Epiphany grinch?
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    What do people think about 'We three kings of Orient are'?
    I have disappointed some parishioners (and enraged one) by not scheduling it for the Epiphany Mass, which this year is Sunday 7th. My reason is that I think, while it's a catchy song and good for a carol concert, it's not suitable for singing at Mass. Or is this a puritanical, nay elitist attitude?
    FYI, the hymns we will be having instead are:
    The race that once in darkness pined has seen a glorious light (tune, St Fulbert)
    Three kings from Persian lands afar, Peter Cornelius, done by choir
    The first Nowell
    Bethlehem of noblest cities (Stuttgart)
    As ever, grateful for your comments.
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 125
    I think it's a bit (or more than a bit) too sentimental, and is probably better for a children's religion class (the kind where the "We Believe" type of books are used) than at a mass. Given that you are doing "The Three Kings", you're pretty much covering the space that song would be used in.

    As for "elitist", trying to avoid mediocrity is not elitist.
    Thanked by 1Viola
  • I'd be curious if it is the text, the music, or the provenance that inclines you toward not using it... But apart from that, as in an earlier discussion about things that we choose not to necessarily include, I don't think you should be concerned from the viewpoint of people trying to browbeat you one way or the other.

    We will be using it this year - but every 2-3 years it falls out of the rotation for a season or two. I think it does capture the nature of the feast, but there are other pieces such as the ones you've included (and as Kyle mentioned) that certainly are a good fit as well.
    Thanked by 2Viola PaxMelodious
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    It's the text, really. I believe it was written for a play.
    Actually, the music too; rather tumpty-tumpty. I'm suspicious of things in 6/8 rhythm for use at Mass (ok, this is usually 3/8, or it is in our hymnbook).
    And furthermore, at primary school we used to sing 'one in a taxi one in a car, one on a scooter blowing his hooter' etc, so I wonder if others are, furtively.
  • You are spot on in your assessment of WTKs. I thought it rather silly even when I was ten years old. It is surprising, though, the places and people who do it. If I'm not mistaken, I've even seen it on a CD by King's.

    As for people getting bent out of shape over it, they need to learn that the mass is not an avenue for their favourite tunes, especially when those tunes carry texts that are more entertaining than intellectually-spiritually stimulating.

    And, being accused of being 'elitist' is the last thing I would be bothered about.
    This is a mindlessly idiotic label for what someone doesn't like. In this context it is without meaning.
    Thanked by 2Viola Vilyanor
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,200
    Well, it's less sentimental and theological than Silent Night, among others.* YMMV.

    I can't remember the name of the eminent English choral person who thought WTK one of the best carols of the period to arise from the USA, but I remember being surprised at that reaction (I would put I Wonder as I Wander far ahead of WTK, though admittedly it is of later provenance).

    * I confess I am not a fan of Silent Night as it typically is used at Mass in the USA. Congregations belting it with lots of vibrato and portamento deepen the problem. At least WTK just has the "O" with problem, and I've seen it better managed by organists and choirs.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    And Silent Night is in 6/8 time. Hmm.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,650
    So is "What Child is This" in 6/8 time. "The First Nowell" is usually printed in 3/4 time, although I think I've seen it in 6/8 time as well. Oh, and what about "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly? ... hmm.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,260
    My choir would not be happy if I didn't program WTK, so I do.
    This year I'm adding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChD2RGoH0sw
  • JL
    Posts: 135
    I always think of the version from Prairie Home Companion:

    We three kings of Orient are
    Trying to smoke a rubber cigar.
    It was loaded,
    It exploded--
    *BANG*

    We two kings of Orient are...

    And yes, it always feels like playacting, which is fine--in a play. In the pews, it just feels silly.

    Who's programming "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning"? That one always seems highly underused.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • 'Of the Father's Love Begotten' has often been sung in triple metre, and done so with great effect. Both tune and text have immense gravitas which is not affected by metre. Of particular note is Willcocks' arrangement, replete with descant. Quite a few of the mediaeval hymns work in triple metre, and, furthermore, it is quite likely that they were sung that way in mediaeval times.

    It isn't the metre, but the pace, and the gravitas suggested by the melodic shape and harmonic rhythm, not to mention the worthiness of the text.

    JL has just said it well - what would be good in a play, 'just feels silly' in the pews.

    'Brightest and best...'? It will be sung at Walsingham this Sunday - and, no doubt in every Ordinariate church, and rare will be an Episcopal church in which it is not heard.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Viola
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,200
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iuqOOL49Mo

    Definitely can do without the foot thumping (I likes my shape-note music with old fashioned visual gesture of the leader, not that), but the SATB at 1:45ff is glorious in that church of Tolosa in the Basque country.... Anyway, this is of the same period as WTK, and much better....

    Thanked by 1JosquinGetEnough
  • This year we're doing the Neary arrangement Kings does at Lessons and Carols and it's not so bad.
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 520
    As for "elitist", trying to avoid mediocrity is not elitist


    Actually, it kinda is.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • ...kinda is.

    Oh, no!
    It isn't at all.
    It is a virtue.

    (Of course, there ARE those misguided sorts who wouldn't hesitate to label virtue elitist.)
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,049
    "Trying to avoid mediocrity" could mean various things.

    If it means trying to avoid laziness or unthinking convention, that is indeed virtuous.

    If it means comparing ourselves to other people and trying to be different, well, that's sort of elitist: it's the attitude people sometimes satirize as hipsterism! Nobody here does that. :-)
  • Well - I've noticed quite a few people who are 'eilitist' about their mediocrity.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    We will sing WTK as we always do for Epiphany. It is once a year, so not worth over-reacting to. The verses actually do tell a story, but we never get to sing them all.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,049
    This song seems to be a case in which a lyric designed for theater (for spoken performance?) is awkward and strained when sung by all.

  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 365
    One Christmas season, I just put an extra number on the hymn-board every time, and we sang a carol before each Mass throughout the season, no frills, just out of the hymnal like any other hymn. When it came to Epiphany, We Three Kings was then the extra carol for that day, and this was an improvement from previous years when I had scrupulously avoided it.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,830
    I have mixed feelings about this.

    One of the beautiful things about the Propers is the way they give one a sense that the ever-circling year has come 'round again. When people think, "We always sing that on this day," that's an awareness of the liturgical year that is positive.

    On the other hand, they really aren't propers.

    As for quality, both As With Gladness Men of Old and Songs of Thankfulness and Praise are far superior in text, tune, musicality. Salzburg is arranged by Bach.
  • Kathy,

    I used to love that hymn, and At the Lamb's high feast, and then someone ruined the latter by butchering both the poetry and the theology:

    God in us made manifest. (Grrr)
    Thanked by 1Chrism
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    God in us made manifest. (Grrr)

    I just checked 15 hymnals (Catholic as well as non-Catholic). Not a single one had "God in us." Most have "God in flesh made manifest," which, for those who don't know Latin well, is a quite literal translation of Deus incarnatus.
  • Fr Krisman,

    Thank you for the correction.

    I stand by my complaint that "God in flesh made manifest" was adopted not out of a desire to be accurate, but merely to avoid the word "man".

    I won't rant on the subject more than I already have.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,081
    "We three kings of Orient are,
    In search of a pub*,
    It can't be to far..."

    As children we sang the taxi cab version, but the version above is now more popular... Fortunately we do not have to sing English songs / carols at Mass, and so we don't have to worry about songs and carols not really suitable for Mass...

    N.B. Our priest rather likes Gaudete, [...] Christus Natus Est, although I am convinced it is secular. We also sing Angelus ad Virginem, another doubtful piece but rather nice!

    * A Pub is short for Public House, so an Inn as in the Gospel or a bar as in a place to drink beer.
    Thanked by 1Viola
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    Interesting points, thank you.
    I still feel I won't include it. My husband is a Kingsman, and he admits that just because the choir sings something (beautifully), that doesn't mean it would work for us at Mass.
    We did Brightest and Best (to the tune by Mr Thrupp) last year and people complained they didn't know it :-(
    and we have done Songs of thankfulness. I checked and our old hymnbook has Man, with a capital M! Our new PC hymnbook simply leaves the whole hymn out. Pity.
    Also interesting the different approaches on both sides of the Atlantic! Over here, in my experience anyway Silent Night is sung quietly with great reverence often at dirge-like speed, rather than 'belting it with lots of vibrato and portamento', (shudder).
    At the Offertory tomorrow three men from the congregation dressed in copes will go up in the procession to present something representing the gifts of the Three Kings. (no one has as yet suggested one of them should be a Queen, political correctness hasn't gone that far, but perhaps next year.....) That's when we'll be doing the Peter Cornelius 'Three Kings', rather than WTK. I think the Cornelius version is rather more, well, majestic.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,045
    I like it. Then again, I was a Theater minor in college (directed Murder in the Cathedral senior year.) I was hoping to perform the ancient mystery play (the Richard Mix edition from Coussemaker) of the Three Kings before Mass and end it with WTK, with Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar each singing their bit. But alas, it will yet again have to wait to next year due to priest availability . . .

    Speaking of carols easily adaptable to theatrics, does anyone else's choir sing the 'parts' for Good King Wenceslas?
  • :) Yes, we sang GKW as all voices in parts vs. men or ladies sing the king and page in unison depending on the respective text. It took a bit to rehearse, but I thought it went superlatively well.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    'men or ladies sing the king and page in unison depending on the respective text'
    We did this too, for the St Stephen's Guild Mass on Dec 26th, and got our organist to play the accompaniment from 'Carols for Choirs'. The 'and the wind blows stronger' bit was particularly effective.
  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    We sang "We Three Kings" today, being mindful to keep it smooth, not ONE 23. The text was very fitting for the homily and we were able to sing all the verses. I realized that I like the words as a whole message, especially being able to sing all those "Alleluias!" in the last verse. It seemed to really compliment the proclamation of the dates of Ash Wednesday, Easter, Corpus Christi, etc.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    Don't even mention Ash Wednesday. It will be here before we know it.
  • ...be here before...

    How many here had the proclamation of festal observances for the year read (sung) in their parishes this morning?
    How many received blessed chalk to take home and write 20 + CMB + 18 above their lintels?

    We've had sung readings (all three) at Walsingham now from Mid-night mass through today. We were inundated by people telling us how beautiful they were, and how their apprehension of the Sacred Scripture was enhanced by its having been sung. Christmas, Holy Family, Mother of God, Epiphany. The Christmastide solemnities being over, we shant have three-chanted-readings Sundays until Holy Week - except! for The Chair of St Peter on 22 February, which is a solemnity in the Ordinariate.

    Unfortunately, we of the Ordinariate, just like everyone else, have to observe Epiphany on the Sunday nearest its actual occurrence. A pox on the houses of all the episcopal grinches responsible for this accursed penalty. Our people are quite unhappy about this.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,650
    Indeed, MJO. And this year's transfer of Epiphany ... to 7th January ... collides rather ignominiously with the Nativity in the Eastern Rite/Orthodox churches (including even a few Ukrainian Catholic parishes in the USA). Talk about confusion!!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    I could say I have celebrated Epiphany (Theophany) twice. Once at the real time, once with the Latins today. I also have blessed chalk.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    Well, if anyone is to blame, I guess it would have to be Cardinal Gibbons and the bishops attending the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884. That's when the decision was made for all the Latin rite dioceses of the United States that the Epiphany of the Lord was not to be observed as a holyday of obligation. (It had been observed as a holyday in some US dioceses before 1884.)

    And I'm overjoyed that, since the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969, Latin rite Catholics in the United States have annually been celebrating, by precept, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (as well as the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ) in all Latin rite parishes. While it is true that they are not observed, respectively, on January 6 and on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, they are nonetheless observed - to the spiritual benefit of the Catholic faithful of this country.

    Some may wish to read up on the three plenary councils of Baltimore, specifically the Third as to its decision about holydays of obligation:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plenary_Councils_of_Baltimore
  • With thanks to Fr Krisman for the background he yet again provides - still...

    Reprehensible as their thoughts and acts were, I don't think that we can blame the Baltimorian Council for the present indignity to the dignity of the Epiphany. It was our not-very-excellencied bishops of the post VII era who burdened us with moving Epiphany altogether to a day which they, undoubtedly, thought more 'convenient'... and so what if it breaks nearly 2.000 years of tradition? 'We couldn't care less' seems to be their motto in such matters. A pox on their house.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    By the way, Latin rite Catholics in England - after observing Epiphany on the Sunday after January 1 for nearly 50 years - reverted to celebrating it on the date, January 6, this year. I wonder what the Mass attendance was in England this past Saturday.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    MJO, it is the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (1969) that decreed that, in countries where the Epiphany of the Lord is not observed as a holyday of obligation (and that is the case in the great majority of countries throughout the world), it is to be observed on the Sunday after January 1.

    You might also want to check out the Wikipedia article on "Holy day of obligation" to see which countries observe Epiphany as a day of precept. Not that many, not even France. Those countries all celebrated Epiphany today, the Sunday after January 1.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Many thanks again, Fr Krisman, for the enlightenment.
    It does not, though, serve as a balm on my (and many other's) wound over this cow-towing to liturgically lazy XXth and XXIst century churchmen and people. To any wise man, or woman, the Epiphany of our Lord would be a Holy Day of Obligation.

    And what I've said about Epiphany goes equally for Ascension.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    Again, I'm happy that Latin rite Catholics in the USA attend Mass on the Sundays observing the Epiphany, Ascension, and Body and Blood of Christ in significantly greater numbers than they would were those solemnities to be observed as days of precept on January 6, the Thursday after the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, respectively.
  • No sarcasm colours this observation that being on a week-day does not unduly affect the all holy attendance on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc. There is an evident cherry picking of which solemnities we will give the honour to which they are historically and theologically due. Also, an evident failure of catechesis, which belies a failure really to care.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    being on a week-day does not unduly affect all holy attendance on Christmas, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, etc.

    MJO, I do not wish to belabor this discussion. More than enough has already been written. But, except perhaps for Christmas, I don't understand how you can make this statement. Is the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston so different from the rest of our country?
  • minor correction: Thursday after the Fifth Sunday of Easter...

    As to your question above, I think it depends on the mindset. Most parishes I've attended over the last 20 years have had extremely high attendance at Ascension and Corpus Christi on the feast itself... and high attendance on Epiphany (Jan. 6th), largely because that is the mindset of those parishes.

    Is it really something to celebrate - that people are in attendance at greater numbers on the Sundays following the feasts simply because they are simultaneously fulfilling their Sunday obligation? Is Catholicism simply about what is convenient? (Clearly, more and more so... to the detriment of the Faith.)
  • Actually, the Episcopal Diocese of Texas always used to have the reputation of being the lowest of the low.
    Ditto, the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston, which is not
    so different from the rest of our country?
    which is nothing to brag about.

    Under the guidance of Cardinal di Nardo (who is a music lover and a gift from God), it may be that the now-archdiocese has improved somewhat. There are indeed a few (very few) oases of liturgical sanity to be found here, but, in general, it's the happy-clappy norm. One would search in vain for a St John Cantius' here. With rare, very rare!, excursions elsewhere my experience of 'church' here is confined quite happily to Walsingham - with occasional engagements at St Basil's Chapel, UST, and a once-in-a-while engagement at the co-cathedral - which has, of all things, Ritual Song in the pews!

    This all goes much, much, deeper than playing shell games with the Church's historic feast days. The shell games are but another manifestation of happy-clappy convenience driven religion.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 676
    Latin rite Catholics in England ... Epiphany ... celebrating it on the date, January 6,
    Not quite, we reverted to the practice of moving some Holydays of Obligation to the adjacent Sunday when they fall on a Saturday or Monday, so we do get Ascension Day back, but this year Epiphany moved.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    I have often thought, and many in the east agree, that Epiphany is a more significant event than Christmas. That is, of course, if you accept Epiphany as God's official presentation of his son to the world. It definitely isn't commercialized into the monster that Christmas has become.

    Some may wish to read up on the three plenary councils of Baltimore


    I have about decided that when two or three Latin churchmen are gathered, no good to the faith results.


    Precept? Anyone else see a problem here? To borrow a bit from Tallis, If ye love me, you might want to get your rear to church and celebrate significant events in the life of Christ, that is if nothing worldly of greater importance is going on.

    Move it to Sunday so people will come and mass attendance will be better. Maybe collections, too. If it were not somewhat true that average Catholics could just as well be celebrating the life of a stray dog for all they know, it might be of more benefit to them to be there. Get the hour "obligation" over with, if it is not too much trouble.

  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    A few years ago I was in North Carolina on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday and had a second helping of the feast which I had celebrated on the previous Thursday in New York! I think it very confusing to the average Catholic that there isn't at least a consistent calendar for these Holy Days of Obligation. Either they are holy and obligated or they are not. Are New Yorkers less busy or more pious than North Carolinians?
  • or more pious than

    Would that depend on the object of their worship?
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    Are New Yorkers less busy or more pious than North Carolinians?


    Let's not go there. LOL

    Ya know, I adapt to the calendar whatever it happens to be. I don't know why this is such a big issue.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219

    'How many here had the proclamation of festal observances for the year read (sung) in their parishes this morning?
    How many received blessed chalk to take home and write 20 + CMB + 18 above their lintels?'

    Yes to both, here in NE Scotland (mission territory). And we also were given some blessed incense to burn around the house, with a warning that it might set off the smoke alarms. The cantor doing the proclamation mistakenly gave the date of Easter as MARCH 1st. Does that mean we can have a shorter Lent...................
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,081
    We had our EF Sung Mass on Epiphany, over 70 of our usual Sunday attendance of 150 came along on Saturday. We had the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday, while the NO mass folks had Epiphany and the Eritrean community had a Geez Rite Mass to celebrate Christmas (Julian Calendar).

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