How to incorporate ladies into the schola/choir
  • Hi, I'm the Head of the Schola here of the Latin Mass Community of Cebu, the Philippines. I was wondering on how I could include ladies into our schola. Would they sing with the men in all propers and throughout the whole Kyriale? Or would I let one have the propers and the other have the kyriale, or just interchange?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,822
    I am very much in favor of ONE group singing propers. I prefer men, but that’s beside the point. (You may know people who argue that men must sing the propers based on the motu proprio of Pope Saint Pius X. I am not interested in that argument.)

    What I don’t like is not singing all five propers, so have your men sing all five, or have the women.

    In my experience in Institute of Christ the King Parishes, the women often take the lead on the Ordinary, with alternating strophes of the Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo and intoning the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Sometimes they sing propers.

    I am not at all a fan of the propers being sung with mixed men and women, and really, I don’t like much unaccompanied chant sung this way, not when it’s a smaller group — dozens or hundreds of people singing “Ubi Caritas” or a Marian antiphon is a different matter to me. Either split them up or, if the liturgical season allows it (and it mostly does) add organ, or both — I think that for the Ordinary, I’ve heard the best results with either men or women alone, and then the others singing with the (whole) congregation.

    And my distinct dislike for mixed chanting of the propers also applies to the office, but at least the organ covers up something when the more experienced singers are joined by a congregation.
  • Well, firstly as a woman with a contralto voice type who can sing the full propers comfortably with the men, and did so with the blessing and encouragement of Fr. Berg when he was the Superior General of the FSSP, I would suggest opening up your mind to the fact that having gendered scholars isn’t always ideal.

    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • As illustrated in Paul McCreesh's CD of a Sarum mass, the use of men and boys, chant and polyphony both antiphonally or alternatively with men to great dramatic effect is nothing new. In the absence of boys, women's voices at the octave can be utilised in the same way. This is a method which can add beauty and great emotional results even today.
  • So re: the Motu Proprio of Pope Saint Pius X, which I have heard of but have not read, explicitly forbids women singing in choir?

    I personally would like to experiment on how women would sound like singing in Gregorian, taking turns with the men in cases like the Gloria and Credo.
    Thanked by 2NihilNominis tomjaw
  • For Gloria and Credo, we alternate at double bars — men of choir, congregation, women of choir, congregation, etc. Works beautifully. Also allows choir to support congregational singing without becoming exhausted.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    We have the ladies act as cantrix for the Ordinary, or sometimes a (male) alto and a contralto as cantors / cantrix.

    For the long Lenten Tracts we have separate sets of cantors alternating for the verses. Sometimes one of these set of cantors involves the ladies.

    We have sets of Bass cantors, Tenor cantors, and Alto cantors, this allows us to choose cantors with suitable ranges for the Propers. This also means that some Propers are sung in the Bass register, and sound like Eastern chant.

    We usually sing in our organ loft, so the problems of having a ban on ladies in the choir (quire) are not a problem.
  • Ariasita
    Posts: 30
    I think you would incorporate them by giving them music and letting them sing?
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,211
    Despite the (un-voiced but strong) disapproval from a priest--now "un-assigned" and occasionally in Rome)--I had the ladies sing the sicut erat.... portion of the Gloria Patri of the Introit. They also alternated with the men on the Kyrie and sang with the men (in octaves) all other Ordinary parts. They would also sing part of the first half of the Ave Maria, and join the men for the entire second half (etc., etc.) Worked just fine.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,147
    We chant at octaves. It works. But there are usually only two of us. One of us intones the proper and sings the V of the gradual alone. The other intones the ordinary (except the Gloria, of course). Sometimes we add the simplest of polyphonic improvisation, if the antiphon lends itself.

    The other choir is larger and mostly women's voices: they chant the proper in unison and the ordinary in octaves with the two men in their group. That works, too.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • At the parish where the TLM is offered somewhat near to us, the women are generally stronger at singing the more difficult propers each week than the men, so it is typically split thus: Introit, Communion by the men; Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory by the women. For the ordinaries, the men intone, unison following. Occasionally the ordinary will be adorned with a bit of drone and organum, which is very nice, especially when unaccompanied. I very much prefer the chant when done by one or the other group for the propers (not octaves).
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,822
    I’ve been in a similar situation where the women were stronger, and of course, with limited resources in a fallen world, it is what it is, but you do run the risk of being more limited in a different way (i.e. we all accept doing psalm-toned tracts, but doing it for other propers is a let down). I don’t remember the division, but it depended on the difficulty of the propers for that week.

    And I’ve been in a schola where a woman sang in the men’s range — but that seems to be different from the question asked.
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 163
    we all accept doing psalm-toned tracts


    Oh really????? I definitely don't. Any psalm-toned proper is a letdown. Psalm-toning due to lack of ability to chant it is one thing, but doing it because your priest won't let your schola doing it, even thought it is capable and willing, is awful. A psalm-toned Gradual and Alleluia/Tract, in particular, is even more unfitting than the other psalm-toned propers, because these are obviously designed to be long, melismatic, meditative chants which is lost entirely when you Psalm-tone them.

    After over a year of singing with my current chapel's schola, I finally sat down with the priest and talked with him about this (and other music-at-Mass related issues) to try to get to the bottom where he is coming from. And I was very, very dismayed to learn that his reason was "everyone will stop coming to Sung Mass if we sing the full Gradual and Alleluia/Tract." Really? Now it is even harder for me than it already was to sing the Psalm-tone with my schola. It's really depressing.

    So, accept psalm-toned Propers? Absolutely not - against it in principle except when the existing schola(s) are not capable of properly singing it. The best I can say is that I barely tolerate it.

    My apologies, a little off-topic. I'm still a little bitter about this two weeks after my meeting with the priest, I guess...
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    We will sing the whole Tract on Sunday! Sadly we do not have time or voices to sing the Issac setting Thanks to @CCooze for setting last weeks Tract which we sang as usual.
  • The last couple of years we've done the full Tract for the first Sunday of Lent, but this year our Priest forbid it. It really is sad. I sing the Tract just as a nice warm up sometimes. Last time I sang it briskly in under nine minutes. He says "we're a parish, not a monastary". :(
  • DL
    Posts: 57
    My practice is that when the tract is longer the sermon is shorter. Sufficiency and efficiency are not in conflict.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    When we first started to sing polyphonic settings of the Credo, I would time the Mass, to see how long various sections were. The Sermon usually is twice as long as it takes to pray the Canon! The notices can waste up to 10mins.
    Fortunately no one has complained about the length of Mass, I try to be careful with my choices, but we do need to finish within 1½ hours as we have a Low Mass afterwards.
    For ammunition if needed, I can quote that the Gradual and Tract on Sunday will be sung in half the time it takes to read the notices and for the priest to give a normal length sermon. With no Gloria, the Tract will only add a couple of minutes, which is a fraction of the time we waste with pointless notices.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,498
    Alternate.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,822
    So, accept psalm-toned Propers? Absolutely not - against it in principle except when the existing schola(s) are not capable of properly singing it. The best I can say is that I barely tolerate it.


    I mean, I think you clearly get my point — the other propers are mostly manageable. I also somewhat disagree — the simplified tracts make more sense, because it's a series of psalm verses, and it's the most recitative of all of the melismatic propers.

    On this forum, though I certainly understand why in the real world this is not the case, and I don't like it either, accepting the psalm tone as a default and never working to anything greater is obviously a problem.

    I just wouldn't ask the priest these questions. It's not his business, and while I understand that this is easier said than done, if he's not letting you do your job here, he'll be inclined to meddle elsewhere. (I'll also say that the reasoning given, in all fairness, is bad! The tracts are long on all of three days.)
  • Ariasita
    Posts: 30
    Anyway, just let them sing by letting them sing.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 964
    I think they'd be great for making snacks for after choir.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,902
    While Girl Scout cookies may be made with real Girl Scouts, good people don't make ladies into snacks for after choir. The ladies are very needed to sing in the choir.

  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,677
    Today the Gradual and Tract took us 13 minutes to sing, previously we would sing them in 14-15 minutes.
    Mass with Asperges took 1h 20min! this is the ideal length as it gives them 10minutes to set up for the next Mass. When we sing polyphony we can take 1 1/2 hours...
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,822
    You went more at the speed which we prefer. Our pastor did not shorten the sermon, unfortunately, and our tract took 13 minutes and 14 seconds. It went well, but we wanted to shave off some time.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 163
    "we're a parish, not a monastary"

    Absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether a full Tract's melody is sung, and I really wonder where priests learn and cling to this minimalist garbage. The only thing necessary is a schola that can sing it - there is absolutely no other legitimate reason not to sing a full proper at a sung Mass.

    I also somewhat disagree — the simplified tracts make more sense, because it's a series of psalm verses, and it's the most recitative of all of the melismatic propers.


    Absolute nonsense. What makes the most sense is what the Church has held to be the official musical form of the Tract for centuries. It doesn't matter that is the "most recitative" of the melismatic chants - it is a melismatic chant, and making it a psalm-tone makes it the opposite of a melismatic chant.

    I'll also say that the reasoning given, in all fairness, is bad! The tracts are long on all of three days.
    I'm glad we agree on this. The priest's reasoning is not limited to these long Tracts - we are not allowed to sing any full Gradual or Alleluia chant either throughout the year; these must be psalm-toned. There are occasional exceptions (midnight and/or day Mass for Christmas, for one, and random other feast days), and we are usually allowed to sing the full Alleluia jubilus. Everything else - full Gradual, Alleluia verse, and all Tracts - must be psalm-toned.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    Nothing in the Mass is ever “too long”.

    Is the Super Bowl “too long”? Is the concert at the symphony hall “too long”? Is the movie in the theatre too long? Is the opera you are attending too long? You NEVER hear this bogus complaint for any thing except from those who aren’t given to the Faith.

    “He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.”
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Andrew_Malton
    Posts: 1,147
    Didn't time the tract today, but we didn't hurry either. I think it was shorter than the sermon plus announcements...

    In case there's wasn't enough Gregorian today, I sang two V's from the Offertoriale.. We just got to the third Scuto as the thurifer was censing us: perfect timing.

    (Yesterday we sang a funeral, from Exsultabunt, Miserere through to Benedictus, Ego Sum. I think that's longer.)

    A fruitful Lent to all!
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,822
    :|

    I think that, Charles, in your frustration, you keep reading things into my comments that simply are not there. I’m talking about why the psalm tones ought to be used for the tract if one truly cannot sing them but don’t really make sense at the other points. Obviously the ideal is to sing the full chant — but at the tract, that isn’t always possible. Your situation is just absurd, however.
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 163
    Yes, it sounds like I misunderstood your "makes more sense" comment...as for the first that I quoted, I know that wasn't your quote and I wasn't responding to you personally, only the quote.
  • Grave reasons of time?

    Our Mass schedule was put together when the sung Mass in Latin had ~150 attendees. Now ~500. Still has to be done in time for the next Mass. Sometimes no communion help. Mass schedules can’t be revised without input of the Bishop.

    So, yeah, we certainly have a schola that can chant most anything you put before them. But we will shorten the two propers that can add time with good reason. Full is our default, however.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw francis
  • Nothing in the Mass is ever “too long”.

    In the right sense, yes. But music at Mass can be too long. Now, I'm not talking about the tracts or any of the propers, because those are perfect. But if you say, had a Kyrie that took twenty minutes to sing, I would consider that an abuse. A Kyrie composed at that length is simply not taking into account the part of the Mass the Kyrie is meant to accompany and the purpose it is meant to serve. If a normal Sunday Mass takes three hours, there probably is something wrong.

    I'm sure we agree Francis, but I'm just getting technical for the sake of clarity.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 500
    Nothing in the Mass is ever “too long”.

    Is the Super Bowl “too long”? Is the concert at the symphony hall “too long”? Is the movie in the theatre too long? Is the opera you are attending too long? You NEVER hear this bogus complaint for any thing except from those who aren’t given to the Faith.
    I think that this comparison isn't really fair, because a large majority of people would certainly deem concerts at the symphony hall and operas "too long", so they simply dont go there. For me Super Bowl would definetely be waaaaaay to long...
    In all these instances, it is just a matter of personal taste whether you join in these activities but this is certainly not the way that we look at attending Mass (though I'm afraid that a lot of people actually do so).
  • francis
    Posts: 10,639
    @Elmar

    Yea, that is my point... people who want to check in and then check out at the 59 minute mark.

    In my view, the Superbowl is highly unnecessary, promotes hedonism, gluttony, immorality. Why support it at all?

    @omagnummysterium

    Yes totally. Orchestral Masses (in general) are not made for liturgy, but more a meditative concert. And yes, I was speaking about the length of the text of the Mass is always just right... but if settings get too stretched out, the composer is at fault. And there are a lot of settings that are simply too long.
    Thanked by 1OMagnumMysterium
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,029
    "Adding" women....not a problem I have. Until COVID, every TLM schola I had any experience with (including my own) had more men than women. After rebuilding after COVID, we have a 3:1 female to male ratio. I have no idea why.

    Re octaves: don't love 'em, but don't hate them enough to lose voices since I have few enough. Our women are now doing the Introit alone. I may yet put them on something else. I knew somebody who got rid of octaves by having the men and women sing in unison, which meant that nobody sang in a comfortable or beautiful register.

    Re the tract/psalm tone problem: I knew one of our priests had a preference for PT verses for the Gradual and Alleluia, so that's what we'd been doing except when one was short. In the runup to our Traditions being Jailed, when it wasn't totally clear that we'd have a Mass, I started doing it all, and continued when our Mass was moved. Finally Father said something, and Father is right even when he's wrong. We have 2 other priests saying Mass for us though. But then Lent came, and we did Lent 1 all-psalm toned. I'm not happy or proud about this, and hope to find some in-between for the future. Though they PTed Lent 1 at our new ICK Shrine, so I didn't feel too bad.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 163
    I knew somebody who got rid of octaves by having the men and women sing in unison, which meant that nobody sang in a comfortable or beautiful register.


    Yeah, definitely doesn't seem like a good idea, and I have never experienced anywhere that does that. I am generally against women singing the propers where a men's schola is available - the tradition of the Church all the way up to at least Pius X seems to support this without debate - but I think I'd rather have a competent women's schola sing something rather than have octaves, for proper chants. Ordinary chants seem to be different as they are in some sense proper to the whole congregation, which obviously includes women.

    In all these instances, it is just a matter of personal taste whether you join in these activities but this is certainly not the way that we look at attending Mass (though I'm afraid that a lot of people actually do so).


    And that is the whole crux of the issue. Anything that is not primarily for God Himself can at least theoretically be modified or reconstructed for "the times" we live in, for "modern man," so to speak. And there can be variances in the liturgy in different ages, as history attests. But it just strikes me as 110% *wrong* to simplify an official chant of the Church only because "people will think it is too long." Is this not a teaching moment? For whom is the liturgy, primarily? If it is primarily for the edification of the people, then it might make sense to impoverish/diminish/radically alter the liturgy - both in its general content (i.e. the Novus Ordo Missae) as well as in its musical form (i.e. Psalm-toned propers that are meant to be melismatic) - but if we recognize, along with centuries of Church history, that the liturgy is primarily for God, for the worship and glory that is due to Him, then these things I have just mentioned should be unthinkable.

    If people are going to leave the Church, or not go to a sung Mass because of 5 extra minutes (if that...maybe 10+ minutes on the 3 or whatever occasions that there is an extra long Tract), then that should let pastors know that 1) they are failing in their duties, or even in more extreme cases (since people could, and are, still fervent Catholics in "Low Mass" culture), 2) if someone would leave the Church, not just attend Low Mass instead, due to an extra 5 minutes, they probably aren't really Catholic in spirit anyway and shouldn't be catered to at the expense of the majority of people who already attend the sung Mass and wouldn't care (and many would probably appreciate) the extra attention given to singing the full melodies that the official Church books provide.
  • davido
    Posts: 849
    I have heard renditions of the gradual that I wished were psalm toned because it wasn’t that well sung.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,902
    The prevalence of the Low Mass as the dominant lived expression of Catholic worship arose centuries ago precisely because it was very thinkable by myriad Catholics at all levels of the Church to imagine worship without extended periods of singing. Catholics having a notional ideal form of liturgy and largely working around that ideal rather than in that ideal has been a quintessentially Roman way for far longer than it was not.