Picking motets for EF Masses
  • Dear esteemed church musicians, I have a conundrum and I want to hear your thoughts because most of you have been doing this for much longer than I.

    What is your process for picking choral motets for the Extraordinary Form? I have planned only a few EF Masses myself, and it seems that finding extra-liturgical music (as in not music that's not the antiphons or text of the Mass) that's related to the antiphons and readings is rather difficult compared to doing the same thing in the OF.

    Of course, the OF seems much simpler because we're generally working in the vernacular, and at least for me, I'm looking at a TON of SATB devotional hymns to choose from, and it's not too difficult to find something on hymnary.com that works with the antiphons and readings, or at least gives a similar message.

    But for the EF, after hours of looking for repertoire on sites like CPDL or CanticaNova, it seems that all I can find are motets that are strictly the text of the antiphons/psalm verses, or generic Eucharistic or devotional motets. I'm not trying to undermine the value of singing a Tantum Ergo at Communion or an Ave Maria at the Offertory, but I feel like defaulting to those types of choices is kind of generic, and that there's more grace to be dug out from the proper liturgical texts with the right repertoire.

    Does anyone sympathize with my conundrum? What's your advice? Any great resources? Or am I just still new at this? I'm really interested in what you experienced music directors have to say!
    Thanked by 1Chrism
  • ADJAnderson,

    Can you be more precise as to what you're trying to find?
    What belongs at Mass is, first and foremost, what the Church provides for us in the texts themselves and in the treasury of chant. That's why you find so many settings of the Propers.

    If you're looking for other ponds to fish in, look at the Divine Office, and find polyphonic settings of some of those antiphons, or of Office hymns. If you're looking for works inspired by the Mass (or the Office) but not part of them,..... could you give an example ?

    There is a setting of Zachaeae festinans descende for five voices by Orlando Lassus, which takes its inspiration from the Divine Office, because this text isn't in the Propers of the Mass.

    Thanked by 1adjpanderson13
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 929
    I don't see the choice as between strict settings of the proper texts and general devotional motets (neither of which are a bad idea, of course). The trick is to find motets which maintain the "ethos" already established with the proper chants. Most often this means those with similar texts. (Sometimes you can find texts related to the epistle and gospel, but these are pretty rare.)

    Here are some suggestions along this line for the upcoming Sunday, the 7th Sunday after Pentecost (limiting myself to CPDL).

    Looking at the texts of the proper chants, both the introit and alleluia are taken from Ps. 46 (47):2, "Omnes gentes plaudite manibus." There's a nice setting by Giovanni Casini at CPDL. The Psalm 47 page at CPDL might have some other ideas.

    For the communion motet, Morales' motet "Inclina, Domine" (first part only) has a text similar (but not identical to) to the proper chant "Inclina aurem tuam," from Psalm 85 (86). Think of the motet continuing the prayer started with the chant, so to speak. It's also a nice contrast to the Casini motet. Again, the Psalm 86 page at CPDL might offer additional options.

    If you're singing every Sunday, it's also a matter of building up a repertoire of motets that can be sung on multiple Sundays. So for communion you could look at settings of "O Sacrum Convivium," "Ave Verum Corpus," "Panis Angelicus," etc., some "general" motets (e.g. "Cantate Domino," "Jubilate Deo"), as well as motets for the various liturgical seasons.
    Thanked by 1adjpanderson13
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,341
    I have posted our music plan here, The various suggestions are html links to the music / webpage with links.

    An Entrance Hymn can be in English or can be one of the Salve Festa Dies processional Hymns otherwise you could sing the ancient verse for the Introit from this book this would be sung INT., verse, INT. verse, INT., Gloria Patri, Int.

    In many places it is Traditional to sing the seasonal Marian Antiphon at the end of Mass but an English hymn could be sung.

    I think that finding motets during EF Mass is easy, as we have so much music to choose from and we have only two rules to follow, 1. Must be Latin and 2. Must not be secular.

    I agree that it is boring to sing a Marian hymn / motet at the Offertory and a Eucharistic motet / Hymn at Communion, but there is no harm in doing this on a few occasions each year...

    Anyway I will put in order a list of preference, For the Offertory / Communion.
    1. Why not sing the Liturgical texts such as the Offertory verses and the Communion verses

    2. Why not sing the Palestrina Offertory settings instead of the chant, the Isaac settings for the Communion can be alternated with the psalm verses and the chant Communion setting. These can be found linked in the above music plan, also each Sunday / feast has a link to the excellent CPDL database with suggestions of music.

    3. Why not sing a chant Hymn suitable to the season or feast we have 100's to choose from?

    4. We can commemorate the Saint of the day with a Hymn, either from the common or from a Hymn written in honour of the Saint.

    5. In the EF, the Mass is just one part of the Prayers of the day, we have the texts of the Divine Office, this will provide many options such as Antiphons and Responsories.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,864
    I think you're making this harder than it needs to be.
    Since you're putting motets into the Offertory and Communion slots, why not just sing the assigned texts to polyphony, instead of the chant, since the polyphony will most likely be longer? Somewhere there's a setting for everything, even the doldrums of Time After Pentecost. Also, often the Office will use related but slightly different texts. Or you can use setting of the Office hymn for the day. Also, in the late 16th c., there were Lutheran composers setting the Gospel readings as Latin motets.

    This implies that you have forces that can do different music every Sunday. For many of us, we don't have that luxury, and we do a lot of generic Eucharistic motets. There's nothing wrong with that. It's nice when you can make everything match, but there's nothing rubrical that says you have to do it that way.
  • Tom,

    Do you use polyphonic introits in place of chanted introits or as supplements to them, when time allows?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,341

    Apart from one occasion when we sang the Chant Introit with the Isaac polyphonic verse because we had not got the piece learnt in full in time. So far we have sung the Issac polyphonic Introits in full. It does take a little too long so it may be better in the long run to sing the repeat to the chant. No one has yet complained and it only adds a couple of minutes to the Mass... but I will be making sure we are not overrunning due to the music (the Sermon and the notices on the other hand are the longest part of the Mass and beyond my control).
  • I don’t understand the conundrum here. We no longer sing polyphony but we had a very long list of repertoire we could sing. When deciding what to sing we first looked at what our choir member attendance situation was like that Sunday (if an entire section is missing, that limits things), followed by the texts of the Mass propers, followed by the themes predominant that Sunday, followed by what action is occurring at Mass.
    Thanked by 2WGS tomjaw
  • Tom,

    Isaac's (and others') pieces are meant to go around, i.e., to include the verse and Gloria Patri and then the re-statement of the antiphon, aren't they? Could you not repeat the antiphon (in any form) without damaging the piece or the liturgical event?
  • ADJPAnderson,

    Today's Mass also gives an opportunity to use something from the Divine Office. The Magnificat Antiphon, Non potest arbor bona, as the Magnificat antiphon usually is, is an excerpt from the Gospel. CPDL provides the note that there is a setting of this text by Giulio Osculati. There must be other settings of it. Posters here surely know of other settings, and -- failing that -- it would be meritorious for someone to write a setting of it.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,864
    Per RISM:
    Giovanni Giorgi a4 w. org.
    Paolo Salulini for S & bc
    Incomplete settings by Ruffo and Viadana
    Johannes Heugel per the MOTET database.

    Not a lot out there.

  • Jeffrey,

    Ok., so there's a need (or this thread wouldn't exist) not currently being met.


    Can one of us (exempting myself) help ADJPAnderson?
    Thanked by 1adjpanderson13
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,761
    To the OP: I just look at the propers and try and search places like IMSLP and CPDL to find motets that are either settings of or derivative of the proper texts. The Renaissance composers left us a tremendous wealth of (public domain) music in latin based on those texts. If the propers fail, you can also search the readings and find things, but the propers almost never fail.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,864

    Ok., so there's a need (or this thread wouldn't exist) not currently being met.

    For Non potest arbor bona? Or for text matching? Constructing a bibliography of motets sorted by the 2 lectionaries is more work than I'm up for.
    I've got a project or 2 getting finished right now, but it's a text worth setting. Or editing, if I could find the source material to do so.
  • There's a need (OP's need) for a setting of Non potest arbor bona.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,864
    He won't need one for another year. And even then, it's desirable, not needful.
  • Ok. Point taken.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 929
    Constructing a bibliography of motets sorted by the 2 lectionaries is more work than I'm up for.

    My dream project. . .
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • Chrism
    Posts: 831
    My dream project. . .

    Do it!