What are our "takeaways" from the Anglican musical tradition?
  • Grace and peace, everyone.

    HM the Queen's funeral having stunned, I thought I would start this thread. I'm curious to know what we as a community of Catholic musicians think are some of the conclusions to be drawn here---either from the event itself or from Anglican music as a whole. Is there anything that you will be taking home, trying out with your own choirs? What can we beg, borrow, or steal? What cannot be done? Where are the points of agreement and discord?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    I did not watch it. But these questions were nagging me all week.

    Was there any Latin or Gregorian chant?
    Was there the Eucharistic Sacrifice? (Mass)

    Truthfully, I would like to know since I did not watch.
  • Francis, there was no mass, which I found both surprising and not surprising.

    Not surprising in that there are tons of foreign dignitaries and non-Christians in attendance, and it was long enough already… but surprising in that one would expect a sacrifice to be offered for the deceased. Not being a mass, I found it rather odd when they chose to sing some Eucharistic texts like RVW’s O Taste and See. (Granted, you can take the text in a more general sense, but it is clearly a Eucharistic text, so it felt out of place in a non-Eucharistic service.)

    My main takeaways were that a.) solemnity is something that really needs to be reintroduced more broadly in corporate worship; while the degree of solemnity in this particular case was extreme, it was also lovely and touching. b.) nobody does hymnody like the British (we knew this, but still… gorgeous.) c.) good choral singing is so necessary for corporate worship… it adds something that is truly special and that cannot be had in any other way. (And yes, we were all “actively participating” even though we were just listening!)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    And was there any Latin or Gregorian chant?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    You can check the programs that have been posted here; it's not like looking at them makes one a collaborator with heresy.

    * * *

    None of the state liturgies are liturgies with general communion (the coronation service has the feature of communion for those being crowned, but that's it, IIRC).

    We should remember that the British way of doing hymnody in the Anglican church was a deliberate - and controversial - creation of the second half of the 19th century, and considerably refined in the early 20th century, with roots from a variety of sources, esp Non-Conformist but also Catholic breviary hymn translations. The services in the wake of a sovereign's demise 200 years ago would not have felt like what was offered in the last two weeks.


    One significant take-away for me was: a consistent level of professional competence of all liturgical ministries, at the individual and institutional levels, and what it takes to nurture, sustain and harvest the fruits of it.

    PS: If you think the British way with hymnody is the best, you need to meet...Lutherans and their ecclesial progeny. (There's a reason I've witnessed choir directors say things like "Sing this like Lutherans would" to their timid Catholic choristers.)

  • One significant take-away for me was: a consistent level of professional competence of all liturgical ministries, at the individual and institutional levels, and what it takes to nurture, sustain and harvest the fruits of it.
    this too, for sure.
    It’s no accident that this music was performed by professional full-time choirs.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Jehan_Boutte
  • There was also the gusto with which the congregations present sang. That's a fruit of professional competence too, in this case, the professional competence of choir directors in schools in the UK.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 181
    It means that when the change from Latin to the vernacular came about after the Second Vatican Council, how the reform was implemented in the U.S. went off the rails. We had access to a 400 year old liturgical and musical tradition that produced some really good music and was capable of solemn and impressive liturgies. All we had to do was reach out and it was there for us. Instead, we turned to pseudo-folk music of significantly lesser quality.

    We could have this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGDczF6DWkg&list=OLAK5uy_lK7i7tfHKtUB4fER6gCDnCgMBsfUkNOkY

    Instead we have this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ5it20gKqw
    Thanked by 3WGS tomjaw CharlesW
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    There was also the gusto with which the congregations present sang. That's a fruit of professional competence too, in this case, the professional competence of choir directors in schools in the UK.


    Yes, I meant that no less than the choirs. It's also cultural norms: British people are more used to singing in public gatherings than most people in the USA currently are other than members of historically Black churches.

    And in the Catholic church in the USA, the reality that its institutional structures were dominated by Irish-Americans perhaps meant that the Protestant hymn singing traditions of the British Isles were not viewed as a font from which to draw deeply, but instead viewed with varying degrees of apathy to suspicion. To say something was Anglican was not to compliment it in that context, but more like "that's not who we are or want to be".
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    Well... should I then suppose that the Anglicans are the ones who have the real “takeaway”?
  • No. To my mind, the real takeaway is that we are in the initial stages of a Catholic Renaissance in the English-speaking world. Call it feminine intuition.
    Thanked by 2Liam CHGiffen
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    The foreign dignitaries and non-Anglicans are irrelevant. The Book of Common Prayer doesn't envision Holy Communion for the burial service.

    People keep saying this re: the liturgical reform, but for reasons which I thought were patently obvious we rejected it. I'm not exactly reflexively anti-Anglo myself, but I can understand why Catholics in the US especially did not feel like the Anglican and Episcopalian tradition was also their inheritance.

    Also, even Anglican chant as we now know it and the Renaissance polyphony revival are less than two centuries old, albeit with deeper roots in the case of psalmody. The Anglicans still hadn't really found their identity by Vatican II, or rather, it was in tension up until then in a way that it no longer is; in fact, it would still have been common to not only use the prayer book (vanishingly rare nowadays, Holy Communion was not particularly frequent in most parishes of the Church of England. Being ambiguous with a scarf and stole while wearing a black cope (I really couldn't tell if Welby had a tippet or a stole under his cope) as the archbishop of Canterbury even at the funeral of the Queen known to have country, evangelical preferences is something that was hardly imaginable a century ago. Geoffrey Fisher wore a miter at least on occasion, and he wore a stole at the coronation, but you don't see any miters at that event. Even if there are huge doctrinal questions, Anglican liturgy with Catholic externals is taken for granted in a way that it wasn't before 1965.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    Matthew, excellent comment.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • davido
    Posts: 642
    I liked the organ “incipit” introduction to hymns, rather than the first phrase/last phrase introduction so often marked out in American hymnals. People need to hear what they are about to sing, rather than the last phrase.

    I was struck by the lack of singing by the clergy. None of the clerical prayers were chanted. The music sung was all very professional (even the congregational hymns). Priests chanting their parts is so much a staple component of RotR that the lack of clerical chant stuck out to me.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    Priests chanting their parts is so much a staple component of RotR that the lack of clerical chant stuck out to me.


    Ideally, yes, but in practice much rarer than it should be. And that's a lot of the problem. Priests resisted, congregations resisted, the Missal and Ordinary get treated as musical wallpaper instead of the *foundation* music.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,088
    francis - not only no eucharist, but no prayer for the dead, expressions of trust/hope in the everlasting life and the resurrection, and praise of the mercy of our Redeemer, but on the understanding that when we are dead it is too late to change the judgement we receive. That is as I, a Catholic, understand the Anglican view.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • davido
    Posts: 642
    To say that there is an “Anglican view” is inaccurate in that Anglicans are characterized by a plurality of views.

    I heard prayers that besought eternal rest for the departed. At the burial service, prayers were read that were nearly word for word prayers that are read at NO funerals.

    Alternatively, there were lots of Presbyterian prayers from the Scottish church.

    Also, at the commital in St George’s, the choir sang the Russian Kontakion, which is a prayer for the dead.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    God, please save the Queen, and please, God, bring the English back to the OHCAF!
    Thanked by 2tomjaw ServiamScores
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    That there was no prayer for the dead is not quite accurate, especially with the committal. Paradoxically, there is no real separate funeral that can be split; the traditional Catholic way of the office of the Dead with sung Mass and the procession, expected to be done all the way until the 1960s can be reduced (one nocturn only, only part of the processions to and from the church sung, or reduced to the Ego sum, Benedictus, and Subvenite beforehand and then some of the chants when arriving at the cemetery). The BCP office is really a burial office, in true Cranmerian/Edwardian form.

    That said, the first two sentences especially are prayers for the dead; the first is the reappropriated Ego sum from Lauds of the Dead, the second the reworked first responsory of the first nocturn of Matins of the Dead, obviously taken from Job. The rector of Sandringham read a prayer in St George's Chapel that is essentially the Memento of the dead from the Roman Canon with some slight modifications (I haven't heard the canon in English in so long, so I had to look up which prayer uses "refreshment, light, and peace"); he also worked in "perpetual light" (interestingly, this is from a part of our apocrypha, 4 Esdras, though we hardly read it even privately). Obviously, the Kontakion for the Dead is an explicit prayer for the dead.

    Since the Requiem has no blessings, I'm no fan of them at funerals, but they explicitly prayed for rest for the departed in the blessing at the funeral.

    The reading at the funeral is an expanded version of the epistle from the second Mass of All Souls (the triple Masses are, in the universal church, a very late development, but I believe the Mass formularies are more ancient). The psalm was the same as the Tract on the day of burial in many usages, except that of Rome itself, where the Tract is always Absolve me. The prayer "Go forth o Christian soul" seems to be a conscious reflection of the Subvenite and the In Paradisum, and the prayer which preceded it at the burial is a conscious prayer for her soul.

    Ps 121, sung at the committal, is in our Vespers of the dead.

    Are the prayers perhaps somewhat indifferent or universalist? The former yes, the latter not really; you still have to be Christian… Do Anglicans seem conscious of not being Catholic but also not wanting to share their theology and ritual entirely? In my outside opinion, yes, at least at the highest levels and in certain circles, and indeed the prayer "O Merciful Father" (curiously moved to the beginning) is very Anglican (the emphasis at the end being on Christ as mediator and redeemer) but it's not like they've thrown out the Last Judgement entirely, which means they are aware, however queasily they feel about it, of the possibility of going to the Other Place and that we need help to not go there or to prepare for heaven. It's all very meta in a way. Liturgical Arts Journal had a very good Facebook post about how this wasn't possible without the evolution of the Anglican Communion since 1830 or so, and it came complete with bibliographic recommendations (alas, there weren't any for Anglican worship from ca. 1610 to 1830).

    That said, I wasn't especially a fan of the music besides the Sentences (I loved them and wanted to know whose settings were used) and the Kontakion; I don't care for the new anthem at all. I recognize that the music was sung by two of the best choirs in England if not the world, but the overly-syllabic style of much of the repertoire, true to Elizabethan form (which Elizabeth…), and the dissonance do not appeal to me, and I thought that the trumpets overshadowed the descant in one of the hymns, which was sad, since I love descants. The descant of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" (yes, that one) is one of the best things about the funeral of Diana… I'm an outlier, I get it.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,979
    "... the Sentences (I loved them and wanted to know whose settings were used)"

    -- by William Croft (1678--1727)

    See Burial_Service_(William_Croft) at CPDL.
    Thanked by 1Andrew_Malton
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    Also the Purcell. All listed in the programs.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,979
    The Purcell "Thou knowest Lord the secrets of our hearts" was/is actually included in the Croft Burial Service. From Croft's preface:
    At the End of this Volume is printed an Entire Burial-Service, which it is hoped will not be unacceptable, there being scarce any Thing of that Kind that is correct in any Cathedral in England; for Want whereof great Confusion and Perplexity in that Kind of Performance generally ensues, to the great Detriment and Disadvantage of these solemn Rites. In that Service there is one Verse composed by my Predecessor, the Famous Mr. Henry Purcell, to which, in Justice to his Memory, his Name is applied; the Reason why I did not compose that Verse a-new, (so as to render the whole Service entirely of my own Composition,) is obvious to every Artist; in the rest of That Service composed by me, I have endeavoured, as near as possibly I could, to imitate that great Master and celebrated Composer, whose Name will for ever stand high in the Rank of Those, who have laboured to improve the English Style, in his so happily adapting his Compositions to English Words in that elegant and judicious Manner, as was unknown to many of his Predecessors; but in this Respect both His and My worthy and honoured Master, Dr. Blow, was known likewise to excel.

    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
    The Purcell part of the service is placed so that it is sung as the coffin is borne through the portal of beneath the Organ Gallery into the Choir.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,558
    One thing that struck me was the leading of the choir; one has heard of past time-beaters receiving notes that read "We will have no conducting in our chapel". One thing I've endeavored to stamp out at St David's is conducting of the congregation. Although a couple lectors will still do the raised hands, people have mostly learned that my looking up from the psalter with a smile of pleasurable anticipation is their cue for the Respond.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 480
    A takeaway for me is that all of this music has been made possible through a stupendous amount of state funding through the years. Westminster Abbey, St. George’s, Windsor, the other royal peculiars, all the Oxbridge colleges, and also the cathedrals have had gargantuan amounts of public money thrown at them to keep up pro ATBs, a choirmaster, and some boys singing daily, for centuries.

    We do not have this in the USA, and other European countries with state Churches do things differently.

    Choirs don’t get that good unless they perform almost every day of every year from age 7 until retirement. The only other way is to have pro choirs in which everyone has already earned degrees in music. To replicate the British model in a local setting is a tremendously costly endeavour, and to transform a culture would require an investment on the order of every penny the Crown spent on music since Henry VIII broke up the monasteries, adjusted for inflation…..
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,389
    Gamba, Are you sure all those places are funded by the State from public taxation... I did not think a penny of mine funds them.
  • It's not true that 'all' the Oxbridge colleges 'keep up pro ATBs, a choirmaster, and some boys singing daily,' Using Cambridge as the example, not all the colleges have a choir like those at Kings and St. John's. I sang in the chapel choir at one of the smaller Cambridge colleges during my student days. The choir was SATB, drawn from among the students, and although the choir members received an annual honorarium it was not a significant amount. Although the college provided the building and organ most churches do that. In my day the choir was conducted by a student, and the organist was also a student, who received a slightly larger honorarium but nothing like a professional rate of pay for the time and effort involved. (And the organist when I first joined the choir was studying civil engineering, although his successor was a music student.) What enabled the system to work was the English choral tradition, which meant that there was a good supply of students (reading subjects other than music for their degree) who were already competent singers and could sight read.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    King's hasn't had professional Lay Clerkes since the beginning of the 20th century: Arthur Henry "Daddy" Mann began replacing them with undergraduate Choral Scholars, and by the time he retired and handed over to Boris Ord, the lower parts are all Undergraduate Choral Scholars, with two exceptions that I can think of: some Lay Clerkes were hired to fill in during WWII when many of the Scholars were deployed, and in 2020 when The King's Singers filled in for Carols from King's when the Choral Scholars were quarantined with COVID. As of 2022 the Choir of King's College, Cambridge is the ONLY all male chapel choir in Cambridge University, as St. John's is now admitting girl choristers and women undergraduates to the alto line. And King's and John's are the only choirs at Cambridge University with child choristers, the rest are all made up of students Undergraduates, mainly.

    I'm not too familiar with Oxford, but the only all male, chorister based, Choir there is Christchurch Cathedral.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,715
    My takeaway is that the Anglicans generally have far better music than you will find in most Catholic parishes in the USA.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,088
    My takeaway is that the Anglicans generally have far better music than you will find in most Catholic parishes in the USA UK.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,389
    @a_f_hawkins At least we have competition in providing good liturgical music. Think of how bad it could be at Westminster Cathedral, if they did not have the choir at the abbey to compare.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    Pembroke College, Cambridge has a girls' choir for girls aged eleven to eighteen. It's not a full school, so obviously, that's not quite the same, but the Pembroke music director, Anna Lapwood, is really talented and a really good communicator, i.e. she's active online and responds to her audience, she likes when people run into her in public if she's playing on a piano like in a train station… and they sing regularly (weekly performance, plus once-a-term Evensong).
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 480
    Sorry, sloppy generalizations….

    (Percutit sibi pectus ter….)