[USCCB] Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship
  • Today the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the text of "Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship". This 87-page document is available from the USCCB site in PDF format.

    (If there is enough interest in discussing this document, maybe we should make it sticky? What say ye?)
  • Sticky.

    Look at #157: “"The proper or seasonal Responsorial Psalm from the Lectionary for Mass , with the congregation singing the response, is to be preferred to the gradual from the Graduale Romanum." Citation to GIRM: "The Responsorial Psalm should correspond to each reading and should, as a rule, be taken from the Lectionary” (GIRM, no. 61; see LFM, nos. 20, 89).

    Those don't seem to be saying the same thing.

    I'm finding this document rather frustrating
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think it's a good document. It's not particularly helpful to me, since I know just about everything it says. It seems to be a summary of all relevant liturgical legislation. Perhaps most of us on this board may not need such a summary, but think of those who have never heard of Sacrosanctam Concillium or Musicam Sacram. This can be a great help for them in understanding the proper usage of Catholic church music. And, as opposed to MCW, it gives the straight-up facts of the documents without spin.

    Sure it could say more, but I think it gives enough for the average Catholic musician to understand.
  • There are many, many problems here. Mostly it reads like the contents of the house junk drawer. And yet I agree with Gavin to this extent: it is a big improvement over MCW.

    There is also the matter of why it needs to exist at all...
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    This document is profoundly equivocal, deeply conflicted, and therefore diminishes my confidence in the USCCB as a group.

    For starters, I don't think this document defines "sacred music" in any consistent or clear way. Notice that the first section attempts to theologize singing as praise. Fine, but where does "sacred" come in? It doesn't. There is no attempt anywhere in this document to explain what the Church means by "sacred." The first usage is in this sentence:

    Authentic sacred music supports the Church’s prayer by enriching its elements.

    Not helpful. Later in section 67, it cites SC 112:

    Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with
    the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or
    conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.

    Notice that it follows this by making a few half-hearted gestures, saying obvious and trivial things about music's "ritual" and "spiritual" dimensions, and then wraps these in the all-trumping "cultural context." Don't believe me? Here's the loop-hole:

    The choice of individual compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action

    There's not the slightest attempt to provide grounds for challenging what a particular group finds "best." I have to conclude the document is basically congregationalist in outlook.

    Here's another reason: there is no attempt whatsoever to use the chant as a touchstone for defining sacred music. Yes, nice things are said about chant, even helpful things! Hooray. But the most serious issue facing church music today, in my opinion, is the lack of a paradigm of sacred music. In chant, we have that. This document fails to use it. It only says this:

    In discerning the sacred quality of liturgical music, liturgical musicians will find guidance in music from the Church’s treasury of sacred music, which is of inestimable value and which past generations have found suitable for worship

    But what is the guidance to be found there? The document has nothing to say. Isn't that what we look to bishops for? Don't they know?

    No wonder the result is so equivocal.
  • In a word: disaster.

    As early as paragraph 11 we're set up with the "party line" translation of No. 14 from Sancrosanctum Concilium ("full, active, conscious participation"). From that point it becomes the excuse for manipulative inculturation.

    The door is left wide-open for polka, mariachi and even "hootenany" music for Mass. It does nothing to concretely define, without equivocation, that the music should be closely tied to the liturgy and stand apart from time, history and culture. There's lots of reference to "appropriateness," followed by references to "pastoral sensitivity." I'm on paragraph 127 now, and drowning in a sea of cultural relativism.

    In section IV.B. there are multiple references to collaboration: pastor, music director, liturgists, planners. (I don't think I've ever seen the word "liturgist" used in a Roman or curial document, though I could be wrong.) Everyone gets to weigh in with their opinion. So the identity of music for the liturgy no longer rests with the liturgy, it gets pushed about by issues of relevance: "Is this particular piece of music appropriate for this use in the particular Liturgy?" Para. 126.

    The characteristics of the particular "gathered assembly" at that time have weight, and each liturgical celebration is viewed as an isolated, one-time event: "Each particular liturgical celebration is composed of many variable verbal and non-verbal elements: proper prayers, etc., . . .the socio-economic context in which the particular community is set, or even particular events impacting the life of the Christian faithful." Para. 123.

    I can now see why they decided to vote on this as a set of "guidelines" which do not require the recognitio of the Holy See. I think we're being sold down the river, and I also think we should guard against capitulation. If so many bishops have been able to make a hash out of something as weighty and important as the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum by engaging in actions and issuing statements that misinterpret or entirely misrepresent its content, blocking its implementation, contrary to the wishes of the Holy Father, how can we possibly expect them to issue a solid, orthodox directive regarding music and liturgy for the Church in America?

    As for me, I'm not willing to give this a pass.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Jeff wonders: There is also the matter of why it needs to exist at all.

    I think I answered that. Let's face it, without some sort of guidance (like an informed pastor), it's difficult for ANYONE to wade through the sea of liturgical documents about music. Where do you start? I never heard of any sort of legislation for half the time I've been involved with church music. Then Re-dump-it-on-us (not making any statement, just find it a funny name) came out and I thought "wow, there's rules about all this, what is there for music?" Even as willing as I was to learn, how could I know to look at Sacrosanctam Concillium or that there was a document called "musicam sacram"? This document puts everything together in one source. It deserves our support because for the many musicians we could ask to read it, it offers most everything all in one place. It's like a "how to" book for church music. No, it doesn't say to light up a guitar over a Glory & Praise bonfire, nor does it say that everyone should immediately go to an all-chant-all-the-time program. But it DOES offer basic guidance in the (general) direction of the Church. The only part I would say it's utterly insufficient and misleading on is the part about suitability for worship of both instruments and music. But one step at a time. I'd say it's better to get the strummers interested in doing the liturgy the Church wants (and so have them willing to help with a chant program) rather than tell them to get lost. And anyway, let's remember this comes from the US bishops. Considering that, I'd say it's the best we can hope for from them.
  • Have a look at the highly inadvisable paragraphs 78 and 80, which take a slap at the classical Solesmes editions. We are told that the Hymnarius is the only real authoritative book in the field of chant. Here we have a not-subtle endorsement of semiology as a research school, even though 99% of parishes using chant use classical Solesmes.

    And paragraph #79 warns against changing vernacular chants in the Missals even though the typos and misprints are legendary. Essentially one cannot sing precisely what is written because the typography was so hastily done. Nor do the melodies always work. This is why composers and celebrants are constantly having to revise them.
  • Gavin reminds us: And anyway, let's remember this comes from the US bishops. Considering that, I'd say it's the best we can hope for from them.

    If he is correct..."it's the best we can hope for from them", then we need a new American hierarchy.

    Reading this document reminds me why I've decided to work for Classical Latin Mass churches and chapels exclusively, and for some Protestants... under duress.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    If he is correct..."it's the best we can hope for from them", then we need a new American hierarchy.

    Duuuuuuuuhhh..... Actually, it is coming. Every time a bad bishop retires, the pope appoints a good one in his place. I don't need to name names of recently appointed bishops who do their jobs.

    I disagree that the Extraordinary Form is a safehaven for musicians. As frustrating as my job can get, I'm glad no one runs up to the loft after every Mass imposing their own excommunications on me for playing Bach or using a vernacular hymn or some other musical decision that they think made the Mass invalid. I'll take the aging hippies over that crowd any day!

    Jeff, now you understand why I'm against musical regulation by bishops! ;)
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Yep. And I'm working on seeing this as progress. Getting there. The trend line is abstract whereas this document is concrete.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,217
    Fairly clear in reading the doc that there were two authors, ONE of whom paid attention to Dr. Mahrt's presentation.

    The other is representative of the past 40 years' wandering in the desert.

    About time for another Sinai-event, no?
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Has the CMAA resolved a specific definition of "Sacred Music"? If so, should it not be posted front and center on the website? And if not, can it be any surprise at all that the bishops, to whom music is but one of many issues, and who come from far more diverse backgrounds than the CMAA, would be unable to satisfy this group?
  • From the FAQ

    Q: What is sacred music?
    A: Sacred music is “that which, being created for the
    celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a certain
    holy sincerity of form,” according to the Sacred
    Congregation of Rites in its Instruction on Music and
    the Liturgy, Musicam Sacram (1967, ¶4). As defined
    by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum
    Concilium (1963), sacred music surpasses merely
    religious music when it is joined to the liturgical rite
    to become “a necessary and integral part of the solemn
    liturgy,” whose purpose is “the glory of God and
    the sanctification of the faithful” (¶112).

  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Which is fine as far as it goes. To go further, I think the Church was right to specify "holy, artistic, and universal." those adjectives get us a little further. The best approach is to proceed by means of a concrete paradigm: chant. See the article by Mahrt in SM.
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    This section caught my eye:

    "237. Formula tones (newly written psalm tones, Anglican chants, faux-bourdons) are
    readily available and well suited for vernacular texts. Care should be taken when setting
    vernacular texts so that the verbal accent pattern is not distorted by the musical cadence.
    Gregorian chant tones are suited to the Latin language, which does not, for the most part, have
    accents on the final syllable of a line. For this reason, Gregorian tones should generally not be
    used for those vernacular languages that have final accents, or else the Gregorian cadences
    should be adapted to fit the accentuation of the vernacular language."

    English, Spanish, Italian...aren't all of these vernacular languages that have, to varying degrees, "final accents"? This would rule out setting English psalm texts to the Gregorian tones, for example for the responsorial psalm. So does this mean that the Chanabel psalms, Anglican Use gradual and By Flowing Waters are a no-go?

    Given the mixed feelings about English-ing Gregorian chant among Gregorian Chant enthusiasts, I imagine that many would agree with this section of the document. I take the point that Gregorian tones are especially suited to the cadences of the Latin language, but I also think that English psalms pointed to Gregorian tones is not really all that bad if done carefully, and often sounds better than the usual alternatives. But are Murray tones, for example, to be preferred for English? Thoughts?
  • The Gregorian tones sound and feel like Catholic music though. Surely that should count for something. They are easy to sing too.

    You know, I was thinking about one aspect of this document that has been overlooked. Nowhere in it does there seem to be an acknowledgment of the reality in parishes today. Drive into any town in this country and attend a random parish at a random Mass time and what do you hear and experience? The Vatican has pointed to the mess for 20 to 30 years. Yet this document seems to not deal with it, much less provide clear answers.
  • Here's another question: They've stated that a "directory" of approved music is going to be released within 3 years. Who will judge this music? Will they start by insisting that the texts come directly from the liturgy, and then insist that the music support but not dominate that text? Will someone finally decide that simply because a text (or an adaptation of a text) comes from scripture doesn't necessarily mean that it's appropriate to be set for congregational singing for use in the liturgy? (So many "voice of God" texts! So many texts where we sing to, about and for ourselves!) Or will so much of the junk being produced be "grandfathered" in and given a pass?

    I've actually pointed out to several of the more conservative staff members where I work that neither of the hymnals we use (both from GIA) have a nihil obstat or imprimatur, but rather were printed under the rather slippery "ecclesiastical authority" of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Musical styles and genres aside, I have repeatedly pointed out texts that border on heresy to the clergy, etc., and they seem mildly shocked, but don't seem interested in taking any firm action on it. Didn't Pius XII declare Modernism a heresy, subtly infused with Palagianism?

    How much more patience can we be expected to exhibit?
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • I sure would like to know who was behind all this tone talk. Not Fr. Samuel Weber, who has been working on setting G tones to the entire Office.

    This comment above about tones, the warning against revising Missal chants in English, and the slap at classical Solesmes, sure strike me as someone using influence to go after the competition.
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    Something positive about this document, at section IV A ("What Parts Do We Sing"):

    It appears to recognize the principle of progressive degrees of participation, although it refers to this principle as "progressive solemnity", which we would normally associate with something different. (Confusingly, the document discusses what we ordinarily understand "progressive solemnity" to be in the same section. In other words, paragraphs 7 and 11 of Musicam Sacram are lumped together as though they were discussing the same thing.)

    Anyway, this is a huge step forward. Although it might have been made clearer, the document appears to recognize, at 115 (a), that the most important parts of the Mass to be sung are the parts that are almost never sung: "Every effort should . . . be made to introduce or strengthen as a normative practice the singing of the dialogues between the priest, deacon, or lector and the people." Unfortunately it does not spell out exactly what these are, but rather gives two examples, one of which is from the Liturgy of the Hours. But we know from Musicam Sacram that these include:

    "(a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

    (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.

    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

    When it comes to what has the next priority in terms of singing, Sing to the Lord engages in a bit of ambiguity. It lists different degrees, but the order does not correspond with that of Musicam Sacram. Nowhere does it say explicitly that the list of degrees is in any order although it seems to suggest that it is more important that the congregation sing the entrance and communion antiphons than the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei (M.S. says the opposite).

    The section also suggests, though not very forcefully or clearly, that "proper antiphons" are to be preferred to hymns.
  • I find it fascinating that all the committee had to do was was arrange and explain the demands of MS. In addition they could have made some sort of stand on sacro-pop vs chant, polyphony and traditional hymns, but decided to dig under the fence when the gate was completely unlocked!

  • The now mercifully defunct Music in Catholic Worship claimed that the old distinction between propers and ordinary no longer applies. Amazing to think of the damage that document did. just amazing.
  • Jeffrey Tucker wrote: "The now mercifully defunct Music in Catholic Worship claimed that the old distinction between propers and ordinary no longer applies."

    Jeff, would you say the new document is an improvement over MCW?

    For myself, having read the document over the weekend, I'm cautiously optimistic that it is an improvement. However, I think a more careful analysis of 'Sing to the Lord' vs. MCW, vs. Musicam Sacram is in order.

    On the plus side, I'd count the primacy accorded to the human voice, the exhortations to priests to sing their parts (come on guys, you can sing "the Lord be with you" on one note!), the acknowledgment of antiphons & psalms over hymns (especially Introit and Communion), a few instances of returned traditional terms (eg, Offertory), and specific acknowledgment that 'secular music' isn't appropriate for the liturgy (in the sections on weddings and funerals). There's this in #135: "To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure." Was there anything like that in MCW?

    On the minus side, the continued lack of stating the purposes of sacred music as noted by Pes & Jeff (citing Vatican II), although the term 'sacred music' is used; a quasi-official use of the term 'pastoral musician'; and the seeming hurdles raised for Gregorian chant noted in the comments here (the one about psalm tones sruprised me).

    Some deeper analysis is in order, but more important will be what practical effects this will have. Will the document bring about improvements, or enshrine the status quo? There were also a couple mentions of a "Directory on Music and the Liturgy, draft awaiting confirmation from the Holy See" (footnotes 75 & 77). I wonder what's in there?
  • Yes, it would be good to compare them. I would also like to see a list of the really bad things in MCW that were taken out.

    Honestly, David, I do wonder if these document will get any attention at all outside this forum.

    Maybe the news here is not this document as such but that MCW has been killed. There needs to be some sort of eulogy written for that.
  • Jeff and David:

    The people looking for analysis of "Sing to the Lord" are a self-selecting group; hopefully this thread will be indexed by some of the major search engines, bringing more people into the discussion. So while outside of this forum there may not be a great deal of attention, outside forces will bring interested parties here.

    So I say that the analysis will be worth it. In fact, one of my initial hopes for initiating this thread is that an emotionally detached analysis of "Sing to the Lord" will take place; perhaps the basis for an in-depth article will result.
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • Darcy
    Posts: 73
    My impressions - first, the big stinker that kept resurfacing was a reference to "multicultural pluralism" and "pastoral sensitivity." Statements like, # 30:

    "The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church."

    That seems like opening the door to mariachi and polka Masses... while not excluding Palestrina of course. In general, the primacy of being "pastoral" makes all music choices subjective to the individual situation.

    Another thing that jumped out at me was the insistance of the primacy of congregational singing. Even while the document carefully states the "internal" sense of full, active and conscious participation, out the other side of its mouth it says,

    "So that the holy people may sing with one voice, the music must be within its members’ capability. Some congregations are able to learn more quickly and will desire more variety. Others will be more comfortable with a stable number of songs so that they can be at ease when they sing. Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization." (no. 27)

    This implies that sacred music should be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator of congregational singing. It becomes clear that the choir should sing a bare minimum of the liturgical music, leaving that job to the congregation:

    "The choir must not minimize the musical participation of the faithful. The congregation commonly sings unison melodies, which are more suitable for generally unrehearsed community singing. This is the primary song of the Liturgy... [the choir may] enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone." (No. 28)

    So much for any lip service given to Gregorian chant!

    After all the good information I've absorbed from the CMAA since joining (getting close to a year ago), by comparison "Sing to the Lord" is a self-contradicting and apparently politically negotiated document that claims to give guidelines that could be implemented in a parish, and winds up being just a frustrating read. I did not read the previous bishop's document for comparison, though no doubt it was worse. They are making some baby steps in the USCCB, but thankfully the grass-roots sacred music movement seems to be Holy Spirit-driven and is making some real progress, judging by the chant workshops and success of the colloquium. And there continues to be reassurance from the liturgical practices in Rome and statements of Pope Benedict that affirm the authentic Church teaching on sacred music, which is easy to access and understand. It helps discern the meat from the fluff in a document like this.
  • 73. The “pride of place” given to Gregorian chant by the Second Vatican Council is modified by the important phrase “other things being equal.”69 These “other things” are the important liturgical and pastoral concerns facing every bishop, pastor, and liturgical musician. In considering the use of the treasures of chant, pastors and liturgical musicians should take care that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song. They should be sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity and peace.

    There's nothing particularly wrong with the rendering of the phrase ceteris paribus as "other things being equal." Wikipedia has this helpful point. "Cēterīs pāribus is a Latin phrase, literally translated as 'with other things [being] the same,' and usually rendered in English as 'all other things being equal.' A prediction, or a statement about causal or logical connections between two states of affairs, is qualified by ceteris paribus in order to acknowledge, and to rule out, the possibility of other factors which could override the relationship between the antecedent and the consequent."

    What seems to be odd here is the application of the principle, which for this document, seems to be "unless there are reasons to dispense with the rule." I'm familiar with the phrase mainly from the discipline of economics, and its meaning is very nearly the opposite: dispensing with the rule because of some consideration does not invalidate it. It's purpose is to establish the universality of the principle regardless of changing conditions.

    An example: in economics, we say that more units of a good are purchased at a lower price than a higher price, other things being equal. Here is the law of Demand, which is universal. We add "other things being equal" as a means of making a mental experiment. We hold all things still while we change one factor in order to illustrate an effect. If other things were changed, such as taste and a change in demand, the observed effects would be different. But the important factor here is that the principle would STILL apply. Indeed, the reason for the experiment is to underscore the fixed principle.

    So it is with chant in liturgy. There might not be any singers who can sing chant. The acoustics might not cooperate. There might be other factors. Whatever they might be, the existence of these changing conditions that somehow make chant unviable under some conditions do not in any way diminish the truth that chant still retains pride of place.

    This is a way of understanding the idea of Ceteris Paribus that is consistent with the usage of it in other contexts. Sing to the Lord has given us no basis, other than assertion, for changing this more common understanding of the term.
  • Jeff, when I first come across Sacrosanctum Concilium ¶116 5 years ago(!) from where this phrase originates, I read that paragraph as implying Gregorian chant as eminently suitable, and other music less so; or the other styles being equal, but somewhat less suitable than Gregorian chant.

    Here is my full blog post on SC ¶116. I think our interpretation of the phrase is the same; I'll submit that my 2002 interpretation of this paragraph plays a bit faster and looser regarding "other styles of music".
  • Interesting. I sure would like to know if others have written on this. It suddenly seems to matter a great deal.
  • Jeffery,

    I have a great deal of respect for your positions, and especially items I have read that you have authored.

    I'm reminded of the quote from your Top Ten Unknown Truths: "ceteris paribus does not mean: unless you don't like it."

    Unfortunately, thanks to the American bishops, the door to personal preference has been kicked completely off its hinges.

    It seems to me that some of the conditions you refer to that make the use of chant unviable are the direct result of the actions (or inactions) of the bishops themselves. They have permitted ill-suited, accoustically unfriendly (not to mention liturgically unfriendly) "worship spaces" to be designed and built in their dioceses. Parish priests who were trained since Vatican II have little to no knowledge, exposure or experience with chant. (Not to mention language. Latin, at least at the seminary in our diocese, is not mandatory. Spanish, however, is.)

    At the parish level, the pastors tend to not pay attention to what is being taught regarding music in the parochial schools. (I can pretty much guess that few parochial schools that do have a music teacher have one that knows anything about the music of the tradition). Thus our schools are raising yet another generation of people who will be unable to sing chant, or develop a kind of prejudice against it vis a vis the music typically used for "school Masses." Groups like NPM treat the use of chant as a novelty, and rarely (if ever) present "breakout sessions" at their conventions that take the learning and teaching of reading chant seriously. The cultivation of deep skills in music for the "pastoral musician" simply isn't encouraged, let alone mentioned at any level. There's plenty of concern for "being pastoral," little for being musically trained and disciplined.

    "Other things being equal," nothing in this situation is equal. By design the use of chant at the parish level is going to be fraught with struggles, if not out and out roadblocks. We can insist on the ideal all we want, and ever shall it remain, the ideal. I'm 30 pounds over my ideal weight. I have two choices: take the actions necessary to loose it, or, "other things being equal," suffer the consequences of my inaction. Wishing to be thinner has never worked for me, despite knowing what the ideal is. Wishing that chant would be the norm for music in the liturgy won't work either, no matter how much we know what the ideal is.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I tend to read "all other things being equal" precisely as the bishops do here. All other things being equal, I would march right into my parish on Sunday, direct my huge schola in every single bit of the Mass sung a capella, Introit to Gradual to "Deo Gracias", and the congregation would erupt into wild applause, women would throw themselves at me, and people would shower me with $100 bills. Then I'd get in a Lambourghini (bought with all the money my boss is paying me for my work) and drive home. However, all things are not equal.

    What are the other factors? Choir ability, congregational maturity level, abilities of the director, accoustic properties of the building, the proper celebration of Mass by the priest, and many other things, yes even including the actual demand for chant from the congregation! Again I speak of the pastoral judgment because it would be totally right, legal, and legit for Jeff and a schola to walk into St. Happy of Clappy Catholic Community and chant the Mass; that is it would be if it weren't St. Happy of Clappy Catholic Community! The result would be that the congregation would no doubt be disgusted, the established musicians offended, and Jeff would probably get run out of the state (Guitarville). And chant would not have held pride of place there because it would be felt as an imposition by all, from Fr. Friendly to the old feminist nun in street clothes. Now there's other situations besides "reform" parishes that need to exercise judgment in employing chant such as missions, Masses with special groups such as children, and the need for diversity in music (such as polyphony, hymnody, and other sacred genres). Note that none of these means that chant has NO place. Even for a mission, I'd argue one should not only utilize relevant material but also use chant as a sign of what's being introduced to the people as part of the Faith. I'd say it just means that chant should always have a place in the liturgy, but exactly how big of a role it plays is dependent on many factors.
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • Darcy
    Posts: 73
    I always cringed a little when I heard "other things being equal" along with the "pride of place" statement because it sounded way too open to interpretation. Yet when it is quoted by church documents or faithful priests, the context is clear - that Gregorian chant is simply the most appropriate, most approved of, sacred music for the Roman Rite. I always took the "other things being equal" to mean other forms of music beyond chant and polyphony.

    My pastor had some comments in his bulletin column last weekend http://www.saintpetercatholic.com/current-bulletin.html related to this theme. He takes it from the perspective of hierarchy of options given for the introit by the GIRM; it is a further clarification on what Vatican II said.

    Continuing the reflections on sacred music, how is it determined what is suitable to be sung at Mass during the entrance procession of the ministers to the sanctuary? In order to ensure that our worship is in fact “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) according to the mind of the Church (and not simply according to our own personal whims or opinions, likes or dislikes), it is necessary to consult the latest “how-to manual” for the celebration of the Mass, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal Third Typical Edition, approved by Servant of God John Paul II in 2001 with its English translation appearing in 2003. I suspect that most Catholics would say that the choice of music for the entrance procession is easy: you just pick a hymn! Well, as good ol’ Gomer Pyle used to say on the Andy Griffith Show: “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” In fact, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, a hymn is actually the fourth and last option! Paragraph 48 of this General Instruction says the first choice for the “Entrance Chant” (or “Introit,” from the Latin meaning “entrance”) is “the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting.” The text of this entrance antiphon is what you find (in an abbreviated form, however) on page 3 of the Seasonal Missalette! For those of you who attend weekday Mass, it is the antiphon that we recite together at the beginning of the Mass as the priest makes his way to the presidential chair. Note that the text is almost always taken right from the Scriptures while occasionally it is from the prayers of the liturgy itself. Noteworthy, also, is that it is an antiphon. In other words, its structure includes a “body” or “verses” lead by the choir (or cantor) and a “response” or “refrain” that is repeated after each verse (by choir alone or by choir and congregation). In other words, it unfolds in a manner like that of the Responsorial Psalm with which we have become so familiar at Mass. The General Instruction goes on to say that the first choice for the music to which the text is set is taken from the Roman Gradual. This official music book contains the prescribed “proper” or “distinctive” music for each Mass throughout the entire Church year, namely, music of the entrance procession, the gradual (which may be used in place of the Responsorial Psalm), the offertory, and the Communion procession. The music of the Roman Gradual is exclusively Gregorian chant and arranged according to the Order of Music for the Mass, a set of guidelines first published with the approval of Servant of God Paul VI in 1972 and revised in 1986 under the authority of Servant of God John Paul II. Perhaps the following comparison will be of help to understand the import of the Roman Gradual. The Roman Gradual is to the music of the Mass as the Lectionary is to the Scripture passages proclaimed at Mass. The Lectionary is the official book containing the selections from the Scriptures to be read by the lector (and priest or deacon) at Mass during the course of the Church year. The passages from the Bible in the Lectionary are arranged according to the Order of Readings for the Mass, a set of guidelines first published in 1969 under Paul VI and revised in 1981 under John Paul II. The publication of the new Roman Gradual and Lectionary were part of the revision of the liturgical books according to the renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Indeed, the introduction to the guidelines for the revision of the Roman Gradual noted that “the Second Vatican Council explicitly declared in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy [114, 117] that the treasury of Gregorian chant – which Tradition has handed on right to our day – must be reverently preserved and put to proper use.” So for the four Sundays of Advent at Saint Peter we will select the Church’s first choice for the Entrance Chant taking it from the Roman Gradual.

    A problem throughout the USCCB document is taking things out of context, whether out of context with the document that contains the quote, or out of the greater context of what the Church has said in various places (before and since) on the topic. If there were any serious intention on the committee's part to promote Gregorian Chant, I would think they would have provided more specific direction on how to overcome the hurdles and emphasize that "pride of place" is not to be taken lightly. But this is just a baby step in that direction... maybe someday real guidance will come forth. I still think the authentic renewal of sacred music is going to come (is already coming) with the help of the Holy Spirit from the laity and a handful of supportive clergy without the help of the USCCB.
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    would you please expand, for someone who's a complete novice to chant in general, on your comment about wrt USCCB document's recommendation of using Liber Hymnarius as a standard. While 'standards' always freeze matters for which there can be valid disagreement, surely if chant is to be more generally available to the community as a whole then having some standard version is beneficial?
    I'm reminded of the story of someone critizing John Wesley's methods of evangelism to which he replied "I'm unsatisfied with them too, what methods do you find more useful?"
  • I think I'll wait until I can get my Hymnarius in front of me, but briefly, my understanding is that this volume was prepared with an overt purposes of jettisoning the work of the classical Solesmes approach. It has been the rallying cry of some for this reason, while others find it not useful. But I'm going to reserve further comment until I can give some examples.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    It would've been helpful for Solesmes to issue a sort of "errata" document regarding these melodies, so we could see very precisely the extent of their revisions. I would bet that the scale of the revisions were actually quite small. Dots and episemas still appear, as do occasional ictuses. The number of instances of new neumes is actually fairly small. It's not like you'll open the book and be startled by novelties. My experience was just the opposite. Maybe those who know previous books of these melodies will be able to speak more precisely about the scale of revision when it comes to actual pitch changes.

    I'm also inclined to think the use of neumes with "initio debilis" and so forth, along with the new oriscus, are over-specifications of rhythm that are likely to be lost in all but the most scrupulous academic performances anyway. So like Jeffrey, I don't see the LH as a radical project.
  • I will confess from the outset that I am a newcomer to the scholarship of chant, so please forgive me for being a bit confused. I own a copy of the LH, and it contains hymns and the like to be used for the Divine Offices, rendered in square notation. Is the LH mentioned in STTL? (A section and paragraph reference would be helpful). At any rate, I wasn't aware that there was any controversy surrounding its publication (overt attempt to jettison the classical Solesmes style).

    I am intrigued by the question of just how much tinkering with the original chants was done by Solesmes. A friend of mine who uses chant regularly at his church has been asking this question aloud for some time. I'm not sure where a good answer can be found. I'm also not sure just how much direct value can be attributed to the work of Solesmes from a scholarship standpoint. It would appear that in some camps to challenge anything that comes from Solesmes is tantamount to heresy.

    I would also add that Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, of St. Meinrad Archabbey has done extensive research in Gregorian chant, primarily in the areas of semiology and rhetoric, but also including work on translating several very important treatises on the interpretation of chant. It may be worth looking into his work, as some of the answers might be there.

    As an aside, I would wonder why the Gregorian Missal for Sundays, published by Solesmes in 1990 wouldn't be more worth discussion as against the LH, given that is specifically contains the appointed chants for the Mass.
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    A thought occurred to me about "Sing to the Lord", specifically the part about inserting tropes in the Agnus dei (someone can post the relevant passage, perhaps). It seems to me that the bishops are objectively wrong on this. Sacrosanctam Concillium says, "no person, even if he be a priest, may change the words of the Mass." However, that is exactly what the trope Agnus Dei constitutes. "Lamb of God" is changed to something else, often decided by a layman. Would this not fall under SC's rule? I understand there are some parts of the Mass which may be authored by laymen or priests, such as the Intercessions, but the Agnus Dei, unless so specified in the Missal, rubrics, or GIRM, doesn't strike me as one of those parts. Therefore we can conclude there is at least one plain and unavoidable error in the document.
  • Gavin, that seems right to me.

    On the Hymnarius, I really am not on solid ground here. I need to get my copy and dig up material on it. I should probably scratch what I said above, since it is based on memory and conjecture and nothing really solid. I too find it interesting that the Gregorian Missal employs all the classical approaches.
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    To get down to a concrete example, suppose one's wanting to sing Vox clara ecce intonat then where does one go for the melody? To page 6 of Liber Hymnarius according to USCCB's Sing to the Lord document. I think that's all the document intends and does not mean to takes sides between Mocquereau and Cardine.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    An example that comes to mind is "Conditor alme siderum." There has been disagreement between versions published in OCP, GIA, Adoremus, and some chant books as to whether the melody begins m-d-m-s-s-l-f-s or m-d-m-s-l-l-f-s. I think STL is saying if we're going to set a vernacular text for this tune (or by extension compose a choral piece based on it), that we should agree on a standard version.

    While the statement about the Hymnarius deals with strophic hymns, the idea could be extended to other chants. I can also think of the contemporary song "Hold Us In Your Mercy" by Tom Conry (OCP). It is based on "Parce, Domine" and might not have been a bad way to sneek a chant melody into a contemporary praise service without causing too much upset. But, unfortunately, he tags on an extra line of music so he can include something about "justice like a river." Wouldn't it have been best if he had left the melody alone?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Glad to hear we have agreement on it.

    Now I don't like all the discussion over what-has-force-what-doesn't-what-has-higher-force-than-something-else, because the goal of that is often to either portray the Church as something other than united or to ignore legislation that one doesn't like (if you want to play coy about that, remember liberals use the same logic to ignore musicam sacram). That said, we have a plain, bald-faced contradiction of Sacrosanctam Concillium here. But I do have to wonder, does "Sing to the Lord" then allow, against my interpretation of SC, for the tropic Agnus Dei? It is, after all, a document of the US Bishops, and my understanding is that bishops have some jurisdiction over the Mass. If not, are we then still free to visit other parishes and, however supremely jerky it may be, tell people "you're not supposed to do that"?
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • On troped Agnus Dei, just note that it can impede 'active participation'? After the second invocation, I'm never sure whether to sing 'have mercy on us' or 'grant us peace', so I just shut up. This fall, I had occasion to attend Mass several times at a parish where they do this. This place seemed to use four invocations instead of the traditional three.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    David - We vary quite a bit at the church where I cantor. The Agnus Dei is a litany intended to cover the entire Fractioning action. The time that takes depends on which priest and assistant is performing that task. The church still distributes both the Body and the Blood and we average 1200 persons at Mass, so this is nontrivial. To cover the time we would range from 3 to 6 verses. I think the congregation gradually caught on to the hand signals between cantor and organist whereby a closed fist indicated it was the Pacem verse.

    Recently they did move the distribution of wine to take place during the Presentation of the Gifts. As a result we now sing a standardized three verses with brief organ interlude between each. But in both cases we have avoided the variety of phrases asterisked into the Mass books.
  • I have nothing to add to your obviously well qualified discussion, except to say, That just knowing there are cantors out there, SOMEWHERE!, that actually use sacred music during the Mass, accompanied with an actual organ, and not a cocktail lounge piano, does me inestimable good. I have no formal musical training, except that I know sacred music when I hear it, and I just, to my horror and rage, read the usccb document you all have referenced. I need not comment further than you good people already have, except to say, that piece of trash is so inclusive and non-conclusive as to justify anything from chant to improv. I'll likely not contribute to this forum again, but rather, jus sit back and revel in your analysis and knowledge.
  • Priorstf,

    I'm glad that your parish is finally coming into line with the documents regarding the pouring of the wine prior to consecration. That's what we do in our parish (where we average 1400 per Mass), and it works well. We're able to use the standard three repetitions of the Agnus Dei, and avoid the need for signals from anyone.

    One of the problems I've encountered in the past, as a music director, was cantors who would make up tropes for the Agnus Dei, often of dubious theological or liturgical origin.

    I must admit I found the description of hand signals between cantor and organist humorous. . . I couldn't help envisioning the signals that go back and forth between pitcher and catcher at a baseball game.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    It's always been my experience in churches that use the tropic Agnus Dei that they sing the tropes then the last verse is ALWAYS "Lamb of God". It takes away any need for guesswork or counting - when they use the right text again, it's "grant us (your) peace." Of course you can get around this by just using it as is ;)
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    Regarding the scholarly controversy about gregorian rhythm to which Jeffrey alludes, I found a useful background article: 'The New Chantbooks from Solesmes' by Peter Jeffrey. This article is available from JSTOR and I've also put it at:
  • Well, folks, the National Pastoral Musicians, always a day late, dollar short and on the wrong side of the issues that matter, finally released (on Dec. 3) their "press release" for this document.

    Here's what they said:

    You may now view and download Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (PDF), a new set of guidelines for music in the liturgy approved overwhelmingly (88%) by the U.S. bishops last month. The document had originally been proposed as a legislative document, but the bishops opted instead to issue it as an official statement of the USCCB, which still required a two-thirds vote of Latin rite bishops.

    Sing to the Lord is longer (more than 250 paragraphs) and more comprehensive than its predecessors. It addresses some topics not covered in earlier documents, treats other areas more expansively, incorporates the norms of recent official liturgical documents, and draws on the experience of celebrating the current “ordinary” form of the Mass for the past thirty-seven years.

    The USCCB is planning to publish the document together with the Directory for Music and the Liturgy. These official norms for approval of texts for singing at the liturgy were adopted by the U.S. bishops in November 2006 and are still awaiting confirmation from the Vatican.

    (End quote)

    Interesting that they consider 88% to be "overwhelming approval," and yet the bishops hesitated to vote on it as a legislative document requiring recognitio of the Holy See. Interesting, too, that we keep hearing about this "Directory for Music and the Liturgy", sent to Rome over a year ago now, and yet nobody that I know has a clue as to what's in it. If there's an unofficial version floating around that was leaked (as typically happens with other documents), I'd sure love to lay my hands on it. Somehow, this all makes me too nervous. We can only hope that the Curia has looked at that 2006 document and decided to send it back DOA.
    Thanked by 1Eric D. Williams
  • David,
    I just wrote a piece on the NPM "announcement" of Sing to the Lord... there seems to be some dissatisfaction among the NPM hierarchy about this document (I've spoken to two of the "higher ups" recently and they seem to be dismissive of it, saying how it is moving us away from inclusion and towards a more excluding theology in our song... geez!). Anyhow, my biggest problem with it is that it draws heavily from the Directory for Music in the Liturgy, at times quoting this yet unknown document as though it were already approved. My feeling is that the Directory will not be approved, at least not without serious revision, as it follows much of the same thinking as the draft of Sing to the Lord, which was a progressive disaster prior to a complete overhaul on the floor of the synod. If the Directory is NOT approved, then I'm not sure how another document can use it as a source and still be credible. Wouldn't it seem that documents cited as sources should be valid themselves...
  • Also.. concerning the "other things being equal" modification for Chant's pride of place... it seems to be truly bad writing to use this type of colloquialism in what was intended to be a legislative document. Wouldn't it have been a better idea to perhaps say "unless there are grave reasons in a particular situation which would make the use of chant detrimental to the celebration of the liturgy, Chant should be given pride of place in the liturgy"... or something of that sort... this would make it clear that the only valid reason for not using chant would be when it is truly not the best option FOR THE LITURGY, rather than introducing the "feelings" of the assembly into the equation. The problem with "other things being equal" as can be discerned from the above discussion, is that there is no real agreement on what that term actually means. By using it, it leaves the entire passage up to a variety of interpretations, which as we all know was the reason for using it in the first place!
  • I'm certainly sensing dissatisfaction among those who consider themselves to be in the "progressive" camp (not a good name at all, considering that it describes a regressive agenda).

    I was struck reading the archives of Pastoral Musician just how central Music in Catholic Worship was to these people. Now it is gone (except not entirely, since it is still posted).