Polyphonic Ordinary in the Novus Ordo
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 300
    I want to touch on this subject that has been a pain point in my brain for a long time. There is no clear discussion about this here on the forum so I thought it warranted a new thread.

    From a quick read-through of the GIRM for USA I gather:
    1) the Kyrie should be sung by or at least participated in by the people
    2) the Gloria could be sung by the choir alone
    3) the Credo should be participated in by the people
    4) the Sanctus must be sung by the people
    5) the Agnus Dei could be sung by the choir alone

    So, 1+2+3+5 allows for polyphony (in whole or in part) for at least those parts of the Mass.

    Here are my questions about this:
    1) How does one sing a polyphonic sanctus at the Novus Ordo if a) it is mostly proscribed by the GIRM and b) if we ignore that, they are generally very long and will go on forever while everyone just stands there?
    2) I have read much about this in various places and have seen two options for the polyphonic sanctus (none of which are provided for in the rubrics): a) having a silent canon and splitting the sanctus/benedictus as would be done in the TLM or b) singing the benedictus in place of the "mysterium fidei" and wait to continue the canon. What are thoughts on these things? Any dubia or legislation to point to?
    3) What about the Agnus Dei? Is it permitted to split, as it were, the Agnus as can be done in the TLM? ie: sing Agnus Dei (miserere nobis) twice; wait for the "Domine, non sum dignus" and then sing Agnus Dei (dona nobis pacem)

    I see churches singing polyphonic or orchestral Masses all over the place and always wonder about the logistics of how this is actually done. I too have used polyphonic ordinaries but always with chant mixed in to keep it short and involve congregational singing in some way, lest I hear from the boss about it. (I may be overthinking this last part, but I come from a place of caution in these matters so as not to rock the boat too much. I am already doing way more (ie: chant, polyphony, latin) than I have ever been allowed to in the past.)

    I welcome your thoughts on this matter and hope it is helpful for someone else too.
    Thanked by 1John_F_Church
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,901
    One of the ways for the congregation to join is by chant lines that can be followed by polyphonic choral parts.
  • In my opinion, the celebrant saying Mass facing the altar and tabernacle instead of the people helps to solve the awkwardness of using longer polyphonic settings in the OF. For whatever reason, it is quite awkward to watch the celebrant standing there and waiting for the Sanctus or Agnus to be over. When his face is not visible, this seems to eliminate awkwardness and reduce the degree to which it feels like the priest is waiting.
    Thanked by 2PaxTecum CHGiffen
  • CGM
    Posts: 664
    I asked this precise question, using some of the same arguments, ten years ago on this forum. Perhaps that conversation will be helpful:
    Thanked by 1PaxTecum
  • In fact, the liturgical problem occurs not only with polyphony and Renaissance Masses, but also the more difficult chants of the Kyriale; I would consider most of Mass IX, for example, unsuitable for congregation participation. Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, devotes an entire chapter, some 36 pages, to "Using Inherited Genres II: The Polyphonic Mass Ordinary" (and genre I is Gregorian chant) in his book Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform. He covers many objections and solutions. I will only quote one footnote:
    Peter Planyavsky, formerly organist at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, has actually written ambitious congregational settings of the Memorial Acclamation and Great Amen for orchestra and choir, so that these elements of the Eucharistic Prayer would be musically united with the Sanctus of classical composers and proportionally weighty. In fact, choral settings of the Mass Ordinary were employed liturgically somewhat rarely under Planyavsky, compared to fixed custom in many other Austrian churches and cathedrals to this day.

    In Vienna alone, you'll find half a dozen or more polyphonic or orchestral novus ordo Masses on any given Sunday (and yes, there are lapsed Catholics, Jews, and unbelievers who come to church for what they approach as a free concert with a sermon and prayers thrown in). If memory serves, the practice at the Augustinerkirche is to sing the movements of the Ordinary at their proper liturgical place and for the priest and ministers simply to wait. I do remember that in Salzburg it was otherwise, with part of the Eucharistic Prayer (Hochgebet) said inaudibly, which I later read is a diocesan regulation. I also remember that the performance of Mozart's "Ave verum corpus" after Communion in Salzburg was donated in memory of someone, not unlike a Mass stipend or altar flowers. Incidentally, I've also read that in Austria there is still a higher stipend for a High Mass. A mostly silent Eucharistic Prayer with the Benedictus sung in place of the Memorial Acclamation was the practice advocated by Cardinal Ratzinger, but I'm not sure it was ever done that way for any of his papal Masses.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw PaxTecum
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 300
    @CGM not sure how i missed this thread!! Thanks for sharing and sorry for the duplication
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 247
    One could use an alternatim setting with the people singing the chant and the congregation singing the polyphony.

  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,178
    Once a month we sing a Latin polyphonic ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei). We have not yet added a Credo, though that is in the works. Note this a Novus Ordo mass in Latin with Gregorian propers. No one complains, the priest was the one who had the idea and we do it. Our last one was the Tallis Mass for 4 voices. Great music and people come to experience it. I'm not sure what the problem is but in any case, we do it with great care and passion.
  • PaxTecum
    Posts: 300
    @kevin thats what I'm thinking too. Just do it and stop thinking about it. I need to sell that to the boss.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • It’s worth remembering that recent pontiffs have spoken of the distinct role that choirs play. It is proper for trained musicians to sing more difficult music where the degree of solemnity requires it. Not every single mass is a high missa cantata. But for those that are, polyphonic ordinaries sung by the choir alone are perfectly legitimate, and immemorial custom backs this up heavily.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw PaxTecum
  • By the way, check out the Dalitz Missa Tribus Vocibus. People love it, it is fun to sing, and perhaps more importantly for the novus ordo: it is succinct, and works very well in novus ordo masses.
    Thanked by 1PaxTecum