to include her. Much of what she knows is Baroque suites and sonatas. Where do we stand on the appropriateness of dance and secular styles in the Mass? A beautiful Bach siciliano could be lovely on All Souls' Day (unless it is indeed considered a Mass for the Dead with it's attendant solo restrictions), but it is a dance style, though not necessary intended for dancing. Essentially, limiting the repertoire to explicitly religious, sacred styles limits my wife to basically playing nothing she knows, unless a Baroque sonata either explicitly is, or is considered, sacred in origin, even historically. Thoughts or redirects?

  • Conor,

    1) In and of itself, there's nothing which would bar Baroque music from use at the sacred liturgy.

    2) Secular styles, especially when they are identifiable as such, are - by their nature - unsuitable for use during the sacred liturgy. Dignified music which happens to be secular might be used for a concert presented in the church building.

    3) Church composers have borrowed from the secular culture (the so-called "parody" Masses) by baptizing the music, making is suitable for use at the sacred liturgy. For this reason what is called, sometimes, the "My Little Pony" Mass is utterly inappropriate: it didn't get adapted to be made suitable as music, but rather adopted in its original style.

    4) On the traditional calendar, All Souls' Day this year is celebrated on Monday precisely because a requiem can not be celebrated on Sunday. I won't guess what alius cantus aptus might allow in the Ordinary Form, but frequently funerals are celebrated in white, so the common sense of former eras no longer seems to apply. [Please read that carefully. I'm not trying to be insulting.]

    God bless,

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,343
    All Souls Day is indeed a Mass for the Dead in the Ordinary Form also.

    As the Diocese of San Jose notes, the Gloria is omitted:

    Some guidance for the day can be found here:
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    Yes, in the OF All Souls is a Mass for the Dead on a Sunday. No Gloria. And should technically have no instrumental music.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Da-gna-bit, MJM, you coulda said something before I booked the Canadian Brass Quintet to do "Fanfare for the Common Man" for Offertory.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Da-gna-bit, MJM, you coulda said something before I booked the Canadian Brass Quintet to do "Fanfare for the Common Man" for Offertory.

    LOL! I am leaving out the Gloria, of course, since the Ordo prescribes such. The choir and/or cantors will be singing "Come Sweet Death" at Offertory. I may play something subdued as a postlude to keep the chattering down. I resisted the urge to sing, "Father we thank thee who has planted," but remember I am a person who reads the obituaries to see who I won't have to put up with anymore. LOL. The entrance and recessional hymns are resurrection themed.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    CDub, now your idea of the Bach inspired me to keep the Brass, but have them accompany Purcell's "When I am laid." Can it get any better?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
  • How might I go about deciding whether a particular sonata for flute and "piano" is intended for religious use? What other sacred Baroque flute music is available?

    As my wife observed, in those days well-trained musicians would improvise appropriate music for the liturgy, but it thus was rarely written down (especially for anything other than keyboard). The written solos are the best remaining examples of the solo repertoire. Just a conundrum.
  • So, you're wanting to have her as a soloist, or would you be including her as an ensemble member? Have you considered arranging something for her or seeking an arrangement of something sacred, such as the French organ preludes on chant hymns like Sacris Solemniis?
  • Well, I certainly could arrange something, and I'm happy also to have her accompany hymns, as well. I am new in my position and to the area, and while there is a bit of history to the music in the parish, I am essentially rebuilding. There is the whole which liturgical hill to choose to die on, but if I'm introducing new things, I don't want to have something now that I need to remove later, either because I knew it was not exactly correct now or out of ignorance. I also want to involve my wife's musical ability, but most of what she knows is either flashy late-Romantic French or Baroque suites and sonatas. She also only has two months to play before our second child is born, at which point she's out of commission for quite some time. Thus, she really only has the pretty, slow Baroque solos as her repertoire, but it's possible all of it is simply not appropriate for Mass, though it does not sound inappropriate.
  • I will look into the French organ preludes, though. Do you have a particular prelude on Sacris Solemnis in mind?
  • I believe it was by Nivers.
  • Corelli's solo violin sonatas transfer well to flute, almost anything for violin really...
    And as you said, even though a siciliano is a dance style it's heavily stylized in Bach. And honestly how many folks today would recognize the dance? I think most of the Baroque music your wife knows would be acceptable, and I'm only saying this because I understand how time is precious and there's not always a chance to arrange or learn something new.

    Just having a déjà vu moment with this thread I guess...and now I am honestly wondering if there are people out there who would reject a Baroque dance form in church today?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    Instrumental music at Mass? Is Outrage!!!

    (sarcasm alert)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,229
    Sonata da Chiesa
    Sonata for Church
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Is it a dance if you don't know how to dance to it?
    Is a Mass on an aggressively secular chanson illicit if nobody knows or understands the words?
    Is the Bach Siciliano more or less suitable if played by the P & W band?
    Thanked by 2Gavin melofluent
  • Baroque "dances" are perfectly appropriate for church.

    Today, when people think of "dancing" they think of Beyoncee - not a Gavotte or a Pasacaglia.

    It's all about the associations of the music and where it will take people's minds and dispositions.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • well-trained musicians would improvise appropriate music for the liturgy, but it thus was rarely written down

    I believe this refers to keyboard players.

    I really doubt that any musicians, aside from keyboard players, improvised at Mass. And that other instruments only appeared on special feast days - which is why there is little music written for Mass. Back then, the organ was the instrument and its use varied - meaning there were sung liturgical events which it remained silent - such as the Vespers I heard sung in Les Barroux - and some where it was used.

    If the use of instruments was common, there would be written documents that would govern it. Unless the church is not like it is today back then!
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Didn't I read of the Gabrielli boys having a lutenist, one Sir Jamey Hendriques of Claptonshire on Devon, on the "books"? The entry states his compensation rose steadily as his festive improvisations on themes by Monteverdi and Couperin went for more than ten minutes per movement at Vesperes Solemnis(es.)
  • Noel, there was quite a tradition of singers improvising polyphony during the Renaissance. One could argue how much this was true improvisation and how much "head arrangement". And there was chant to keep some kind of structure going.
  • JQ: Did not know this! (but then I was speaking of musicians, not singers.)

    MF: You had me going there, but that is about as credible as J. Hendrix living in the same house that G.F. Handel did...

    It's all about the associations of the music and where it will take people's minds and dispositions. With the development of time machines, we will all have to be MUCH MORE CAREFUL about picking music...
    Thanked by 1ZacPB189
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    I was speaking of musicians, not singers.

    I knew I didn't like you ;oP

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)