Easy polyphonic Masses
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,191
    I conduct a smallish (about 20 singers) amateur choir that sings SATB hymns very well, and has a little experience with chant hymns and the JD Mass, but only minimal experience with Latin polyphony--and most of this is 19th c., out of the St. Gregory Hymnal.

    I'd like to teach them a Renaissance-era, very classical polyphonic Mass for Easter. I will be "shopping" on CPDL, but would be grateful for some direction. What are some easy-to-learn, enjoyable, Easterish, accessible (you get the idea) Mass settings?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Do I have to say it? Byrd, Mass for 3 Voices. Some Josquin is relatively simple, same with other Byrd Masses. Really it seems to me that once you get a handle on the style, it's just a matter of selecting one.

    Look at the book of trios on musicasacra.com to get experience with polyphony as well. Or the Lassus Bicinia. In short, don't ask for advice... get out there and look!!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    In short, don't ask for advice... get out there and look!!

    If that's case we might as well shut down the discussion board and go our own ways. Not all of us have advanced degrees in polyphony or decades of experience directing scholae and choirs. We turn to this board precisely to get advice from those who do.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Well my point is that "everyone" does the Byrd Mass for 3 voices, and the Mass for 4 voices, and so on. But it's so much more rewarding to get out and explore the available repertoire. The Mass ordinaries do not differ significantly in style from the motets that are available, so it seems to me a more logical path to gain experience in polyphony and then pursue any of the thousands of renaissance (and other period!) Masses than to just take the "easy route" of a progression of Masses.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,191
    Yes, I'm looking for specific, concrete suggestions. Preferably SATB. Thanks!
    Thanked by 1SteveOttomanyi
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    One might start here: http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Category:Masses Also, check your local university library. I found in mine some excellent collections of renaissance, baroque and medieval Masses.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,191
    Gavin,

    Those are not specific suggestions.

    "My choir has had a lot of success with x y z" is the kind of suggestion that would be helpful here. Thanks, though.
  • Relatively easy SATB Masses:

    Missa super Dixit Maria (Hassler)
    Missa secunda (Hassler)
    Missa brevis (Palestrina)
    Missa sine nomine (Palestrina)
    Missa brevis (Andrea Gabrieli)
    Missa L'Hora passa (Ludovico Viadana)
    Missa octavi toni (Orlando di Lasso)
    Thanked by 1SteveOttomanyi
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,191
    Thanks very much, Daniel--Kathy
  • Hans Leo Hassler- Missa (Dixit Maria) I don't see why its Advent connection prevents its usage.
    Byrd 4 voices is less problematic (IMO) for real SATB with women. Byrd 3 vc. I've always thought of as CT/T/B.
    I believe Aristotle's website should have a complete registry of Ordinaries in addition to Propers.
    A modern setting by Fr. John Schiavone, Holy Family Mass, has some polyphonic elements that seem to be purposeful nods to both classic polyphony and even organum.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I have performed all the Masses mentioned by Mr. Page except the Palestrina "Sine Nomine." The two Hassler, the Gabrieli and the Viadana are the easiest in my opinion.
  • Somehow Byrd and easy don't seem to go together in my mind. A trio of which I'm part worked for the better part of a year on the 3V.
  • I'm not so sure that Josquin Masses are easy. Check the ranges, even transposed. Palestrina seems a bit easier due to the many sections of homorhythm and the transparent polyphony. Dan's suggestions are good ones.
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    " Well my point is that 'everyone' does the Byrd Mass for 3 voices"

    Oh dear, I feel so out of the loop....

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I'd like to teach them a Renaissance-era, very classical polyphonic Mass for Easter. I will be "shopping" on CPDL, but would be grateful for some direction. What are some easy-to-learn, enjoyable, Easterish, accessible (you get the idea) Mass settings?

    This is a very good question. The problem is that the easiest LINES to sing and memorize are TRUE (unaltered) Renaissance lines. But, often, those Masses are very long. So, people have tried to make "simplified" Masses, but these can sound...19th century.

    I think your question OUGHT to be the starting place for a site like Chabanel Psalms, where people post easy, short, nice polyphonic Masses.

    I am hoping and praying that a site like that soon gets created.

    IN THE MEANTIME, I think you should investigate the numerous Masses here:

    Victoria Masses WITH AUDIO FILES and practice midi files

    Also, you might look at the Gloria here: Paschal Gloria SATB ("Paschal Gloria" on the left side)

    and audio sample here

    and you can get a CD that has this piece here
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    "But, often, those Masses are very long"

    Viadana's Missa L'Hora Passa is extremely concise as is the Lassus Missa Octavi Toni.
  • We faced a similar issue for this Christmas and opted for Byrd 3 and there were truly only 3 voices. There is a transcription on CPDL that takes the original Tenor line and transposes it up an octave for Soprano, the assumption being you can always find some. We sang it S-A(CT)-B and learned it in a month. One voice had no experience in polyphony, one limited. Go for it!!!
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    "But, often, those Masses are very long"

    True. They often are. And so the fact is, most Renaissance polyphony will remain unsung because very few pastors will stand for a six-minute Kyrie, an eight-minute Gloria, etc. Hearing them, congregations would rightly be confused: is this the Mass or a concert?

    For better or worse, listening and liturgical habits are accustomed to shorter forms. This does not mean shorter forms have to be less beautiful or expertly written. On the contrary, they have to be more!
  • Some additions to Daniel Page's list:

    Missa Aeterna Christi munera - Palestrina
    Missa Il bianco e dolce cigno - Stefano Bernardi (not on CPDL)
    Missa "Da Cappella" (1641) - Monteverdi
    Missa O quam gloriosum - Victoria
    Mass for 4 Voices - Tallis (awkward voice ranges, but worth doing)

    Lassus also wrote some masses "da Feria" (for weekdays - no Gloria or Credo) which are very short - like his Missa Secundi Toni which is on CPDL - but they're not the most interesting musically. Unfortunately I don't see any on CPDL.

    Sam Schmitt
  • Not necessarily for Kathy's purposes, but for those desiring three-part polyphonic Mass settings, two SAB (or ATB) settings were written recently by Christoph Dalitz. The links will take you to descriptions and PDF downloads of each setting:

    Missa Tribus Vocibus (1988) (KGSA)
    Missa Salve Regina (2008) (KGSA)

    I have not looked at the latter, but the first one seems accessible enough both in vocal range and rhythm.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    rich_enough

    I'm delighted to hear that Lasso wrote Masses for weekdays. My library just acquired his complete works (you would not believe the irony of this), and I am setting off to see what they're like.

    Incidentally, should "not the most interesting musically" be a prime concern? If these are even "mildly interesting" (assuming that "interesting" is the only index of quality, which it is not), they might serve a very real need.

    When trying to create a new liturgical culture, I think there is a very real need for levelled steps: chant, diaphony, fauxbourdon, simple polyphony, chorale, more advanced motets, big polyphonic Masses, etc. There can be excellence at each step, from simple to complex.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    I think that musically interesting should be one of the criterion for selecting a Mass. It might make it more appealing to the listener and help the cause of sacred music. Moreover, there's a reason why the Masses that David Page mentioned are performed more frequently--they're more accessible for modern listeners.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 655
    Well, how do you mean "musically interesting"? Interesting to the choir? Interesting to the hearer? Interesting to the hearer who has never ever heard a Renaissance piece of music in his life, much less a Mass, and honestly thinks that the Renfair guy playing "Blowing in the Wind" is performing period Elizabethan music?

    I'm not saying "Pick something yawnsome". But I am saying that what's old hat to somebody who went to music school or has a subscription to Early Music of the Month Club is not likely to be boring to somebody with no reference point. Short, melodic, and punchy is probably what's interesting to them.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I think we can all agree that, in your average parish, a perfectly sung Mass Ordinary in four parts, with smooth voice-leading and intelligent setting of text, is greatly preferable to something that is merely "musically interesting," especially if the latter is more attempted than confidently achieved.

    I'm reading Lasso's "falsobordoni" this evening. If "well-written" is any longer a criterion in our trivial and chaotic age, they are an order of magnitude more interesting than what is offered on a typical Sunday in my neighborhood. No offense.
  • Mark P.
    Posts: 248
    "a perfectly sung Mass Ordinary in four parts"

    I couldn't agree more. I'm thinking of old stand-bys like Vito Carnevali's Missa Rosa Mystica or Roger Wagner's Mass in Honor of St. Francis. Great compositions? No. Achievable by an amateur choir? Yes. Moreover, they build confidence among the choir members that they're able to sing something well.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,191
    Thanks very much for the suggestions.

    Someplace to start--exactly what we need.I'm leaning towards Lasso's Missa octavi toni. It looks brief, and it sounds beautiful.