Help for those who don't "get" chant.
  • Hugh
    Posts: 187
    Over at Lifesite, in response to yet another great article by Prof Kwasniewski, Rose, a new convert from evangelical Protestantism, expresses a sincere and thoughtful critique of chant as she has experienced it (https://disqus.com/by/disqus_H0JpctfVMw/). Rose misses Protestant hymns, and for her the chant just doesn't supply. I'm sure Rose is not alone in her reaction. I'm sure there are many here at the Forum - maybe some coming from similar backgrounds - who can reach out to Rose at Lifesite with helpful suggestions? (eg, I dunno, a free ticket to the 2020 CMAA colloquium? :-) )
    Thanked by 2Incardination Jes
  • GerardH
    Posts: 97
    LifeSite shouldn't exist. I refuse to engage with it on any level, and I think others should avoid it equally.
  • LifeSite shouldn't exist. I refuse to engage with it on any level, and I think others should avoid it equally.


    Certainly your prerogative. Does make you come across as a triggered snowflake, though. Good luck with that.

    Hugh, thanks for the post. It certainly is a question that we as those connected to the use of Sacred Music should be willing and able to provide some context for.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    I never go to LifeSite unless prompted, but I have offered a response to Rose. My recollection of school Masses at a Benedictine school in the early fifties supports what Prof Kwasniewski says about the success of the post 1903 reforms, but what he misses is that it shaped the demand from VII for further changes.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 97
    Certainly your prerogative. Does make you come across as a triggered snowflake, though. Good luck with that.


    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a website named and started with Pro-Life intent shouldn't be engaging in religious debate. The final vestiges of its credibility were obliterated for me when they blatantly misquoted an Australian bishop - not one I agree with btw - to gain more clicks from outraged conservatives at the idea of women priests.

    But of course I'm just a snowflake.
  • Pro-Life intent shouldn't be engaging in religious debate

    ... because the pro-life issue is independent of religious implications? Don't follow that line of "reasoning" at all.

    Regardless, I'm not acting as a proponent for or against the website. But I rarely find the rhetoric "shouldn't exist - I won't have anything to do with them and no one else should either" to be conducive to addressing a perceived issue. It's just like these students who can't bear to hear an opposing viewpoint expressed without it causing them undue consternation.

    The real point was the valid question posed by Rose, not what site it was on.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CCooze
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 230
    I've sung propers for several years now. I love chant. But I also understand it not necessarily being everyone's cup of tea. In fact, I frankly get darn tired of chanting sometimes, especially as nearly all the other music I sing is also 'difficult'. There's a real pleasure in just singing some Christmas carols or hymns or pop songs with friends or neighbors. Singing is a joy, or can be! Should be? And frankly I'd sometimes like to just sing along in church with something pretty and simple, and not have to have a music education, a history degree, and a library full of books in order to appreciate Mass.

    That said, it's usually the case with more 'complex' or unfamiliar music, like classical music, and chant, that one learns to appreciate it more if one is given some education in what to listen for, how it works, and even learns to sing some simple examples. It's like tennis or baseball. World's most mystifyingly boring game to watch if you have no idea how it works. Much more interesting and fun if you've learned to play (even just a very basic kid's-level game) and thus can figure out who is winning and losing and why someone just got a point or lost.

    My grade school had a program to take kids to classical concerts and the musicians would introduce the instruments and such. Then it's not some weird thing other people do.

    I might add that it is helpful if the 'get to know chant' class is taught by someone cheerful and positive, rather than doling out the 'only bad Catholics don't like chant' approach or the "geek-out" lecture which will sail over the heads of people who aren't already musicians. Serve cake and coffee.
  • They both have their place. I hated chant too, and to be honest, I’m still not overly fond of it. It doesn’t do anything for me. That being said, I recognize it has its place in the Mass as sung prayer. Hymns, I find, are more devotional in nature, but are rich in text and can help raise one’s heart and mind to God, same with polyphony, same with good organ playing, etc. You can have it all during Mass.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    You can have it all during Mass.
    But even better would be to go back to the early fifties by having a lot of other services than Mass. Vespers has at least one hymn, could have more. Exposition and Benediction. These were the ways Catholics got their hymn sining in my youth. And now that ther are in most places clerics who cannot say Mass (deacons) they should be encouraged to lead more diverse worship.
  • jcr
    Posts: 51
    Regarding people who come from Protestant backgrounds and chant;
    I think that the whole concept of worship often needs adjustment. As one who was raised in Protestant traditions (yes, plural. Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Assemblies of God) and one who also worked in a number of other churches as well as an adult professional, I would say that, although I still love many of the hymns I learned growing up, there is a sense of the transcendent to be found in few places like it is found in chant.

    The evangelicals tend to confuse evangelism with worship and some of the others tend to merge a kind of formality or dignity with worship (which is necessary, but not sufficient). It is necessary to allow the effect of chant to affect one. This is also true of the polyphony of the church. If one will allow sufficient exposure while remaining open to the spiritual qualities of the music, it is possible to "get it". Hillaire Belloc has been quoted as saying something to the effect that one must have the "Catholic mind" and this takes a while following one's conversion.
    Thanked by 1rich_enough
  • Hugh,

    I would ask this Protestant young lady which is better: to sing meditations on Scripture or to sing Scripture itself. Being a young lady who loves Jesus and reveres the Bible, the answer is obvious. This doesn't make those meditations bad, but clears a space on the deck for chant since, (Pigorian Chant notwithstanding, and likewise the other parodies which raise their heads this time of year) the proper purpose of chant is to put Scripture to music.
    Thanked by 2Hugh Jes
  • Two points:

    1) We are dealing in translations of the Sacred Scripture, even in our most ancient chants. It's odd how, unlike Judaism and Islam, we were so comfortable, so early, leaving the ipsissima verba behind in a liturgical setting, for basically pastoral reasons. Perhaps we've always had a stronger sense that worship leading to an effective encounter with Christ the Word is more important than worship mediating that encounter with the original letters and sounds. Also, we liked the LXX too much to be too picky about that.

    2) There are quite a few non-scriptural Propers. Are these to be less valued than the rest of the Proper, and placed on par with devotional hymnody? If not, why? Not to mention the devotional hymnody that later found a liturgical place within the chant corpus. Are these preferable to more recent hymns? If so, why?

  • Nihil,

    A translation of Scripture (assuming it's faithful, and not a paraphrase or an ideological axe) is still Scripture. I grant that the Vulgate is in neither Hebrew nor Arabic.

    You're also correct that there are non-Scriptural Propers --- antiphons in the office come to mind -- but I'm not sure that undoes my point. The Protestant lady in question, being Protestant doesn't understand chant and does try, in her Protestant way, to love Scripture. I'm suggesting that a truthful way to lead her to understand chant is to show its principal use and its teleology.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • I'm a cradle Catholic.

    Like the vast majority of cradle-Catholics (both pre and post VII), I was not raised with chant. And I too dislike chant. Seems to me that it works well for professional full-time religious, but isn't nearly so helpful for OLPs who live our lives in the world.

    Personally the older I get, the more I need actual silence to really pray. Music, any music, is refreshing for the psyche, but doesn't get to the depths of my soul any more like it did when I was younger.
  • Pax,

    Whence comes your "dislike" of chant?

    {I'm not a cradle Catholic, see, and I didn't grow up with the Usus Antiquior, and I love the chant. I'm developing a real appreciation of a generation of composers (Isaac comes to mind) who created polyphony based on the chant. I still love truly beautiful hymnody from my childhood, but I can't have anything other than stomach-turning pains and anguish for the music to which I was introduced during my first years as a Catholic. Until recently, I didn't know Credo IV, but I've decided that I enjoy singing it and find it a very pleasant change from Credo I (our usual one), which I still enjoy singing. }
  • I'm a cradle Catholic also.

    Like the vast majority of cradle-Catholics (both pre and post VII), I was not raised with chant. And I LOVE chant. Seems to me that it works well for professional full-time religious, and is just as helpful for OLPs who live our lives in the world.
    Thanked by 1rich_enough
  • This whole deal is de gustibus, isn't it?

    One can acknowledge the primacy of chant, the importance of chant, the intrinsic beauty and worth of chant, and the necessity of working for the fostering and cultivation and preservation of chant, while also being grateful that people got, shall we say, bored with chant. After all, those people invented polyphony.

    I wouldn't be without chant. But there is room to (1) appreciate and (2) create fresh artistic responses to the Gospel and, specifically, to the sacred liturgy in all times and places. Sometimes, these will resonate more readily with people at various times and places than the chant. That's part of the impetus for their creation.

    If someone who prefers such things kvetches about the chant, then why not help them to understand that the chant is not the enemy of these expressions other expressions, but their fruitful root, and that to cut this root and sever it is an immense impoverishment.

    Chris,

    To your two responses:

    1) Translations (with the possible exception of the LXX) are not themselves the inspired text. They can be close approaches, faithful approaches to the text, hallowed in themselves by long customary use, but they are not the text itself.

    The argument therefore comes by way of analogy: if it is pastorally beneficial for the Western Church to mediate the Word of God liturgically and catechetically through translations, then why would it never be of genuine pastoral advantage to communicate the truths of the Sacred Scriptures through poetic paraphrases of these texts or meditations on them? Why would it always be, as you seemed to argue, preferable to sing "the real thing," as it were?

    For something like a Psalm, I can even see a paraphrase in verse and meter communicating the poetry of the original to a target language, while perhaps not being strict word-for-word translation. "The King of Love My Shepherd Is" helps me to understand the richness of the 23rd [22nd] Psalm, as part of a balanced diet that includes more literal translations into several languages, as well as the original text insofar as I am able to grapple with it.

    2) The question about non-Scriptural Propers was genuine. Your argument seemed to be that the value of the chant flowed from the text that it set, utpote that text was Sacred Scripture. This is not always the case -- is "Gaudeamus Omnes" therefore second-rate chant? I would assume you would say no, and I'm interested to know why.

    Also, for the record, "Rose" is a convert *from* Protestantism -- not a Protestant any longer.
  • Sure, is can be said to be de gustibus but the appropriate thing to do from there is to acknowledge that, if we intellectually know, as the Church teaches, that chant is the highest form of music for the liturgy, our "tastes" are deficient if we don't like chant. This is obviously not to say that we cannot think other forms of music are beautiful, but only that it is us that needs to conform our tastes - the method of doing that being left to the individual, but it probably has to include, particularly in our age, a re-formation of our understanding of what the liturgy is and what it really means to "participate" in it and to pray it.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • I was only referring to the tenor of the arguments above, viz. "I'm [such-and-such a thing] and I [like or dislike] chant. Therefore, it must be held that all of my ilk [can/should/must] [like or dislike] chant as much as I do." {Yes, that's a flip summary -- there was more subtlety in other posts than that, so please don't take offense -- I'm isolating the bit to which I object.}

    I don't think that follows, nor do I think it's to the point. As I said above, a perfectly rational way to argue with someone who prefers later developments in church music to chant, is to remind them that the chant is the font from which all of this music flows, and is still inspiring musicians to create new and beautiful works today. There are many other arguments, too, none of which invokes my taste (which many learned and respectable musicians find abominable, anyway).
  • In the context of the original post, here are the responses we made to Rose on the site:

    From Anthony:
    I agree, chanting is not inherently "better" as a general proposition. But it is better, at Mass to use the texts the Church has provided, and essential to avoid unauthorised texts. Now most of the texts are prose, with no rhythmic structure, and that needs chant.

    Peter evidently thinks that the Tridentine Mass was perfect, but I agree with the Fathers of Vatican II that some reform (not neccessarily what we got) was desireable, including some use of the vernacular. The Anglican church developed forms of chant that I think better suit the structure of the English language, they were also (officially) very restrained in their use of hymns.

    The splendours of Gregorian chant are another matter. They are certainly sacred, but not "more sacred", and having developed in monasteries, where the monks chant ten times a day, they are not likely to be well adapted ti the average parish on a Sunday. That is why people developed 'Rossini propers' and 'Chants Abrégés'


    From John (myself):
    Rose, a very interesting comment, thank you for asking the question.

    The traditional concept of Catholic "Liturgy" is that it is God-centric, not man-centric. Although we derive spiritual and sometimes physical consolation and sustenance from the Liturgy, that is not its primary purpose... which is the adoration of God. The music, as an integral expression within the Liturgy is likewise primarily written and directed to God, not toward those in attendance. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't have music that we don't connect with or understand... it just means that we might need to work harder to develop an appreciation for certain music (like chant) and not discount it simply because it doesn't appeal to us.

    In the Gospels, we hear of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. Our Lord visits their house, and Martha is busy with all of the details around being the hostess, preparing the dinner, etc., while Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His discourse, In exasperation Martha asks our Lord to rebuke Mary - to tell her to get busy and help with the dinner preparations. His response is that "Mary hath chosen the best part". Commentaries from various authors indicate that this differentiates the contemplative (Mary) from the active (Martha), indicating that the contemplative is more perfect than the active.

    Vocal prayer (whether spoken aloud or not) and music share these same characteristics. That is, prayer / music can be inherently more "contemplative" or more "active" in scope. Put another way, all music is a mixture of what appeals to the intellect (contemplative) and what appeals to the emotions (active) - all music has elements of both, though in different proportions.

    When we recite a rosary, part of the advantage of a repetitive formula (the Hail Mary's in particular) is that it frees our minds to meditate on the mysteries rather than the words themselves. Music tends to act in the same way. Musically, chant is the equivalent of the repetitive vocal prayer - it is inherently more conducive to meditation because it is inherently more intellectual than polyphony or hymns, which tend to be more attuned to our emotions.

    Herein is the biggest challenge for both singer and auditor. Chant takes work. Not just work in terms of singing it, or singing it well - but work in terms of appreciating it, of understanding what it conveys. It is difficult to develop that understanding or appreciation with limited use. The more accustomed one becomes to its use in the Liturgy, the more one begins to develop an appreciation.

    Chant is preferred by the Church (numerous writings of various popes and from various councils) not simply because it is a "treasure", not simply because it is "ancient", but because it is best-suited to worship. Nor is this view unique to Catholics. The Jewish faith and a wide variety of Eastern religions incorporate wide scope for chant in their services of worship. The origins of chant far pre-date the Catholic Faith - it is a one of the many things that are common between the worship of the Old Testament and the worship of the New. Again, "preferred" is not intended to mean "exclusive".

    As for books, one that might help is Papal Legislation on Sacred Music. You might try this link. https://www.thefreelibrary.... Thanks for your question and insights, and best of luck to you in your journey!


  • And Rose's response to both of us:
    John and Anthony, thank you both for sharing your thoughts on this. I have copied and pasted your responses into a separate document so that I can re-read them a few times, because I confess that your arguments are incomprehensible to me at this point. That is my fault entirely, not yours at all, because your explanations are clear and lucid. I am simply not able to wrap my mind around what you're saying, because I have to somehow sync it with what I knew for most of my life--and that was evangelical. In other words, I was a non-denominational evangelical (as in Billy Graham-style) for longer than I have been Catholic, and I was steeped in the music of the Protestant tradition more than most Protestants are. I went to Christian school for my entire education, including college and pre-K, and I was a regular church-goer for the most part.

    In that world in which I grew up, music (hymns, worship and praise, children's songs, etc.) was part of my daily routine. At school we sang every morning, lunch time, and sometimes even in the afternoons. I went to probably hundreds of chapels in school, where we always sang several songs. Even my college required daily chapel, and sometimes those chapels were nothing but "worship chapels," where the lights were dimmed and we just sang in worship and praise. My churches sang a lot, too, and Christian music was often available on the radio or tapes/CDs. Honestly, if anyone cared to listen to my below-average voice and if I could remember every song I ever learned, I'll bet I could sing a concert for three days straight.

    Trying to understand the value and importance of chant, as you're explaining it, is like trying to understand another language. I conquered theology enough to decide to convert after four years of intensive study and searching, and my foundation there is solid--but I have become increasingly miserable in regards to my need to connect through music because my original parish (where people actually sang because they sang songs that people liked singing) is now three states away, so it is important I come to terms with traditional Catholic music, especially chant. It's increasing around me in almost every church I attend (I'm a member of one but attend several for reasons not relevant to this discussion), so I need to get it and learn to appreciate it.

    Just the other day for Christ the King Sunday, it so happened that we concluded Mass by singing the beloved song I mentioned in my first post--"Crown Him With Many Crowns." I left the church in tears that I had to fight to keep my husband from seeing, because it was so awful. The congregation sang it as if half-asleep. The pianist played it at half-tempo, and no one even seemed to hear what they were singing. Many Protestant churches would have raised the roof!! It would give you chills to hear it sung the way it should be. At Easter there would even be trumpets, and the pace would be joyful and enthusiastic. Even my last parish would have sent the song to the rafters, because for some reason the Catholics there embraced singing. They sang like Protestants--the only Catholic church I've ever seen that does that, and I've visited many. I miss it badly.

    Again, I really, really appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and I will chew on them a while and check out the book you mentioned. Because of my study of Orthodoxy, I have a little dim understanding about what you're saying about liturgy, because there are some similarities between how they view liturgy and music and how the Catholics have traditionally viewed it--similarities I haven't started to see until now that chants and some pre-Vatican customs are making a comeback in my diocese. There, I think, is my starting point--that convergence, so I will start there with your thoughts kept handy. If I can come to a deeper understanding, it will help me appreciate chants and other aspects of the liturgy more and perhaps even come to like them. Thank you!
    Thanked by 2mattebery CHGiffen
  • davido
    Posts: 185
    As a convert myself, I appreciate a lot of what she says. Unfortunately, the church is caught between a protestantized approach to liturgy (let’s sing everyone’s favorite song), and the deeper, historical reality of what the mass is: a ritualistic sacrificial ceremony from the ancient world. This reality is hardly recognizable outside of the old mass, especially the pontifical high mass. Chant is the cantillation of ritual texts proper to these ancient ceremonies, much as ritual texts would have been sung in other ancient sacrificial religious ceremonies.
    In nearly all other ways, the Christian religion is different from all other religions, but the offering of sacrifice is our link of unity with all pre-Christian religions, and it is the thing (along with necessary accoutrements such as priesthood, other sacraments) that prevents Catholicism from becoming a book club for good people, the direction that most Protestant denominations are headed.

    Since most Catholics don’t grasp this, I’m not sure how converts can be expected to. And as long as mass is about community building, rather than sacrifice, Protestant and evangelical hymns/songs are more suited to the purpose than is chant.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw rich_enough
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 672
    A Catholic Church where the members sing enthusiastically is a rarity. Some of this has to do with the pre-Vatican II Mass where Priest did almost everything and the Choir did most of the rest. Some is cultural (i.e. the priests didn't like singing at Mass). Some is expedience - it is faster to say rather than sing the Mass.

    As someone who has worked as a construction superintendent and lived in many different cities (albeit all in Texas), it has been my experience that more people in the pews just stand or sit or kneel than sing. For them, the music is secondary to the Mass, something to break up the time into smaller chunks, not an integral part of the Mass. Of course, YMMV
    Thanked by 1Hugh
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    My own experience as a child in Catholic schools was that we sang at least one hymn a day, probably more than two. I left school in 1956, and up to then our parish had an evening service most days of the week at which the congregation sang hymns. But these were never at Mass. From the age of 11, we had a weekly school Mass, at which the pupils supplied the Ordinary chants in Latin. Before then I had never experienced being able to sing at Mass, it was uplifting and formative for me.
    Of course what changed in the mid fifties was that it became possible to celebrate Mass in the evening, and I suspect that in most parishes that killed off the other services. And with these went the hymns, and the congregational song. I am increasingly wondering whether the effect was to weaken the community bonds.
    Thanked by 3CCooze Hugh tomjaw
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 736
    I was honestly hoping this post was going to touch on helping those who have choir members who have been chanting propers for years now, and yet still don't seem to "get" it - even though they seem to "get" the choir music/polyphony.
    If anyone has ideas for that, I'd love to hear it!
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen Hugh tomjaw
  • Corinne,

    I may be able to help there. Our chant singing improved when we had an outside consultant come to give a workshop on chant. People who weren't part of the choir attended, but so did many of our choir. Basic ideas (whose explanation had been lost somewhere under the stack of recycled newspapers in a corner of some forgotten office) were presented patiently.

    Another possibility is that the singers have forgotten (or never really known) the spiritual depth of the music or the fact that it is so much more than just groups of two and three and moveable doh, and so on, but actual melodic worship of God.
    Thanked by 1Hugh
  • Hugh
    Posts: 187
    Thanks to all who have made such perceptive contributions on this topic. I agree with much that has been said. My own additional thoughts, for what they're worth.

    I'd like to hear the chant that Rose has heard. Maybe it was awfully sung? It's too easy, in my personal experience, to sing chant badly - murder it, let's be honest - in so many ways. And that's not even taking into account unfavourable accoustics caused by shag pile carpet and sound-absorbent roof tiles, etc. For example, when I was in the U.K. years back, I heard some top notch professional singers/choirs at E.F. masses and some very high O.F. masses. They had trained, gorgeous choral voices, and each note was beautifully executed. But invariably the chant moved so robotically from note to note that the overall effect, even in churches with fantastic accoustics, was soporific. On the other hand, you get an untrained but musically intelligent priest or deacon who knows how to sing some simple chant such as the epistle or gospel with the right inflexion, good diction and interpretation ... I could listen to that for hours.

    Then too there is the selection of chants Rose heard. E.g., was Rose hearing "Missa de Angelis" a lot? It's one that in my experience gets murdered by congregations and choirs (and accompanying organists.) I think I've only heard it once sung in a truly inspired way, and that was at Chartres at the end of the Pilgrimage, with the huge nave organ grinding away on the full sections and the thousands of pilgrims lifting the roof.

    My own way into the beauty of chant was via the little hours - terce, sext and none - we sang at annual liturgical conferences held in Australia through the 1990s. The antiphons are simple, a digestible amount of psalmody, a short hymn, etc, and that's it. It's over so fast, you're left wanting more! Plus the way the little office (as does the rest of the office of course) subtly traces the times and themes of the daily round. Also, I think once one gets to understand the office chant, and its deep link with "physicality" ... the rhythm of sitting, standing, kneeling, bowing, alternating from one side to the other etc, the appreciation would flow into the Mass chants. (How many congregations as one bow deeply at the Gloria Patri of the Introit? Even if one hasn't understood the music of the chant, that can be a profound experience when one first encounters it - as it still is for me.) But from the videos I've seen of the great colloquiums held in the U.S. I'm not saying anything you good people don't know already.
  • shawnk
    Posts: 45
    You know how for a while, in pop culture people were talking all about how beneficial certain forms of eastern meditation were? Then, people eventually changed their tune and said, "Oh, well actually, meditation has a dark side--it's not all positive, like we used to say it was."

    I think we have something similar with the rediscovery of chant. Sometimes, it's talked up as something that's all positive, but really, like with meditation, it has a dark side: if you're not accustomed to chant, it's going to make you uncomfortable at times.

    Sometimes it carries you away with it's beauty or it's sentiments, but other times it forces you to deal with silence, stillness, impatience, introspection, the challenge of God's commands, the thought of eternity, the ugliness of one's imperfections, the rebelliousness of one's emotions, the emptiness of the vanities of life--things that aren't necessarily going to make one feel cheerful, uplifted, or energized the way a loud doxology verse would.

    I know little of the woman mentioned, above, and cannot say what her situation is. I will say, though, that at least some people--when the music challenges them to be still--recoil from the invitation without giving chant a chance. Still others actually turn inward and quiet themselves, only to find that they don't like with they see, feel, or experience.

    A person can be of good will and want to do what's right, yet still have a distaste for the interior life. Again, I'm speaking of people, in general, and not of any specific person. Moreover, I'm sure I have heaps and heaps of growth to do in this area, myself.

    I don't think this is at all just a spiritual calamity, though. We're all aware of the ubiquity of cell phones and televisions and how both have eroded people's attention spans. How many people can actually have a normal conversation, anymore? How many people can sit down and listen to an entire symphony and not just "the exciting parts"?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,474
    This reminds me of a phenomenon that I have been seeing over the past few years. My parish (the only so-called "Reform of the Reform" parish in my Diocese), has a number of converts from various protestant denominations, and I have noticed a few things:

    1) Even though we chant the Propers (in English) at every Mass except Saturday Night (the Blue Hair Special) and Monday Morning (my day off)---and have been doing so since SEP came out---we have had articles about it in the bulletin, etc., there is still the feeling that the Propers aren't intrinsic to the Novus Ordo Mass: Which is true, they are not--they are an after-thought.

    2) Back to my Converts: To them "music" means: Hymns, Anthems, Motets, and Organ Music. Music is not chant, chant is not music. We once decided to do a Mass only with chant: "Why wasn't there any music at Mass today?" was the response.

    3) With all due respect (and this is certainly not meant as a critique of the Ordinariates): They might be theologically orthodox Catholics, but they have not converted, if you will, liturgically: they expect their "worship experience" at Mass to be identical to that which they remember in their Protestant days, and, unfortunately, the Novus Ordo permits this. This, needless to say, was not the case in the days of St. Newman or Fr. Faber: they, to take the plunge and swim the Tiber, had to leave behind everything that they loved in the Anglican Church, and come to grips not only with Trent and later Vatican I, but also with a mode of worship that is certainly austere, ascetical, and foreign; transcendent but not emotional. I think that many converts---and many cradle Catholics, too---are expecting of the Mass the kind of sentimentality and emotionalism that much vernacular music (whether high quality or low) provides, and the austerity of chant (and the Traditional Mass in general) does not provide this.

    4) We, in the Catholic Church, need to recover other services: Mass, while all are obliged to attend Mass on Sunday, is not the only service that should be provided during the Week. My ideal parish would have Vespers, Benediction, a "Musical Oratory" and various other devotional services throughout the week and year: like Advent Carol Service, Nine Lessons and Carols, Gorzkie Zale (which is a beautiful Passion service, and can be sung in English), etc.; and a good, old-fashioned Hymn Singing every so often.

    My observations and opinions: you may take them or leave them.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 230
    I think shawnk and salieri are right.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    Thanks Salieri, interesting observations. And I strongly agree about other services, we now have a supply of clerics (deacons) who cannot say Mass, but could lead anything else.
    One suggestion - the OF explicitly provides the option of a hymn of praise after Communion, I don't see much of that, perhaps it should be more common, to enable those people who wish to raise their voices (and their endorphin levels). (We do not; nor usually a recessional hymn, when we do it is often sung with more gusto than anything previously).
    And a request - Gorzkie Zale in English looks interesting, but I can't download more thant one page from the sites I have found without a Facebook account, and I will NOT engage with any of these social media things. So can you, or anyone else, find a dowloadable copy?
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    there is a sense of the transcendent to be found in few places like it is found in chant.


    Bingo!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    but only that it is us that needs to conform our tastes - the method of doing that being left to the individual, but it probably has to include, particularly in our age, a re-formation of our understanding of what the liturgy is


    Just as we are called to 'conform ourselves to Christ' in self-sacrifice. Well-said!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    the chant is the font from which all of this music flows, and is still inspiring musicians to create new and beautiful works today


    I'm a bit foggy here, but didn't Hindemith posit that ALL Western music flowed from Chant?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    in the mid fifties was that it became possible to celebrate Mass in the evening,


    News to me! And I was around and sentient in those years. Are you referring to Holy Thursday/Saturday?
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    If anyone has ideas for that, I'd love to hear it!


    Begin at the beginning: in all truly excellent sung music, the music illuminates the text--which is to say that the text is primary. In SACRED music, the text is the Word. Cdl. Ratzinger's speech at the 1985 Vienna convention on sacred music should be on your desk.

    Anyhow, especially when there's "word painting", you should point out to your choir HOW the music is illuminating/illustrating the text. Sometimes there's no 'word-paint.' But there are other signs; for example, the use of melisma on a very important word--or 'matching' melismas on two different words that the composer is musically connecting.

    There are a couple of 'easy' ones in the chant hymn Ave Maria. The music on "Ave" depicts the angel's bow before Mary; the lengthier "Maria" shows his love for her; the word "Jesus" is sung to a notated genuflection. (Same thing happens there in the Flor Peeters 4-part version, by the way.) The "Sancta Maria" is a cri de coeur, and the melodic line then descends to "peccatoribus" (heaven-to-earth, eh?). There's one last plea--if it's sung correctly--on "nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, Amen" Make it so.

    There's a tendency to sing Chant far too slowly in 'dry' environs, and even in 'wet' ones. That kills the music. There's also a tendency to make the music dry--no "heart"--or choppy, sung note-to-note. Do what Roger Wagner advised: "Sing it as though it were MUSIC!!" and your choir will love it.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,898
    I'm a bit foggy here, but didn't Hindemith posit that ALL Western music flowed from Chant?
    Well, we don't know much about music that was not transcribed.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    dad29 - Pius XII changed the fasting rules twice, ruling that water did not break the fast in Christus Dominus(1953), and
    In 1957 he replaced the fast from midnight with a three-hour fast from solid food and alcohol and a one-hour fast from other liquids. Ordinary communicants would calculate the time until the moment they took communion; priests fasted based on the time they began saying Mass. The new fasting rules opened the way to scheduling evening Masses,
    Even Christus Dominus allowed some evening Masses :-
    Rule VI. If the circumstance calls for it as necessary, We grant to the local Ordinaries the right to permit the celebration of Mass in the evening, as we said, but in such wise that the Mass shall not begin before four o’clock in the afternoon, on holy days of obligation still observed, on those which formerly were observed, on the first Friday of every month, and also on those days on which solemn celebrations are held with a large attendance, and also, in addition to these days, on one day a week; with the requirement that the priest observe a fast of three hours from solid food and alcoholic beverages, and of one hour from non-alcoholic beverages. At these Masses the faithful may approach the Holy Table, observing the same rule as regards the Eucharistic fast, the presumption of Canon 857 remaining in force.
    https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/on-the-laws-of-fasting-and-the-evening-mass-8951
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,745
    I knew about the fasting. Clearly, the 3-hour fast (or midnight fast) is better than what we have now--but that's not the topic.

    As to the evening Masses--we never had one at our parish. Not because it was small, either; apparently the pastor did not discern a need.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,507
    I recall, now I think about it, that we certainly had an evening Mass on Holydays of Obligation, as otherwise many working people could not fulfill their obligation without taking time off work. Useful for college students too (like me at the time).
  • @Hugh - You know, your own "way into the beauty of chant" is arguably the best way to truly learn to appreciate Gregorian chant. It may not be possible (according to most people at least) at most parishes to have a full liturgical life outside of the Mass, but yes, singing the Office - the psalmody, antiphons, hymns, versicles, everything - to its proper chant each and every day multiple times is probably one of the only ways to "get" chant. I was already a "chant nerd" before I entered the monastery and before I even understood Latin; but once I learned Latin and then entered the monastery and sang Gregorian chant 8 times every day (also relevant - no other music was sung; the only other music in the liturgy was occasional solo organ music), my understanding of, and love for, Gregorian chant multiplied exponentially. I will not say that it is impossible for those outside of monasteries to "get" chant - because obviously there are quite a few people who do - but there is a reason that virtually no parish choir will ever sound like a choir of nuns or monks singing the same chants; there is a reason that even so-called "professional" choirs who are great musicians will not even sound like monks or nuns. It is also possible to learn and understand chant alongside of polyphony and the classical tradition; however, it is more difficult to "understand" the modality and one-line melody of chant when one otherwise constantly is surrounded by the "modern" tonal system and harmony (and when chant itself is constantly accompanied/harmonized).

    @shawnk - Wow, I think you nailed it! It seems to me that what you have described is actually a major component of why chant is MOST suited for worship, and for this reason I am not sure I would necessarily call what you described a "dark side" of chant. But I know what you mean, a "dark side" in that people will struggle with chant because of its requirements on one's interior life.
    Thanked by 3Hugh shawnk Jes
  • More recent music has a massive head-start. We are bombarded with it daily from before birth.

    Listen to well-sung chant, lots of it, and one will start to 'get it'. Honestly, I think it is that simple (unless one is seeking to study or sing it, but even then, listening is a very good start).