Sunday, 21 February 2010


Those of you who know me are probably aware that I'm not the greatest fan of hymns in the Extraordinary Form Mass, preferring, where possible, that the Mass should be sung, rather than have singing at Mass. I've heard of similar arguments for the same to apply for the OF too, mostly falling on deaf ears locally. How many parishes do you know of that still rely on the '4 hymn sandwich'? Fortunately I'm not regularly called on to provide music for OF liturgies [yet, the last one I did, being Whit Sunday nearly 2 years ago], I'm busy enough as it is, with the EF in the North of England, not just York!

Nevertheless, I can't help noticing that when the York EF Masses have been sung, there has been an increase in attendance. Coincidence? These are of course hymnless, bearing in mind that the Mass is sung - either chant or polyphony and always concluding with the seasonal Marian Antiphon, a habit I first picked up when singing with the Leeds Schola Gregoriana some 20+ years ago. The Low Masses though, have a dreadful attendance record generally, and I can't help but think that there's a musical [or lack of] connection here.

Of course, the Mass being at 6:30pm on a Sunday evening, isn't helpful, because some people don't like coming out on dark evenings. There is also the shameful polemicised prejudice in Greater York [especially amongst some of the clergy] against *anything* connected to the EF or even the official language of the Church! (This despite all the initiatives coming out of Rome under this Pontificate...)

I've also heard arguments for/against music [any kind, not necessarily just hymnody] from those who attend the EF on occasion. It's interesting [to me at least!] to note that those who prefer quiet Low Masses are much older than those, considerably younger than me (!) who would like some music - even suitable hymns during Low Mass, which brings me back on topic!

Since October, when the EF Masses resumed in York, there have only been 2 Sung Masses so far. All the others have been Low Masses without any music except occasionally the appropriate Marian Antiphon sung at the end. Following last weekends highly successful Missa Cantata, which almost doubled the congregation, I've decided to introduce some music for the Low Masses during Lent. Not that controversial [I hope!] at first, as I'm starting with the Lent Prose, which amazingly is in the hymn book the parish uses, a vernacular hymn at Communion, and concluding with the seasonal Marian Antiphon, Ave Regina Caelorum.

I know I'm going to get some criticism from some quarters, because it's impossible to please everybody.

Wish me luck!

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