Is singing solo non-liturgical?
  • Ted
    Posts: 200
    A new priest for a TLM has forbidden solo singing during the liturgy. His argument is that it is non-liturgical. There is plenty of historical evidence that solo singing by a cantor is an ancient tradition. However, does anyone know if there is actually some Church legislation against solo singing at Mass?
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 185
    See Tra le sollecitudini 12:
    With the exception of the melodies proper to the celebrant at the altar and to the ministers, which must be always sung in Gregorian Chant, and without accompaniment of the organ, all the rest of the liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites, and, therefore, singers in the church, even when they are laymen, are really taking the place of the ecclesiastical choir. Hence the music rendered by them must, at least for the greater part, retain the character of choral music.

    By this it is not to be understood that solos are entirely excluded. But solo singing should never predominate to such an extent as to have the greater part of the liturgical chant executed in that manner; the solo phrase should have the character or hint of a melodic projection (spunto), and be strictly bound up with the rest of the choral composition.
    There is a lot of difference between a solo cantor singing a gradual verse (or an entire Mass in case of necessity) and an aria masquerading as a motet. Someone might be confused about the distinction. Apart from the Triduum, I'm unaware of a minimum number of singers. You are correct in saying that solo singing by a cantor is an ancient tradition. The rubrics of the Graduale actually specify one singer for parts of the chants on certain days.
  • davido
    Posts: 849
    Ted, you have left “solo singing” undefined. There are lots of pieces that can be sung solo:
    - “Cujus animam” from Rossini’s Stabat Mater
    - the Introit for Easter Sunday
    - Ave Maria by Schubert
    - Hail Mary Gentle Woman
    - The StarSpangled Banner
    - Adoro te, Gregorian

    Some of these I would deem non-liturgical, and some not.
    But single-voice (solo) singing at mass is liturgical, otherwise your priest could not sing his preface.

    Your priest could have other reasons. Perhaps there is a specific voice he doesn’t want to hear doing a solo?
    Or specific music rep he was taught isn’t appropriate?

    I find, sadly, that a lot of traditional priests think of it it isn’t wall to wall renaissance polyphony, that it’s not holy. Hardly a tradition represented by Christian musical history.
  • Ted
    Posts: 200
    Thanks for your info FSSPmusic. I can see that this may have been directed against the operatic singing that had invaded the music of the liturgy at the time of St Pius X. I suspect the priest's objection has to do with the strict interpretation of Tra le sollecitudini, since the solist is very good.

    davido: Examples of solo singing would be having the cantor sing a Latin hymn during Communion while the rest of the choir Communicates, or a cantor singing alone the Gradual or Alleluia verse. It used to be common practice for a soloist to sing say an Ave Maria and others during a Sunday low Mass before the Council. Goodness, a lot of weddings today would have no singing....
  • davido
    Posts: 849
    Yea, I was wondering if your priest was against Ave Maria’s or against a solo hymn. Anti- operatic Ave Maria’s is at least a historical position, but no soloist singing adoro te during communion would be a little extreme.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    Some of these priests get too caught up in trying to be more Renaissance than Pius V. They put on the finery, prance around, and think they are doing historical re-enactments.
    No wonder Pope Francis is annoyed with the TLM. Much that has been done in the mass over the centuries has been done out of necessity, working with the resources actually available. Very few parish churches ever had the resources to perform the ideal.
  • Charles,

    With all due respect, Pope Francis isn't upset at the TLM or the priests or faithful who cling to it, because they have some attachment to the Renaissance, or because he dislikes prancing around or (pseudo)historical re-enactments.
    Thanked by 2francis tomjaw
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 185
    Much that has been done in the mass over the centuries has been done out of necessity, working with the resources actually available. Very few parish churches ever had the resources to perform the ideal.
    Exactly! If you've never seen this, it's worth your time:
    Historical Recreation of a 15th Century Catholic Latin Mass
    Yes, it's a real Mass offered by a real Catholic priest, not a theater piece; a Sung Mass with one priest, one server, and one cantor.
  • Ted
    Posts: 200
    The next item in Tra le sollecitudini would eleminate most choirs at Mass today which makes me question the applicability of this moto proprio for today:

    13. On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir. Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 185
    The next item in Tra le sollecitudini would eleminate most choirs at Mass today which makes me question the applicability of this moto proprio for today
    I can't speak for everyone, but the men's schola is the principal choir at my parish. Paragraph 13 is superseded by subsequent legislation, as are other parts of TLS. I don't think that invalidates the document as a whole, let alone the principles enumerated therein.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    FSSPmusic, exactly. I remember Latin masses before the Council with a priest and a cantor in the back responding to each other. No other musicians were present.

    13. On the same principle it follows that singers in church have a real liturgical office, and that therefore women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form part of the choir.


    That will definitely get you run out of town today.

    or because he dislikes prancing around or (pseudo)historical re-enactments.


    Pope Francis has made it clear he prefers the simplicity of the current liturgy.
  • >> Pope Francis has made it clear he prefers the simplicity of the current liturgy.

    including the giant bubble blower, and the drones?!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    Didn't say I always agree with him. But he will not be pope forever. Who knows what positions the next pope will take?
  • Charles,

    Does the "run out of town" tell us more about modern obsessions than anything else?

    And the simplicity of the "current" liturgy is, I think, in doubt: the changeable parts outnumber the unchanging parts by orders of magnitude.

    Thanked by 2tomjaw Reval
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,927
    It is what it is, Chris.

  • dad29
    Posts: 2,211
    Whenever, then, it is desired to employ the acute voices of sopranos and contraltos, these parts must be taken by boys, according to the most ancient usage of the Church.


    Like a lot of Papal legislation, that was widely ignored.

    Justifiably so.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CharlesW
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,340
    Earlier in his career Pope Pius taught courses on liturgical music and chant to seminarians. In 1888, as Bishop of Mantua, he removed women from church choirs and ended the use of bands. A few years later as Patriarch of Venice, he ended the use of a popular setting of "Tantum Ergo" and instituted Sunday Vespers chanted by a choir of men and boys. In 1893, when Pope Leo XIII was considering issuing guidance on liturgical music, the future Pius X submitted a 43-page proposal. A section of that document, substantially unchanged, he issued ten years later, less than four months after becoming pope, as Tra le sollecitudini.
    My emphasis, he didn't even wait to get it cast into Latin.
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  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,011
    This addresses the issue of women in "choir" at Mass:
    https://www.ccwatershed.org/2022/08/09/could-women-sing-at-mass-before-vatican-ii/
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 185
    The prohibition on women singing was in effect from 1897 to 1955. Women and girls were permitted (and encouraged) to sing as part of the congregation, but not as part of a mixed choir of men and women, and not alone 1. except for a grave reason and with the knowledge of the Ordinary, 2. in convents, or 3. in schools for girls. St. Pius X began making exceptions to various parts of his motu proprio almost as soon as it had been issued. In the context of a document on sacred music, it ought to be obvious that choir refers to those who actually sing, not only clergy "in choir" in the sanctuary.imageimage
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