Getting Bishop's approval for new compositions
  • JMJones
    Posts: 48
    Has anyone here gone through the process of getting a bishop's (their own or another) approval for their compositions in a published work? What can you tell me about the process?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,273
    My understanding is that it is the bishop in the place of publication who gives approval.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 186
    Not having tried publishing anything myself yet, could someone explain in what sort of situation this would be necessary?
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 884
    At a music workshop, my former bishop informed us that each bishop is responsible for determining which music is acceptable for use in his diocese. He noted that most bishops, in the US, defer to the USCCB for that approval. I would assume that this is also true in Germany.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,258
    m_r_taylor - I would describe the general rule as "any text which substitutes an official text must be approved" for example the Introit -
    IGMR §48. ... Adhiberi potest sive antiphona cum suo psalmo in Graduali romano vel ... sive alius cantus, ... cuius textus a Conferentia Episcoporum sit approbatus.
    Si ad introitum non habetur cantus, antiphona in Missali proposita recitatur...
    Translations for different countries vary this rule. So it applies to the Communion chant, but not the song/hymn after communion.
    The position on music is less clear, most bishops express no opinion on tunes, and nothing says what specific powers they have. [BUT SEE BELOW]
    Thanked by 2m_r_taylor CHGiffen
  • Additionally though GIRM 393 assigns to the Conference of Bishops direct approval over the musical settings of the Ordinary and of the dialogues and recitations. And then it goes on to assign the Conference approval over the melodies and forms.

    Granted this is in a place in the GIRM which is more about adaptation and “inculturation” than, say, preserving and fostering liturgical tradition... but I have certainly had that paragraph quoted at me in explanation of why (in the speaker’s view) all the music at Mass has to be formally approved.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,258
    Yes, thank you
    it is for the Conference to judge which musical forms, melodies, and musical instruments may be lawfully admitted into divine worship
    This whole chapter 9 Adaptations within the Competence of Bishops and Bishops’ Conferences is a new addition to the previous GIRM. The text rules have always been there.
  • but I have certainly had that paragraph quoted at me in explanation of why (in the speaker’s view) all the music at Mass has to be formally approved.

    In that case, it's time to submit the opera omnia of Palestrina to the authorities for formal approval.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • JMJones
    Posts: 48
    From the GIRM:
    CHAPTER IX
    Adaptations Within the Competence of Bishops and Bishops Conferences
    ...
    393. Bearing in mind the important place that singing has in a celebration as a necessary or integral part of the Liturgy,[152] all musical settings of the texts for the people’s responses and acclamations in the Order of Mass and for special rites that occur in the course of the liturgical year must be submitted to the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for review and approval prior to publication.


    From Musicam Sacram:
    V. Preparing Melodies For Vernacular Texts

    54. In preparing popular versions of those parts which will be set to melodies, and especially of the Psalter, experts should take care that fidelity to the Latin text is suitably harmonized with applicability of the vernacular text to musical settings. The nature and laws of each language must be respected, and the features and special characteristics of each people must be taken into consideration: all this, together with the laws of sacred music, should be carefully considered by musicians in the preparation of the new melodies.

    The competent territorial authority will therefore ensure that in the commission entrusted with the composition of versions for the people, there are experts in the subjects already mentioned as well as in Latin and the vernacular; from the outset of the work, they must combine their efforts.

    55. It will be for the competent territorial authority to decide whether certain vernacular texts set to music which have been handed down from former times, can in fact be used, even though they may not conform in all details with the legitimately approved versions of the liturgical texts.

    56. Among the melodies to be composed for the people's texts, those which belong to the priest and ministers are particularly important, whether they sing them alone, or whether they sing them together with the people, or whether they sing them in "dialogue" with the people. In composing these, musicians will consider whether the traditional melodies of the Latin liturgy, which are used for this purpose, can inspire the melody to be used for the same texts in the vernacular.

    57. New melodies to be used by the priests and ministers must be approved by the competent territorial authority.[40]

    58. Those Episcopal Conferences whom it may concern will ensure that for one and the same language, used in different regions, there will be a single translation. It is also desirable that as far as possible, there should be one or more common melodies for the parts which concern the priest and ministers, and for the responses and acclamations of the people, so that the common participation of those who use the same language may be encouraged.

    59. Musicians will enter on this new work with the desire to continue that tradition which has furnished the Church, in her divine worship, with a truly abundant heritage. Let them examine the works of the past, their types and characteristics, but let them also pay careful attention to the new laws and requirements of the liturgy, so that "new forms may in some way grow organically from forms that already exist,"[41] and the new work will form a new part in the musical heritage of the Church, not unworthy of its past.

    60. The new melodies for the vernacular texts certainly need to undergo a period of experimentation in order that they may attain a sufficient maturity and perfection. However, anything done in churches, even if only for experimental purposes, which is unbecoming to the holiness of the place, the dignity of the liturgy and the devotion of the faithful, must be avoided.

    61. Adapting sacred music for those regions which possess a musical tradition of their own, especially mission areas,[42] will require a very specialized preparation by the experts. It will be a question in fact of how to harmonize the sense of the sacred with the spirit, traditions and characteristic expressions proper to each of these peoples. Those who work in this field should have a sufficient knowledge both of the liturgy and musical tradition of the Church, and of the language, popular songs and other characteristic expressions of the people for whose benefit they are working.


    I think that most of this refers to the texts and melodies that were developed by ICEL for use in the English version of the Roman Missal, Lectionary, Liturgy of the Hours, etc, and is less clear about the requirements for musical settings of texts from the Graduale Romanum and other sources.

    Taking a small sample of the hymnals I have lying around, I'm seeing notes such as these:
    Concordate cum originali: [local archbishop of publisher]


    Published with the approval of the Committee on Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


    In accordance with c 827, permission to publish is granted... by [Vicar General of Archdiocese]


    With Ecclesiastical Approbation [local Archbishop]


    With the possible exception of Illuminare Publications, which from what I'm seeing might be in Colorado or Arizona and received permission to publish from the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Archbishops who have approved are the local ordinaries of the publishers.
  • JMJones
    Posts: 48
    My question, though, is less of if it is necessary (which MS 60 clearly leaves open the possibility of experimentation without approval prior to publication so long as it's appropriate music). My question is that given that it is possible to get approval from a bishop and/or the USCCB for published musical works and that such approval might be helpful for a local priest (or bishop) to be assured that a new composition is indeed appropriate for the Mass, how would you go about getting it? Wait until the whole book is ready and send it to them? Send a sample while you're still working on it but getting close to done? Who do you contact?
  • JMJ - when I went through this with my antiphons (using Roman Missal texts), the USCCB offices asked for a letter of approval from the local ordinary. So I did need one to proceed.

    I had it easy because I'm the cathedral music director and work in the same building as the bishop! I just gave him a letter detailing the project and asking for approval, and he sent me a short approval letter back. If you'd like to see the wording, look at the copyright/permissions page of my antiphons: www.stjosephantiphons.com

    If you are not on personal terms with the bishop, I think either the chancellor or the Office of Worship director would be a good intermediary.
  • JMJones
    Posts: 48
    Did you end up sending either of them you entire work, a sample, or just a description? Was this before or after the work was complete in polished form?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,071
    Do what I do.... compose only with 1962 Latin. Problem gone! (And... your composition will never be abrogated or “out of date” and... your music will be UNIVERSALLY acceptable. The church owns authentic globalism.
    Thanked by 2sdtalley3 tomjaw
  • I sent a few completed antiphons with my letter to the bishop, but I think that was more of a formality. The entire thing was over 100 antiphons, so there was no need to have examples and specific approval for each one.
  • JMJones
    Posts: 48
    Thank you. That is very helpful information, as I am also composing a set of antiphons.