Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Translation Thursday: Treasures

Welcome to a "Boston edition" of "New Translation Thursday."

It's wonderful to be here in Boston, spending some time with my family as I gear up for two RCIA workshops to take place at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Braintree this afternoon, then repeated tonight.

Weather here is, in a word, miserable. Remnants of tropical storm Lee are drenching the area now.

I found one of yesterday's comments about the new translation and early implementation to be quite interesting:

I made a point to find a parish that is continuing to use the old mass settings. In my view, this is the final period that we have to enjoy the old mass settings--we will have many years in the future to enjoy the new ones beginning in January. I see now as a time to treasure the old settings.

This comment ends with the phrase "time to treasure the old settings." These settings have been a part of Catholic life for much of my own lifetime; I believe this is true for those who follow this blog as well. When I think back and recall my earliest memories of the Mass, probably the earliest memory regarding music that I can conjure up was during the time when I was a very young altar server.

Just a few miles from where I am sitting right now stands Saint Charles Church in Woburn, Massachusetts. I started serving Mass as an altar server there right after the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council were being implemented. I always looked forward to serving at funerals, for two reasons. One, I really liked the more complicated Masses like a funeral with its preparation of incense, the greeting of the body at the beginning of the Mass, the incensation of the body at the end of Mass. Two, I got to get out of class across the parking lot at Saint Charles School!

The earliest musical memory that sticks is the singing of the Sanctus at those funerals. I remember that the only person who sang anything at those funerals was the woman who sang from the choir loft. No one else joined in the singing, no one at all. But what I remember was how beautiful the Sanctus sounded.

And, it wasn't until we at WLP decided to revise some of the Mass settings that had been published in the early years of the reform that I discovered that the Sanctus sung at those funerals was from Jan Vermulst's Mass for Christian Unity. Even as I sit here listening to it, I realize that, for me, this is one of those treasures. And I am so glad those who use WLP's worship resources asked us to revise this Mass setting. A treasure that, for many, had disappeared from the repertoire lists, is once again being rediscovered.

So, some treasures will take their places in liturgical history, becoming, over time, "those settings we used to sing before the 2011 new translation." Other treasures, like Mass for Christian Unity, are being rediscovered.

And a whole new chest full of treasures is being opened and inside we are discovering some that will become lasting treasures. Others will fade away.

What an exciting time in the world of liturgical music right now. All you have to do is read the comments from the last few days. Musicians are teaching new and revised settings. People in the pews are being given a new song.

Are we at the threshold of a renewed renewal?

Please, feel free to comment. Feel free to share your earliest memories of music at Mass. What is the first Sanctus you ever remember being sung in your lifetime?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

In Boston.


Steve Raml said...

This may fall under the idiom "One man's trash is another man's treasure", but the first Sanctus I played at mass (fourth grade - playing guitar with Sr. Patricia Ann) was the Missa Bossa Nova, with the original words. I still know both chords!!!

Now, as I work with the revised text, it takes me back to grade school, when I first developed a love of the liturgy (even though I didn't know that particular word yet). I remember saying "by my most grievous fault" and inviting the Lord to "enter under my roof". And the musical memories are quite strong.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised that the Missa Bossa Nova was still being used - according to this YouTube video -- for a Confirmation earlier this year:

And yes, I sang Sr. Janet Mead's Our Father too. Ah, memories...

Fr. John Sauer said...

I, too, treasure the Vermulst settings. In fact, I have been using the Holy, Holy from the People's Mass at daily Mass ever since my ordination which was 26 years ago. I will miss it when we retire it.

The Diocese of Winona has chosen to use the Mass for Christian Unity as the setting at diocesan celebrations for the next several years. When talking about what to use our Bishop asked, "Do you remember those settings from that white hymnal we used to use?" Of course, he was referring to the People's Mass Book. I thought of that when you spoke about remembering the older settings from your childhood memories.

There are some gems among the forgotten settings.

Kevin Walsh said...

The first Sanctus I remember is The Mass in Honor of St. Gregory the Great, by Frank Campbell-Watson (published b Benzinger Brothers); I think it was the standard in the Archdiocese of New York when the Mass was first celebrated in English. I learned it in second grade. I think the part of that Mass I remember best was the Creed, set to an lovely old Scottish chant. I don't think it would take much work to make that chant fit the new text.

The second Sanctus was an Enlish version of Pietro Yon's Mass of the Shepherds; I learned that one in fourth grade, and liked it. However, after I learned the original Latin version in high school, I wondered why they didn't leave well enough alone.

AliasKate said...

Like Steve, my earliest memories are from masses with the Folk Group, which my mother led. I recognize the Missa Bossa Nova and fully remember the Sr. Janet Mead Our Father and an array of songs from the first Glory and Praise, many of which have not survived, like "Beginning Today." However, at the mere thought of them, I could sing the entire song, such is the staying power of music -- for better or worse. These songs played an important role in engaging and forming Catholics in a changing church. Some, like the Vermulst, can and should become modern classics; others sentimental footnotes that have a place in history. The greater insight is that once again we are at a point in which music is playing an important role in engaging and forming Catholics in a changing church. It's an exciting opportunity.