Feeling like a newbie!
  • Thank you for adding me to this group. I have a degree in Liturgical Music (BM, Lit.) from a small Catholic college. I have also had a position of Director of Music for over 10 years. Sadly, the Latin program had already been dismissed and there was no gregorian chant instruction, nor instruction in the EF. I did what I understood at the time- what all churches did- choosing hymns according to the readings. I spent at least an hour planning each mass. I thought I was doing a good job by not using theologically fuzzy or incorrect hymns, choosing hymns with dignity or some gravitas, and eventually I would choose my entrance and communion songs based on the antiphons. When I read Pope Benedict wanted everyone working towards chant in the liturgy, I found Richard Proulx's Missa Simplex. Over the years, my choir asked to sing the Easter Sequence in Latin instead of English. We did the same for Pange Lingua. You get the idea. I did my best with what I could at the time. I was teaching myself, but with only a stipened work and pay, I didn't have much time to go deeper. I am now at a full time position. A funny thing has happened- I cringe at the liturgical music I am providing. I don't want the 4-sqaure hymns- partly because they aren't beautiful or good. The music seems cheap, contrived all of a sudden. The biggest beef I have is the text. I made clear at my interview that I believe it important to keep our treasure of chant alive in our parish and hand down to each generation. The pastor agreed. However, just the other day he told me to choose the entrance hymn based on the readings and not the antiphon to support the "theme" of the mass. He told me the rest could be "medatative."
    What I am getting at is this: despite a degree in liturgical music from a catholic college, I have little to no formal training in chant. I even need to learn the vocabulary (propers, ordinary, etc). I will not change a lot right away. This parish is going to take a lot of time to begin that work (the last director tried and failed, leaving a bitter taste in the people's mouth because he called their music unholy and even threw out hymnals. Idealism is good, but wisdom is needed in the execution.) The pastor and I agree that Lent will include chant for the "mass setting." (See there, I don't know if that is really called the ordinary or propers...)

    I would love some guidance on this. I am interested especially in forming myself right now. I want to familiarize myself with some chant, the proper terminology, etc. There was nothing like having a degree in "liturgy" and going to an EF mass and feeling like I wasn't even Catholic. . .

    Thanks for reading through my thoughts. The desire for something more in the liturgy has only been growing each week, and I believe God is calling me to discover this part of our faith. I'm a single mother of 3 small children, and this work is our bread and butter. I probably have a fear that I can't rock the boat too much, fear doesn't have a place in faith. I'll take it to prayer. I just want to discover with the people of God this rich and beautiful tradition of our faith.

    Thanks!
  • Welcome to the forum!

    I think you are fortunately positioned - there are SO many more resources available now that weren't around even 15 years ago. There are many conferences (including quite a few CMAA events, as well as chant and liturgy conferences from many different sources) and even courses online. There are also many more books that are available online - workbooks for the Ward method or something like the Square Notes Workbook which might be a good basic overview to things that are much more meaty.

    WRT your question on the "Mass setting"... the Ordinary is the fixed part - the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus / Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei. The Propers are the changing part - the readings that are Mass-specific.

    Best of luck to you in your new position and endeavor to move the bar!
  • Polskapiano,

    I speak for everyone here when I say "Welcome to the Forum"! We're glad to have you aboard.

    Given the current state of Catholic education, your surprise about what you didn't get at school is unsurprising, but so is your description: you didn't learn what you've now come to realize is essential matter.

    Perhaps you could host a series of evening reflections on the topic "Growing in our faith: the role of music at Mass in the life of the individual and the Church at large"?

    In that way, you could say, for example, that there is, in fact, music which the Church has prescribed, and which nurtured the faith of previous generations.

    God bless,

    Chris
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    I am fairly new to this group as well and appreciate your all your thoughts and questions. One difference is that my husband and I are not employees of our parish, we are volunteers who provide music at one Mass each weekend. In addition we are coordinate with the organist for a choir which sings once a month and for Christmas and the Triduum. You are right to be sensitive to the concerns of your parish and your pastor, Rome wasn't built in a day. This forum is a great resource for information, wise counsel, occasionally "wise remarks," and support. Welcome!
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 831
    Wise remarks


    Are those anything like wise cracks???
  • I don’t post here very often, but I do lurk. I was/am in somewhat of a similar position. I have no formal degree in music or liturgy, but I’ve had many years of musical training (piano, organ, several different choirs). The knowledge I’ve gained of liturgical matters has been entirely through self-education.

    I cantor (volunteer) and play organ part-time (paid) at our parish. I also direct the choir (paid), which used to sing once monthly, but due to various circumstances (including our very rural location which gives me limited talent to draw from), it’s dwindled recently to the point that we only sing maybe twice a year on major occasions such as Christmas. I try to add what solemnity I can when playing or cantoring, but it’s been an uphill battle. On the days when I cantor, I have been singing the Propers from Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers for about 6 years now, and just recently heard from my pastor that a few of the usual suspects are still complaining about it, which sort of surprises me (maybe it shouldn’t) since I am incorporating them in such a way that none of the 4-hymn sandwich is “taken away."

    While on the subject of Propers... you may not feel it wise to fight this battle just now, but at some point maybe you could try to explain that in the selection of the Proper antiphons, the Church has given us the “theme” that she wants for those times in a given Mass, and maybe it would be a good thing for us to conform ourselves to her guidance, instead of bending the whole Mass to revolve around the readings.

    As regards the terminology, the Ordinary (as Incardination explained above) are those parts that are the same in every Mass: the Kyrie, Gloria, Creed (not usually sung in the average parish, but should be), Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. In modern parlance, this is often known as the “Mass setting.” The Propers are the five antiphons that are different every Mass: the introit, the gradual (usually replaced with the Responsorial Psalm), the Alleluia, the offertory, and the communion.

    I’m not sure how much you’ve read, but an article I read several years back and still think is superb at delving into some of these issues in an approachable way is Bishop Thomas Olmsted’s 2012 essay “Singing the Mass: Liturgical Music as Participation in Christ.” Here is a link if you’re interested: https://adoremus.org/2012/05/15/Singing-the-Mass/

    I wish you success in your endeavors, and know that I pray every day for the renewal of the liturgy and sacred music, and all those working toward that end.
  • aaaaaand I just found out the only thing our pastor wants changed into chant this season is the Agnus Dei. He doesn't want to change too much too fast. Ok. It's a step. *** an iiiiiiity bitty step*
  • rollingrj
    Posts: 235
    "Brick by brick" is sometimes the only strategy available. It is also the most advisable.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 520
    Most of the missalettes published these days have the "missal chants" in them i.e. the chants that are found in the Roman Missal. They are easy to use and can usually be found in English and in Latin. If you are just starting out, I would use that Agnus Dei version.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 831
    Do you think you could sketch out a tentative plan with your pastor for moving in the right direction? I think it might make it easier for me, personally, to endure a less-than-ideal situation if I knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and a plan for making things better.

    May God bless you in your ministry as you raise children on your own! I am very blessed indeed to have a wonderful wife raising our two little ones, while number three is on the way!
    Thanked by 1tsoapm
  • Hey, congratulations on #3 IT!
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    I Have a question that kind of fits here. In the past, I have chanted the Holy, Holy and Great Amen, etc. if the celebrant chants the prayer directly before that part. If he speaks the prayer, then the congregation responds by speaking. Is this correct? I know the goal is for the whole Mass to be chanted, but with some celebrants not chanting is there a definite guideline? I was very confused last Sunday, because the Mass was concelebrated by an associate along with the pastor. This particular celebrant never chants, but the pastor, who likes the Mass Ordinaries chanted, was concelebrating. I probably did the worst thing, and began chanting the Holy Holy because there was this BIG pause after the preface. Knowing what is supposed to happen may not have been helpful in the spur of the moment, but I am sure someone here knows the proper answer to the question.

    When different celebrants feel differently about chanting, it really keeps me on my toes and I often feel I am in error.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 520
    If the prayers are chanted, then the response by the people is chanted. If the prayers are spoken, then the response by the people is spoken.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,412
    Holy, Holy and Great Amen, etc [...] If he speaks the prayer, then

    Ignore and do the right thing .. sing.
    Otherwise the likelyhood is a four hymn sandwich.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    if the celebrant chants the prayer directly before that part. If he speaks the prayer, then the congregation responds by speaking. Is this correct?


    We chant regardless of what the celebrant does. If we have a visiting priest, we tell him to get with the program.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,412
    As Eft says, if one lives and dies by what on its face is a reasonable rule then spoken preface leads to spoken Sanctus...

    A question is how to give organ cues: if the presider will sing, then a pitch as unobtrusively as possible; if they won't, then one is cueing the congregation instead and had better play the priest's intonation quite boldly. I recently heard the mode 6 Alleluia intoned by a cantor lector beginning on low c and was not at all impressed by the response either.
    Thanked by 2Carol eft94530
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,260
    Slowly is good. You should consider asking your pastor if he would consider adding the Kyrie too. Not sure why, but people like the Kyrie in Greek.

    Also, beginning Communion with a chant, even just the refrain is also an easy way to insert some chant gently. If you wish to use verses, you could begin with Taize during Lent, use the verses from the Simple English Propers and then, say during Eastertide, or ordinary time following Easter, add the proper responses.

    God bless!
  • tsoapm
    Posts: 70
    Not sure why, but people like the Kyrie in Greek.
    Well, it’s a little touch of exoticism and the ancient in the language (sort of) that the New Testament was written in, thus allowing people to feel more early-Churchy, but with the advantage that it isn’t Latin and involves a grand total of three words.

    I appreciate the argument people make that you don’t want to associate Latin specifically with penitential seasons, but our maestro had us singing the Kyrie in Advent because not singing the Gloria creates a little more time for it automatically.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    It is only three words and the pronunciation of the Greek, at least the way I have sung it, is closer to American English phonetics so that may make it more accessible to the congregation.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • you could begin with Taize during Lent


    I recommend against this strategy because it introduces something which is foreign into the liturgy. Rather, take what I call the Baltimore Catechism Approach: introduce changes in such a manner that you never have to back-track. Make answers more precise? Sure. Backtrack? No.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 676
    On the one hand, true, the Taize chant is not in the central liturgical tradition of the Latin church. On the other hand 1) the repetitive nature of the chant is akin to the repetitive structure of popular devotions, such as the Rosary, 2) It is also within the call/response structure of some non-European traditions, particularly African.
    Our church in London had a monthly Nigerian prayer group which would provide music for the Sunday evening Mass. What they wanted was structured like that at entrance, offertory, communion and recessional, led from the pews by drums and a chanter; and Missa de Angelis, intoned traditionally by a cantor (arm waving was not neccessary).
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen canadash
  • Hawkins,

    For the benefit of our O(riginal) P(oster), let me make my advice more concrete:

    If you live in a parish in which great evil is done, musically speaking, then avoid introducing something, anything, which will lead away from the eventual goal, which is beautiful music proper to the Mass sung well.

    Taize may be like African music, but unless the parish in question is in Africa, that doesn't help much. Call-and-response, as that term is usually used in America, brings forth images of Protestant worship (a bad thing in this context) and Della Reese (God rest her soul). Drums are ..... not part of the Christian tradition in Europe and America, and are, if I recall correctly, specifically reprobated in various reliable teaching documents.

    I stand by my original advice: don't introduce anything which takes you in a direction other than your eventual goal, because these culs-de-sac have a way of taking on a life of their own.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 676
    CGZ - I agree -" don't introduce anything which takes you in a direction other than your eventual goal". Novelties in liturgy have a way of expanding and pushing out previous practice (Taft's Law).
    London (UK) is a special case, very many recent immigrants and very ethnically mixed. I think there are now far more West Africans than Irish, for example. Some of them nostalgic for Gregorian chant.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    I have told this story before. Near Christmas a few years go, a deacon - deacons being the last affliction God has to burden a parish - mentioned inquiring as to what our African members were used to singing in their own countries. Our Africans said, "we sing O come all ye faithful. Their "native" music is better than what is heard in half the parishes in town.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,701
    Don't Taize Me Bro!

    Pop homophony. Avoid it!
    Thanked by 2Carol StimsonInRehab
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,258
    Pop homophony. Avoid it!

    Au contraire, there's nothing "pop" at all about Berthier's music. It's quite traditional four-part writing. And probably 95% of the texts are scriptural, with a few texts from St. Teresa of Jesus, St. John of the Cross, et al.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 219
    We have a large number of west Africans in the parish, and most of them are very keen on Gregorian chant, particularly Missa de Angelis, and on traditional Catholic hymns. They have encouraged the parish as a whole to sing these.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793

    Au contraire, there's nothing "pop" at all about Berthier's music.


    He wrote some credible organ works, too. I understand he didn't think the Taize stuff was his best work.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,045
    Here's what my group does that helps - for every Latin chant piece programmed, perform at least one English chant, if not more, to go with it. So, sing (for example) Adoro Te and Ave Maria in Latin Gregorian chant, whilst also singing the SEP by Bartlett.

    Using an ersatz "Requiem for a Dream" anaology - Bartlett and Fr. Weber are 'gateway drugs' for the 'OD' that is the Liber Usualis.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Our Africans said, "we sing O come all ye faithful. Their "native" music is better than what is heard in half the parishes in town.


    African is a very large continent, with many different cultures and traditions.

    But it is fair to say that we don't know what much (if any) native African religious music sounds like, as the great majority of it was lost / suppressed by missionaries. I'd feel safe guessing that an English translation of a Latin Christmas hymn wasn't part of it, though, since many Africans only learned English to communicate with the missionaries. Even if they have been singing that English hymn for the last 100 years.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 8,793
    But it is fair to say that we don't know what much (if any) native African religious music sounds like, as the great majority of it was lost / suppressed by missionaries.


    Even if it existed, it would be pagan and we couldn't use it to begin with. Granted, there are Christians in Ethiopia and such places, but they are Orthodox, not Catholic.

    My Africans - great people, btw - are from Cameroon with some from Nigeria.
  • Carol
    Posts: 115
    My parish has a connection with Ghana through priests who were living in our rectory and the music at a special Mass for the local Ghanaians had music which included Conga drums. It was very joyful and there was full, active participation. At the offertory, the congregation advanced from their pews to bring their offering forward instead of baskets being passed. The music had Western harmonization, but it would probably scandalize most of those who frequent this forum. The Mass was sung, but definitely not chanted.

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