Women and the Extraordinary Form
  • Chrism, I'm really not sure what you are talking about but let me clarify that i don't mean the whole MP was not applied. I'm speaking of a ban on women singing in a schola. That was not consistently obeyed in the U.S.. I mean, isn't this obvious? The Ward books and classes taught all children to sing the propers. She put out manuals of simplified propers for kids. Classes in music for liturgy were in most Catholic schools. These weren't classes just for boys while the girls went off to knit. It was for all children. You can see it in the pictures. Everyone sang. They sang for Mass. They sang the propers. The girls don'to have duct tape on their mouths. What I find striking about this issue is that if you look back at the writings and materials of the 20s and 30s you find no discussion of this sex issue. Suddenly, in 2009, some people discover old material in the closet and decide to make a massive issue of it, even though doing so would be ahistorical and divisive and musically catastrophic.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Any strict ban was eliminated for the universal Church well before 1910. Anyone who says that there is a strict ban is wrong. My understanding from several people who went through Ward in my diocese was that the girls and boys were taught separately and sang separately at separate Masses. Yes, the girls sang Propers at the daily Masses assigned to them, because of course there was no strict ban, just a preference in law, which is easily made irrelevant if everyone is willing to chant and spends time to focus on rehearsals and quality. Perhaps it was different in other dioceses.

    But the preference in law is still there, and whether we like it or not, it is useful in that it prevents abuses like the one presented. There are many dumb reasons to promote unqualified women over qualified men, and many good reasons to promote qualified women over unqualified men. The preference in law requires that the promotion of women over men be justified by quality. Can anyone argue with this?
  • Chrism, I'm sorry but this just seems like pettifoggery.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    There are also many dumb reasons to promote unqualified men over qualified women, and many good reasons to promote qualified men over unqualified women.
  • I want to clarify a few things.

    First of all, I am no "newbie" to the traditional Mass movement. I have been singing chant for years and, for some long stretches of time, on a daily basis. I have had a high level of involvement in the liturgy, and I have studied liturgical history, rubrics, and other aspects of liturgical law extensively (both formally and independently). I have participated in EF Masses (i.e. MC'ed, served or sang in scholas) throughout this country and in parts of Europe. I understand the distinctions between what was legislated and what was custom, but I think it's also important to strive for a specific ideal in the liturgy, and I tend to favor the ideal set forth by Dom Gueranger and the Liturgical Movement as it manifested itself in the early 20th century, which means an exceedingly high level of awareness and involvement among members of the laity.

    With all due respect, I think some of you may be setting up a false dichotomy. I never suggested that we ought not teach chant to women. I was just pointing out the preference in law that Chrism spoke of above. Preference for the qualified all-male schola does not implicitly mean that women should not sing chant. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Morse's missionary approach to teaching and spreading chant to both sexes, and I hope to successfully implement a similar program in my neck of the woods. I think it is possible to give pride of place to the all-male pseudo-clerical schola while at the same time giving a high level of involvement to female singers.

    Also, I don't agree that holding up the clerical schola as the ideal automatically leads to the Caecilian mentality. But at the same time, I don't see anything wrong with viewing the all-male schola as a possible place where young men discover vocations. I know this was the reasoning behind Bishop Keating of Arlington's decision to exclude female altar servers, because he explicitly stated that he saw altar serving as a possible stepping stone to a priestly vocation. The result was (and remains) a diocese that pumps out new priests at an unrivaled rate in the post-Vatican II era. Sometimes, intimate involvement with the liturgy is a way of awakening men to their vocations, and if we can play a role in that, I think we are doing a great service to the Church. I am not championing the Caecilian ideal, but I wonder how many of us would stand up in opposition if a dozen young men from our respective parishes sought tonsure and wanted to sing propers as an exclusively clerical schola. I think we would all be pleased to have such a visible clerical presence in our parishes. There is no reason why this could not someday become a reality in a rejuvenated Church.

    In the meantime, I realize that we do not live in a world with such abundant vocations, and regardless of the amount of available clerics, it is a desirable thing for all of the faithful to learn Gregorian chant.
  • To answer the questions posed by Joannes and Chrism:

    The incumbent group of singers (mostly women with a few men who don't even attend weekly practices) does not know how to sing Gregorian chant and very few of them express any interest in learning it. I have only ever heard them psalm-tone them, but most recently, a deacon (who knows chant) has been psalm-toning propers with a few men or singing the propers as a soloist. He has expressed to me that he does not want to do this anymore.

    This Latin Mass community only started celebrating sung Masses a year-and-a-half ago (so we can't use custom as a defense for the current problem). They were invited into their current parish (where they are sort of considered guests) at that time. Prior to that, Latin Masses were celebrated at a tiny chapel attached to a nursing home, where sung Masses really weren't feasible. When the move was made, the current music program was formed, although I'm not exactly sure how. I think it's a mix of actual parishioners and Latin Mass community members.

    The crux of the matter is that certain members of the current choir see the music program as "their thing" and they don't want to hand over control of it (although they aren't qualified custodians of it). They mostly sing mediocre-to-bad polyphony and some generic hymns. I have heard several complaints about the music from various attendees, and my wife doesn't want to attend Mass there as long as the music is so bad (instead, we attend a Latin Novus Ordo, where several of my schola members sing regularly).

    The schola I lead, on the other hand, has 7 dedicated members who meet weekly and practice the music independently. We've been hired several times for weddings, and we are always capable of tackling the propers. There's clearly no question of our capability to sing. The reason I initially posted here was to find out how I can help our Latin Mass priest make the case to the pastor that chant should take precedence and that our schola should be allowed to sing.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,207
    Both historical practice and official statements (some of them binding) of the hierarchy express the notion that the schola cantorum is a clerical entity, and that laymen filling this role act as a sort of pseudo-clerical class (similar to the role fulfilled by lay altar servers).

    The canonical interpretation which allowed "altar girls" was derived specifically from the NON-clerical status of 'choirs of the Faithful.'

    As hinted above, actuosa participatio is not exclusively male.
  • Remember that pesky footnotes 26 in Musicae Sacrae? The following periodical may be interesting, starting with p. 468:
  • Thanks, Joannes. What a wonderful resource!
  • "But at the same time, I don't see anything wrong with viewing the all-male schola as a possible place where young men discover vocations. I know this was the reasoning behind Bishop Keating of Arlington's decision to exclude female altar servers, because he explicitly stated that he saw altar serving as a possible stepping stone to a priestly vocation. The result was (and remains) a diocese that pumps out new priests at an unrivaled rate in the post-Vatican II era. " —rjbmartin

    With all most due respect, I'm not so sure the situation in Arlington, VA is as rosy as above reported, in the post-Keating era. More to the point, the comparison between male altar servers and male schola members strikes me as comical. I would hardly call our late bishop a champion of Latin chant, and his response to the Indult was actively inactive. Even so, the idea might ring a lot more true... if the solid majority of male chant singers in the same Arlington Diocese and its environs were not, in my decade's experience, solidly and persistently middle aged (including myself, at this point), and the few young novices I've encountered are most often already quite happily vocationed in the married state.

    To chime in on the subject at hand, St. John the Beloved, McLean, has employed female chanters for its two-year history of the Extraordinary Form, without the chasm engulfing us. And while I prefer to hear their treble voices alone (as such surely were in convents and Catholic girls' schools), they are a real addition to our mixed Ordinary chants as well.

    Finally, I have to say, though I claim a long and firm attachment to the traditional Latin Mass, this debate over women in the Extraordinary Form choir loft bores me to no end. Do we really need to add it to our long list of obstacles in promoting the cause of the traditional Latin Mass?
  • Richard,
    I'm familiar with the situation in Arlington, as I grew up there. In fact, I was the one who contacted you to recruit your schola for the inaugural indult Mass at St. Lawrence a few years back (which I MC'ed). Nice to speak to you again! :)
    My point in bringing up Bishop Keating's reasoning was not to claim that he had any affection for the EF Mass or things Latin, but to point out the principle that informed his decision to exclude altar girls. I think it was a valid point. In my current situation, our schola is split about 50/50 between young married men and young unmarried men (the youngest being college age). In fact, a few of them have expressed interest in creating a society of young men which would rotate between serving at the altar and singing in the schola. I haven't heard any of them speaking explicitly of pursuing a vocation, but you never know. Also, many of them have become interested in chant through the all-male schola that sings at our local Anglican-use parish. Singers over 30-years-old are the exception rather than the rule there. I think they've had such success in drawing young men because they are drawn to the camaraderie that can only exist in an all-male setting. I think this accounts for the success of groups like the Brazos Valley Schola (http://www.brazoschant.org/). Just another factor to consider.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Richard, I hardly think that admitting a slight preference in law for male singers will be much of an obstacle to the promotion of the TLM.

    AOZ/JT, if the slight preference in Church law has no negative ramifications on musical quality or "missionary" work, then what interest does CMAA have in opposing it?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,100
    If a hypothetical question involves presupposing situations that don't exist in practice, then (insert meaningless question here).
  • So that turns out to be a fascinating link, proof that indults were granted quickly at the MP passed
    this in full
    and so this summary

  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    The article makes clear the author's opinion that this was not an indult, but the proper interpretation of the M.P.
  • right
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Here is the legslation application to the Novus Ordo (Musicam Sacram, 1967):

    22. The choir can consist, according to the customs of each country and other circumstances, of either men and boys, or men and boys only, or men and women, or even, where there is a genuine case for it, of women only.

    It's hard to take much issue with this, except perhaps against the nationalization of custom. In America one used to be able to find Latin Masses according to the customs of Lithuania, Gemany, Poland, Hungary, Northern Italy, Southern Italy, French Canada, etc., all of which had superior musical traditions to the prevailing American mean. Why should we be forced into Irish-American cultural homogeneity?

    Also, it should be noted that barring this paragraph (and the somewhat similar EF legislation), it is hard to find any explicit justification in Church law for segregating scholas by sex anywhere.
  • I read the article also. I think it very much hearkens back to that bygone era: the first-born male took over the family business, the next male went to the priesthood, and the females were all married off, unless one went to the convent. For better or for worse, there is more equality between the sexes today. And that includes healthy respect when in mixed company socially. So there is no reason to expect that social nature to regress to something 'dangerous' in the choir loft.

    I would also worry that misinterpretation of these documents and opinions some day backfire in the placement of musicians in the church building. I think it is a benefit to the Liturgy to have the musicians NOT in the Sanctuary. It is a benefit to hear singing coming from above and behind 'encouraging' congregational singing rather than coming from up front as a professional group 'challenging' the congregation to sing back at them. What happens at the Altar is more important that the music that accompanies the action, even if the official texts and language are used. And having a large pipe organ installation in visual competition with the Altar and Sanctuary is not appropriate either IMO.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 673
    Re: the practical problem in the parish

    In my parish, we have a bell choir, a children's choir, a contemporary choir, and a semi-old semi-contemporary choir. Next week, the children's choir is singing at the Mass usually served by the semi-old semi-contemporary choir. So the semi-choir not only has Sunday off, but had a practice free for their Halloween pizza party.

    So it's not like you can't divvy the Mass up between choirs. In fact, most people are glad to have some "time off". Singing every Sunday and practicing every week gets tiring.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 992
    Maybe young women who sing chant will discern a vocation to the religious life. Just a possibility, no?

    And I second Richard R.'s comment:

    "Finally, I have to say, though I claim a long and firm attachment to the traditional Latin Mass, this debate over women in the Extraordinary Form choir loft bores me to no end. Do we really need to add it to our long list of obstacles in promoting the cause of the traditional Latin Mass?"

    I also like Maureen's "semi-old, semi-contemporary choir." That describes just about every Catholic choir in my part of the USA. [Since it's Sunday, I just deleted some cleverness about bad music. That's beginning to bore me as well, even when it's my own.]
  • rwprof
    Posts: 25
    "Women do sing in the choir, if anyone might have been wondering, but that is about it."

    True. There are no woman in minor orders, however, which includes reader and chanter. Orthodoxy (and probably the Eastern Rite) stands with Orthodox Judaism in contrast to the rest of Christendom in that it is male-heavy. If you took a random sample of the congregation and put them in the choir, you'd have more men than women. We lost several women recently, and badly need to recruit more.

    The choir typically sings only during Divine Liturgy. At the other regular services (Matins, Vespers, and Hours), readers and chanters sing, and they are almost always all male -- certainly if they are tonsured, they are male. We have had women read (read means chant in plainchant, not recite), although never the Epistle at Divine Liturgy (I don't think that is possible, since the reader must go behind the iconostasis into the sanctuary for the blessing), but it always seems strange, and women in our choir prefer not to read.

    Three or four is the best number of chanters and readers for services, we have found.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Maybe young women who sing chant will discern a vocation to the religious life.

    That's an excellent reason to promote women's scholas.
  • I love singing chant and wish Father would let us (women) who wish to do more of it do so. However, another reason perhaps for wanting men only is the question of the octave. Chant, I think, is at its best when sung in one octave. In my EF Sunday morning Mass the men sing the Aspeges but on the repeat of the text after the psalm verse the women join in. During Holy Week the women in the choir sing more of the chants. The choir sings a polyphonic setting of the ordinary except the Credo which the congregation sings and the choir almost always sings a polyphonic motet after the proper chant at Offertory and Communion.
  • yes but that is an argument against tutti, not women.
  • From an organist's perspective: yes, women nominally sing an octave higher than men. But their voices do not have the same timbre. I like to compare the group dynamic of the voiced to stops on the organ. A good cantor can be like a nice, well-developed 8' Principal stop. A few more men would be like adding the 8' Flute (maybe a man with a bit darker voice) and the 8' Gemshorn (similar to the Principal, but not quite as strong). The French consider these stops all "foundation" stops. Now add a woman's voice, and it's not (to my ears) like adding the 4' Octave (a member of the Principal family), but rather a 4' Flute. Quite often, a 4' open Flute simply adds color to the 8' stops, no matter how many. If you have both 4' open and stopped Flutes, that might be like adding multiple female voices. So, a mixed schola would sound similar to the organ with a few 8' stops and a couple of 4' flute stops - just about the limit of what I would use to accompany a congregation chanting part of the Ordinary.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Thanks Steve. The tone 'color' of the schola sound is very important. There's a couple of guys in our schola who have oboe/english horn vocal qualities as well as a female tenor. Skilled 'mixing' could give an interesting sound to the chant line. (Reminds me, I should continue to record every Sunday!) Sorry all for the diversion away from 'rules & regs' which has in fact, come up in our ER Mass group as well. This thread is very interesting & important. Our schola sings in the loft. The only time schola members sing on the altar is for Mass with a small congregational attendance & few male schola members & no 'schola' women. The only time we had
    a woman on the side inside the communion rail was during last year's Good Friday service which was of course, not a Mass. It was me. I had to conduct. When we had an 'intimate' Mass with a small schola which included women, we sang outside the rail on the side. Still trying to work this out. Heard a little 'grumpling' from a few in the congregation. (Still not sure if it was 'kosher' for me to be inside the 'rail' for EF Good Friday.)
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Jan - the mixture of voices you mention should prove absolutely spectacular for polyphony!
  • does anyone have Fortescue handy ? would it be possible to quote from him?
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    The first strong evidence I've seen from the past that the Motu Proprio of 1903 had absolutely no effect on the role of women singing in choirs comes from Fifth Avenue Famous, by Salvatore Basile (Fordham U Press, 2010). The director of St. Patricks NY, had this to say in 1904:

    "There is nothing in Gregorian music that women's voices cannot do most effectively," said Mr. [James] Ungerer, the New York choirmaster of St. Patrick's cathedral. "The public seems to be laboring under erroneous ideas of the whole subject of Gregorian music and the purport of the Motu Proprio. It seems to think all figured music is to be abolished, and that church music of the future will in consequence partake of requiem - something mournful and monotonous. Unless there come from Rome explicit orders to abolish women they will certainly be retained at the cathedral.

    "The cathedral, in probability, will have no more Gregorian chant than it always has had. The Introit, Gradual, Hallelujah, Tract, Offertory, Communion, which change with the feasts, have always been Gregorian at the cathedral. This has not been the case in other churches in this vicinity and elsewhere, and it is to effect this that the pope evidently wishes to make it compulsory. The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei will continue, as they always have been at the cathedral, to be figured music, but we trust of a higher order of composition. There is a lot of splendid modern music to displace Haydn, Mozart, etc. -- music that sustains all the simplicity and solemnity of Palestrina. To bring the figured music to a higher standard of excellence, it would seem, is one of the chief objects of the pope's decree, and it has not come too soon."

    All women were retained by the choir here, and so it was around the country. It was only the Protestant papers that were chortling about how women were all to be fired from their positions. The Catholics understood that the Pope's instructions applied to clerical choirs in the sanctuary, not lay choirs in the loft.

    In some ways, it is ridiculous but predictable that traditionalists today would rediscover PX's motu proprio and completely misunderstand it in an attempt to reinvent a tradition that never existed.
  • Jeffrey, Thanks SO much for sharing this, it helps us all who are laboring in the EF parishes, though I must admit that the FSSP clergy for whom I work are marvelous and supportive, as indeed is the FSSP superior general. If there are criticisms, they tend to come from the "exotics" in the parish, of which, frankly there are few. By sharing this, you help in educating and informing, and hopefully we won't even have to have such discussions in future. I am proud to say that not only does St Stephen the First Martyr in Sacramento have a large schola of Gentlemen, it has an equally large schola of Ladies, and it is from this that St STephen's is able to maintain the rigorous liturgical schedule that it does in regards High Masses for every Solemnity(1st Class feast) and many of the feasts (2nd class), and of course Sundays and Holy Week/Triduum, which is a schedule more in line with a cathedral than a parish church.
  • Re-read this thread in light of our new ladies schola at Assumption Grotto in Detroit. What a wealth of information! What we have as of the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany is a men's schola which sings the Introit, Offertory and Communion Gregorian Chant and a ladies schola which sing the Gradual and Alleluia/Tract. The men seem perfectly happy to have the ladies take over chants that they did not have time to learn properly. Our pastor is the one who conducts the choir when he isn't celebrating Mass so he is the one who made the decision. I am so fortunate to be at a parish where the Pastor is a great musician!
  • I've never been there at AG, but from what I hear, you are indeed fortunate!
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