Adapting Gregorian Chant to the vernacular Mass
  • I stumbled on this site while researching something else, and liked the thoughtful commentary on the attempt to fit Gregorian chant into the new Mass (in Canada, in a seminary, in this case). Here's the relevant part:

    In the year 1964-1965 we at St. Basil's Seminary set about implementing the recommendations of the new Conciliar document. We placed a small altar in front of the main altar facing the congregation and began to celebrate the Eucharist with more emphasis on participation. Beginning November 29, 1964, the first Sunday of Advent, we began using English for the entire mass, except for the canon, as the Canadian bishops had permitted. Suddenly we realized that the Gregorian chant in Latin no longer quite fitted the mass in the vernacular. Brave attempts were made to adapt it to the English language, not always with edifying success, and composers began a frantic search for new and appropriate music of genuine religious inspiration, again with uneven results. In the spring of 1965 we began using the restored rite of concelebration. Our traditional morning and evening prayers, the acts of faith, hope, and charity, etc., were abandoned in favour of Lauds and Vespers recited antiphonally in English.

    Although no new thing was introduced into our worship without prior discussion and preparation both among the seminary staff and the body of seminarians, change had nonetheless come in the heart of seminary life with an unexpected swiftness which resulted in a kind of breathless euphoria for the enthusiasts and an uneasy malaise for the rest. A number of priests and seminarians preferred the mass in Latin, they did not like concelebration, they did not like guitars in the chapel and they seriously questioned whether Lauds and Vespers in English fulfilled the obligation of the Divine Office for those hours. So we entered the new liturgical age of the Church amidst cheers and sighs.

    The rest of the article is interesting to me for non-music-related reasons, but I often have wondered how individual real people worked their way through adapting to the liturgical changes, and this article is very touching in that regard.


  • When I sang in St. Mary's Choir here in Akron (1977-2010) the music director/ organist who had been playing organ for the parish since he was a young man worked with the pastor and parish council to have one mass a month in Latin. This was a Novus Ordo Mass with as much Latin as we could fit in, this includes the Mass parts, though I don't recall singing the Credo. The priest would say the Eucharist prayers in Latin and some of our hymns were in Latin. The responsorial psalms were in English but with chant tones. Every other year Christmas and Easter would be in Latin.

    This was the effort put forth to try and bridge the old with the new. I learned to sing many of the Latin hymns taken mostly from St. Basil's Hymnal though not exclusively. The mass settings included those by Cremer, Mentzel, La Hache, Korman, and Marsh. The Mass of the Angels was probably the only one that we did in Gregorian. This parish practice was also in effect in the early 70s before I joined the choir and remained until about 2004/5.

    I miss singing the hymns and mass settings. Today's efforts to have the Ordinary Form with Latin is to have everything in chant. I like chant, but I'm like does everything have to be chant?
  • A number of priests and seminarians preferred the mass in Latin, they did not like concelebration, they did not like guitars in the chapel and they seriously questioned whether Lauds and Vespers in English fulfilled the obligation of the Divine Office for those hours. So we entered the new liturgical age of the Church amidst cheers and sighs.
    Why did it have to be all one or all the other? Surely a seminary rector could see that was not required by the documents, and unlike diocesan clergy he would not have to obey absurd commands from his Ordinary.
  • Don't underestimate the coercive power of breathless euphoria.
  • I'm sure that there are few on our Forum who are not aware of this, but for those who may not be the entire Graduale Romanum is available in two English versions.
    The one is in Old Church English (so-called 'Elizabethan' or 'Tudor', which it isn't), available as The Plainchant Gradual, which may be had through the CMAA.
    The other is in modern English, available as The American Gradual, which may be had through Bruce Ford. This gradual is available in both chant notation and round note-head versions. Our Forum member, Felipe Gaspar, was instrumental in arranging the chant notation version.

    Unlike some current settings so-called the 'propers' that are actually only the entrance and communion antiphons from the Roman Missal, these books offer in English the complete set of all five of the actual propers as they are to be found in Graduale Romanum.
  • To add to MJO's comment, there are also English adaptations of the Proper of the Mass by
    Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B.:
    and Fr. Columba Kelly, O.S.B.:
  • I do have to say Elizabethan English sounds gorgeous from chanting voices.
  • I use the Palmer/Burgess (Elizabethan) regularly (quite a bit during covidtide when it was just me) and I really like it. The notes are not a strict 1:1 with the original latin but it's awfully close, to the point that you have to go looking to spot the differences. I personally like the high church translations, however there are odd bits here and there. Recently a forum member shared his github repository that has fresh GABC-rendered versions of it all. I've requested that Illuminare/Source & Summit incorporate it into their new program that they are building.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • It is tragic to read that historical essay. This was written by someone who admitted his bias in favour of the 1960's "reform." However, the numbers and trends he describes speak undeniably of decline and decadence.
    "Incidents of this sort caused seminarians and faculty alike to re-examine their commitment to Christ and his way of life as laid down in the Gospels. With some of the structure gone out of their lives, and with more opportunity to make personal choices, the seminarians began a new process of growth ...."
    This was written in 1976 - imagine what a historian would be able to write in 2020.
  • I have spent time in traditionalist and 'regular' seminaries and the thing that has always struck me most is how 'monastic' life is in the traditionalist seminary. I cannot claim to be certain whether the young men who are ordained from each are more holy. They are all (in both seminaries) remarkable for their love of God and graciousness. The diminished numbers may speak in part to seminary becoming a place where only the most committed stick it out, whereas it may have been considered something of a 'career option' in times past? But in any case, this was the first time I'd seen a run down of the changes that explained exactly what I'd noticed in my own visits. Ironically, in the 'regular' seminary, each year sees an increase in young men who actually like all the old cultural and disciplinary details, and there is now (at least here) enough comfort with the TLM that I have run into seminarians at a TLM and they greeted me openly and even mentioned seeing me there in front of other colleagues and professors, without anyone making faces or punishing them. Even a couple years ago, or in other diocese, that was not tolerated at all. God willing some sort of healing of this rift will develop in time. Rifts are aren't (!) really a Godly thing. ;)
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,216
    My thinking back in the sixties, was that there was an aversion to anything that wasn't new. Given the fact that the Anglicans had done an excellent job with chant for the last few hundred years, there was Latin Rite animosity to anything coming from them.