Does “Tra le Sollucitudine” actually ALLOW Organ Alternatim?
  • It was my previous understanding, given the part of the motu proprio that specifically deals with the organ, that it implicitly forbade the practice of organ alternatim.

    BUT….

    TLS III:8

    “As the texts that may be rendered in music, and the order in which they are to be rendered, are determined for every liturgical function, it is not lawful to confuse this order or to change the prescribed texts for others selected at will, or to omit them either entirely or even in part, unless when the rubrics allow that some versicles of the text be supplied with the organ, while these versicles are simply recited in the choir. However, it is permissible, according to the custom of the Roman Church, to sing a motet to the Blessed Sacrament after the Benedictus in a solemn Mass. It is also permitted, after the Offertory prescribed for the mass has been sung, to execute during the time that remains a brief motet to words approved by the Church.”


    This seems to reference legislation given before Trent, which allowed for organ alternatim but mandated the first verse always be sung and that certain verses taken up by the organ must be quietly recited by the choir (Which can be read about here: https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/religions/religions-05-00751/article_deploy/religions-05-00751.pdf?version=1407924940 ) The one text absolutely forbidden to do this with was the Creed.

    We may debate over whether the practice is prudent, tasteful, spiritual, etc… but if it was actually allowed for by none other than Pius X, can any of us say it constitutes an actual “liturgical abuse?”

  • The Ceremonial of Bishops mentions alternatim practice in book 1, ch. 28, no. 9, even in the 1948 edition, which is decades after TLS, but I have come across this idea elsewhere that the motu proprio suppressed the practice of supplying versets on the organ. I recall seeing a blog post sometime in the past couple of years, which I didn't actually read, about "the organ having its own voice" liturgically. As for the Creed, you're correct that the organ cannot substitute for alternate phrases of the chant, but if I'm not mistaken, there was an SRC decree at some point saying it was lawful for the organ to play between phrases as long as the complete text was sung. (Why anyone would want to do so is another question.) Anybody have a searchable PDF of Hayburn?
    Thanked by 2John_F_Church tomjaw
  • searchable PDF of Hayburn

    This year's great and probably nonimplementable (legally) idea. The index in Hayburn is not helpful.
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  • davido
    Posts: 889
    I would surmise that the passage John highlights above is a nod to the French, tolerating a practice that was already longstanding and likely to be continued despite pronouncements from Rome

    Many French diocesan uses (especially Paris) contained rubrics permitting or mandating organ alternatim. In the 19th century, as the ultramontane movement pressured the French dioceses to abandon their uses in favor of the Roman books, the alternatim practice was eliminated, as it was seen as a decadent accretion not found in the usage of that font of the faith, the church of Rome and the Roman pontiff.

    However, since no rites really exist anymore that have rubrics dictating alternatim practice, I don’t think the above quote can be used to justify it.

    For those wishing to use alternatim practice, I suggest adopting an even older Catholic liturgical attitude (widely adopted in Novus Ordo land):
    do whatever the heck you want.
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  • widely adopted in Novus Ordo land
    And unfortunately rather widely adopted in trad land too, sad to say.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • For those wishing to use alternatim practice, I suggest adopting an even older Catholic liturgical attitude (widely adopted in Novus Ordo land):
    do whatever the heck you want.

    widely adopted in Novus Ordo land
    And unfortunately rather widely adopted in trad land too, sad to say.


    1) This is the result of the fall, not a result of being traditional in thought.
    2) Where it is a good thing, rightly nurtured, instead of the result of concupiscence, there's nothing to correct. There are, as St. Francis de Sales reminds us, saints in all sorts of walks of life. Dominicans are not Franciscans are not Benedictines are not Augustinians are not Carmelites, but these orders and their unique practices aren't errors needing to be corrected. OTOH, made-up Canons of the Mass and Un-necessary Ministers of Holy Communion, girl altar boys, a Missal which has so many options it's nearly impossible to violate the rubrics .... and others, are not good things and should be eliminated.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 258
    There are places in the Novus Ordo where an alius cantus aptus could include a hymn for which alternatin parts were written. For example, I could see at Easter a small choir with a skilled organist singing Ad Coena in alternatim with the versets by Titelouze:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipfBc_IGlC4
  • @davido

    since no rites really exist anymore that have rubrics dictating alternatim practice


    This is a good point. Where are the actual so called rubrics allowing for it?

    But alternatim wasn't merely a French practice. And even if France eventually did adopt Roman liturgical books, the practice still didn't die out -- consider Flor Peeters and Maurice Durufle still writing versets.

    But again, conceding your point, there doesn't seem to be any legislation extant actually allowing for it.

    For my own practice, for texts intrinsic to the Mass (the Propers and the Ordinary), I wouldn't dare try organ alternatim. But for extra-liturgical texts, such as using hymns for offertory and communion, I have sometimes done something akin to it. I don't see how this would be a violation of anything, since no properly liturgical texts are being altered.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    In related liturgical mysteries, I have yet to find where exactly Trent outlawed tropes.
    My suspicion is that rather than being outright banned, they were lost to the liturgical conservativism of Rome, de facto outlawed by the widespread adoption of the Pius V books, in which there were precious few sequences and no other tropes at all. (I also wonder if the Roman Curia were conservative, or just too irreligious to make the time for tropes and extra prayers.)
    Perhaps one could trace the push throughout history for “one, unique form of the Roman rite,” showing how it quashed the flowering of the liturgical arts outside of Rome.
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    By “do whatever the heck you want” I don’t mean disregard the rubrics completely. But I do think it is natural for there to be some variety in the manner of Catholic worship from place to place. This is easily seen in the concrete arts, architecture painting, church decoration, vestments, etc. and not just in the heterodox modernity of the 20th century.
    Considering the huge variety built in to the new mass, many times allowing for pure novelties, it seems that practicing time honored methods of variety - which exemplify beauty and great piety - should not be looked at askance.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,715
    @davido
    The ancient Missal of the Canons of Rome that formed the basis of the Trent Missal, was like many Missals in Southern Europe, it had few sequences and no Tropes. The Trent Missal was not imposed on anyone, it was taken up eventually by most of Europe. N.B. the Sarum Missal was never given up, but still fell in to disuse...

    More on the History of the Trent reform here,
    https://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2021/07/s-pius-v-and-traditionis-custodes.html
    https://liturgicalnotes.blogspot.com/2014/12/s-pius-v-originally-posted-february-2014.html
  • I have used alternatum in one context only, and that is to extend a work to make it better fill liturgical time. In my case, every year I improvise a series of versets in alternatum while the choir chants the Veni Creator Spiritus during confirmation, while the confirmands are actually being confirmed. This whole process can take quite a while, so improvising and adding organ commentary between the verses works really well. This isn’t true alternatum, of course, but the effect is very similar.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    I also wonder if the Roman Curia were conservative, or just too irreligious to make the time for tropes and extra prayers.

    I don't think we know why Pius V chose this impoverished form of Mass in 1570. Trent did not ask for it, in Session XXII they were clearly deeply concerned about the congregation while 1570 is not. And we don't AFAIK have anything on what the commission under Cdl Sirletto actually produced.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    @tomjaw I would contrast the gentle tone of the interpretation you cite from Fr Hunwicke with the text of Quo primum
    4. This new rite alone is to be used unless approval of the practice of saying Mass differently was given at the very time of the institution and confirmation of the church by Apostolic See at least 200 years ago, or unless there has prevailed a custom of a similar kind which has been continuously followed for a period of not less than 200 years, in which most cases We in no wise rescind their above-mentioned prerogative or custom. However, if this Missal, which we have seen fit to publish, be more agreeable to these latter, We grant them permission to celebrate Mass according to its rite, provided they have the consent of their bishop or prelate or of their whole Chapter, everything else to the contrary notwithstanding.

    5. All other of the churches referred to above, however, are hereby denied the use of other missals, which are to be discontinued entirely and absolutely; whereas, by this present Constitution, which will be valid henceforth, now, and forever, We order and enjoin that nothing must be added to Our recently published Missal, nothing omitted from it, nor anything whatsoever be changed within it under the penalty of Our displeasure.

    6. We specifically command each and every patriarch, administrator, and all other persons or whatever ecclesiastical dignity they may be, be they even cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, or possessed of any other rank or pre-eminence, and We order them in virtue of holy obedience to chant or to read the Mass according to the rite and manner and norm herewith laid down by Us and, hereafter, to discontinue and completely discard all other rubrics and rites of other missals, however ancient, which they have customarily followed; and they must not in celebrating Mass presume to introduce any ceremonies or recite any prayers other than those contained in this Missal.

    I have added paragraph numbers for convenience, and empasised a few words. To say that the 1570 Missal was not imposed on anyone does not match paragraph 6.
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  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,715
    @a_f_hawkins
    I notice that paragraphs 4 and 6 do not agree...
    Fr. Hunwicke is effectively fluent in Latin, he translated the passages himself. He does note the usual latin used, and I am happy to follow his translation.
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,170
    If I remember right, Peter K posted an explanation about this: the churches using rites less than 200 years old were required to use the Roman rite and give up all those other missals, some of which were theologically suspect.

    The churches using rites over 200 years old (i.e., supported by long-standing custom and presumed to be orthodox due to their age) could switch to the Roman rite if they so wished; but if they chose to do so, they would have to switch entirely and not preserve elements of their older practice.
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores tomjaw
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 123
    I find that the distinction between extra-liturgical texts (and music) and the Ordinary & Propers of the Mass to be a very important distinction here when considering alternatim.

    In my own practice with my choirs, I typically will do so at the prelude (A Solis Ortus Cardine for Christmas Midnight, perhaps...) or at the offertory or communion. Nonetheless...

    I have a question regarding the practice of Alternatim in the context of the office:

    We are all, I'm sure, familiar with the many many many versions of organ verses for the magnificat by so many organists, as well as the practice of choral versets juxtaposed with chanted verses..

    In the NO, for a parish celebration of Vespers on Sundays and various Solemnities, is there a manner in doing this that keeps in line with the relevant literature? I realize this is a giant grey area, especially since it takes on more of a spirit of devotion with the laity rather than needing to (necessarily) fulfill an obligation for clerics only... (yes I know that the Divine Office is far greater than a simple devotion- apart from the Mass it is the official and fullest form of prayer of the Church: I pray it as faithfully as I can each day.)

    I'm just curious if there is a manner in which one could, perhaps, help to bring this music out of the organ concert hall and back into the church in its proper place? (I'm just spit-balling with this...)

    I welcome your thoughts and ideas!
  • trentonjconn
    Posts: 551
    I'd imagine that one could play the versets in their various places but then also have the choir sing that which historically would have been replaced? It would certainly lengthen things, but with the text not being replaced I can't see how it would be problematic, rubrically.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,472
    Regardless of the permissability...the desire would be to actually play all those wonderful organ masses, Couperin Grigny, etc is an actual mass.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 240
    I came across the following this morning:
    The performance of purely instrumental pieces on the organ during liturgical celebrations today is limited. In the past the organ took the place of the active participation of the faithful, and reduced the people to the role of "silent and inert spectators" of the celebration (1987 Vatican document on Concerts in Churches)
    According to the present legislation organ music is allowed on all joyful occasions, both for purely instrumental pieces (voluntaries) and as accompaniment. The organ alone may even take the place of the voices in alternate verses at Mass or in the Office, provided the text so treated be recited by someone in an audible voice while the organ is played. Only the Credo is excepted from this treatment, and in any case the first verse of each chant and all the verses at which any liturgical action takes place — such as the "Te ergo quæsumus", the "Tantum ergo", the "Gloria Patri" — should be sung. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911)

    The Wikipedia claim that Tra le sollecitudini banned organ alternatim is erroneous. They also confuse the alternatim French organ Mass, a High Mass, with the Low Mass where the organ plays continuously throughout, which is something quite different. Unfortunately I have come across similar claims in peer-reviewed sources too.

    For reference:
    https://www.voxhumanajournal.com/mccroskey2021.html
    https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/5/3/751

    Is the organ capable of proclaiming a sacred text? O’Connor demonstrates how that very principle has been admitted by ecclesiastical authorities in a negative way: secular melodies cannot be played as instrumental music in church as long as the popular associations remain. If an organist were to play a totally inappropriate popular song at Mass, hardly anyone would doubt that the organ had indeed proclaimed a secular text. Therefore the organ is also capable of a proclaiming a sacred text.

    It would be interesting to see a comprehensive history of regulations requiring recitation of texts supplied by the organ. Was it a recto tono chanting or a spoken reading of the text, and did it take place before or during the organ verset? Keeping in mind that the practice spanned more than five centuries, how much variation was there in different times and places? Is it safe to assume that there was no recitation in the absence of a local regulation requiring it?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 2,001
    The Wikipedia claim that Tra le sollecitudini banned organ alternatim is erroneous. They also confuse the alternatim French organ Mass, a High Mass, with the Low Mass where the organ plays continuously throughout, which is something quite different. Unfortunately I have come across similar claims in peer-reviewed sources too.


    I recently had to correct someone who claimed that L'Orgue mystique was an organ Mass cycle written for low Mass (and while I'm something of a maximalist on that point, "nonstop playing" was not taught as correct or endorsed by the 1930s at the very latest), which made me very depressed at the state of scholarship here.

    Stercky provides the requirements as of the last edition in 1935.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 240
    There is also an old forum thread about the "organ Mass":
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/1189/the-organ-mass/
    There is some misinformation there too.

    Low Mass music nowadays is generally (and correctly) limited to the "four-hymn sandwich" spots: Entrance, Offertory, Communion, Recessional/Closing/Postlude, and perhaps, according to local custom, also after the Sanctus, Elevation, and Agnus Dei. I have personally been to Low Masses where the organist played continuously, pausing only from the Gospel to the end of the sermon, at the Consecration, and from the Confiteor before Communion until after her own Communion. I have also been to Low Masses, with several different priests, where the entirety of the Mass was inaudible to the congregation; that was, in fact, the norm for one well-known religious community that offers "both forms." I'm not defending unrubrical practices, just pointing out that they've lingered here and there into the new millennium.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen DavidOLGC
  • OMagnumMysterium
    Posts: 203
    Is the organ capable of proclaiming a sacred text? O’Connor demonstrates how that very principle has been admitted by ecclesiastical authorities in a negative way: secular melodies cannot be played as instrumental music in church as long as the popular associations remain. If an organist were to play a totally inappropriate popular song at Mass, hardly anyone would doubt that the organ had indeed proclaimed a secular text. Therefore the organ is also capable of a proclaiming a sacred text.

    I think this is faulty logic. It seems to me that organ music does not "proclaim" text in the same way that voices do or to the same extent, rather instrumental music calls to mind the text for those who are already familiar with the pairing of that tune with those words. Inappropriate popular music is not forbidden from being played on the organ because the organ is actually "proclaiming", or making known the inappropriate words, it's forbidden because those who know the association between text and tune will remember the words upon hearing the melody, and it may be a source of distraction or scandal to them, or at any rate, shift their thoughts away from the sacred and towards the secular.

    The real heart of the issue is that an organ cannot communicate text. An organ cannot distinguish between an A and an O, it cannot add consonants such as S or T. If a certain part of the Mass (say, the Deo gratias after Ite Missa est) was always "proclaimed" by the organ at every Mass instead of being sung by the choir, it would lose its meaning. Deo gratias is no longer being sung, because the organ cannot sing the sacred texts, the organ can only sing melodies. And so after the priest sings Ite Missa est, the organ echoes the melody just sung. If the organist also intones the Ite for the priest (which at our parish is always done), it becomes a nice little sandwich. Organ plays melody, priest sings Ite Missa est to same melody, organ repeats melody. But the text "Deo gratias" is completely lost.

    People on this forum have often spoke of the organ as having its own distinct voice. This is true, I admit it happily. But the organ's voice has different abilities than the human voice. And the organ is not capable of sing words, only melodies. So the organ cannot sing the sacred texts. The organ can sing beautiful pieces which express the sentiments found in the propers and the liturgical year, but it cannot sing the propers themselves. The organ can suggest ideas and stir up different feelings in the listeners, but it does not say words. The organ cannot sing the propers in the Graduale, and it cannot sing the ordinary in the Kyriale, even if permission has been given at times for the organ to be used in alternatim such that it replaces part of the text. I agree the organ should be respected and utilized, but trying to give the organ the job of the human voice (that is proclaiming the sacred texts), merely debases them both. They have different jobs, and neither can replace the other.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 240
    the organ echoes the melody just sung. If the organist also intones the Ite for the priest (which at our parish is always done), it becomes a nice little sandwich. Organ plays melody, priest sings Ite Missa est to same melody, organ repeats melody (emphasis mine)
    This is not how organ alternatim works. Other than the hymns properly so called, the versets are in the same mode/tone as the chant but typically don't quote its melody. I occasionally encounter comments about "the organ playing the chant" or something to that effect from people who aren't familiar with the repertory in question and think it's simply a matter of the organist playing harmonized chant, which is not at all the case. Here are some French classical Deo gratias examples, in no particular order:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHu16JA2yvs
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx2M-J0jFS8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXxydmqbNP8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSoZY3GUnpw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXbJwfMES3E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBEApqAApiA
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  • OMagnumMysterium
    Posts: 203
    Alright...

    Those are beautiful compositions, and I stand corrected regarding the idea of the organ simply echoing the chant melody, but I still stand by my claim that the organ cannot proclaim text. In light of the actual music linked above, even more so. Listening to those six videos, not I single time did the text "Deo gratias" pop into my head (apart from reading the video titles). Rather, my thought upon hearing them was "what nice snippets of organ music". Even if the music had reminded me of the text, that is not the same as intelligibly communicating it, but the music failed to even remind me of the text (so evidently that is not what it is trying to do).
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  • Liam
    Posts: 4,967
    This discussion is way down in the weeds from my pew perspective, but perhaps a distinction could reasonably be offered between "proclaim" and "evoke". In visual terms, a classic ikon may try to "proclaim" in a metaphysical sense, while a watercolor inspired by contemplation of the mystery in the ikon may "evoke".
  • davido
    Posts: 889
    At this point it might be helpful to know how Renaissance and baroque artists spoke about the role of the organ alternatim in the liturgy.
    Maybe someone on the forum with graduate studies in musicology or organ could speak to this?
  • WGS
    Posts: 298
    Keep in mind that with and for the traditional Mass, the celebrant is speaking (albeit perhaps softly) all the words of the Mass.
  • OMagnumMysterium
    Posts: 203
    Keep in mind that with and for the traditional Mass, the celebrant is speaking (albeit perhaps softly) all the words of the Mass.

    Well, not all, just most. In the example of Deo gratias, the priest does not say the words, and in a High Mass, neither does the server.

    My argument is basically that if the choir is required to sing certain texts, the organ really cannot logically take the place of that, because the organ cannot sing text, only melody. Now, if you start with the idea that it is not necessary for the texts in question to be sung, then there is nothing wrong with organ alternatim. Also, I'm not trying to make any claims about what was/is allowed, I'm just saying the organ doesn't have a voice capable of pronouncing words.
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  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 2,001
    The choir recited the words in question, at least according to the legislation in effect in the 1930s.

    And as I said, I’m a maximalist to the point where “follow Stercky” is my maxim, so you can take this with perhaps a grain of salt: there is a point at which I want to throw up my hands and say that we wind up making the opposing counsel’s brief for them. Eventually it is easy to say “why bother with organ?”
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 240
    Another old thread here:
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/514/alternatim-mass-in-practice/
    The comment from David Andrew is especially pertinent.
    it might be helpful to know how Renaissance and baroque artists spoke about the role of the organ alternatim in the liturgy
    Many of the pieces in question have a double title indicating the part of the Mass or Office and the registration, presumably from the composers themselves rather than an editor or publisher. They are liturgical works, not concert works.
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    Keep in mind that with and for the traditional Mass, the celebrant is speaking (albeit perhaps softly) all the words of the Mass.
    Other than for a Missa Privata without other sacred ministers or a congregation, a 'tradition' newly invented in 1570.

    [ADDED] and not relevant in France until well after the Revolution.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 2,001
    1570 is a better pedigree than 1970. Just saying.
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  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,715
    @a_f_hawkins
    Do we have the rubrics used by the Canons of Rome pre 1570? Without access to those rubrics we have no idea what was 'invented' in 1570. We don't have full rubrics for the Sarum, and I don't remember seeing full Rubrics for any other Rite in use before the Tridentine Missal.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 240
    Do we have the rubrics used by the Canons of Rome pre 1570?
    Maybe not immediately pre-1570, but surely the Ordines Romani count for something?
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,385
    I would say, no we do not have 'full' rubrics for anything, anywhere other than a missa privata. But the ordo missae of the printed missals of Sarum, Nidaros, ... are sufficient, or intended to be sufficient, to ensure uniform performance of a valid Solemn Mass throughout a kingdom/diocese. So we know that in neither England nor Norway was the priest required to duplicate the Gospel, or the epistle, or various items pertaining to the choir.
    I am, by the way, not clear what the liturgical responsibilities of the Canons of Rome will have been. Burkhardt's ritus servandus applied (in his view) to all members of the Curia including the Pope at their private masses. And papal ceremonial is covered elsewhere, but what Solemn Masses were the responsibility of the Roman Canons? If we need to look at the Roman Basilicas, they probably each had their own distinct habits.
    Peckler's remarks somewhere that the Roman dioceses all had usages different from the 1570 missal.