Cantoring - what it typically is and how this could be bettered.
  • Dad -
    Choices. As you say, 'so many choices, so little time'. Indeed, it seems, does it not?, that 'choices' are the bane of sound ritual practice. Choices, whether they be 'this or similar words', or whether they be option A, B, or C, or whether they are Solemn High Mass, Pontifical High Mass, High Mass, Missa Cantata, Low Mass, or Missa this, that, and the other. And all these choices are the ruin of steady, sensible, intelligent, NORMATIVE praxis. Yes, you are quite right - 'so many choices, so little time'.

    I, though, would be thankful if there weren't time for so many choices. Historically, and implicit in the insouciantly ignored verba of VII, the Normative manner of celebrating mass is/was for it to be sung. Sung! Throughout. Sung, every word from 'In nomine...' to 'Deo gratias'. Whether with the music of the IVth century (whatever that might have been we know that whatever it was it was sung), or the chant-organum of the XIIth century, or the developed music of later eras, it was sung. ALL OF IT. Spoken liturgy is a bizarre innovation of Western Catholicism and the Western Protestant communities. There is no parallel for un-sung intercourse with divinity in Eastern Orthodoxy or any other religion throughout history. We alone have this sickness. Thanks to the late mediaeval invention of the 'low mass' so that monk-priests could 'say' their own private daily masses, and the later extension of that into public worship (and, of course, the Irish), we seem to be burdened with it. It has destroyed the people's consciousness of what true liturgy and ritual are. Song and chant are hallmarks of celebration. Their absence from ritual text is the absence of genuine celebration. It is time for this celebration of mass to again become Normal as well as Normative.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Don't put words in my mouth. The Gloria is proper to Mass. It belongs there. It isn't Proper to the day, but that's not what I said.

    Aha! In your world there is no Ordinary of the Mass! My apologies for relying on experience rather than understanding .
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,414
    Note the difference between "proper (meaning "of the required type; suitable or appropriate") and "Proper" in order to understand the statement "The Gloria is proper to the Mass."
  • KoS, nothing to forgive! It was just the fact that I was illiterate and didn't pick up on the literary connection!! Thanks for explaining!
  • Noel,

    I love the English language, and I'm pleased that you share an appreciation of it.

    Mass isn't Ordinary, in the sense of "pedestrian", but, perhaps, in the sense of "lined up in ranks, as military soldiers on parade". Ordinarily speaking, of course, the Ordinary of the Mass is properly sung, and the Propers should be sung, too, but (except in the extraordinary situation Julie reports on periodically which seems to be proper to the SSPX in France) not necessarily by ordinary people as an ordinary experience. Conversely, the choir can (and should) sing the Propers, ordinarily, and may (even regularly) sing polyphonic ordinaries.

    It is, however, improper to admit guitars, for their weakness, and other instruments for the sheer noise they make, ordinarily to the celebration of the Mass. Music which is ordinary in other circumstances is not, for that cause, permissible at Mass.

    As Pius X said (and I'm paraphrasing here)....

    Don't pray at Mass, ordinarily, but pray the Ordinary of the Mass and, extraordinarily, the propers, for it is proper that you should do so.
  • Chris -

    Ordinarily, your language is quite lucid.
    I must say, though, of your above comment, that it is extra-ordinarily turgid.
  • Just a thought / question. I hope I am not opening a Pandora's box, however, why not have cantors trained classically to sing like the clerics of the Russian Orthodox church? As organist and choir directors should and are expected to be high trained, degreed and skilled, should it also be desired that a cantor be highly trained, degreed and skilled?
    Thanked by 2MarkS CHGiffen
  • A brilliant and excellent idea, Ken!
    Then we would have real cantors!

    Cantors from Rome were regularly sent, before and after Charlemagne, north to teach chant to the hinterlands.
    What an irony that we might now need to import them from the east because the art is lost in the west.

    (Of course, we do have plenty of people who could fulfill the true art of the cantor, but they would never pass the pirouette and arm flailing tests - nor would they want to.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    Prime responsibility lies on bishops, to whom Jubilate Deo was sent with a papal request to ensure it's use. [added: 1974 was much too late, the horse had bolted]
    An 'edition (of the typica) containing the simpler melodies' was called for. Too vague I think to know whether GS satisfies this.
  • Carol
    Posts: 602
    I think it is harsh, M. Jackson Osborn, to say cantors do not want to learn to chant. I have never seen a class offered locally on chant. I have learned a bit about it from a Youtube video when I was asked to sing (in English) one of The Lamentations of Jeremiah for a Tennebrae service at my church. I had a photocopy of a photocopy... of Gregorian chant and was told to "see what I could do with it."

    When I filled in as a music teacher at a Catholic elementary school I found a set of old children's music textbooks that had sequential instruction on how to sing Gregorian chant. How sad that this isn't taught any longer, but who would teach it to the teachers?

    If the Church wishes to have chanting, then the Church needs to TEACH chanting. Conferences once a year are not going to make it happen and a superior attitude toward those who are doing their best isn't going to win many advocates either!

    By the way I have seen the cantor at St. Patrick's Cathedral "flailing her arms" at Midnight Mass on TV. No pirouette yet, though.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    SC 115. Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music ... those in charge of teaching sacred music are to receive thorough training.
    Musicians and singers, especially youmg boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    MS 21. ... there must be at least one or more cantors, thoroughly trained to intone at least the simpler chants that the congregation sings and to lead and sustain the singing. ...
    My emphases.
    MS 24. In addition to musical training, choir members should receive instruction on the liturgy and on spirituality.
  • Carol -

    Forgive me for any harsh remarks I may have made about the chant and music situations in our Church. We are up against institutional disinterest, ambivalence, and outright enmity, all of which may give rise to appropriately harsh responses. These are certainly not directed at people like you, who wish to learn and want help and guidance. I have nothing but admiration for your efforts and hope that you avail yourself of every opportunity to improve your knowledge and skills.

    As you and others have noted, the Church is not 'going out of its way' to fulfill its own vision as expressed at Vatican II. It and many priests and bishops are, in fact, in many, places going out of its way to obstruct that vision. This state of affairs is frustrating for all of us, and sometimes elicits harsh assessments which are not necessarily applicable to everyone - especially those who want to do what is right and have little or no support or companionship. Anyone, in our climate, who improves his or her vocal skills, learns how really to chant, becomes knowledgeable about chant lore, and wishes to fulfill the Church's vision deserves nothing but praise, encouragement, and success!

    For every cantor like yourself who wants to learn, there are, it seems, countless more who think of cantoring as being ignorant of chant, warbling through the likes of Alstott and worse, and showing off their pirouette and arm flailing skills.

    I would suggest that you attend the CMAA colloquia and Fr Columba Kelly's summer and winter chant workshops at St Meinrad's Archabbey in Indiana. There is no teacher like being around and breathing the same air as those who know, teach, study, love, and share the Church's vision.

    Thanked by 2Carol CHGiffen
  • Cantors from Rome were regularly sent, before and after Charlemagne, north to teach chant to the hinterlands.

    Were not some of these Cantors rather harshly dealt with upon their return?

  • For every cantor like yourself who wants to learn, there are, it seems, countless more who think of cantoring as being ignorant of chant, warbling through the likes of Alstott and worse, and showing off their pirouette and arm flailing skills
    CMAA members might form a small committee to collect and save a video of exactly HOW a cantor might function effectively at a NO Mass using videos of actual Masses.
  • On their return?
    I don't know, Noel.
    Can you offer an example?

    Cantors were in the train of Augustine when he was sent to England. The oldest surviving Book of Gospels [corrected] that we have happens to be a late sixth or early seventh century one that was written (copied) in Rome and was sent with Augustine on his mission to those whom Gregory the Great said were non Angli sed angeli. It is now in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and is used to this day at the enthronement of the CofE Archbishops of Canterbury.
  • Carol
    Posts: 602
    I don't offend that easily really, I have 6 brothers! So Indiana is as close as I can get? I live in the Archdiocese of New York and you would think if this was a priority for the Church they would offer the proper resources. I've heard of David Haas going on the road giving workshops/concerts and others of his ilk. I am as frustrated as you are.

    Again, if the parishes keep buying OCP what are the cantors to do?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    For every cantor like yourself who wants to learn, there are, it seems, countless more who think of cantoring as being ignorant of chant, warbling through the likes of Alstott and worse, and showing off their pirouette and arm flailing skills.

    MJO, did you not realize after clarifying your remarks to Carol, and then complimenting her initiative, that you then continued castigation of folks whom you admitted are left untrained and unattended by the institutional church?
    Have you ever watched a USCCB conference at length? You'll nary find one plenum discussion of this or ANY OTHER liturgical concern of serious merit. Abp. Vigneron tried once years ago, to a commotion of yawning. Once.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    The oldest surviving Bible

    It's a Book of Gospels, an evangeliarium, not a Bible.
  • As an observation, I think this is - in part - a cultural change that is taking place slowly in parish church settings, but which ultimately needs to percolate further up the food chain to reach the point of appropriate standardized training. Most of us are likely familiar with the great deal of animosity (on both sides) between Latin Mass adherents and Vernacular Mass adherents when certain parishes began doing both Masses. This animosity has slowly been reducing in the parish setting (although there are still determined pockets here and there). But there is still a mentality among many in the both the hierarchy and liturgy / musician associations who have strong prejudice against the Latin Mass.

    Although this is not REALLY Latin Mass vs. Vernacular issue per se, there is a strong association of chant with the Latin Mass, and therefore reluctance to embrace appropriate training at many levels. Of course there are exceptions... but I don't think this is a lost cause, just a long-term cultural adaptation that has at least started. The Church is a ship, and ships take a LONG time to turn.

    From my perspective, I've seen a relative explosion of chant resources and chant-based training / seminars / workshops in the last 15 years. There are many exciting developments that I see taking place around the country, and the growth is happening. it may not be everything we want at times, but it is happening.

    As mentioned before, I don't think our job is so much to decide whether or not the battle is going well, merely to fight the fight with the tools at our disposal. If we don't feel that proper training is being offered... what are WE doing to rectify that? What are WE doing to provide a solution? (Rhetorical questions, both.)

    Let's not bemoan circumstances as they are - let's accept it and do what our poor gifts enable us to do to move the standard ever forward.

    I'm off my soapbox now! :)
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,597
    For the record, the animosity between EF and NO folks sometimes has nothing to do with language, music, vestments or other externals. Sometimes it's the people. Locally, the EF people see themselves as superior, even anointed. They are cheap and don't even contribute enough to pay for the electricity used for their masses. Some are just disagreeable people who have been run out of the other parishes, not because of liturgy, but because no one wants to deal with them. Yet, these things get overlooked and it all gets blamed on, "the NO people who hate the old mass." Give me a break.
  • Hmmm... I think if you re-read my post you'll see that I applied equal blame to both sides. The larger point wasn't so much EF vs. OF as much as it was how there is an inhibition on the musical training for forms of music (particularly chant) associated more closely with the EF. I'm sorry if your experience with EF people has been bad.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,597
    My personal experience with EF people hasn't been bad for two reasons. I have friends among them, and the obnoxious ones I won't put up with. Musically, we are not that far apart although I profess a dislike for Montani. LOL. EF people can be their own worst enemies. Their attitudes often alienate others.
  • About that animosity.
    There is, from what I have read and observed, a widespread (though not universal) animus held by many bishops, priests, and lay against the Latin mass. Vairied possible reasons (if 'reason', the rational faculty, is at all at work here) may be because they, rather myopically, see it as a threat to their (mis-)understanding of Vatican II; or that they (falsely) perceive it to be a negation of the validity of their English mass culture. In addition to these threatened folk are those who simply have an irrational contempt for Latin and anything preserved from our heritage, especially music. The supreme irony of these people, of course, is that, while thinking of themselves as 'Vatican Two' people, they are actually anti-Vatican Two in that they refute the very things that the council called for.

    As for the Latin mass folk. I have heard of them characterised as liturgically snotty, iinsular, contemptuous of the English mass, holier than thou, more valid than thou, and so forth - plus the descriptions of Charles up above here. These things are likely true of some, (though it must be said that anti-Latin folk can be just as snotty about their own preferences - no one gets a 'free ride' on that score!). Much of such attitudes are, of course, basically uncharitable, and are a disgrace to their own Latin cultus. On the other hand, much of these attitudes may rise from the meanness which they experience from the irrational contempt of the anti-Latin camp. There may be a bit of the Victim Syndrome at work in their attitudes.

    The really sad and basically un-Christ-like thing about the mutual uncharitableness of both groups is that each fails to see the basic humanity of the other and fails to recognise that they are brothers and sisters in the one true Faith. This is truly sad and must grieve our Lord and our heavenly Father.

    This is what I make of what I have heard and read about. I have not, personally, encountered these phenomena. I have, though, encountered incredibly nasty folk who will shamelessly cause any amount of mayhem necessary to be rid of even a token bit of Latin, or even a chanted English mass. There is no meanness like unto their meanness. There is no irrationality like unto theirs to be found even within the walls of an asylum.

    Latin at Walsingham is reserved for anthems, EXCEPT! at our 8.00am mass on Sunday mornings - here a Gregorian ordinary (including creed) is sung by the congregation, who sing (led by vested cantors standing 'in choir' without amplification!) their Latin ordinary quite heartily and are quite fond of it. The propers at this mass vary from Latin to English.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,456
    @Carol: Have you heard of Dr. Jenny Donelson?

    Keep up with her webpage, she has offered courses before.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,597
    The meanness and hostility are bad, no matter where they come from. It is out of place and unnecessary.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Carol
    Posts: 602

    Thank you for that link! It is exactly what I have been asking for in this dialogue!
    Thanked by 2canadash tsoapm
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 876
    I am the cantor (as in organ + cantor) for the Saturday evening Vigil OF Mass at our parish once or twice per month.
    Though I've been chanting the Gregorian communio after the Lalemant proper for a while, when I began adding the Gregorian offertory after the vernacular offertory of either Dr. Naples or the Lalemant propers, nobody complained (to me, but I assume not to anyone else, either, because I've been adding the Gregorian for we'll over a year).

    Our rector does want these Masses sung into a microphone, by the way. We are in the choir loft, though, and it takes an awfully special hymn to get Vigil-goers to sing.
    Thanked by 1tsoapm
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    CCooze: Is there anything particular that makes such hymns 'special' ?
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 876
    (To be honest, if I don't particularly like a hymn text/melody when I happen to be "in the pews," I forego singing that one...)

    Maybe we should put a poll out for the offering basket,
    "How do you feel about singing at Mass?"
    1) I enjoy it and sing as much as I can
    2) I think it is important, and so I sing what I can
    3) I sing along with the parts of the Mass that I know from heart, but am not likely to sing along when a new setting is used
    4) I like to sing along to hymns
    5) I only sing hymns that are widely known. If the tune doesn't sound familiar, I am not going to burden myself at Mass with trying to figure out a new song. (see #3)
    6) I am indifferent to music at Mass.
    7) I do not sing at Mass"

    Perhaps, then, we will know...
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    8) I can't sing.
    9) I prefer a Mass without music.

    Plenty of both of those round here (The Isle of Man).
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,414
    Continuing ...

    8) I do my best to sing along with the cantor & guitarist or the praise group and band.
    9) I don't care for the the OCP music we have but sing what I can.
    10) I can't stand the sacro-pop music at every mass and only begrudgingly sing on a few of the songs.
    11) I refuse to sing along with bad music.
    12) I'd give my right arm to have Gregorian chant and/or polyphony, and even good hymns to sing along with.

    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • No need for polls.
    The sound from the nave tells all.

    Committees are bad enough.
    Taking a poll is just empowering a giant one.
    A pox upon polls.

    People know that the music is there and that they are supposed to sing it.
    Given that appropriate catechesis really has been given, I no longer get bothered by a few who just aren't going to sing, thank you.
    Things should not come to a halt because of some who will just stand there gazing about, or sit there with their mouths clamped shut.
    The problem is not the singing per se but the spirit and the deliberate attitude.

    (All this presupposes that what is being offered to sing is worthy of being sung.)

    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,912
    MJO, you keep edging around the thing; why don't you just type it: those who do not sing are simply not Catholic enough to merit heaven. Stop shilly-shallying!
  • ...edging around the thing...[?]

    Not quite right, Dad -
    I trust that your tongue is in your cheek.
    No 'shilly-shallying' here.

    I've no doubt that not singing at mass is not a mortal sin.
    I will, though, leave the door open to the possibility, depending on the attitudes involved, of it being a venial one. (Others than I would be competent to make that call.)
    Whether sin is or isn't involved, I hope that those guilty determinedly of never singing will be graced with the spiritual joy of singing in heaven along with the rest of us who hope to be there.

    There are, indeed, some reasons why some people may not be moved to sing some of the time.
    These include illness, grief, genuine preoccupation with spiritual enlightenment or reflection, a simple need for silence, and more.
    I think that most of these reasons are not at work in most of those who just aren't going to, ever, thank you.

    A parting thought - singing is not something that one has to do. That piteous attitude is wrong totally. Singing is an invitation to and provision for that more profound praise and spiritual awareness which seals the reality that the mass truly is a Type of the Heavenly Banquet at which we and the angels incessabili voce proclamant, Sanctus.... .
  • Carol
    Posts: 602
    For those who have been gifted by God with the talent for singing this makes perfect sense. I know you will shoot me down for this argument but I will make it anyway, what if everyone was directed to sketch during Mass? I would be soooo distracted by my lack of artistic talent and how poorly I was representing what was happening before me that I would not be able to worship at all. We who love music and have grown up lifting our voice to the Lord can't relate very well to those who think they cannot or even should not. For a painter, I wonder if drawing the chalice being raised by the celebrant would be as wondrous to him as being part of a real choir that is singing a beautiful and reverent alleluia.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,912
    I've no doubt that not singing at mass is not a mortal sin.

    *Sigh of relief*

    I will, though, leave the door open to the possibility, depending on the attitudes involved, of it being a venial one.

    "....say 3 Paters and 3 Aves. Go and sin no more."

    incessabili voce proclamant, Sanctus

    I am not able to lay my finger on the word therein which signifies "singing." Does "proclamant" have a hidden definition?

    For that matter, "...una voce dicentes" has never been translated as 'with one voice singing..'

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    One priest I knew was completely unable to sing in any sort of tune. If absolutely neccessary he would attempt the dialogues, but the result was an unpleasant distraction, and difficult for the congregation to pitch the response. My recollection is that he could not hold recto tono. He did however have many fine pastoral and administrative skills, which he deployed AMDG.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Carol - I like your post above. I think it hints at all the more critically necessary that children be taught every day in schools and in rehearsals, how to sing correctly (lowered Adam's apple yawning position), and that children be taught plainsong chants, traditional Anglo-American folks songs and sacred classical music. I suggest by doing this, congregations will be more able and culturally at ease to sing and sing out; thus producing better choirs and cantors (if needed).