Going from strength to strength
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    Last night for the first time in the history (or at least living memory) of the parish, the large ensembles of the music ministry mounted an "Epiphany Concert" that combined readings selected from the ones used for the traditional service of nine lessons and carols, along with modified prayers,and incorporated several hymns/carols for the congregation and anthems sung by all of the different ensembles (contemporary choir, festival mixed choir, the children's choir from the parish and also from the school and an ad hoc tone-chime group) and one that combined the voices of the contemporary and festival groups singing an interesting hymn from the Mt. St. Mary Hymnal dating back to 1924.

    It was a terrific success, and helped demonstrate the value of engaging the musicians of the parish on all levels of ability, and in the case of my parish,the diversity of musical styles. This wouldn't have been possible two years ago, as a kind of musical hegemony had been imposed so that,as Jeffrey Tucker has pointed out so often, a kind of equal distribution of misery reigned supreme, and with it an inability for any of the groups to truly flourish to their full potential because everyone was so distracted by the conflicts of opinion. Early in the fall, with a change of Pastors, I convinced the PTB to ease some of the restrictions on the contemporary ensemble, allowing them within reason and under my supervision to make alterations to the music selected to be more accommodating to their contemporary style of instrumentation and playing. The result has been that the group has grown musically, the sense of freedom has allowed the director to introduce a unique blend of music, and the unpleasant e-mails and stress-inducing conflicts not only diminished, they actually ceased completely.

    The concert last night and especially the reception afterward, during which the members of the different ensembles interacted and had mutually beneficial conversations, proved Jeffrey's point which is that given the opportunity, a healthy competition and mutual respect for the many styles of music the Church (most notably in large suburban parishes like mine) can be nurtured, and ultimately make room for the introduction (or re-introduction) of the music of the tradition with the formation of scholas singing chant and polyphony in its various forms and the increased use of unaccompanied singing without a feeling of conflict or a perceived threat to those who prefer the contemporary genres.

    So, my question to those who have been in a similar situation is this: How do I begin laying the foundation for restructuring one or two Masses a month that will feature the use of the more orthodox elements of the Latin Rite, but in a way that will encourage curiosity rather than setting up an "us versus them" attitude? My thinking is that because we now have a full-fledged contemporary ensemble that provides a uniquely contemporary music and worship experience at Masses on the first, third and fifth Sundays of the month at 5:30 PM, so too we should begin providing an experience that explores the other end of the spectrum. I need to be just as deliberate and systematic as I was in reorienting the contemporary ensemble, as that has proven to be politically successful.

    Your advice is so very welcomed, as I have truly benefited greatly from the wealth of knowledge I've accumulated from you all in the past.
  • If you have a Mass that currently does not have music, start incrementally there. We all know that people decide on a Mass time based on two things -- when it's convenient (folks with kids, late sleepers, early risers, etc) and if they like the priest/music (depending on whether there are rotating schedules). If you can carve out a time for a "traditional-music" Mass, great. If not, try this. Slowly add chanted English Propers to the existing scheme. Have your choir chant the Introit either before the opening hymn/song OR (even better) ask you priest to wait at the steps of the altar until the antiphon (only) of the Introit is sung. Boy, that will let the folks know that this chant is actually kind of important. The effect is enhanced if the priest doesn't look antsy to get up the steps, btw. So what if you have to cut a verse of "Gather Us In"? Really, no one will care. As time goes on, add the Offertory chant--these can be the seasonal BFW ones, btw--before the Offertory song and the Communion chant to start as soon as the priest takes communion. Many places need two Communion songs anyway, so no harm. Eventually you can find a dignified Ordinary setting to replace the Celtic Mass or whatever you have been doing.

    THE most important thing you can do, however, is have the priest chant the dialogues. If he is not willing to do that, then the chant seeds will fall on fallow ground.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
  • Oh, btw, I forgot to mention, start inserting the Chabanel or other formula psalm settings on every other week until you can do them exclusively. I think we can use the Gelineau psalms now that the Grail translation is good?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    I fear that our priest's hesitancy to chant the dialogues currently will pose a serious problem. Our Pastor in particular seems very uncomfortable with singing or chanting, and has resisted attempts to help coach him.

  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Has he ever done it? Once he does it a few times, all his discomfort might go away. Especially when he hears the congregation respond!
  • VickiW
    Posts: 36
    Has he ever seen any of the Holy Father's Masses? The Pope does not have a great singing voice, but he does the chants just the same, and frankly I think his Masses are just fine.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    We have had some assistants who really were not singers. But I've always thought many people who can't really sing, can still chant successfully. I usually make that distinction to the reluctant.
  • Cantor
    Posts: 84

    You could already have used the Gelineau psalms. These are the same psalms used in the Liturgy of the Hours.

    But, to point out a quibble, technically, the Grail psalms that the USCCB have voted on recently are the recent revision to the original Grail. (Recall that two previous revisions have been made and shot down before this current one.)
  • My experience of singing the Gelineau/Grail Psalms was years ago 1977-79, when I attended the seminary (now closed). The first year I was there, we sang a bootlegged 2-week psalter with the Gelineau psalms, and a collection of other music for the antiphons, etc, very beautiful. We sang the psalms "on the beat", everyone came to morning and evening prayer (it wasn't mandatory, it was the 70s). The second year, they bought a set of one of those interim 1 volume breviaries with insipidly translated psalms and worse music, and nobody came. But, does anyone's congregation actually sing the psalms, I have always had trouble trying to teach them to people, since the way they're laid out on the page is so different than most music. (I once heard a recording of a choir singing some of the Gelineau psalms "off the beat", it was strange and I'm sure could only be sung together under the direction of a conductor.) So, my question: they are so beautiful, is there a way to teach the congregation to sing them, not just the psalm refrain? Thank you, Dave.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    Well, this thread has gone hopelessly off the rails and has become a thread about psalm tones.

    I'm going to sink it, unless someone might be able to pick up where it left off . . . I have two priests who are reluctant to do much in the way of chanting the dialogues and a segment of the parish that's hungry for the NO celebrated with a bit more of the traditions of chant and the use of Latin incorporated into the Mass. My goal is to figure out a way to prepare and present a way of bringing this about in at least one or two Masses a month, not unlike our situation with the contemporary ensemble doing pretty much exclusively plugged-in, amplified, rock 'n' roll music. (Please read my initial post for the full story).

    Could someone help me out here?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    David: have you talked to the contemporary group about this? They might not understand what you want to get to, but they might have suggestions as to what's a good first non-offensive step.

    Also, if it's convenient to you, introduce some music to one or two of the daily Masses as per the Musica Sacra model - sing the proper antiphons by a psalm tone and perhaps teach the congregation (by first having you do it for a few months) the ordinary chanted in English. Maybe a good hymn at the end, if they're open. That will solidify your support when you do make changes to the Sunday Mass.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    Thanks, Gavin. I'll sound out members of the contemporary ensemble.

    I know for certain that there are folk at daily morning Mass that would like what you propose. The real place that would work would be the Tuesday evening Mass. Unfortunately a really entrenched aging hippie with his guitar has led the music for that Mass for years, and he's been a bit of a thorn because he also insists on playing for the school Masses, and gets his undies in a right bunch if I use the organ at all.

  • David,
    I feel the urgency of your situation myself. After a very successful Christmas Concert inwhich I invited the participation of a local independent schola and our newly formed Women's Ensemble, I then sent out to Music Ministry and Clerical leadership a memo asking for their interest levels regarding opening the seasonal "classical" concerts to our other parish ensembles. This is not, for me, an easy progression and I admitted to my constituents that accomodating the "opening up" of the concert presents strategical and logistical problems that I'd just as soon avoid during such standard, stressful times. However, those of our "other" music groups who've attended our concerts have always remarked that they emulate the dedication and work ethic it requires to bring these off. And my wife encourages me that providing other groups the event and opportunity to work toward excellence for the gift that the experience gives both performer and audience, should provide more self-motivation and higher benchmarks for their tasks as liturgical musicians at rehearsal and on Sundays.
    Writing this from the chant intensive, it's somewhat surreal in that I could easily relegate my own personal interests towards refining my knowledge and skills with the chant, but real challenge for me doesn't lie there, but to somehow point to my other colleagues and clerics that this river is one to which all of our tributaries must be connected. And that means letting them discover the process of discernment of the constitution of the "sacred treasury" of the Church's musics. And of course, true collaboration in concert and liturgical events is not just about "sharing." It is about discovery and wonder. And it cannot be at all about getting an emotional burst or "uplifting" attitudes. If anything, it has to be about the maturation and expansion of one's spiritual parameters.
    So, it will be interesting when I go back to the parish next week to deliberate the best options for inviting collaboration with the Easter Concert so that, should all those who reach a consensus about participating will understand their roles and appreciate each other's efforts knowing that everyone put forth their finest gifts.
  • David Andrew,

    Forgive me, I was off topic. One suggestion, if he will accede, pack your Father Pastor off to a retreat or to an all expenses paid vacation to a choral monastery where he will experience the beauty and truth of the liturgy sung and prayed IAW the tradition of the Church. He needs to "get it", if he doesn't yet. I'm trying to get my pastor to go to one now. Oremus.

  • Having not been part of the thread, I just re-read the initial post. I must say that I'm so overwhelmed and impressed at how completely universal are plainchant English settings of the ordinary, propers, and chant hymns. In my view, these are the path to a completely "de-politicized" liturgy in the sense that they do not smack of contemporary or traditional elements. It's just the Mass or common song that go with the Mass. If I were in charge or dealing with a "contemporary Mass" problem, this is what I would introduce. Leave Gregorian material aside for now, and forge ahead with unaccompanied music that everyone can sing very quickly. Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus, with the Chabanel Psalms. I believe that any parish or Mass time, no matter how far it has sunk, could be happily reformed in the right direction using these as the foundation.