Thursday, 18 September 2008

Chant Mass Settings

I've just been reading some of the comments made about Saturday's Mass in St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle on Fr Brown's excellent blog, particularly about the choice of music.

One comment from 'Claire' made this point. "Mass was beautiful, but I was extremely disappointed that the music chosen was so obscure that no-one could join in the singing, even with the Salve Regina at the end! I think this was a huge opportunity missed for such a showcase."

Talk about a red rag to a bull! Before I get too far on my high horse though, I'd be foolish not to admit that I've made a few mistakes over choice of music in the past, but this isn't one of them. :-)

The Mass was a Solemn High Mass in honour of *Our Lady*. Once it was clear that there weren't enough singers available for a polyphonic mass setting, Missa Cum Jubilo was the obvious chant mass setting to use as it is one of the Masses in the Graduale prescribed for Marian Masses. I could quite legitimately have chosen Missa Alme Pater instead! The same goes for the choice of Solemn Salve as it was a Solemn Mass.

I had actually been asked beforehand if we were going to have the Missa de Angelis 'so the people could join in' but was able to explain quite nicely [I hope!] that Missa Cum Jubilo was the appropriate setting to use. I suspect that 'Claire' is one of those people - and I've come across several, who think de Angelis is the only chant Mass there is, as it's the only one 'they know'! Quite frankly, I find that the over use of this particular setting to the almost exclusion of the other 17 chant Mass settings available - not to mention the ad libitum settings too, profoundly depressing.

It's a matter of education I think. Congregations [and clergy also!] have got to be made aware of the treasures that are readily available. all of these masses can be accessed quite easily by following links provided by the good people who run the Musica Sacra website.

The same educational argument can be applied to the Creed as well. I know Saturday's Mass didn't have one but how many people seem to think that Credo III is the only one that exists? Credo I is actually the setting that should be used most Sundays. There are, to my knowledge, 7 - yes, seven, chant Creeds available!

OK, rant over!

Slightly changing the subject, but staying with chant, another comment from 'seeker' made this point along with a few others. "The temptation to recite the Pater Noster out loud was very strong, and I only just held myself back".

This may come as a surprise to those of you who know me personally, but I have a lot of sympathy for this point of view. I know it's not the done thing for congregations to sing this in the Extraordinary Form at the moment, but Summorum Pontificum does make allowances for it to develop again, as opposed to keeping strictly to the 1962 Missal. This is a development I would welcome, as well as being able to have Masses for particular Feast/Saints Days created since the introduction of '62. That however, is a subject which can be discussed another time. :-)


Essayez said...

Dear Mike,
Interesting blog. For me it touched several ‘go’ points, not least your reference to your parents coming from the West End of Newcastle as I was born in Benwell c1937, returning to Newcastle to live over the road from the Sacred Heart Convent in Fenham c1948. In 1960 I was received into the Church in St. Mary’s Cathedral by Fr. John Hardy (R.I.P.). Enough of the autobiography.

As you will appreciate, at the time of reception, there was no such thing (?) as the vernacular, and even in the most parishes of the Diocese the ‘sacred music’ was ‘performed’ with devotion and skill. Missa de Angelis and Credo III may, in some, have been the norm, but other settings were not scorned. I would love to be able to attend Mass on a regular and local basis when the full glory of the ‘traditional’ (lower case deliberate) Mass is celebrated, even though I do not feel I have lived in a spiritual wilderness without such benefit.

My own parish does not have a choir, a resident organist (we rely on CD’s for such music as we do have) but are not bereft of some good voices among our congregation. For us to move on, we are going to have work on the principle of ‘softly, softly, catchee monkey’ by introducing, when liturgically proper, simple, easily followed parts of the Mass eg. Credo III, Gloria, Agnus Dei from such as Missa de Angelis. Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

Your comments would be appreciated.

Mike4b said...


Thanks for your comments. I'm not actually anti de Angelis. I'm singing it tomorrow evening for a Mass in York with Credo III! [Admittedly because I've had no time to prepare anything else through being ill, and then singing up at Brinkburn this afternoon.] Nevertheless, de Angelis and Mass XI - Orbis Factor as well as Credo's I & III are sung regularly on 'Green' Sundays in York (Time after Pentecost/Ordinary Time - pick your calender!)

My point is, moving away from normal Sundays, other days have specific dedications and this needs to be emphasised in the choice of music. Ditto for Solemn celebrations.

I'm going to take up your point about your own parish not having a choir as a main blog entry at some time in the future, because I can assure you, you're not alone! It never ceases to amaze me that given the recent revival of traditional liturgical practices [in both forms of the Roman Rite] that many major towns/cities can't muster enough musicians to form choirs in parishes - especially if there are excellent music departments in Universities/Colleges nearby - anyway, as I say, that's a major topic for the future!

My dad and his family were from the Westmorland Road. Dad both sang and served in St Michael's. I don't think he was particularly impressed when one of the first things I did as a student on Tyneside was to join the cathedral choir!