Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Weighing In On New and Revised Musical Settings for a New Translation

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

Greetings from Baltimore, Maryland. Here for a two day meeting at the Catholic Center, across the street from the newly restored Basilica; always worth a visit.


Apparently, there is/was a meeting in Rome today between members of ICEL and the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. We are in a "wait and see" stance . . . sound familiar?

I wanted to share some musical news with you. Over the past several weeks, during my presentations on the new translation, I have asked the people to sing two versions of the Holy, Holy, Holy. They have had the assembly versions of a revised setting, Jan Vermulst's People's Mass, and a newly composed setting, Steven Janco's Mass of Wisdom. You can listen to both over at Sing the New Mass.

I start with the very popular Vermulst setting, as revised by the late Richard Proulx. I alert them to the fact that the new text is set; so I warn them to be careful. Without exception, many, if not most, in the room have sung the old version of the first line. I tell them that it has become so part of their "Catholic DNA" that it is difficult to sing new words to the very familiar melody.

Next we sing the new setting from Mass of Wisdom. The text and music flow along flawlessly. I am becoming more and more convinced that the new musical settings will really help the implementation along. And the fact that we have such talented composers like Steve writing these settings is a real gift for the Church. 

There are some who will not want to let go of the older settings; I believe it will take more work to re-teach these settings, but there are some fine ones out there and the work may prove well worth it. And the Missal chant settings, mostly new to the majority of Catholics, will surely help the new translation to settle in to minds and hearts.

It has been an interesting journey with these settings. The older Vermulst settings—as well as Michael Joncas' older "Sing Praise and Thanksgiving" Mass setting—may just find a happy home in places where these fine settings have either never been sung, or have not been sung in quite awhile. These are great musical settings and we at WLP decided against abandoning them, since they have become a part of the fabric of Catholic music since the Council.

So, where are you landing these days with regard to new vs. revised musical settings of the Mass?

Please check out Sing the New Mass, as well as the OCP and GIA web sites. Listen to new and revised settings and let's share our thoughts.

Speaking of web sites, WLP's web site has been down for a few days. People back in Chicago are feverishly working to restore the site; oh the wonders of technology! Until the site is restored, feel free to contact WLP toll free at 1 800 566-6150, and our great team of customer care professionals (a big shout out here to Jude, Kathy, Patty, and Didi) will be there to help you with your needs.

Thanks for listening and please feel free to reply by hitting the "comments" tab below. Or you can always e-mail me directly at galipeauj@jspaluch.com.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

5 comments:

Alias Kate said...

We are definitely leaning toward starting with a new setting -- possibly the chant since it will be Advent (presumably) and the simplicity will be appropriate. The new settings can help people focus on the texts rather than be reminded of the loss of the familiar.

I was at a Worship Ways conference last weekend with Marty Haugen, Michael Joncas and Tony Alonso and Joncas suggested that it will take 3 to 5 years for these changes to really take root. I think he's probably right. However, I was surprised that when we sang through the changes to Haugen's Mass of Creation, I did not cringe at the changes. Here's the thing: I had heard Marty test them out at a small conference two years ago -- and I remember being much disturbed by it then.

Repetition of these spoken and sung texts, I believe and hope, will be like water flowing over a stone, slowly and imperceptibly shaping us and smoothing the rough spots.

John Black said...

Jerry, the Catholic DNA element moved me to decided upon new settings months ago. (I was as concerned about my unconsciously playing something from memory as I was the assembly's singing.) I reaffirmed my choice while listening to David Haas and others address it at NPM in July. I'll be introducing two new settings; Steven Janco's Mass of Wisdom will be one of them. I'm still pondering a second setting. I'll see you Monday at the WLP Mass setting session for that continuing effort.

Jeremy Dixon said...

I think that we all must remember that it is not necessarily which settings we like the best, but which ones our CONGREGATIONS will sing the best. Of course, we do want something that will "pull our musical heart strings" week to week.

I plan on sifting through the seemingly endless number of settings and narrowing it down to about 6 or so. Then we are planning a number of "Parish Sing Nights" where parishioners will sing through the congregation part only. They will then fill out an evaluation sheet that I will create.

Also, we have a "musically diverse" parish, with 4 different groups who provide music week to week. I am being/will be very careful to select a Mass Setting that works in all of the different styles that we employ every weekend. People who attend different Masses week to week don't need to be overly confused (more than they will be) because the "Contemporary" Mass does a totally different setting than the "Traditional" Mass. Of course the styles will be different, but the melody for the people will be the same.

Christian Cosas said...

My plan right now is to go with new settings for at least a year, and maybe even two or three. In the first year, we'll stick with one setting from Advent up until Lent, and if it "catches", we'll switch to the official chant setting for Lent. Then at Easter, we'll switch back to the first setting.

Because Christmas (or Immaculate Conception) will be the first introduction to the new Gloria text, we will be using a new setting with a refrain for the entire liturgical year (minus Advent and Lent, of course).

After the first year or two, I'll take our congregation's pulse. At that point, I'll decide if we're ready for a second or even third setting. In my experience, it's been tough for congregations to pick up a new Gloria, so I don't expect to be using more than one or two the entire liturgical year.

I'd like to reintroduce the Eucharistic Acclamations from Mass of Creation at some point, but I don't anticipate doing it within the first three years. I will never, never use a revised setting of the Gloria (the exception being Steve Janco's sung-through Mass of Redemption Gloria).

I have no idea what I'm going to do for funerals and weddings. I'm leaning towards doing the chant setting in lieu of an "established" ubiquitous setting like Mass of Creation, but I'm still unsure.

It's been fascinating to me to see the different approaches of the three major music publishers regarding the new Gloria text. All of GIA's settings are refrain Glorias; most of OCP's are sung-through; WLP's have a balance between the two.

Also, GIA seems to have told their composers to hew as closely as possible to the original melodies with their revised settings; neither OCP nor WLP seems to have placed a similar restriction on their composers. IMO, GIA is shooting itself in the foot by hobbling the singability of their best-selling settings.

Anonymous said...

I think that it works best for there to be both revised settings and new settings in a variety of styles. I could see many being more comfortable with many of the changes when the tunes are familiar. On the other hand, if the new mass settings are great and are of the style that the congregation is used to, I could see people treating the changes more like the implementation of new mass settings (I think someone made a similar comment to the blog a while back).

For the parishes that use contemporary mass settings (or for the one contemporary mass at many parishes), I think that switching to the chant setting may be the option that makes the Catholics in the pews feel least comfortable with the changes. Switching from mass settings with a contemporary sound to one of chant will likely amplify any discontent with the changes. However, if the pew Catholics are happy with the new settings (especially if they like them better than the old settings), I could see many embracing the changes. Because of this, I am thankful that the publishers have included the new settings in a large variety of styles.

Regarding the Gloria, I remember a while back when there was a post regarding whether Glorias should have a refrain. Some of my favorite Glorias have refrains and some do not. The one concern that I have about Glorias with the refrain is that I prefer it when everyone is encouraged to sing the entire text, not just the refrain. In my opinion, this allows one in the pews to participate more actively than when only singing part of the piece. I do think that many of the refrains help the musical nature of the Gloria and am glad that they have been composed in the text. I am glad that WLP has a variety of options both with and without the refrain.