Regulations for Guest Choirs
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    As director or member of a guest ensemble, would you feel insulted, offended, or micromanaged by the following requirements in addition to the actual liturgical rubrics, or are these entirely reasonable?

    1. The propers are to be sung in full Gregorian chant in unison and a cappella; they are not to be harmonized in any way. The Deo gratias after Ite missa est must also be sung in unison, although organ accompaniment may be used.
    2. Unless a polyphonic Benedictus is sung after the Consecration, silence is to be observed after the Sanctus until the end of the Canon.
    3. A list of all music to be sung must be e-mailed to the director of music four weeks before the Mass.

    I'm trying to respect my pastor's preferences and maintain some consistency while still allowing legitimate variety. Unfortunately we've had some things recently from guest musicians that really weren't "best practice." He and I would both like to prevent that in the future without banning outside musicians altogether.
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 115
    Entirely reasonable. Though, what about a nice faux-bourdon or otherwise organum use of the propers! ;) (Facitiousness abounds......)
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    You jest, but one group used organum on every chant except one—including the Deo gratias, which the congregation is accustomed to sing here!
  • GerardH
    Posts: 411
    I don't know your pastor's preferences, but these seem a little restrictive. Can you give an example of what wasn't best practice? (Whoops, we posted at the same time!)
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    Father doesn't like to hear individual voices at Mass and prefers at least two voices per part on everything, but that's not non-negotiable. What he absolutely does not want is men's and women's voices alternating on the propers within the same Mass, and I have no problem complying with that. My thought with regard to organum is that it would be better utilized in conjunction with an Ordinary that the congregation doesn't know—if at all.
  • Bombarde16
    Posts: 115
    In all seriousness, I think the outlined requirements are a great base-line. You can always ease up if you have a director/choir who is able to and desires to do good things.

    Its easier to ease up after the fact than crack down...
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  • davido
    Posts: 873
    Father sounds pretty dang particular
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    No, he's not. I've worked with him for years and those are literally the only musical preferences he's expressed other than following all the rubrics and church regulations. If you think that's particular, there are some other priests you really ought to meet!
  • What would be the issue with, say, the men singing the offertory and the women singing the communion?
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    I think he's approaching the Proper of the Mass as a single "unit" (for lack of a better term) that should preferably be sung by the same people. It's not so different than doing an SSA Kyrie and a TTB Agnus Dei in the same Mass. It's his personal preference, which I respect as long as he's pastor.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 411
    Then what's the point of guest choirs if they have to do everything exactly as it's always done? Father's preference is fine for Sunday-to-Sunday, but I think it's excessive to demand exactly the same approach to the propers by visiting ensembles.

    To answer your question in the OP, as a director, I would feel micromanaged and somewhat insulted by those requirements. I like accompanied chant, or polyphonic propers, alternation between upper and lower voices, and elevation organ voluntaries.
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    Then what's the point of guest choirs if they have to do everything exactly as it's always done?
    Indeed, what's the point? We have competent ensembles in house. If they don't want to do things our way, I'm sure there are other places they can sing. With regard to elevation voluntaries (and motets), see De musica sacra 27f.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 411
    Eh, it's just my two cents. I suspect I like being told what to do less than most
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  • Hypothetically, would it make any sense for a visiting ensemble to refuse to abide by the customs of the place where they were guests?
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    Exactly, and custom is really what this is about. Compliance with rubrics is imperative. We just want to make sure that chant truly has pride of place in the Sung Mass, that it isn't overshadowed by polyphony and organum, and that congregational singing isn't inhibited by ostentatious renditions of the responses.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    " Compliance with rubrics is imperative"
    Perhaps you can confirm, this is a missa cantata following the 1962 Missal, the 1961 LU and the 1958 De musica sacra et ....
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,722
    What he absolutely does not want is men's and women's voices alternating on the propers within the same Mass
    this just makes no sense to me. In either case, it is a very dignified and monastic sound. And often it can be helpful to have a subset of musicians focus on a few chants while the other group focuses on others, thereby ensuring that each subset sings their fewer selections more competently because they have a limited scope and focus.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    " Compliance with rubrics is imperative"
    Perhaps you can confirm, this is a missa cantata following the 1962 Missal, the 1961 LU and the 1958 De musica sacra et ....
    Yes, that was implicit in the part about silence during the Canon.
    this just makes no sense to me. In either case, it is a very dignified and monastic sound.
    We'll have to "agree to disagree" on this.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    What is implicit is (always?) a matter of interpretation.
    Thus the guidlines for choirs from St John Cantius say
    .Introit:
    Sung when the celebrant reaches the altar to begin the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar.

    But De musica sacra ,,, says
    25. In solemn Mass there are three degrees of the participation of the faithful:
    a) First, the congregation can sing the liturgical responses. These are: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Gloria tibi, Domine; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo; Deo gratias. Every effort must be made that the faithful of the entire world learn to sing these responses.
    ...
    26. ...
    What has been said above in paragraph 25 about the participation of the faithful in Solemn High Mass also applies to the High Mass.
    27. Also note the following points with regard to the sung Mass:
    a) If the priest and his ministers go in procession by a long aisle, it would be permissible for the choir, after the singing of the Introit antiphon, and its psalm verse, to continue singing additional verses of the same psalm. The antiphon itself may be repeated after each verse or after every other verse; when the celebrant has reached the altar, the psalm ceases, and the Gloria Patri is sung, and finally the antiphon is repeated to conclude the Introit procession. [my emphasis]
    So we seem to have fallen at the first hurdle. To me it seems implicit in De musica sacra ,,, that what is said aloud by the celebrant at a missa lecta is also said or sung at a missa cantata.
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    What is implicit is (always?) a matter of interpretation.
    I think you misunderstood. In saying yes, that a Missa Cantata according to the 1962 Missal was implicit in the part about silence during the Canon, I meant that I don't know of anywhere it's normative or licit to sing a motet right after the Consecration in the novus ordo. That would be a matter of adhering to the liturgical books themselves, not a particular local custom or regulation. I thought the context of a traditional Latin High Mass would be apparent to everyone on this forum, but maybe not. A Low Mass would not be implied if the propers, Sanctus, and Ite missa est were all sung. Regardless, it would be unthinkable that a guest choir would show up here expecting to sing for a different rite than the one we use.

    The document from St. John Cantius assumes that the introit is sung following the Asperges/Vidi aquam, with the celebrant already in the sanctuary. The text you ephasized from DMS assumes a long entrance procession without sprinkling rite, which is clearly stated at the beginning of the paragraph. There is no contradiction, no hurdle.
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  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,295
    this just makes no sense to me. In either case, it is a very dignified and monastic sound. And often it can be helpful to have a subset of musicians focus on a few chants while the other group focuses on others, thereby ensuring that each subset sings their fewer selections more competently because they have a limited scope and focus.


    I agree with this entirely. Makes no sense. Silly. Very micro-manage-y. I suggest it is likely to diminish the quality of the performances. Give the choir director the ability to deploy his or her forces as appropriate.
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  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,025
    Do you have that many guest choirs seeking to sing at your church that you need a policy?

    My policy (Novus Ordo church) is that I decline offers from guest choirs or soloists who want to "parachute in" and sing at my parish during a Mass or for all the weekend Masses.

    OCP celebrity composers do that a lot all around the country, often by invitation.

    Sometimes a children's choir from a Catholic school requests to sing.

    I think it makes the Mass music too much of a performance. (Aw... look at the cute kids.) If people want to give a concert, just give a concert. Don't misuse a parish Mass as a concert venue just because you're guaranteed a captive audience.
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    this just makes no sense to me. In either case, it is a very dignified and monastic sound. And often it can be helpful to have a subset of musicians focus on a few chants while the other group focuses on others, thereby ensuring that each subset sings their fewer selections more competently because they have a limited scope and focus.
    Since this has been seconded and received multiple likes, I'm now genuinely curious: How does mixing and matching chant by male and treble voices at the same Mass allow them more or better focus and competence than assigning the men's and treble scholas to different Masses instead? Or do you feel like you're insulting your singers by giving some of them more to do than others at a particular Mass? I don't see anything objectionable in assigning the entire Proper to the same schola. I found my pastor's request (expressed more in terms of "this is what I prefer" than "this is a directive") perfectly reasonable and am happy to comply with it. I agree with the idea that "it can be helpful to have a subset of musicians focus on a few chants while the other group focuses on others" but am having trouble understanding why that can't be accomplished by preparing separate Masses.
  • stulte
    Posts: 355
    I'd have no problems operating under those guidelines as a guest at your parish MadO. They're pretty straightforward.
    Out of curiosity, on what occasions would you have guest ensembles singing for Mass at your parish?
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  • madorganist
    Posts: 906
    Out of curiosity, on what occasions would you have guest ensembles singing for Mass at your parish?
    Weddings mostly
  • Father sounds pretty dang particular

    Father probably has experience with guest choirs experimenting with harmonies that aren’t conducive to liturgical worship and has to make things clear and bold for those whom he’s not familiar with.

    Our former choir director once composed a simple polyphonic Ite Missa Est while stuck in traffic (if memory serves me correct. It looked like complete chicken scratch) for Mass XI that we sang regularly.

    I’m particularly fond of Byrd’s polyphonic Deo Gratias. Reminds me of Heaven whenever I wake up to it as my alarm.
    https://youtu.be/Q12YGFCB8QI
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  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,722
    Madorganist, since you seem on the defense regarding my comment, let me clarify that I was operating under the impression that you were going to have the forces at the mass either way. In other words, one week only men could sing and women sat silent, and vice versa the next week. If the subsets are simply covering alternate masses, that’s another situation entirely. I was just meaning to see that I don’t see a problem with men singing the introit and women singing the communio within the same mass.
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  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    madorganist The opinion from St John Cantius states carefully that the Asperges is only at the principal Mass, but does not make the rule about the Introit conditional. It gives as its authority D.2424,7 :
    2424. CONIMBRIGEN. (.4233)
    7. An a » Cantoribus in Choro incipi possit Introitus Missae, priusquam Sacerdos eamdem Missam celebraturus ad Altare per- venerit?
    Ad 7. « Negative et amplius »
    Et ita declaravit ac servali mandavit. Die 14 Apiilis 1753.

    Can the singers in the Choir begin the Introit of the Mass, before the Priest arrives at the Altar to celebrate the same Mass?

    At some point in the ensuing 205 years the rubric has changed, that was why I asked whether you tried to conform to the rules current in 1962 (some here do not).
    I don't know whether it is possible to find the fuller answer 'et amplius'
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 217
    I spent a summer as a postulant at St. John Cantius and can attest that the actual practice there ten years ago was to sing the introit as a processional chant when there was no Asperges. They had also discontinued the practice at Sung Mass mentioned in that document of reading the epistle sotto voce while the gradual was sung. Fr. Scott Haynes was still there at the time (he is now a diocesan priest).
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,158
    Father's restrictions are a reasonable effort to "keep things simple": performing simple music, well prepared, is more beautiful than performing ornate music weakly prepared.

    The situation does call for caution. After all, weddings do tend to generate requests to bring in performers who are friends or relations of the bride and groom, and sometimes those performers may be less experienced than the parish's own choirs and cantors.

    I might even suggest that Father require not only an advance list of the music to be performed, but also a demonstration recording!