Thoughts from Ostermann's "The Case Against the Choral Ordinary in the Ordinary Form"
  • Jared Ostermann's article in the Summer 2015 issue of Sacred Music suggests that "the perspective of the congregation—even if flawed—must be seriously considered, especially in an era when the laity quite often lack a strong liturgical formation" (p. 29). The reference here is to the choral ordinary and its potential to cause the Mass to be viewed by the congregation as "overstuffed with music," thereby "worry[ing], annoy[ing], and inconvenienc[ing] congregants" (ibid.).

    Does this reflect, however, a larger issue? Is there a danger in celebrating the liturgy for Catholics who lack any or nearly any liturgical formation? I understand that the benefits of celebrating the Mass can never be outweighed by any defects associated with (but of course never inherent in) the Eucharist. Still, it is clear that many go to Mass seeking the very wrong thing, and thus at least consciously "get out of it" the very wrong thing, something that itself may cause damage to the soul. (Again, at least subconsciously, the supernatural benefits of the Mass cannot be outweighed).

    I have recently begun work at a new parish, one which will require much liturgical formation before any musical adjustments can be made (and the priest's own desires reflect this understanding, too; he hired me knowing full well my inclinations :). Thus, at a local level, it is imperative that we liturgically form the congregation. Efforts at higher levels to increase formation are also steadily progressing, but we individuals only have so much power.

    So, I return to the original question. Whether we do a choral ordinary or not, is there not a danger to the souls of those present who are not liturgically formed, no matter what music we plan? For participation in the Mass itself demands liturgical formation. I liken the issue to trying to lift more weight than one is capable of lifting, or trying to operate equipment for which you are not qualified. There is an immanent danger of calamity.

    My argument is not to remove the graces of the Eucharist from non-formed Catholics, but rather to consider the ways in which we may most expeditiously and judiciously form the body of the Church liturgically.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I haven't got my SM issue yet, but RStrings I have to ask: Which of these is your idea of a choral Mass?
    Missa Papa Marcelli (PdaPalestrina); Deutsche Messe (Schubert); Missa Solemnis (Beethoven); Mass of the Bells (Peloquin); Missa Oecumenica (Proulx arr.); Missa MR3 (Mueller); Mass of the Angels (Richard Clark); Mass of St. P. Neri (Paul Jernberg)?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    I haven't received SM yet, either, but I am interest in reading Ostermann's article, since I am about to begin teaching my choir Perosi's Missa Pontificalis (Prima).
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,130
    Not wishing to preempt the OP's thoughts, but to answer Melo's question, I think the article in question addressed mainly those choral mass settings that are sung by the choir alone, such as Missa Papa Marcelli, or about anything heard at St. Agnes in St. Paul, MN (explicitly mentioned in Ostermann's article). I think that (particularly modern) choral settings, such as Jernberg or my own for 4-part SATB choir, that are also singable using the melody only and are tailored more for liturgical use are not what Ostermann is talking about, since one of the main points he makes is the usurpation of the congregation's part(icipation) in choral masses goes against the GIRM.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    goes against the GIRM

    Guess we should call up Francis and Palombella in Rome and tell them they're doing it wrong.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I figured as much, Chuck. But the irascible notion that RC PIPs can only function by a hearing just a melody line, and that generally amplified above the level of both congregation and choir, is so repugnant to my geezer sensibilities. I look forward to the article, but as Mahrt always sez "Everything in equal measure." 52 Sundays plus Holydays per year, a couple of choral ones (I've never done one actually ala Mahrt) ain't gonna bust the bank.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,130
    I hear ya, Charlie!
  • All I know is that the phrase ars soporifaciendi is now in my everyday vocabulary. But that's another article altogether. :)
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  • CHG - "one of the main points he makes is the usurpation of the congregation's part(icipation) in choral masses goes against the GIRM"
    Not quite. I point out that the GIRM treats the different parts of the traditional 5-part Ordinary differently. Some are accompanied by an explicit mention of only the choir singing (Gloria), others (Kyrie, Agnus Dei) seem to implicitly allow for the choir alone to sing, and for the Sanctus and Credo there is no implicit or explicit mention that the choir sings these parts alone. I suggest that at least the choral sanctus and credo seem, on the face of things, to go against the GIRM.

    I also point out that Musicam sacram article 16c explicitly deprecates (or "does not permit", depending on translation) the practice of giving the entire ordinary and proper to the choir - this may be what you're referencing here.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    The OF has developed the eschatological-ecclesial symbology of the Sanctus by making a norm of having everyone singing at least parts of it.
    Thanked by 2melofluent Gavin
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 800
    Pope Benedict XVI seemed to think a choral Sanctus was ok.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Even under Francis, the tradition of the choral section of the Credo on the appropriate feast, such as “Et incarnatus est” at Christmas, has survived.

    Immemorial custom would seem to defend a choral Sanctus, even a split Sanctus-Benedictus. The priest recites the anamnesis onward in an audible voice, but the congregation can’t hear it, only the ministers and maybe those closest to the altar. Where I saw this in Europe, the prayer was begun after the Sanctus. Musicam sacram might forbid the all-choral Mass, but it is not followed.
  • Matthew - Musicam sacram only forbids the all-choral ordinary AND proper; it explicitly allows the all-choral ordinary, which would include the sanctus.

    There are certainly some (informed and knowledgeable people) who would point to the GIRM's treatment of the sanctus as forbidding an all-choral sanctus. Others hold that Musicam sacram article 34 supersedes the apparent non-allowance of a choral sanctus in the GIRM. You can read the Dulles article both I and Mahrt reference in our articles: http://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/choralsanctus.pdf. And then-cardinal Ratzinger was fine with the choral sanctus in the book Sing to the Lord. At the same time, other opinions exist; for example that the GIRM in its specificity supersedes a general instruction published two years before the new liturgy with its praenotanda was presented to the church.

    Having read opinions on both sides of the debate, I have not found either side to make a wholly compelling or conclusive case. Frankly, most treatments I have seen seem to start with either a love or a hate of the choral ordinary, and then proceed to construct a legal case either for or against the genre. In the end, this may just be a gray area, in terms of liceity. This is why my article does not tackle the issue of liceity. Rather, the clear purpose of my article is to differentiate between the merely licit and the ideal. Even if it does not conclusively forbid an all-choral sanctus or credo, the GIRM does offer a nuanced treatment of the five Mass Ordinary "movements." The GIRM is the official instruction accompanying our current Novus Ordo liturgy. I believe that the GIRM's differing treatment of these different parts of the Mass is worth considering, and should not be brushed aside with a glib "well, Musicam sacram article 34 says...". I am happy to grant that we CAN have 5-movement choral ordinaries. The question is whether we should invest the time, talent, and money to build parish or cathedral programs around the choral ordinary as some kind of apex of liturgical music. The GIRM is just one indication to me that the choral ordinary cannot be considered ideal in the Novus Ordo, even if it is licit.

    In other words, granted that we CAN have choral ordinaries in the novus ordo, how can the ideal music for the novus ordo clash so clearly with the liturgical instructions accompanying this form of the Roman Rite? I continue to hold that the ideal music - the music we devote the greater part of our effort toward - must spring organically from the liturgy as received in the official liturgical books of our time.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,782
    GIRM is later and more specific legislation, which would in normal terms would mean it supercedes Musicam Sacram to the contrary.

    That said, a Roman sensibility would be to permit an exception to the GIRM norm on occasion but not chronically.
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  • Thank you, JaredOstermann, for your article and subsequent responses here. I have to say that I am quite persuaded to agree with you on the inability to reconcile a general commitment to the choral ordinary for the Novus Ordo Mass. I do think that it can be beneficial in certain contexts (Colloquium, for instance, but also at certain well-formed parishes), and it certainly is a treasure to be maintained by Church choirs, even if it cannot be successfully incorporated into the liturgies.

    I am curious, Jared, what you think of my original post, which was spurred by reading your article. Does it seem like part of the danger of a choral ordinary that you posit stems from a larger danger of allowing people to continue participating in Mass without any liturgical formation?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Jared, I was specifically thinking of Masses in European churches that I have encountered. The Vienna Boys Choir, for instance, sings an Ordinary and a schola sings the Propers. These Masses are rarer, I suspect, because either the Credo is recited or the Gloria (and possibly the Credo as well) is chanted. That scenario seems to be both the result of legislation and the prevailing pastoral approach that the people need to sing those two texts, which is fine. It only becomes ridiculous when the Credo is recited by the people “because reasons” and the Ordinary is otherwise sung.
  • I know that it is common at this point, even in very well-crafted Mass settings, to avoid setting the Creed, but I wonder if we are using the ferial ordinaries as our model for that, even when we intend for our Mass setting to be used on Sundays.
  • stulte
    Posts: 244
    It's a shame that choral settings of the full Ordinary are so seldom sung outside of the EF. There is a spiritual value to listening to them as if one were sitting at the feet of our Lord listening to Him like St. Mary Magdalene. It seems our times are like what happened at the house of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:39) on a macro scale.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,110
    I think it a sad commentary on our liturgical times that we actually debate the validity of a mass ordinary sung polyphonicallly. Can we agree that the greatest of all western music are the mass settings of Palestrina, Mozart, Bach, Haydn, to just name a few? And here are discussing whether it is ever proper to use such music. I am not debating the value of employing settings that the congregation can sing, merely questioning the wisdom of relegating the greatest of our culture to the liturgical dust bin.
  • I haven’t looked at it in years, but I recall that Fr. Ruff’s appraisal of the situation of choral Ordinary settings in the Ordinary Form goes something like this:

    It doesn’t really work, but there’s something not quite right about that.

    I think that’s a good way to look at it. Among the forces that were in play during the formation of the “Novus Ordo” liturgy, the ones who prized physical participation by the congregation over preservation of the actual musical tradition clearly “won the day”. Even if you assert the liceity of such, choral Ordinary settings are now an awkward fit culturally for most parishes.

    The tragedy of that, though, is that, while there is a fabulous repertoire of motets that can easily last a lifetime (gloriously accessible now thanks to CPDL, IMSLP/WIMA, et al.)—and even more if we admit ourselves to partake of music from Protestant traditions—the “crown jewel” of the Roman liturgical music tradition is the polyphonic Ordinary. The fact that the rubrics of the GIRM effectively “cancelled” out this repertoire from its native context probably mattered little to small parishes, but for churches with more musical resources it was the liturgical equivalent of Henry VIII’s sacking of the monasteries for musicians.

    Musicam sacram, of course, itself effectively “cancels out” choral Ordinaries when it “deprecates” the practice of having the choir sing the full Ordinary and Proper—that is, unless yours is a congregation that will actually sing the Proper!

    This being said, I think there are a few contexts where we can “salvage” something from the musical wreckage:

    1) Wedding Masses now include a Gloria. Instead of assigning the singing of it to a congregation of people who, together, likely don’t know any particular setting very well, see if you can arrange a quartet of singers to sing a polyphonic setting. Palestrina “brevis” works admirably here.

    2) The Gloria, of course, is the only movement for which explicit permission is given for the choir to sing it alone. Try exercising that freedom some Sunday feast day. Viadana’s “L’hora passa” Mass has a nice, easy Gloria setting that’s worth learning.

    3) There was permission in “Music in Catholic Worship” to have the choir sing the Agnus Dei alone. “Sing to the Lord” doesn’t reecho that, however, and as the latter is meant to supersede the former, it’s probably shaky ground.

    4) Have an Extraordinary Form Mass for big feasts, and do your choral Ordinaries for those. The ritual really does “accommodate” choral Ordinaries much more readily: I’m not a big advocate for (nor detractor from) the EF, but one really nice thing about it is that there’s very little sense of the “design by committee” that seems in such manifold evidence in the post-V2 liturgy.
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  • Incidentally, I justify graduals at weddings the same way: rather than tasking an untrained, unrehearsed congregation with the singing of a response that they almost certainly will not sing (by either choice or limitation), this is a great time to sing the beautiful and haunting “Uxor tua”. :)
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  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    In a world where the Gregorian Ordinaries are the norm, choral Ordinaries on special occasions like weddings makes a lot of sense. But in our fallen world, a better use of those opportunities might be to introduce Gregorian Ordinaries to the P&W Catholics. You can use choral settings at non-principal Masses where people might come specifically to hear choral singing.
  • RomanticStrings, I believe the model is initiation==>participation==>mystagogic catechesis. In other words, participation leads to, and brings the graces necessary for, formation (we are never perfectly formed in this world). I am well aware of the current lack of lay liturgical formation (although I think sometimes we assume our times are incomparably worse than the past). So my response to your original post is that I see a crying need for liturgical formation, without necessarily seeing a danger for poorly formed people in the liturgy. I guess my question would be - does there need to be a test or some kind of bar you pass before you can participate in the liturgy?
  • ghmus - "I think it a sad commentary on our liturgical times that we actually debate the validity of a mass ordinary sung polyphonically. Can we agree that the greatest of all western music are the mass settings of Palestrina, Mozart, Bach, Haydn, to just name a few? "

    For my part, I'm not debating the validity or even the liceity of a Mass ordinary sung polyphonically. I am questioning whether this genre of music is a good end point, or ideal toward which we should direct our daily efforts and aspirations as church musicians.

    In addition, I can't agree that the apex of western music is the Mass Ordinary genre. Rather, the great composers of the western musical tradition have added to this musical genre in each age. What about the Regina Caelis/Te Deums/Psalms/Motets/Magnificats, etc. of these same composers, to say nothing of symphonies, oratorios, cantatas, and so forth? Palestrinas offertories are also a monument of masterful polyphonic music, for example. Just because music is great (and no question - the great Mass Ordinaries are great) does not mean that it is well-suited for the liturgy.

    I also think it is misleading to say that either Mass Ordinaries will be used liturgically or they will be lost to the Church and the world at large. If anything, Mass Ordinaries turn up constantly at concerts and in recordings these days - in a way they have far greater prominence now than they did in their own day. There is still great potential to feature choral ordinaries in sacred concerts.

    ALL OF THAT said, I wouldn't ever tell people not to use choral ordinaries liturgically. I would just encourage them not to assume that this great music is the greatest we can do liturgically.
  • One more before Sunday naptime...

    Felipe Gasper - "Among the forces that were in play during the formation of the “Novus Ordo” liturgy, the ones who prized physical participation by the congregation over preservation of the actual musical tradition clearly “won the day”."

    This seems like a false dichotomy to me (congregational participation vs. musical tradition). Because right in the current rubrics we have explicit permission for the choir to sing the entrance, offertory, and communion chants, as well as the gradual and the alleluia verse. So it doesn't seem to me that congregational participation displaced the traditional repertoire. Rather, it is the ordering of priorities of congregational vs choral singing that displaced one (admittedly enormous) portion of the choral treasury - the choral ordinary. The idea that the congregation should sing something at Mass certainly predates the Novus Ordo. The idea that the Ordinary is the first major priority for the congregation (after simple dialogues and responses) also predates the Novus Ordo - and is borne out by music history, which shows the ordinary as originally more of a (simple, syllabic, recurring) congregational chant and the proper as the domain of the schola. It is no accident that the first great polyphonic experiments (e.g. Winchester Troper or Magnus Liber Organi) were propers rather than ordinary chants. And now, in spite of great upheaval, the choral Proper is left completely intact in the Novus Ordo.

    FG: "the “crown jewel” of the Roman liturgical music tradition is the polyphonic Ordinary. "

    Here again, I would push back and say that the chant repertoire is the crown jewel of the Roman liturgical music tradition. Polyphony is wonderful too, but nothing compares with chant as a unique repertoire for the liturgy. Also keep in mind that the Church only speaks of polyphony in the documents - without mentioning specific sub-genres of the polyphonic repertoire. In other words, not only is the polyphonic ordinary not the crown jewel, but it is dangerous to equate the polyphonic ordinary with the art of polyphony itself. We can pack the liturgy with polyphony, and even Proper polyphony, without using the polyphonic ordinary sub-genre at all.

    Look, I've never been accused of being an optimist. But there is a time when looking on the bright side helps clarify a way forward. Various liturgical changes historically have brought upheavals in repertoire. Imagine living through the suppression of the sequence repertoire, or the pain felt by French organists such as Durufle when their awe-inspiring improvisational skill in the centuries-old French alternatim and organ mass tradition was suddenly no longer required. I don't mean to downplay the pain and disorientation all of this liturgical change causes. But the duty of the musician is to move forward by crafting artful music that fits the liturgical reality of the time.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,864
    What about the Regina Caelis/Te Deums/Psalms/Motets/Magnificats, etc. of these same composers...
    For the three Catholics mentioned, lesser works is the well advised term (Lassus and Byrd we can discuss), and if one were given Sophie's choice between BWV 232 or BWV 243 would you really need time to think it over?
  • Jared: Thanks for your thoughtful replies!

    I maintain that congregational singing vs. Roman liturgical music tradition is a valid dichotomy—at least for the Eucharist. The chants for the Office are relatively simple and could gainfully be sung by a congregation, but neither the Mass Proper nor the choral Ordinary tradition admits congregational singing to any appreciable degree. In 1967, a mandate that congregations must sing either the Ordinary “or” Proper effectively ended the liturgical use of choral Ordinaries since it is not feasible for the congregation to sing the Proper.

    (And, I tend to think, not even advisable if it were possible, just as how we wouldn’t ask a congregation to recite the Scripture readings together.)

    By “crown jewel”, I meant something more along this line: in 1967, as symphonies are the “crown jewel” in the repertoire of most orchestras, so would choral Ordinary settings have been in a good liturgical choir’s repertoire. Telling capable liturgical choirs to exclude polyphonic Ordinaries but retain chant and motets is rather like telling orchestras that they cannot play symphonies but can still do smaller works like “Scheherezade”.
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  • mahrt
    Posts: 508
    Please don't overlook my reply to Jared in the Summer issue.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • But the duty of the musician is to move forward by crafting artful music that fits the liturgical reality of the time.

    That is it, JO! I think that is what has largely been lacking in so much of what has come in the last 50 years. More than whether it is artful or not, it seems a lot was crafted for some liturgical world that does not match the actual reality of the Church's liturgy.

    Dr. Mahrt, I did not intend for this discussion to address the choral ordinary topic specifically, but I do wish to commend you for a well-crafted reply. I find myself in the lovely position of agreeing with both of you, and not feeling particularly partisan about these particular positions. I believe in the great importance of retaining the tradition of choral ordinaries, but I do understand the need to ensure that it is put into perspective of the larger musical tradition, and the liturgical needs of our day (which unfortunately are in part shaped by the poor liturgical catechesis of our fellow Catholics).

    I suppose the big thing for me is Ostermann's "initiation==>participation==>mystagogic catechesis" model. The choral ordinary seems to be something that is most effective for certain entrenched Catholics in the final stage of his model (whereas non-Catholics can find transcendence in it immediately, perhaps because they are not invested in a particular way of worship). While the initiation stage is achieved largely automatically, and the participation stage is in some places moving forward, I fear that the mystagogic catechesis is far delayed. I guess what I mean is that we should begin tomorrow working to ensure that every Catholic, in every way, is liturgically formed. A full frontal assault. Anything less is a betrayal of our brethren.


  • I continue to be aghast and totally repudiative of this insidious notion that the Gregorian chant masses are beyond what a congregation can sing. This is, to use street patois, 'hogwash'. Some of the Gregorian masses are beyond any but the most talented congregations, but there is no reason at all why most any congregation could not master the likes of Pater cuncta or Lux et origo, or Orbis factor etc., within several months. It already takes this long for them to do a creditable performance of the rubbish that they are learning. When, are we going to stop selling the people short. They are not musical idiots. To the schola, cantor, or choir, belongs the proper, whether plainchant or polyphony. To the congregation belongs the ordinary. The congregation are no longer ignorant and illiterate peasantry, and we need, right now, to stop treating them as though they were. Doing so only teaches and reinforces learned helplessness and ineptitude. If Anglicans can hearitly sing the Cum jubilo mass which appears in the back of 'the 1940' as 'the Missa Marialis', adapted by Healey Willan (I think - or was it Canon Winfred Douglas?) then Catholics can very well do so. I rather believe that those who are always saying 'the congregation can't sing such and such', should more honestly admit that 'I can't teach them that', or 'I don't want to teach them that'.
  • Indeed, MJO, chant ordinaries should be the norm.

    This reminds me: though the GIRM makes a distinction when referring to congregational participation, what shall we make of the emphasis put on the fact that the choir is part of the congregation in the liturgical assembly?


  • An interesting question. There seems to be quite a difference between a formal apprehension of choirs/scholas/cantors in the EF and OF. Rubrics and such of the EF presume a rather more strictly codified arrangement (I think). In the OF we are on less well defined ground, not to mention, possibly, roles. I realise that many will disagree with me, but I do and always have viewed the choir as ministerial and not part of the congregation. In the OF choirs will generally consist of 'laity', but exercise a role rather more distinct that the 'congregation'. Certainly, one of the choir's roles is to support congregational singing, but their more important role is to supply choral propers, anthems and motets, descants, and such, which both glorify God and aedify the congregation, who are, additionally, appropriately awed and inspired by the all-encompassing beauty of all the arts in the courts of the Lord. The choir are a distinct rung in the liturgical ladder. I am genuinely puzzled that so many Catholics seem to be in quandries as to 'what is the role of the choir'. As one who grew up with a well established choral tradition and who had a good part of his training in a cathedral choir (the likes of which really does not exist anywhere in Catholicdom) it is quite confusing that there should be any question about something so self-evident.
    Yes, the choir are 'part of the congregation' in the sense that they are (usually) predominantly 'lay', but their role is as ministers of the liturgy in a way that goes beyond that of the congregation. Yet another of many reasons why they should be vested and 'in choir', which 'choir', if it is not architecturally in a chancel, should nevertheless be in a prominent and distinctive place which, in that church, is 'choir'.
  • I always find it jarring when I see a choir that is not vested (during mass). It sometimes makes mass feel just a bit like a jamboree.

    It has also been my experience that many in the congregation both expect and appreciate that members of the choir behave in a ministerial way. Vesture helps them to play this role, in my opinion.
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  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,505
    Various liturgical changes historically have brought upheavals in repertoire. Imagine living through the suppression of the sequence repertoire, or the pain felt by French organists such as Durufle when their awe-inspiring improvisational skill in the centuries-old French alternatim and organ mass tradition was suddenly no longer required.


    @JaredOstermann How long did it take to suppress the sequence repertoire, it was not overnight!
    1. The Sarum sequences have never been suppressed and are part of that Rite to this day, of course the Sarum Rite gradually fell into disuse because of political influences, the other factor is the priests coming over to say Mass in England during and after the Reformation would have be trained in the Roman Rite.

    2. Many people would of course known the Dominican Rite, as far as I know this Rite always had a limited number of sequences, as did the Roman Rite.

    3. With the large number of sequences, and the large number of usages, it was more or less inevitable that some streamlining of the Liturgy would take place. I suspect that these Rites were not generally suppressed over night. Trent allowed Rites to continue that were sufficiently ancient, the Adam of St. Victor Sequences should not have been affected. I accept that some of the more modern sequences may have disappeared during a period of few years.

    I will not comment on Organ music, I know too little.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,505
    Rubrics and such of the EF presume a rather more strictly codified arrangement (I think)


    @MJO I find the major difference between the EF and the OF is the freedom of the choir. In E.F. land it is normal for the choir / choirmaster to choose the music, with little or no input from the Priest. In the OF the music is more likely to be micro-managed.

    Our Parish priest will quite happily tell his O.F. choir what to do, what to sing etc. While his E.F. schola will only be expected to go over the Intonations he will be expected to sing, just before Mass.

    In the E.F. while we have strictly codified rules such as what Propers we use, and what melodies they are sung to, that we must sing nonsecular melodies, and the language we sing in. We have great freedom with the Ordinary, and motets we sing during Mass.
  • ossian1898ossian1898
    Posts: 142
    From Jared Ostermann:
    I also point out that Musicam sacram article 16c explicitly deprecates (or "does not permit", depending on translation) the practice of giving the entire ordinary and proper to the choir - this may be what you're referencing here.


    Ordinary -and- proper. I read the paragraph. What a horrible instruction.
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  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    Generally speaking, the Choral Ordinary doesn't 'work' in the average parish; but neither does the Gradual and the Alleluia - from the GR - either, and for the same reason: the foundation of the N.O. is not strong enough to bear the weight of such an imposing aedifice.

    And just from reading the varying citations of Musicam Sacram in both articles: it seems to be a self-contradictory and ambiguous document just like most everything else to come from the hierarchy since Lumen Gentium. YMMV
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  • RichardMix - Lesser in size and scope, granted, but not in quality, which is what I'm pointing out. There are plenty of high quality works from great composers that we don't even consider for liturgical use anymore (for example elaborate polyphonic or orchestrated vespers settings), and it's not the fault of the documents. Your example of the Bach B minor Mass is a case in point. Fantastic, yes, but would anyone argue that this is a good liturgical work? Or for that matter the Mozart great C Minor, or the Bruckner F minor...
    But these works are performed more widely and with better quality than the composers could have ever hoped for in their day, so they are not lost to the Church and the world.

    I would also add that propers collections are necessarily more limited in scope - but that is no mark against them in the treasury. It makes sense for Palestrina to compose tons of Masses, but why would he need more than one 5-voice setting of an Offertory? It only comes up in the church year once. These proper projects and collections do have a huge scope; it is just a different kind of scope (setting many texts once, vs. setting one text many times).
  • Salieri -

    I don't think (at least in this respect) that Musicam Sacram is ambiguous. It presents a clear hierarchy of singing roles, in continuity with pre-conciliar documents (congregational ordinary is first priority after simple dialogues/responses). It also is careful not to rule out the choral ordinary, though, as a concession to the choral treasury. If you consider the conciliar call for involving the congregation in the proper as much as possible (borne out in projects like the Graduale Simplex), then it is not inconsistent to imagine that a choral ordinary could coexist with a congregational proper. In other words, I don't see the ban on choir singing both ordinary and proper as intended to destroy the choral ordinary genre. I think, at least for the writers of the document, the congregational proper seemed like a real possibility.

    Now, the weakness in my mind is that in practical reality it is very difficult to come up with a congregational proper repertoire that actually works. This was a call from the church that doesn't make much sense to me, either practically or in consideration of the historical repertoire. The proper was never a congregational phenomenon historically (the Deutsche Messe as a case in point - the words stayed the same each week!). It is very strange for me that after 1965 years the church is suddenly expected to create a congregational proper repertoire. And I'm just not sure that this will ever work well. As Peter Latona put it at the last CRCCM conference, if we simplify propers enough, both textually and musically, that they become conducive to congregational singing, in what sense have we actually retained the propers (a musical-textual phenomenon)? However, the best path forward for proponents of the choral ordinary would be to really work on this idea of congregational propers. IF you can solve that puzzle with your parish, you can make a much better case for the choral ordinary.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,445
    I cannot make a case for the Choral Ordinary, nor can I make a case for Congregational Propers. But, in all honesty, I also cannot make the case for why the Novus Ordo Missae, and all it's accompanying baggage, was needed in the first place.

    All I have to say is this: the liturgical changes after V2 are NOT GOOD. A few over-zealous liturgists, in an attempt to bring us back to a supposed liturgical purity (whatever that means) threw out the baby with the bath-water. The ethos of the Novus Ordo is so completely different, except when celebrated at the mercy of specialist clergy and congregation (such as at Colloquia), that, to be honest, the Graduale Romanum isn't even 'at home' in it. I do feel that the only way to 'fix' the multitude of problems inherent in the N.O. is to revise it considerably or, better, to scrap it all together. I am sorry if this sounds drastic, but the very limited amount of good that has happened in the past fifty years as a result of the liturgical changes could easily have been incorporated into the Roman Rite without destroying it completely. But that is another discussion.
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  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,505
    @Salieri I think we can make a case for the Choral Ordinary... Why can we not have beautiful music in the setting for which it was written? In the Centre of London quite a few Churches and Cathedrals have Choral Ordinaries each week (and Choral Vespers) it seems to work very well as they keep this up year after year.

    Your example of the Bach B minor Mass is a case in point. Fantastic, yes, but would anyone argue that this is a good liturgical work? Or for that matter the Mozart great C Minor, or the Bruckner F minor...


    I am sure I have seen all the above listed at some stage in the music lists.

    O.K. I admit that they do not fit very well with the N.O rubrics the Sanctus particularly. But these Masses are popular and the congregations are more than happy to put their hands in pockets to pay for the professional choirs. In major city centre churches the music can fit quite well with the vast spaces in these churches, let alone the art that covers the walls (of similar age to the music).

    Do these great choral work work in small churches or chapels well not really but we have choral works suitable (Byrd, Hassler etc.) Do we need this every week? NO, Do we have this every Mass? NO. But is it a good idea for smaller places to have the occasional choral Ordinary? YES, there are usually more than one Mass on a Sunday, just go to the other one.

    N.B. I quite agree the Proper should be left in the hands of the choir, UNLESS you have a very competent congregation that wants to sing.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    But, in all honesty, I also cannot make the case for why the Novus Ordo Missae, and all it's accompanying baggage, was needed in the first place.

    Salieri, I'm compelled to believe "we" aren't charged to make the case for the liturgical aftermath of V2. However, SPope Pius X very clearly made a case for some sort of necessary reform in 1903's TLS.
    That said, having read Dobszay and now Bouyer's scathingly accurate and annotated recollection of the "cobbled" and unilateral promulgation of the NO all the way through to 1971, it's not a disordered concern. But, like I said yesterday, we have to move onward and reorient Catholics to the utterly most profound existential reality present in the Mass, and which is valid and licit as the Church cannot commit error.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I have just finished Dr. Ostermann’s article in SM Summer 2015 and am generally in concurrence with many of his conclusions. There are some aspects that I, for one, need clarification and perhaps amplification in order to comprehend all points. The first overall concern, which likely cannot be cogently discussed, is how to speak about “parallel” and “sequential” structures without mentioning specific examples of various eras and genres of “choral ordinary settings?” The “problem” specific to the Sanctus is dealt with thoroughly and accurately I believe. But the discussion of postures during movements having a larger volume of text is also dependent to some extent upon why and how composers choose textual repetitions/reiterations, augmenting textual passages for some sort of mutual exposition of both music and text, subdividing portions of movements in order to introduce new thematic motifs and textures (solo/soli/tutti and such) and other compositional devices. And in that vein, the catechesis called for to be provided a congregation participating in a choral ordinary may not only appear to delay the ritual, but also (in the case of a Sanctus explicitly) exclude the direct and mandated participation of the whole congregation as clearly called for at the end of the preface.
    I agree with Jared’s reminder that a wholly choral rendering of both Ordinary and processional and lectionary Propers is contrary and improper to a clear understanding in #16 of Musicam sacram.
    But, as I have indicated before in this thread and elsewhere, cannot a consortium of very capable, academically sound composers meet (a sort of CMAA version of the Milwaukee Symposium folks at NPM) and review how there can be fully choral portions of new settings that are aesthetically worthy of the choral arts, but also don’t relegate the congregations to perfunctory, even banal melodies interspersed between “the good parts?” I mean how many times should they be expected to chant the incipit of the de Angelis “Gloria” as “their part” of the glorious hymn?
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  • dad29
    Posts: 1,728
    or the Bruckner F minor


    Oh, I dunno. We sang the Bruckner E minor for the V Int'l Church Music Congress in Milwaukee--at one of the Masses in the Cathedral.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,130
    ^^ The Bruckner Masses No. 3 in F minor and No. 2 in E minor are vastly different works. The E minor requires about 40 minutes to perform, employs a wind ensemble of 15 instruments (no strings, percussion, or organ), is scored for 8-part mixed chorus, and uses Gregorian-like melodies in several places, as well as having incipits intoned by a soloist (or priest) for the Gloria and Credo. The F minor, requiring about 65 minutes to perform, is scored for full orchestra, including tympani and organ, mixed chorus and four soloists, and the writing style does not rely on Gregorian-like material.
  • ^^ So, then, the, uh, E-minor would be used on week-days and, um, the F-minor on Sundays and holy days. Right?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,130
    One might as well have the first movement of Mahler's 8th Symphony ("Veni Creator Spiritus") performed at Mass on Pentecost, too.
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  • dad29
    Posts: 1,728
    Great suggestion!, CH!! And at my funeral, please arrange for the Verdi Requiem.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • And, about that Mahler, don't forget ordinations and the consecrations of bishops!
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Gavin
  • Even in late 19th-century Vienna, Bruckner's F minor was criticized for being too long for liturgy (the Credo alone is about 17 minutes). He retorted that it wasn't long enough - "if I'd recorded all my praises of God, it would have been even longer!" (my paraphrase).

    Melo - I"m not sure if this is what you're getting at, but there definitely should be a direct link (and I think there usually is in the inherited repertoire) between the elaborate-ness of the setting and the scale of ritual in a particular place and time. Look at the way many of Mozart's Masses fit the particular restrictions of the Salzburg Cathedral. To take the example of choral propers, a small parish might have a 2' entrance procession, maybe 4' offertory, 5' communion. Composing propers for that scale of ritual would be vastly different than composing them for a place where offertory is 7' on average and communion 8 or 9.

    That is why the true ideal is not necessarily pervasive music from the past (with the exception of the one specific repertoire the Church truly hands us - the chant repertoire); rather, the ideal is for composers to create new, high quality settings specific to their place and time. I think some people dream of a time when Palestrina, Byrd, et. al (maybe the Viennese classic composers, depending on taste) are pervasive throughout the Church. While I would definitely prefer that to the current situation, my real dream would be to see a time like the time those great composers lived in. In other words, a time when church musicians around the world, at least at large churches and cathedrals, are continually crafting music of great integrity and lasting value - music specifically suited to their particular performing forces and churches. For centuries it was taken for granted that "church musician" (or for that matter "court musician") meant a person tasked with crafting music as well as performing the works of other composers. A musician was expected to create, not merely to perform existing repertoire.
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