Thursday, December 3, 2009

The New Translation: Musicians and the Implementation

Happy "New Translation Thursday" to one and all.

One of the questions floating around out there regarding the new English translation of the Missale Romanum has to do with how parish musicians will approach the implementation. Having been a director of liturgy and music for many years myself, I have wondered about just how I would approach the introduction of the new translation into parish life. In the past, when introducing a new musical setting of the Mass, we would follow a carefully laid out plan. We would begin working on the setting at choir rehearsals a few months in advance of teaching the congregation. We would spend time with our parish cantors, coaching them on the way we would slowly introduce the setting. Usually, the teaching of the new setting would take place over a period of weeks. When the appointed "release" Sunday arrived, we would usually begin by teaching the assembly the new setting of the Gloria. The people would have been given a copy of the Mass's musical setting (we printed our own worship aid). We would move through the Gloria (sometimes that meant just a refrain; sometimes that meant a refrain and other congregational parts scattered throughout; sometimes that meant a through composed setting). We would then use the next few weeks to teach the other parts of the Mass.

What will be new, of course, with what is to come is that not only will the music change, but in most cases, the words will change as well. I think that good musical settings will help carry the implementation along. And WLP, of course, will have wonderful new settings and revised settings to assist the singing and praying Church.

But, in the past, we didn't have to worry about people remembering the words when we taught them the new musical setting. Now, it's going to be new (or revised) music and new words. I can hear some musician friends now, "This whole thing wasn't my idea; please don't shoot the parish musician!" I believe that musicians and priests are going to be the ministers that people will go to with their complaints or their kind words of encouragement. As I mentioned on Tuesday, as much advance catechesis that we can do about all this, the better.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Todd said...

The other new thing is that for those of us who have a handful of Mass settings, we'll be devoting about a year to this process--several Mass settings. In my parish, of our six settings, one and maybe two will be retired for pastoral and musical reasons--those less popular with the assembly and musicians. I hope the settings we plan to retain will be among those revised--that might shorten the process.

Jerry, I find it interesting you begin with the Gloria. I've usually saved that for the end. I thought it was important to have the EP acclamations and the Agnus Dei in place in two week if possible, then give people a breather before inserting the new Gloria.

With the new words, I will be looking to balance the use of the three MA's. My predecessors here had a bias for Acclamation A, and we know it's good night for that one.

And catechesis, yes. While there's no doubt we need that--us musicians and the pewfolk both, I'm concerned there's less of a spiritual sense suggested with this opportunity. It's not just head-learning facts fed to us by ICEL and the CDWDS. We may have reservations about the work of this translation, but there is still an opportunity for growth in liturgical spirituality as we take a closer look at new musical settings. It's something more than knowing why the assmebly sings the Sanctus. How does this music change us, challenge us, prepare us for the celebration of the mysteries of the Eucharist? If we can have fresh discernment in parishes on this point, then I think we have a prayer for a fruitful implementation.

But if it ends up as a priest saying, "Please turn to page six of your missal and recite with me the Glory to God," then we're in deep trouble.

Anonymous said...

When you speak of "revised" settings, are you speaking of current settings with the new words fitted in? I thought that idea was rejected initially by a number of composers. Is it now back on the table?

I could see revisions working with the Sanctus (small change), but the Gloria and Memorial Acclamations would seem to be problematic since the texts are substantially different.

I agree about advance catechesis, but there is a limit to how "advance" catechesis can be since the new texts may not be used until they are implemented, by which time we will, well....have to use them! It would be nice, for instance, to be able to start using the new Gloria texts in May or June, then the Sanctus in November or December, maybe the new Memorials the following March or April. Within a two year period, the complete "new Ordinary" would be in use and voila!

The Priests texts and the people's spoken responses (et cum spiritu tuo, etc...), Eucharistic prayers and the such are a different situation since they are being read and not generally memorized as is the Ordinary. I see some unique problems in introducing new texts for the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Memorials all at once along with new settings.

This is a brand new problem. Historically, new settings were learned, but the Latin texts were fixed. This is why chant settings, while extremely varied, are simple to recall since the texts are fixed. Since 1970 (or so...) we have had a new vernacular text and a variety of settings... still a relatively fixed text (I'll disregard Mass of Creation and it's text variations...) with corresponding predictable metrical accents based on a familiar vernacular text.

NOW... we will have a NEW vernacular text with new metrical accents. We will have to spend some time unlearning the old vernacular translation, whilst we also learn new settings that make use of the new metrical patterns of the new text.

There will be much stumbling at first, which will cause much grumbling and the "why are we doing this?" responses. I would advocate a longer time period with "staggered" implementation of at least the Ordinary texts.