Needless repetition in the OF
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I've often heard it alleged that the 1962 Missal had "needless repetitions" of text, greetings, and the like, and that these represented a kind of ritualistic accretion that Bugnini et al wished to eliminate from the Roman rite.

    History delights in irony. Today, the 1970 Missal is falling victim to what can be described (more justly than before) as thoughtless, needless repetition. This time, the repetitions derive from the comparative chaos of liturgical practice. For example:

    1. The responsorial Gloria. *sigh* I know there is plenty of historical precedent, but the settings I have heard alter the text, which is illicit. Some of the melodies actually sound "silly." All of them involve repetitions that needlessly lengthen the moment. All of them make it very easy for congregants to tune out when it is not their turn to sing (alas) the same damn thing, over and over.

    > Instead, intone the Gloria. Sing the Gloria straight through, distributing certain sections to the congregation, and certain sections to the choir/schola.

    2. Our congregation appears to know at most three simple Alleluias. Obviously, we know them by heart. Do we really need to hear the cantor sing them entirely before we respond? No.

    > Intone the Alleluia, as of old. If the novelty of the tripartite Alleluia must be retained, try some of the settings from the Graduale Simplex.

    3. Out of apparently brainless novelty, the Responsorial Psalm refrain was repeated twice in its entirety this morning, every time it was sung. This repetition was composed (there was a deceptive cadence at the half). It wasn't a short text, either. The effect of this turned the RP into a little song-fest, not "antiphonal psalmody." (The verse melodies were ludicrous.)

    > Parishes offering the OF should use the Chabanel Psalms instead.

    3. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei, like the Alleluia, were melodies we have heard a million times before. There is simply no need for the cantor to sing them in their entirety before we respond.

    > The Sanctus and Agnus should be intoned, as of old.

    4. The "Great Amen" is frequently a ridiculous set-piece novelty, sung in its entirety by the cantor before the congregation. What is wrong with a simple congregational Amen, no cantor involved? If it is sung recto tono (and on a common tone), the choir could put a halo of harmony around it. Lovely.

    It would be one thing if these repeated sections were difficult or unusual. They aren't. They usually involve trivial, silly, or well-known melodies. If you eliminate their needless repetition, you will make the Mass less like the experience of hearing someone insist ad nauseaum on something painfully obvious to everyone else.

    Moral of the story: the OF is falling into needless repetitions and stylistic accretions that have nothing to do with essentials. If the goal of the OF is "noble simplicity," prune them ruthlessly away.
  • Totally agreed. Ban the entire "Psalms for the Church Year" GIA collection entirely. I have begun to sing only one iteration of the Memorial Acclamation and Amen lately, just out of principle.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,083
    I wondered if you were stuck with the Haugen psalm that I had to use from Ritual Song today. It was wretched. However, everything on Chabanel isn't a jewel, either. I have heard a few of those that just sound awkward, although most are pretty good. I am hoping for someone to put together a good psalter when the revised Grail is published. After living with Ritual Song, I have concluded that buying a "do everything" hymnal is a mistake. The result is a hymnal/psalter/readings set that doesn't do anything well. The memorial acclamation and amen only get an introductory organ chord in my church, so repetition isn't a problem.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The repetition of an antiphon for the congregation is "needless"? I disagree with that, although I think the case for it is so obvious it needn't be brought up. I can see if you use the same familiar Alleluia, but I typically have a good 8 or so in a parish at a time; they need refreshers.

    That said, I think the principle in Sacrosanctam Concilium is flawed. Needless repetition has always been a part of Christian prayer. And if you think the 9-fold Kyrie is repetitive, don't go to an Eastern liturgy with "again and again and again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord!" Some people like that. The ones that don't, we call "protestants" (kidding!)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    No, Gavin, maybe I wasn't clear: the RP antiphon itself was sung twice at the beginning of the RP, before the congregation was supposed to respond. Then, when they responded, they were also to sing it twice. That is "needless."

    Of course repetition per se isn't bad. Cf. the Rosary. The question is whether it's thoughtless or gratuitous. Sometimes, it really is.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Oh, I agree about that, Pes. And I know the kind of antiphons you're talking about. "Lord, Lord, Lord, Loooooord let eeeevery nation, let eeevery nation, let evvvvvvery nation praise you, praise you, we'll praise you yay for us Lord let every nation, eeeeevery nation praise youuuuuu!!!! NOW EVERYBODY!"

    Then again, Bach had a tendency to repeat words in his cantatas. We needn't force music into a Renaissance understanding of function as solely logical conveyor of the text, devoid of all emotion. And at any rate my policy of not using inferior music weeds out the "needless repetition" without trying!
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "And if you think the 9-fold Kyrie is repetitive, don't go to an Eastern liturgy with 'again and again and again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord!' Some people like that."

    As someone who goes to Eastern Liturgies weekly, I totally get this! the funniest thing to me is the, "and let us complete our prayer unto the Lord," which is usually followed by a good fifteen to twenty-five more minutes of liturgy. I love this, though. I mean, repetition in liturgy. But, as Pes already pointed out, the repetition in the OF is hardly as packed with meaning as the litanies of the Eastern Rites or repeated chants of the EF. It's usually just an opportunity for the guitar band to rock out harder on the second iteration.

    Also, the Great Amen, is, like, what? In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom the Eucharistic prayer is audible, and the congregation says "Amen" a few times, after major parts of it (like after the words of consecration of each element), and then often chants Amen twice after the epiclesis. If that's where they got the idea for the "Great Amen," then they're totally off. There's no chorus of three to six amens and alleluias and whatever else people put in those things.

    I guess they just got really excited about the Eucharistic prayer because it wasn't ever audible until after V-2, isn't that so?

    Another thing to add, the music my generation listens to, it's all musicians being impressed with their own choruses and repeating them ad nauseam in-between verses and instrumental bridges. That got carried over into responsorial psalms and whatever else in the liturgy. Inculturation, right?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Gavin, in this case, the antiphon was "Lord, every nation on earth will adore you... (deceptive cadence or something) ... Lord, every nation on earth will adore you... (final cadence)." Then the congregation sang the exact thing again, in response. The melody was trivial, repeated verbatim both times, and there was no musical (or any other) reason justifying the repetition.

    Initial teeth-grinding over, there ensued verse melody characterized by irrational skips and an unusually large range. The cantor, bless his soul, escaped with his life and not much else. Then we repeated the antiphon twice again, and the cantor took up the verse melody again, only this time it had new syncopations in it. Again the cantor looked relieved when it was over.

    As were we.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Whatever happened to psalm tones?

    I like psalm tones.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Jam, the psalm tones are great, and there's no reason one can't try composing more of them. The principle is simply ingenious, and it is so friendly to singers. Moreover, the tones appear not to depend on the beauty or virtuosity of the singer's voice. Very democratic. Everyone gets to sound good.

    As for hearing the Eucharistic Prayer, I have to say that I like to hear it very much, and I haven't heard any good explanation of why it was ever made to be silent. Maybe it always had been silent. It is rather important, though, and if we're permitted to read it (in our missals), I don't see why the priest can't simply say it. Perhaps ad orientem is an issue, since it is difficult to hear the priest facing another direction if he is not miked. But now, most priests wear microphones, mooting the entire issue.

    If the EF EP were said aloud, I would be pleased. But this is just my opinion.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    The psalm tones are musical "noble simplicity".
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,083
    Replies to quotes by different posters:

    "As for hearing the Eucharistic Prayer, I have to say that I like to hear it very much, and I haven't heard any good explanation of why it was ever made to be silent. Maybe it always had been silent."

    It hasn't always been silent, but Constantine commanded priests to say it aloud. Evidently, some were wanting to do it silently even in his day. Rampant clericalism, who knows?

    "As someone who goes to Eastern Liturgies weekly, I totally get this! the funniest thing to me is the, "and let us complete our prayer unto the Lord," which is usually followed by a good fifteen to twenty-five more minutes of liturgy. "

    As we easterners say, "less is more, but more is better."
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 338
    This stuff bugs me too. I even wince at Palestrina's repetition of "Jesu Christe" in the Gloria of the Missa Papae Marcelli. I'm not trying to be funny here, I really do think Giovanni Pierluigi made a bad choice.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "Perhaps ad orientem is an issue, since it is difficult to hear the priest facing another direction if he is not miked. But now, most priests wear microphones, mooting the entire issue."

    I personally hate microphones. The answer to the voice question is merely a matter of architecture.

    The Orthodox Church here in town cannot follow the usual practice of having confessions before the icon of Christ in the nave, because their architecture is so good, a mere whisper in the vicinity of the sanctuary can be heard quite clearly even in the back of the church. No one there is ever miked. The priests and deacons do all their chanting facing the altar and they can always be heard.

    I'm not sure why the Eucharistic Prayer is silent in the EF, but I bet it does (did) have to do with clericalism. I like to be able to hear it, too, although a certain measure of silence for private prayer is a good thing during liturgy also.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "The answer to the voice question is merely a matter of architecture."

    Indeed Jam!
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Jam,

    Just FYI, on the St. Noel Chabanel Site you will find all kinds of Psalm Tones. Sometimes there are three different options given for Psalm tones. Bruce Ford, Arlene Oost-Zinner, Sam Schmitt, the list goes on. They all use Gregorian Psalm tones.
  • G
    Posts: 1,379
    Pes, except for the word order it sound like the junky Joncas one in Gather, "Every nation on earth will adore you, Lord, every nation on earth will adore you Lord!" and then off on a jumping, jigging tune with little instrumental interludes before each verse.

    (Save the Liturgy Save the World)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Don't forget the tongue-tying neuter verses, G!

    Is it just me, or are there really NO good settings of the Epiphany psalm? I can never find anything I like, until this year when I found a great setting by Brian Page on Cabanel.
  • Thanks much for the plug Gavin.
    BTW, when I couldn't find a decent setting, I would do the whole thing to a Psalm Tone (usually 8G, and a cappella).
    BMP
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I personally appreciate silent Eucharistic prayer. isn't it the most mysterious moment and the prayer in the Mass? Silence seem to express that mysteriousness better than expicit loud prayer. We have voiced prayers, and when you don't have any sound for a long time it captures your attention more. (It's like a big 'rest!' in a symphony.) To me, it's the time I really need to put effort to pray and offer it with the priest. Some may become nervous and don't know what to do during this long silence, but eventually people can learn to say the prayer and offer it internally, instead of just listening or following other voices. I think this is the highlight of importance of silence in Mass.
  • WGS
    Posts: 209
    In the EF, the Eucharistic Prayer spoken (silently - secreto) by the celebrant is clearly directed toward God. The celebrant is speaking personally to God although for and in the name of the congregation. We know what the celebrant is there for, and if we want to follow the words, we can use a missal.

    It may be a bit too cute, but the Latin starts with "Te" - "you", while the English translation used for the OF begins with "We". As with the dis-oriented Mass, it's a matter of focus.

    Also, keep in mind that in a monastery there might be dozens of masses celebrated at the same time. It's a matter of courtesy for each celebrant to speak the words softly so as not to interfere with the other celebrations. Many of the rubrics developed just from such situations.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "and if we want to follow the words, we can use a missal."

    This is true nowadays, but literacy was not as widespread when the priests first started shushing that prayer. Our liturgical tradition has never been about following along with a book or reading along... the liturgy is about listening and learning through tradition rather than text.

    I'm cool with the fact that tradition dictates the prayer to be silent in the Western Rites. I guess in the Eastern Rites there is more of an emphasis on the congregation offering up the sacrifice rather than only the priest. For example, Orthodox priests (and perhaps Greek Catholics; I don't know) do not and cannot celebrate the liturgy by themselves; they have to have at least one other person present, a congregation, if meager--whereas in the Western church our priests celebrate the Mass every day whether by themselves or with others. It's a much more clerical emphasis in the West. So, maybe the priest is speaking personally to God, but the congregation is supposed to be united with him in that fact (that's why we're there, no?) so the explanation must be something else. I like the idea that it's about focusing on the mystery... seeing nothing but the host and chalice elevated and hearing a bell ring and knowing, this is it. Silence bringing you forward to God.

    I'm not uncomfortable with the silence. I pray privately during that time and find it a fruitful thing. But I can also see how it would be possible to feel disconnected about the real action of the Mass, which is why, according to some older women I talked to, they appreciated it when the priest turned around to face them and started talking in English, because they felt like they were actually part of the Mass, not just spectators.

    They just needed catechesis, of course, not the reform they got...

    (I'm done derailing the thread now... ;)
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    My young piano students tend to ignore' rests'. They don't realize that silence is also important part of the music. I have to emphasize that rests are as important as notes. The music is still going on during the rests. They can also have a rather dramatic effect and suspence. If people feel disconnected during the silent prayer, maybe it's time for them to learn to pray by themselves without someone doing it for them all the time.
    I think it's beautiful that while the priest is saying the prayer silently everyone else make their own offerings and unite them with the priest's (This can only be done with silence) Of course, I'm not a theologian, and this is just my observation and my experience.