Gateway Composers
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76
    I want to win this parish over with beauty. :) I want to introduce good and beautiful sacred music little by little (see reason why below). The people here are wonderful and really do like to sing!!

    I need some gateway composers or songs that will appeal to them but are sacred and beautiful. I have spent lots of time on the forum and chasing down music, but not much of it is attainable for our choir and congregation where we are at now. There has to be something between Haugen and Palestrina! I appreciate resources, songs, tips, anything. Thank you!


    We have Gather 3. This parish has gone through a lot of directors, most recently one that came in and told them their music wasn't holy enough, played only hymns that no one sang, etc. He alienated people. I tend to take a more moderate approach- and don't wish to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We still have a "contemporary ensemble" (Lord, help me!) but we executed Durufle's Ubi Caritas well on Holy Thursday as well as "I Saw Water Flowing" chanted from the missal.
  • music123
    Posts: 98
    I hear you! I highly recommend St. James Music Press ( They have a one-time annual fee (I believe it is $139), and then you can download and print as many copes of their thousands of anthems as you like. They also have demo recordings. They are Episopalian-based, but their music is very good and much of it is applicable for Catholic liturgies.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,532
    How much of your focus in this query regards congregational vs choral-only music?
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 948
    These are more choral recommendations than congregational:

    Kevin Allen's Motecta Trium Vocum
    --perhaps sung by a small ensemble who is open to doing all the Latin. I know not everyone has a whole choir who would go for that.

    Oxford Easy Flexible Anthem Book
    --mainly English, mainly suitable for the liturgy, decent choral writing, and a good bit better than Haugen-Haas-Schutte.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76

    Good question. I mainly struggle finding good, beautiful, congregational pieces- Mass settings *in English for now*, and especially offertory, recessional songs, and the ordinaries. I have always made a great effort for the music to be appropriate to the season and readings, and eschew music with questionable or fuzzy lyrics, but now even those hymns I have used for 10+ years are bothering me. It's not enough for the lyrics to not be heretical (ha); More than half of the songs are all amout ME, My, I, and are all about God doing something for ME. Some have great scriptural words, but the music is kind of hokey that I've become embarrassed to play it (Sing of the Lord's Goodness, Lift Up Your Hearts to the Lord, etc). I feel kind of stuck right now.

    I do use the antiphons for direction in choosing the hymns, but we aren't a chanting parish yet.
    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76
    My question is really a practical application of the question of how do we return the liturgy to beauty? We know from experience that a band aid change doesn't do a whole lot of good. I want to be part of the church rediscovering its musical heritage, but it is going to be a process, not an instantaneous implementation.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 948
    Regarding settings of the Ordinary: what do you use now?
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • Re: ordinaries, I might suggest Peter Latona's Mass of the Immaculate Conception. Easy enough for congregational singing but still feels substantial and like you're singing "real music."
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,972
    I have three suggestions:

    Use the ICEL Ordinary, including the Credo, which is based on Credo 1. If people really need something jolly and complain, reverting to your usual Gloria will most likely be enough.

    Christoph Dalitz has lovely, easy motets on CPDL.

    Oratory can work as a musical and historical bridge backwards towards chant and polyphony. Learn a few things from Elijah and Messiah, and you're halfway there. These are crowdpleasers, too.
    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • NihilNominis
    Posts: 319
    Sing Schalk's, "Where Shepherds Lately Knelt" at Christmas. Do it with kids.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 108
    Some ideas:

    Mass setting: Jernberg, St. Philip Neri mass

    Some motet ideas which may be starters:

    Charles Hylton Stewart (1884 - 1932), Psalm 23

    Tchesnokoff, Salvation is created:

    Psalm 121 I will lift up mine Eyes (Walford Davies)

    Victoria, Ave Maria

    Mozart, Ave Verum:

    Another Ubi Caritas setting, this time by Ola Gjeilo:

    Tallis, If ye love me

    These are some ideas to start. All but two are in English which may help the transition.

    I would encourage you to move as quickly as possible to move to Anglican Chant and then polyphony. Both will force your choir members to start listening to each other.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,362
    This is from another thread but I think it applies here:

    I liked to use Taize chant before I had SEP for the Communion. They were easy, the congregation knew them... What I did was use the refrain which was close to the proper refrain of the day and then add the verses, in English, to a simple tone. It worked very well, and yes, it worked a cappella too. The repetition helped the congregation participate and many are in four parts, which made the choir happy. Sometimes we would begin the chant, process for Communion and return to sing the verses. Then we would follow with a motet.

    Since that time we have moved on to the Simple English Propers (there are others) as well as the chants of the Graduale.
  • tsoapm
    Posts: 79
    Anglican Chant … will force your choir members to start listening to each other.
    Which is a very good reason, I’m sure. Also, this convert from a non-denom./Anglican background felt that singing the psalms, as I first did in a Catholic church, was a very ‘right’ thing to be doing, both in terms of the nature of the psalms themselves and the expressed wishes of the Church. Singing any of the liturgy beyond the Ordinary itself might be something alien to many, but it takes quite a dull mind not to appreciate that singing the psalm is an authentic liturgical action.

    I’ve seen the name of Frisina come up sometimes in this forum. He is utterly ubiquitous here in Italy, but he always strikes me as rather ‘gateway’, very popular with choirs and familiar to congregations. Nothing in English that I know of, but some in Latin.

    Edit: I tell a lie; there’s ‘Jesus Christ, You Are My Life’ in English, for WYD.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 7,967
  • SarahJ
    Posts: 50
    I also think the Mass setting from the ICEL chants would be a good idea. Find a nicely harmonized accompaniment (I often use Ostrowski’s from It’s easy for the parish to sing, and gets them chanting.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 773
    Similar to the Taize comment above, there are several seasonal communion antiphons that are congregational friendly and the cantor/choir can sing/chant psalm verses. Check out also Morning Star has published some by James Biery that work the same way. Eventually you could have the choir sing the proper antiphon in Latin or in an English version (Lumen Christi or Weber) once preceding the seasonal antiphon (refrain) sung by the congregation.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76
    Thank you for these suggestions.
    IrishTenor, when we began we used the Mass of Renewal and Mass from Age to Age. I really like the Gloria from Age to Age, but the Amen sounds like a show tune! I changed the accompaniment on the Lamb of God, too, because it sounded like the backdrop of a soap opera. I played a couple of bars and blurted out, "John. I have something to tell you. " Yes, Mary. What my darling?" "Barthlemew isn't your son!!!" If you play the Lamb of God accompaniment in the background while dramatically reciting these lines, it totally fits. It's a total facepalm. So embarrassing to play these during mass.
    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 948
    Well, considering where you are now, could you switch to some "sturdier" settings of the Ordinary?

    --Community Mass
    --Mass for the City
    --Heritage Mass
    --Mass of the Resurrection
    --Horst Buchholz's Mass of St. Francis
    --Proulx's Missa Simplex
    --Michael Dominic O'Connor's Mass of St. Michael

    If you don't change the "songs" that people like, this might be a good start.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76
    Sounds good.

    My previous parish accepted Proulx's Missa Simplex (and other chant based hymns) very well. It may be trickier to do here, but is worth the effort.

    Mass of the the Resurrection was the setting the bishop of our diocese instructed us to learn for diocesean celebrations. It is solid! I will look into other ones.

    I liked ILP's Mass in honor of St. Joan of Arc, but I'm over 6/8 lilting melodies after playing Joy and Peace, Age to Age, and Redemption. I am looking for something "sturdier." Excellent word choice.

    Thanks again.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76

    Links to O'Connor's Mass of St. Michael? I see one by Kevin Vogt.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 948
    I just tried to post the link, but it got flagged for moderation. Hopefully @chonak lets it out of moderation jail :)

    If not, just go to the St. Michael Hymnal webpage; under "Current Edition"; click "Mass Parts"
  • Carol
    Posts: 366
    I just sang the Gloria from the Heritage Mass the other day and I don't think the text and the music match well. There are whole notes that make no sense to me, e.g. "Fa- ther" as 2 whole notes. Then it rushes through important parts of the text with eighth notes. Not the best setting IMHO.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,073
    Carol: I think there is a logic to that element of the setting. The whole Gloria consists of just four sentences. Glory to God ... good will. (general proposition)
    We praise you ... Father. (to the Father)
    Lord Jesus Christ ... have mercy on us. (to the Son)
    For you alone ... Father. ( to the Trinity)
    I do not think it works well when spoken, becauses English does not accommodate such long sentences well. It never, in my experience, sounds as though people appreciate the structure. I never hear a significant pause after the end of the sentence, which is also a paragraph. Partly this may be because 'Lord God, heavenly King ' looks like the beginning of a new sentence, it often sounds as though people read it that way.
    So I would say that Owen Alstott is trying to match the thought structure, but the English translation does not help.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • music123
    Posts: 98
    For what it is worth, I have written an English Mass setting, the Mass for St. Hildegard, that my church has been singing quite vigorously for the past few years. I can send it to you if you would like. I would be willing to let you (or anyone else) use it for a modest fee. In my setting, I have attempted to compose music that is worthy of the glory of God, while still being singable and in a style that makes sense with the words. I will be attempting to get it published this summer.
  • music123
    Posts: 98
    I just uploaded recordings of my Mass for St. Hildegard here, starting with the Gloria:

    I hope you enjoy it, and yes please anyone let me know if you would like to do it at your church. My church really likes it.
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 49
    music123 - I went there but it says it was removed.
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 49
    I just listened to Irishtenor's suggested Mass of the Resurrection. As a PIP , never heard it before. Yes for a contemporary setting that is one that sounds, as he said, "sturdy". I don't see how the bulk of your parish would object. The other suggestion above of using more traditional / chant/ beautiful ordinary's except, potentially, for the Parishes favorite Gloria is also a good suggestion. For Hymns, I think there is no reason to cut out their favorites since they are "approved" - so you'll just have to accept "On Eagles Wings" or whatever and try to enjoy it for what it is. But as long as you don't "ban" their favorites, I would guess they won't object to a healthy dose of more traditional hymns like Joyful Joyful We Adore You etc. I would say go slow and accept the Parish you are in.
  • music123
    Posts: 98
    toddevoss-that is odd. It works for me!
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 49
    music123 - now it's working!
    Thanked by 1music123
  • Stella611
    Posts: 103
    PolskaPiano, I grew up with the Heritage mass, and it is actually a great mass setting I think, if you actually sing it with all the choir parts, and the latin descants are beautiful. So, it introduces them some to the latin text of the ordinaries, while still singing them in English. Best of both worlds, in a sense!
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • janetgorbitzjanetgorbitz
    Posts: 870
    Hi Polska,

    I think gradual changes, using as many of the hymns that they are familiar with (that you can stomach) as possible will aid you in your effort to improve the repertory at your parish. As many of us have seen, moving too quickly often can be a veritable train wreck, alienating many in the pews, as well as choir members and ultimately, your pastor as well. If you can manage to help them to see it as not taking anything away, but simply adding to what they have at the start, it may be helpful. (For example, they don't lose their beloved "Entrance Hymn", but rather you add a chanted Entrance antiphon in English as the priest reaches the altar. It helps if you have the possibility of telling the congregation where they can find that text in the "missalettes" before Mass, too. Then they sort of understand why it has been added.)

    As for the great Amen... to me, that is the easiest fix ever. Omit the big production (often with a long repeat) completely and have a simple chanted "Amen". If the priest doesn't sing the doxology... then simply speak it. It would probably require buy-in from the priest, however. If he is accustomed to singing his doxology, he'll probably appreciate not having to stand there waiting for the end of the Broadway production. If he doesn't sing it, he may be surprised if you don't sing anything without telling him in advance.

    I would recommend some of Heath Morber's motets... he has two editions out (Bread from Heaven and English Motets for the Church Year). They are really quite nice and offer a nice selection of appropriate texts and entry-level polyphony in 2 or 3 parts.

    I also agree about adding the chanted Missal ordinary. You may want to wait until the parish is used to other subtle changes before doing this... maybe even waiting until Advent to try it out...

    Thanked by 2toddevoss Heath
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 76
    These are great ideas. Thank you.