Friday, December 4, 2009

Reworked Musical Settings of the Mass or New Settings?

Friday has arrived. Christmas tree purchase and decorating begins tomorrow. This morning, we woke up to a light dusting of snow here in Chicago. This is a beautiful city year-round, but there is something even lovelier during these first few snowfalls. I'm sure my tune will change by mid-January!

I'd like to address one of the comments from yesterday's post. Chironomo wrote this:
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? 

For several years, I have asked parish musicians what their gut instincts were when it came to this issue. At first, the majority of musicians said that they wanted the Masses that they loved simply reworked. Some said things like this: "I could never give up my Mass of Creation." Once I began to share some of the reworked WLP Mass parts with them, their tune began to shift. More and more thought that the new settings were the way to go, so that there wouldn't need to be the process of unlearning and relearning.

What have we done here at WLP? We have several newly commissioned musical settings of the Mass that will fit the needs of parishes with a wide variety of musical resources. The new ICEL chants will be included in each of our worship resources. What about our most popular Mass settings? We have gone back to the composers about these. The Sanctus has proven to be a rather easy fix, since the changes are minimal. For the Gloria, the composers decided on complete rewrites, but kept with the genre and general musical sense of the entire Mass. They needed to do the same with the Memorial Acclamations. We are fairly certain that only the three Memorial Acclamations that appear in the Order of Mass will be approved by Rome, and that "Christ Has Died" will be gone forever.

The composers of several of our Masses are deceased. With these Masses, we enlisted the help of a prominent composer to work with these settings.

None of us knows how all this will work itself out. I'd like to ask you a question. When you do decide on which Mass or Masses you will be teaching your assembly, would it be helpful for you to have a CD recording of that Mass? Just wondering. Feel free to comment.

I am looking forward to celebrating the Second Sunday of Advent at St. James. I hope that wherever you are, your celebration is marked with expectant joy.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

Requiescat in pace for the "Christ Has Died" acclamation...

Thanks for the update on the Mass settings and what thought is going into this issue. I know from experience that many Directors use recordings with their choirs for teaching new music.

If the CD you had in mind was able to be copied legally and distributed via electronic media (downloadable on websites) it would be useful. Otherwise it would be of little use practically. Such recordings are seldom used at rehearsals but are sent home for practice.


jdonliturgy said...

I agree that we will indeed miss the "Christ has died" acclamation - which is the one, in my experience, that has been most used. It also has some of the strongest, most memorable musical settings. Too bad, Rome - this is one that will hurt.

Jerry - yes, a recording to play for the choir and cantors is a good option. We use this, and even as a cantor who sight-reads very well on my own, I do appreciate the opportunity when a new setting is introduced, to hear the "flavor" that a composer intended the performance of the piece to have. Sometimes the recording has actually been a surprise from the expectations created by the music on the page.

It also helps to know the character of other possible instrumentation (especially percussion) besides organ and piano, so that later, when we learn it, some of these elements can be added.

Gregg said...

It would be great to have MP3's of the new settings to put on the website to faciliate learning - not only for Music Ministers, but I'm sure a few interested parishioners would "tune in" also.

Chironomo said...


I ceased using the "Christ Has Died" acclamation last year at all of our parish Masses and so far, not a comment from any parishioners or even the Priests. I don't think they've even noticed to be honest.

Sometimes as musicians we pay particular attention to elements of the liturgy that are really of little consequence or concern for most parishioners. I feel strongly that this "liturgy bias" may be at play in some of the opposition to the new translations as well.

While I seldom agree with another commenter here, Todd Flowerday, I agree with him on several comments he has made to the effect that, for the most part, the new translations will be of little concern to most who will simply read what's in front of them and go on...sure, there will be some opposition from a small group, and enthusiastic welcome for a similar small group, but by and large it will be a curiosity to most people and will go unnoticed by quite a few.

Scelata said...

I will say, not for the first time, that what ought to be recorded, what ought to be required to printed in all commercial orders of service, what ought to be "pushed", is the only setting in English which possesses any claim to being "official" -- the Sacramentary, or now, I guess, the Missal chants.

THAT should be the "default" setting for all Anglophone Catholics.

Only after one has sung/taught/learned that should one move on to the more random "tune I like" settings.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Beth said...

I begin to see my graceful departure from the world of liturgical musician... or maybe I will become a spanish catholic. That might work. New settings, new words - might as well change the entire language and different music. That said - learning from recording would be good, but only if they are freely available and can be copied and used legally.