Conflct of Interest? Post MR3 Mass settings in the OF
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Full Disclosure Statement to follow:
    This thread contains an ulterior motive and totally hidden agenda known only to me and my lovely wife, and she ain't talking.

    We are now upon the cusp of the culmination of having three years of the revised texts of MR3 and particularly those of the settings of the Ordinary for the Ordinary Form, English. In those three years we've employed three settings at the schola/choir Mass: Royce Nickel's Mass of St. Therese of Liseaux; Jeff Ostrowski's St. Ralph Sherwin; and currrently Chris Mueller's beautiful Missa Editione Tertia. We will shift to Richard Clark's Mass of the Angels in September through to Advent.
    Here's the beef- I'm I the only one among us here to ponder whether the CMAA paradigm of sacred, universal and (most of all) beautiful stand in paradox to the demand for participatio activia, aka "the congregation MUST be provided settings of the ordinary that they will choose to enjoin singing?

    I cannot state unequivocally that the four Mass settings above have fulfilled both demands, though they fulfil the paradigm. But, save for the mystery and truism that the PiPs will sing any "Agnus Dei," trying to elicit any aurally perceptible sound from them for a Gloria, or even the Sanctus (which belongs to the second order of being "owned" by the people) seems literally like teaching the hog to sing, except I think they've enjoyed LISTENING to those Mass movements for three years.
    Is this a real dichotomy? Has the series of revisions of the GIRM to the present day constricted composers by the sort of "gebrauchsmusick" (music for a particular need) ethos that stifles them from truly inspired settings. Can a truly inspired, beautiful setting also remain "accessible" to congregations in this era?

    Fire away....
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I think it depends on the congregation, more than it depends on the setting.
    Thanked by 2SkirpR Gavin
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    I think it depends on the congregation, more than it depends on the setting.


    There are some congregations that seem to refuse to sing anything. If this is the case, I don't think forcing the issue with them is at all important under most circumstances. In this case, I would use all the beautiful music I could.

    If they love to sing - but only certain things ("less beautiful") - there should be some effort given to "teach" them to sing other things ("more beautiful"). If they refuse and don't seem to miss singing, see above.

    If they tend to sing everything that's put in front of them that a congregation is capable of singing, I would be most conscious of balancing things they can sing with other things that may be more "beautiful" with things that may be slightly less "beautiful" that they can sing.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Gentlemen, your comments are well taken and cogent, but I may not have exposed my primary concern, which was not about congregational participation. Were that THE issue, I would have reported on the merits of each of those settings, save the Clark, as related to congregational participation at that particular Mass.
    My tongue gets tied when trying to simplify.
    Is it literally possible to compose a Mass in the OF that would meet the CMAA paradigm and yet appeal as broadly to any congregation at first blush through to total confidence?
    If you will, a sort of CMAA "Mass of Creation" or a setting that artfully and coherently weaves alternation between choir and congregation in addition to in toto.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Ah, I see. I don't think it is possible for any piece of music to "appeal as broadly to any [or in this case, each and every] congregation at first blush."

    It would be great if that were possible, and perhaps someday when sacred music as we typically define it around here is more of a norm or expectation in your average congregations, this will be possible. As of today, I don't think it is.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    The Newman Center in Tempe, AZ was using the St. Ralph Sherwin Gloria (at least at the Roman mass ... er, I mean "traditional" mass) when the translation was issued, and it caught on real quick. Speaks to the matter of "relevance" and music that's engaging to today's generation when you've got a bunch of college kids singing Gregorian-style ordinaries.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    As a follow-up, I imagine a good composer, with more than a passing knowledge of a specific, particular congregation, as well as CMAA ideals, should be able to compose such a work.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    ...perhaps someday when sacred music as we typically define it around here is more of a norm or expectation in your average congregations, this will be possible. As of today, I don't think it is.

    Richard, just for curiosity's sake, if criteria were ideal to make possible this "dream OF Mass setting" down the road timewise, why aren't we ready for it now?
    It seems that, again confining ourselves to a vernacular and choral scenario in addition to congregation/organ and even legitimate cantor options, someone is bound to have the germ of an idea of a construct inwhich to couch beautiful melodies with compelling choral treatments/organ accompaniment that also just doesn't throw the congregation bytes and bones for their parts.
    Regarding the Sherwin, and maybe this is germane whenever a chant melody is given a choral treatment, in our experience (the congregation actually chose that Glory over another version), when you introduce the unison melody (soprano) and try to inculcate that over a period of time, as soon as you start splitting choral voices, even if having the TB's sing the melody and women the alto, there's a pulling back by the congregation. And it gets tougher when you opt finally for SATB.
    I'm almost of the mind that the melodic burden should be assigned to the men, with the women adding a sort of descant like harmonic coloration. This is a tactic to avoid using a "cantor" in addition to a choir, something I truly dislike and avoid always.
  • Interesting.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    FNJ, when someone says "Interesting," people generally are suppressing critical observations for some reason they don't want to utter. Do chime in.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    Interesting.

    This.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    Here's the beef- I'm I the only one among us here to ponder whether the CMAA paradigm of sacred, universal and (most of all) beautiful stand in paradox to the demand for participatio activia, aka "the congregation MUST be provided settings of the ordinary that they will choose to enjoin singing?


    Are you asking:

    "Does Pius X's description of sacred music (sacred, beautiful, and universal) conflict with his goal of active participation?"

    Or are you asking something else?

    All I know is that participatio activia is something you get from a digestive tract soothed with yogurt, right?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I think any congregation that WANTS TO can sing (many of) the Gregorian Ordinaries. The the extent that active participation includes congregational singing, I think this is ideal.

    Beyond that- I think the composer would have to be writing for a specific congregation (as, I think, Clark was with his Mass of the Angels). Like The Mass of Creation (also written for a very specific congregational situation) it seems that music written thusly would have the best chance of spreading, as many parishes are more alike than they are different.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    Isn't the ICEL setting catching on? I've heard it in a number of quite diverse congregational situations.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood ryand
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Thanks for the correctives, RC. To your question: yes.
    Adam, again- I'm trying to discuss compositions YET to be written, and not necessarily chant based, though Clark's is by far the most innovative and worthy among those that are inspired by "known" sources.
    FNJ and Chuck- I'm crying "uncle" here. What exactly is "interesting?"
    My friends, this thread is laboring hard to deal with principles of need and compositional art, and not focusing only upon how to get the folks to sing. And I don't think locality is all that pertinant, ie. the Mueller Mass originated in New England, but is universally acknowledged as beautiful.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Richard, just for curiosity's sake, if criteria were ideal to make possible this "dream OF Mass setting" down the road timewise, why aren't we ready for it now?


    Well, I only said:

    ...perhaps someday when sacred music as we typically define it around here is more of a norm or expectation in your average congregations, this will be possible. As of today, I don't think it is.


    because you said:

    appeal as broadly to any congregation at first blush.


    And frankly, "any congregation" will have different judgments about what appeals to them. If there is ever at least some benchmark for sacred music established, it will take time. This is the goal of "brick-by-brick," no? If you're using the qualifications that this imaginary composition appeal to "any congregation at first blush" AND be a work of high aesthetic value, I just don't think it's possible to satisfy both of those qualifications. Not because of any potential future change in the work's aesthetic value, but because what "appeal[s] ... broady to any congregation" is so currently varied and hopefully that will improve in time.

    And from your discussion of choral harmony as well as Adam's remark about chanting the Gregorian ordinaries - which I find supremely beautiful - perhaps one of the problems might be that harmonization is so high on every organist's composer's priority list that a conceptual melody is too caught up in conceptualized harmonization to really be aesthetically "good enough" on its own.

    So, maybe if one of us were to start writing this dream piece - although I don't nearly think any of us are worthy enough composers - myself and respectfully most others on the forum included - maybe we should start with a melody alone and don't even think of adding a harmonization until we've lived with it for like... I don't know... months.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Melody first.. yes.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Melo- yes, I know. I'm just saying it for example.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Melody first.. yes.


    Yes, but not like more than five minutes and a cup of coffee before you start working on the harmony first.
    Thanked by 1Aristotle Esguerra
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Yes guys, of course. Heck, John Foley said that to me in his hotel room in 79 at Chicago NPM. That's a maxim every composer pre and post Stockhausen has branded on his/her forehead.
    That so acknowledged, I can't say that I agree that accessible at first blush to any congregation is a general (not specific or local) attribute that stands in opposition to aesthetic worthiness. In point of fact, I believe that the "dream" Mass' aesthetic worthiness is the what that would attract (or distract) the PiPs from their myriad doldrums and persuade them to engage.
    Do we want to pursue the construction of this ideal principle, or deconstruct it into submission to resignation.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    My opinion- I don't think you can deal in "ideals" in the way you are describing. We'll know it's possible when someone does it. Until then, we won't know whether it is possible or not. If no one does it for a long time, we can assume it is impossible, but we will not be sure.
    Thanked by 3SkirpR CHGiffen Gavin
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 462
    people generally are suppressing critical observations for some reason they don't want to utter. Do chime in.


    Or they just want more time to kick the idea around in their heads before committing. :)
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    Melody first Text first.. yes.

    Fixed.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Well, yes, a melody that sets the text amazingly well. I think Adam and I assumed that was a given. The point is all of that should be perfect before thinking about harmony.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Ah so, now I get it, Chuck. You and Noel are having a "Mr. Enigma 2013" contest pageant, and the other old hippy geezer can either take a long walk off the reservation, or crown one of you, chanting like Burt Parks, "Here he is, Mister Eni-ig-mahhhhhhhhhh." I'm onto and wise to y'all's antics.
  • I have 18 settings of the Ordinary for the OF (alas, fewer for one prayer: the Credo) in my handy dandy PBC. And GR. They're groovy, TOTALLY DESIGNED FOR THE FAITHFUL, they're time tested. But they're just not so shiny and new. I got them in the sacred music bargain bin, tucked under and mostly hidden by the "check out my 'new' composition" display.

    I can get them to you for free... so who loves ya?

    [Disclaimer: This is an attempt to be as oblique and witty as Melo. I predict it fails miserably.]
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    Sorry to burst your balloon, Charlie ... bit I find it all "interesting" because, in large part, I don't understand what you and the people who are seeking a "killer app" kind of setting for the ordinary are getting at. In fact, I find the whole drift of this thread more than a little disconcerting.

    I find it especially troubling that people are thinking declaring pontificating "melody first, harmony second" (and not even mentioning "counterpoint"). But then, who am I but a mere composer and, in this context, a sacred/liturgical/religious music composer (I won't join the fight over terminology issues raised elsewhere on this forum). Maybe all of the wise sages here who give us the "melody first, harmony second" oracle are themselves composers, who have invested considerable time and effort in the craft, and who, having acquired such wisdom and deep knowledge, can posit unequivocally that "melody first, harmony second" is and has to be the only way to go about composing the ideal setting that will appeal to congregations "at first blush" (or whatever).

    Sad to say, I'm wired differently. And I have a suspicion or hunch that a lot of other composers, even composers here, are also wired in manner that is rather different from that posited by the paradigm "melody first, harmony second" approach touted here.

    I'm supposing, brother Charlie, that you (and others) didn't want any of us holding back, so, for once, I am not. I must confess that I do find myself often biting my lip and then not saying anything when something appears that is troubling to me or with which I have some level of disagreement ... and usually I say nothing because, for the most part, I find it difficult to frame what seems to be an adequate or complete response (for the simple reason that inadequate or incomplete responses can be just as disconcerting or disagreeable). Unfortunately, by not holding back now, I am quite sure that I am guilty of the distasteful problem of not being able to frame anything like a wholly adequate response. Others can probably do better with their short "sound byte" quips and polemics than I, which sometimes I engage in, although usually in a stab at humor.

    Okay, that said. The tenor of the conversation so far has sounded to me something like, "Let's all get together and assemble the perfect, one-size-fits-all, irresistible melody for, say, the Gloria; afterwards, let's all get together and put together the perfect, one-size-fits-all, irresistible, and versatile-with-cantor-congregation-2part-4part-descant-and extra instruments harmonization. And then we will have just what the Roman Catholic Church in the United States needs, and it will be something that will take the country by storm." Okay, I'm overdoing that a bit. Just note that it's still the "melody first, harmony second" arrangement that gets on my nerves ... that, together with the notion that this all has to be done, if not by committee, then by consensus.

    Balderdash! When have any of you heard of any musical setting truly inspiring and appropriate to the liturgy that was done by committee, or by consensus, in the course of its preparation?

    Notice that I've sort of ducked the "melody first, harmony second" (and counterpoint) issue, except, by inference, to take pot shots at it. I will say this ... as one who has done not a little harmonizing of hymn tunes and other melodies ... situations in which the melody, necessarily, came first. The predominant paradigm by which I compose my own original works is a tightly knit amalgam, or fabric, of counterpoint, harmony, melody, and motion (the terms are given, without prejudice, in lexicographic order). For vocal and choral compositions, these are enveloped around the text with which I am working, in an effort to lift it up and ennoble it. I'm not tooting my own horn (that would be an oboe which, as everyone knows, is "an ill wind that nobody blows well."). I'm just describing how I approach the problems of setting texts, especially liturgical texts, to music. Others may do it differently. They might even do melody first, and then find harmonic wrapping paper to make it work ... but to me, this sounds a lot like the song writing approach of the past few decades that we have had to endure. Just saying.

    Specific examples from my own work? Some that best fit my own paradigm include:

          A cappella works
    • Ave verum corpus (SSATBB, a cappella)
    • Creator of the stars of night (SATB, a cappella)
    • Kyrie eleison (SATB, a cappella, opt. organ)
    • In manus tuas, Domine (SATB or ATBB, a cappella)
    • Let the clouds rain down the Just One (SATB, a cappella)
    • Non vos reliquam orphanos (SATB, a cappella)
    • Nunc dimittis (SATB, a cappella)
    • This Advent Moon (SATB divisi, a cappella)

          Accompanied works
    • Gloria (SATB, organ)
    • Let thy Blood in mercy poured (SATB, original hymn setting)
    • O Mother Mary of the Cross (SATB, original hymn setting)
    • Of the Father's Love begotten (SATB, original hymn setting)

    Personally, I am of the opinion that the Gloria is one that would be of wide appeal, as easily singable just with the melody as it would be with the choir singing in parts. It was written with congregational participation in mind, through composed, no bouncing back and forth between choir/cantor and congregation. It is already being sung regularly in at least one parish. Try it yourself (I won't be offended if it's not your cup of tea):   Score   Sound.

    And, as for melody first and harmony second, here are the melody (Score attached) and the harmonization (MP3 attached) of my own hymn tune St. Croix, which has yet to be published. Does it sound as if the melody for this tune came before the harmonization?
    Thanked by 2ZacPB189 mrcopper
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Just to respond since I was the first to say "melody first"... I was at one point a composer. (In fact, my undergraduate degree is in composition.)

    I suppose my point in making my comment - which I don't necessarily agree with from a compositional methodology point of view - was a purposely unclear and roundabout way of saying that the Gregorian ordinaries are my model of an "ideal" Mass setting. There is no harmony there, no accompaniment at all. And while some great composers have certainly added to them in that regard (i.e. Durufle, et al), as beautiful as I think those compositions are, none of them are more beautiful than the unadorned melody.

    I've also got J.W. Jenkins' advice in my ear about part-writing - even for instrumentalists - to make sure the part was singable. "If they can sing it, they can play it well."

    My whole point was basically - like I suspect Adam's may have been as well - that I don't see why it's so darn weird to sing an unharmonized (un-counterpointed) melody without accompaniment. I was wondering to myself if the need to dress everything up with harmony and counterpoint - as beautiful and fitting as it might be - might - for many composers (of Mass ordinaries at least) - just add to, confirm, or attemp to cover up the mediocrity of their melodic material
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    And, @CHGiffen... I think too much choral music nowadays is vertical... I would LOVE to see more contrapuntal interest in all choral music. If we're ready to move beyond discussing melody (where I was merely hoping to begin the discussion), I would stand completely by your point of view that it should be harmony that is at least somewhat contrapuntally organized that should accompany it.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    No, Chuck , you didn't at all bust my balloon, and aren't trial balloons meant to be busted so that those that float them can get it right the next time? No my dear friend, this was a difficult concept to articulate for me, but honestly offered criticism is to be cherished by those who are seeking an honest task. So we can get passed any perceived notion of injury.

    And it has been my failure to articulate my primary concern, as the perception of THE ONE SIZE FITS ALL MASS INSTANTLY! notion that you characterized is the opposite of what I was "dreaming" about. And that's on me. I've been having some private talks with Aristotle, and he's given me permission to quote some of his thoughts about what I've raised. To whit-

    In addition to giving priority to the melody, an artful Mass setting destined for congregational/congregational+choral singing in this day and age needs to be:
    • recognizable as sung prayer first and then art (in the Roman Rite in the USA, this means chant-based, while giving a nod to some metered/hymn-tune-based settings); I fear that what we consider as sublime sung prayer ends up being received by the people as performance art primarily or exclusively—the line between utility music and art music needs to be finessed • sensitive to the vocal ranges of the untrained (natch) • congruent with the rhythms and cadences of the words as spoken—this is _the_great_strength_ of settings like the Lee and the Proulx, as well as Royce's...


    His first criterion, "recognizable as sung prayer," really ring the bell for me. And his wish that the line between art music and utilitarian music needs to be finessed by composers in the future is particularly of interest to me and my balloon, as I find there's still a predominant adherence (by default) to Msgr. Mannion's taxonomy of music typologies used in service. Subtlely some may have noticed that I self-referred to my situation as director of a schola/choir. As a choirmaster of quite capable choristers, all of us know that choirs hunger to function as choirs, it's in their DNA. However, even provided that grace, we make a strong point of singing non-chant in unison when it serves both the music and the congregation to do so. But when we find new, beautiful and prayerful Ordinaries that provide choral opportunity, there is great rejoicing among choristers. I suppose, as not a few replies have suggested, that a wholesale return to the 18 Missas is the panacea to remedy all of the options choirs are provided. But lest we forget, choirs weren't disbanded by GIRM et al, and new compositions in the manner Aristotle conveyed are to be welcomed.

    Gotta run, got a WeightWatchers meeting in 10 mins. Lost 10 lbs in two weeks at last week's weighin. I can hear Wendi and Jenny singing jubilus!
    Pax, Chuck, it's all good.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think Charles has asked a very interesting question here: participation or quality?

    To me, the best answer has been those who have said "Kyriale" and left it at that. This is the model of both participatory music and quality music.

    I haven't seen a crucial element mentioned here of what the nature of the ordinary demands. I still haven't decided yet, a decade into my career, what I think of the Viennese Masses. But something about I-V-I, Violins "DUN-dun-dun-dunning" out 16th notes for 5 minutes, and a cheery "Kyrieeeeeeee" with plenty of bel canto seems..... contrived. Just my gut reaction at this point. And something about brass, organ, 4-part chorale writing, descant kind of triggers the same reaction for ordinary settings. It just seems... weird.

    I attended an Episcopalian para-church once, focused on ministry to people in their 20s and 30s. The music was comparable to a coffee shop. When the time came for the Lord's Supper, however, they did a traditional-styled canon. This included a sung preface dialog and Sanctus. What they did is simple chants, sung by a cantor, then repeated by all. It just worked, everyone seemed to like it, and everyone participated. There isn't a lot of consideration of that sort of writing for ordinaries, but maybe there should be?

    I don't really have answers on that point. I'm just suggesting we think about what the function of the music for that moment in the Mass demands. For me, this is where so many settings fall short.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    To me, the best answer has been those who have said "Kyriale" and left it at that. This is the model of both participatory music and quality music.

    Yes.

    something about I-V-I, Violins "DUN-dun-dun-dunning" out 16th notes for 5 minutes, and a cheery "Kyrieeeeeeee" with plenty of bel canto seems..... contrived.

    Very yes.

    But I can't tell if we are not answering the original question, or if it can be answered.
  • Interesting...means, I am buried in a comedy silent movie organ project that came up out of the blue and I am learning neat stuff - for example, Harold Lloyd violently opposed the use of piano for silents, the organ was always his choice. Will be performing in one of the small Princess theaters in the town that his costar grew up in and attended...so seeing her face on the screen is rather amazing....let me go back to the 1920's. please...back then people did not accompany movies playing the lovely theater organ slush we hear played so nicely today - back then you'd be fired for it. Most theater organists were local church organists and they were hired to play the movie and NOT play recognizable music that would distract people from the movie. The music was 5% or less of the experience. Sort of like being a Catholic church musician, eh?...interesting in that I think you have a very fine idea. A Mass with melody for men and congregation with female voices singing, well written along the lines of some of the Anglican ones. Great idea. If we cannot write something better than the popular things, why are we on earth in the first place? Sorry it took so long to respond, going back to creating the cue sheet. Ritard when gas gauge shows empty before train wipes out car. Play "city gentleman" again as he walks away from the second wreck in the same day...
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen melofluent
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Just as an aside, I find the Gloriae and Sancti of the Viennese Masses decidedly less contrived, but by no means would I prefer those on a weekly basis.

    So, is the overall question now then: should the ordinary be a place where "choirs" can sink their teeth into something?

    I think not. Maybe the Gloria, perhaps the Sanctus. But the stuff from Sanctus to Agnus Dei, I think simpler is somehow better. To go along with what Gavin said, my experience at Nativity in Timonium (of Rebuilt fame.. or infamy)... is that even with their use of a rock band and praise and worship music there is ALWAYS (and I mean always) chant for the Sanctus to the Agnus Dei.

    I think there are plenty of other opportunities in the liturgy for the choirs to dig in with good choral rep - albeit not likely stuff they can hone in on every week - but such is life, eh?
    Thanked by 2melofluent Gavin
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    I'm sorry, but I thought this thread was about post MR3 settings of the Ordinary in the OF, not about maintaining the glory of the Kyriale or of other pre-MR3 settings. It is what I was trying to address. I'm not sure that the Church's chant settings, while very much an ideal to strive for, are what MeloCharlie had in mind. I thought the discussion was intended to concern itself mainly with settings that would be readily singable by both congregation and choir alike.

    The thrust of my viewpoint as a composer is that melody does not have to be the first element constructed (composed) in a well crafted tightly conceived work, but that melody can and will flow naturally from and be well complemented by the entire musical fabric. Just as many, many congregations, both Catholic and Protestant, sing well crafted four part hymns, with nearly all people in the congregation singing the melody, while the organ and choir will often supply the four part harmony with no degradation of the congregational singing, the same thing can happen with well written four part settings of the Ordinary. And it does not mean that the melody voice for such hymns and settings has to come from chant.

    I agree that in four part writing, all parts should be singable. Composing good hymn and ordinary settings should not have as its model anything akin to providing organ accompaniments for chant or (various kinds of) back-up for songs. This is not band-in-a box or strum along music. My point was, and is, that it is possible to have settings that are both artful and utilitarian. And to have a beautiful, singable melody line that nearly all people will sing and that will be seamlessly coherent with and integratged into the rest of the musical fabric, it is not necessary and indeed it just might be unwise to compose that melody first.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    I think we may be talking past each other. (Either that or we totally disagree, which is fine too, as I certainly don't disrespect your opinion.)

    First, I'm not trying to give formal compositional advice. I can see how my comments could have been misconstrued that way, and I apologize that I am prone to forget that for many of the people who frequent this forum, this may be the only musical education they may get. If I were to give compositional advice in a more formal setting (althought there are surely other more qualified candidates for that), I agree with you, and I would likely not say "start by writing the melody."

    I was merely making that statement to stress what I feel is the importance of the melody in this case. I feel I shouldn't have to write this, but: You may disagree, and that's fine.

    I'm sorry, but I thought this thread was about post MR3 settings of the Ordinary in the OF, not about maintaining the glory of the Kyriale or of other pre-MR3 settings.


    Perhaps this is my point. Why can't a "post MR3 setting of the Ordinary in the OF" have a timbral effect like a setting from the Kyriale? Why does it need harmony? Why does it need accompaniment?

    I'm not saying all other compositions are somehow less desirable/good/authentic, but I think it would be a worthy/good/fun exercise for a composer to actually try their hand at writing a unison, unaccompanied, un-harmonized setting of the ordinary (or any text for that matter) - metered or not - and leave it at that. I, for one, think that coming up with something truly musical and fulfilling with those restrictions is much more difficult than writing anything with harmony, counterpoint, etc.

    I'm thinking of a composed melody like THAXTED by Holst, or the settings by JW Jenkins I've attached (one sacred, one secular). You would swear that any of these are merely arrangements of existing chants or folksongs, but - as far as I can tell - they're original melodies.

    Now do I know if Holst or Jenkins started with the melody first? I don't. My guess is, to some extent with these pieces they did, but that the harmony did evolve with the melody and they influenced each other to some extent. I'm fairly certain even if they did start composing the melody first for these pieces, they hardly did/do that all the time with all their compositions.

    What I took from melo's original post was that overall, something appears to be "not working" on some level with the model we have for settings of the post MR3 Ordinary. So I made a suggestion as to something that we don't see tried all that much - that's all! Take it or leave it. Agree or disagree, but I stand by what I said.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Let's see what our composers do with this - a Glory to God. Men of the choir with melody with congregation, higher voices in unison sometimes or on a descent, with organ accompaniment.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    Let's see what our composers do with this - a Glory to God. Men of the choir with melody with congregation, higher voices in unison sometimes or on a descent, with organ accompaniment.

    Do we really have to run this up the flagpole? My preference, still, is for melody in the sopranos and congregation (and even a few men?), plus a triple descant for alto, tenor and bass voices, organ accompanied, of course. Oh, wait, that's an SATB setting that can be sung melody only, or with one or more of the additional lower parts.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Let's see what our composers do with this - a Glory to God. Men of the choir with melody with congregation, higher voices in unison sometimes or on a descent, with organ accompaniment.


    In fiction writing classes (especially sci-fi) they often have to make the distinction between having an idea for a story and having a premise. One is useful. The other, not so much.

    I don't know why I thought of that just now.
    Thanked by 3SkirpR CHGiffen Gavin
  • Lack of sleep? The idea that this might be worth doing is merely a fiction?

    Remember, we are the sci-fi of the church, looking back while moving forward.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Okay, gents, I've seriously lost track of where everyone's gone with the thread. What's the beef about now?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    What's the beef about now?


    I tend to deal more in the product the bull makes, not the one we make of it.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Noel- I was just trying to humorously suggest that you have provided a premise, not an idea.
  • Here's the idea...from Melofluent

    I'm almost of the mind that the melodic burden should be assigned to the men, with the women adding a sort of descant like harmonic coloration.


    Here's my current focus.

    Let's see what our composers do with this - a Glory to God. Men of the choir with melody with congregation, higher voices in unison sometimes or on a descent, with organ accompaniment.
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Really? After all our discussion in here, we're going forward with just this? Not that it's necessarily a bad idea, but it is somewhat idiosyncratic - and what of all the unfortunately male-starved choirs out there?
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    I was tempted to add, "I know! Maybe we should just sing in unison!" but I've already over-played that card.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Gavin
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    I'm with Rich on this, at least part way. Unison settings, even unaccompanied ones, might be worth pursuing. And of course I'm a traditionalist for SATB accompanied settings (at least of the Gloria) that have a sense of power and strength that fits the text, with a melody that the congregation can find very singable.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Richard, even though we've just been "brain storming" through the thread, it's reasonable to infer some parameters of a trial run, as Noel's suggested. For example, regarding male forces, one could have inferred from my citing our parish choir's situation that we are "equipped" to sing SATB with Mueller, Nickel et al. However, the observation that I've made that congregations seem to respond to melody leadership, whether by cantor or choir in unison by the strength of the male voice singing the melody. If all are singing "Immaculate Mary" or other pieces of that notariety, by all means sing SATB as written. But newly introduced hymns/songs/ordinaries set with harmony, in lieu of a cantor, putting the melody in the male voices seems a surer foundation for congregations, IMO. This concept is not much different, as Noel points out, than a final hymn verse sung unison with a soaring descant in the sopranos.
    So, that could/should be factored into the presumption that the choir is staffed with four part capability. But if they're only one or two capable men, Noel's schema would still work.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    However, the observation that I've made that congregations seem to respond to melody leadership, whether by cantor or choir in unison by the strength of the male voice singing the melody.


    For reals, yo. This is probably the only liturgical-gender-role wherein I am of a decidedly sexist opinion. (Ok, also subdeacons- but that's it.)

    I first noticed this as a cantor myself, in my teen folk-mass cantor days. People sang with me much better than with any of the female cantors, even ones with better voices and better technique than myself.

    (Ok, it didn't hurt that I truly wanted people to sing, and most of the other cantors wanted to perform. But that's a whole other thing...)
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • As inspiration for the premise (thanks, Kevin for posting this on FB) a piece which falls gloriously outside the hackneyed I IV V pattern of the last 50 years.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvoeba49j-Y
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Well, on the current discussion of male-voice-melody-leadership, I will throw out there that anybody doing an SATB setting of something expected to be sung with the congregation should make sure that - even if the melody is the soprano (or alto) - it should also sound acceptable in the men's octave.

    In other words, in choral parts for congregational music, don't write a lot of close harmony between the soprano and bass, which would put the melody when sung by the men in the congregation below the bass part - unless there's a lower note in the accompaniment - or you're okay with weird inversions. (I realize this happens with many hymns all the time, but for some reason I'm okay with that.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen