Tuesday 25 September 2012

When did you last sing an Introit?

Quick answer: Sunday, see below and next will be tomorrow in English and to Psalm Tone 8g according to the CMAA cut out and keep guide to psalm tones in the Liber Usualis.

If however, as an unsuspecting layperson in the Archdiocese of Southwark, I was seeking ideas about what I should be doing at an OF Mass, of a Sunday, I might well go here go here.

This would lead me to think that I should be choosing lots of hymns and carefully fitting the words to the readings. Big problem. There are all these other proper texts called PROPERS. They have been chosen by the Church. You can sing them in Latin to chant. You can sing them to any number of different English settings, but PROPER they are.

Choosing hymns is not good. First of all choosing. Who chooses? I have done that lots of times. The Roman Rite lays down all the words, all the gestures of the priest, in the GIRM, I believe, when the congregation stands, sits and kneels etc. Then some random person who may be a priest, but who is probably a layperson chooses some hymns. Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd? One person gets to impose their choices on everyone else? Maybe they spend ages doing it. Maybe they chuck some hymn numbers up just before the bell rings. Maybe they always do some stuff because the guitar chords are easier. Maybe there's a whole committee charged with the choosing. Whatever. The very fact that some people get to choose is bad. We don't make up the liturgy, it is given.

Then hymns. Hymns are not part of the Mass they are plonked in, usually to cover walking around bits. Priest enters and leaves. Offertory procession. People receiving Holy Communion. It's all about walking. They are just killing time music.

Hymns come from Low Mass usage in the Catholic Church, presumably because people didn't like all that silence - ding, genuflect, rustle, crash as kneelers go down, 'In nomine Patre...' Mutter, 'Orate, fratres...'
Brilliant stuff.

Hymns are often Protestant. Our hymn books are full of musical clangers and words that have seemingly never been checked for doctrinal fidelity. If you are a musician, it is clear they are written by idiots who do not understand the difference between an organ and a piano. Personally, I like my family to be treated by really well-qualified experienced doctors. In the Catholic Church we entrust music to people who do things which make other people deride the Church. (They don't even need to start on tricky moral stuff. The music, hah!)

Some people think music doesn't matter, it's just a frothy diversion. Lots of people freely tell you how they won't attend a certain Mass because they cannot stand the music. Did you ever hear anyone say that about the flower arrangements? The other people in the church? The quality of votive candles?

Where was I? Oh yes, hymns are often Protestant. Vernacular hymns in England were, it seems, a Methodist invention. Luther was there in Germany ages before selling sola scriptura via metrical ditties. We have the Wesleys. It ain't Catholic. Ben W said on Sat that the Anglicans pondered deeply, as Anglicans do and then introduced them anyway in the 19thC, also as Anglicans tend to do with tricky things. Cf any moral dilemma, you can think of. (That's my take on Anglicanism, btw, certainly not his, he is a true gent and far too polite for that sort of thing.)

As Joseph Cullen pointed out being metrical is not all that Catholic. He described setting the responsorial psalm and how he kept having to change the time sig all the time. Whenever I write them I just seem to go up and down a scale, basically. May as well, oo, use a psalm tone, not that they fit English terribly well.

Modern hymns frequently do not manage to be strophic. That causes untold problems. Note to the publishers of Hymns O&N, if every verse has to be written out separately and the hymn involves a page turn, it's rubbish for congregational use.

Now people often point at Catholics and gleefully go on about how we don't sing. There are lots of reasons for this. I believe, contrary it seems to many important people, that Mr and Mrs Catholic there on a Sunday, maybe with small children in tow, maybe old and frail, maybe on their own, whatever, all know that hymns are not part of the Mass and are just some arbitrary selection. Compare this to other parts of the Mass then, they are of no worth at all. So they don't sing. They try to block them out. They are a distraction. You don'y need this racket if something very serious is going on in your life and most modern hymns are not serious. Look outside, unfortunately many people's lives are touched by tragedy. Modern hymns are not robust enough to take it. Suffering never happens it seems.

Enthusiatic cantor people beware. We don't appreciate you. You distract visually from the liturgical action on the altar. You sing through a microphone lending your sweet voice a harshness and volume that is stressful to listen to. In a Cathedral you are lost in the echo. If you are a woman, why are you wearing something that looks a bit like a cassock? That's just dodgy. very well-meaning, but dodgy. If you like doing solos, get involved in secular music. Seriously. Performing, tis a great thing. Not at Mass.

Mr and Mrs Catholic may not have English as their first language or may not speak English at all. They are now further culturally dislocated from that which they should hold in common with everyone else.

Mr and Mrs Catholic are musical. They are grinding their teeth. Maybe they sing to be helpful. Maybe they stay silent. Maybe they drift away and find a church with helpful music or no music or just drift away. The Church seemingly not caring about its tradition or about really beautiful things.
You have favourite hymns and think they are all being rubbished and I am advocating banning them? No. We can sing them on extra liturgical type dos. Processions. Benediction. Maybe we need hymn singing dos for people who need that sort of thing. Then there's the car, iPod route. They might be really helpful for some people. But we don't all need to hear everyone else's favourites.

We need to hear the music that is proper to this Mass. We can then get on with singing the Ordinary. You know that's the real deal because it's part of the Mass. How often do we get 4 random hymns and muttered ordinary. What does that say about the priority given to the texts?
An autobiographical note. After spending 14 years being educated in Catholic schools, I spent 12 years teaching in them, 8 as a Head of Music. I'm now in my 20th year as a full-time in the class-room Music Teacher. All those hymns you hate. I have played them. I have sung them. I have attempted to get 14 year old boys to sing them. I've tried. I've gone against my better judgement. I am the empirical research.

The end.

PS This was me six years ago.
Never been to an EF Mass then....
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- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad



Mulier Fortis said...

Brilliant analysis! Don't feel you have to hold back it anything... ;-)

leutgeb said...

What I originally wrote was actually way more extreme than this, but on a different aspect of music n stuff.

Anonymous said...

I agreed with everything you said, that is until l looked at your diocese hymn list and saw the hymn list for All Saints. Surely 'I the Lord of Sea and Sky' encapsulates the essence of this great solemnity as well if not better than 'Gaudeamus.' ?.. Or not possibly...

Hughie said...

On Friday, April 3, 1964, the Catholic Herald published a report from a “Catholic Herald Reporter” under the headline “Sing at Westminster”. It read:

“MORE than 400 choirboys, members of 20 choirs in England and Scotland who belong to the international organisation Pueri Cantores, sang at High Mass in Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday evening (March 31).
Wearing their varying choir dress they walked in procession through the West door of the Cathedral for the Mass which was celebrated by the head of the Choir School, Fr. Herbert Veal. Conducting was Fr. Wilfrid Purney, National President of Pueri Cantores and Precentor of the Cathedral. Special preacher was Canon Bartlett.
Choirs of boys came from as far away as Motherwell Cathedral, St. Catherine’s, Birmingham; St. Anne’s, Liverpool; Lowe House, St. Helens; Golden Hill and Tunsal in Stoke-on-Trent; Elm Park, Essex; two school choirs from Walsall: St. Joseph’s, Highgate: St. John’s Prep School, Alton. Staffs; St. Lawrence’s. Kirkby, Liverpool; St. Dominic’s. Haverstock Hill, London; and Hornchurch parish choir.
Some 70 choirs in Britain are members of Pueri Cantores which has several thousand choirs as members in about 80 countries.”

Down the Derby Inn they would never believe it but I was one of the choirboys from Motherwell’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Good Aid. Sadly, I have long since forgotten how to read ordinary music, never mind plain chant. However, two years ago when my son was living in Abingdon I got the chance to attend the 11 am Sung Latin Mass at Oxford Oratory one Sunday morning. It was sheer bliss. It may have been well-nigh forty years, and I didn’t have the sheet music — it may have been distributed to the congregation before Mass; I had got lost and arrived a few minutes late — but I had no problem singing the Mass.

Some priests might want audience participation but that is what I would love the chance to do: Sing the Mass!!

And by the by, that Mass was just over a fortnight before my 12th birthday, still, today at 60½ I’m no old fogey. I do not object to the post-Vatican II rite of the Mass per se; it is just that the old Mass is so much more spiritual: which is what that hour or so on a Sunday morning is supposed to be all about.

Anita Moore said...

The last time I sang an Introit was the 14th Sunday after Pentecost. At an Extraordinary Form Mass, six hours from home. Out of the Liber Usualis. Would that I got to do that more often!

At home, I can get only the Ordinary Form, and it's like a fourht-rate night club act. Instead of the Introit, it's "Gather Us In." And it all goes downhill from there.

Philistinism reigns. How long, O Lord?

Annie said...

Fabulous! :D

Ttony said...

Fight the Good Fight! (:-))

Grand Priory of Great Britain said...

What a thought-provoking post. Thanks.

I’ve been involved in parish music since I was 15, when I learned to sing bass. We were of very moderate ability but sang hymns and settings of the ordinary that were very ordinary but tuneful. Things like Mass of Pope John XXIII and The Parish Mass by Eric Welch. These setting had been pushed following the Council. Prior to that the choir regularly sang the 4 Masses by Fr Turner, Crookhall in Eflat, Seymour in Aflat, Sewell’s Mass of St Philip Neri, Van Brees Masses No 1 and 2, Smiths Masses in C & D, Terry’s Mass of St Gregory and his ubiquitous but very tuneful Mass in C.

All these had long gone when I took over in 1996. The ‘choir’ had fallen apart in 1977 following the arrival of a new PP who asked them to learn Estelle White’s I saw the grass. Without hesitation the basses all left, one was heard say he “might as well go an sing in’t metharty chapel” (metharty = old Lancashire dialect for Methodist).

Propers weren’t really known to me until I got involved in providing music for the odd EF Mass in Manchester. I left my own Parish in 2006 owing to the appearance of the new pp or ‘one man and his dog’. The man in question I think, is a dyslexic atheist as he doesn’t appear to believe in God but only in his ‘doG’.

How times have changed since then! Or not as the case may be. I read some good things on the internet but in the main things are still pretty appalling.

I now provide music for a local priest who always says the OF ‘ad orientem’, we have the Introit and Communion verses from the Liber. We do have a hymn at the Offertory and Recessional.

When he came to the Parish he just said the Mass as maybe it had been said there 20 years ago but since then the two or three liberal priests and the vociferous monstrous regiment of wimmin had broken everything concerning our Faith.

There are now about 40 people at the ‘sung’ Mass, which is very quietly and reverently offered. The music is as good as I can make it, on my own, as I have to play and sing at the same time, there is no real organ it is an electronic keyboard with a ‘church’ effect (there is no money in the parish as just before the good priest arrived (literally days before) the then priestless Parish Council spent £20,000 tarmacking the car park!). I’m no organist really but I try my best to play at the moments that require it. We sing the Gloria from Mass VIII (!!!!) and the Sanctus and Agnus from Mass XVIII every week. The people do their best to join in but it’s dreadfully disconcerting when you are trying your utmost to live up to the ideals of SC. I feel embarrassed and awkward at times particularly at the introit as the people just stand there looking uncomfortable and completely disconnected (and those who attend are the good ones!).

The priest has spoken on the reasons for the particular music, I have provided sheets with words and music on but still …… nothing. No one wants to join a choir, we’ve tried that. All the parishes round about are what you would expect, Shine Jesus shine, Here I am, I watch the sunrise, etc…The sad thing is that it goes much deeper than music it’s all about the flawed theology that has been allowed to pervade and in some cases been promoted.

I get dreadfully depressed about it all but well done to those parish musicians that actually manage to get something off the ground and maintain it – it is not easy!

Anyhow we plod on regardless!

leutgeb said...

Plodding on regardless is very much where it is at.

Mark said...

I just blogged about music (in Italian) for my choir, so I’ve been flicking through the documents of the Church.

I think it’s sufficient to repeat the teaching of the Church in Sacrosanctum Concilium really; The GIRM doesn’t share your scorn for hymns, but they’re certainly way down in the list of priorities.

In fact, I was interested to see, there exists a fairly precise order of priority, and hymn are at the bottom:



leutgeb said...

The reason for what you describe as my scorn, is that the option to sing a hymn in place of the proper text is given as number 4 in a list which gives the most desirable things first. The singing of hymns in the vernacular has been adopted to the extent that most people in the English-speaking world, at least, do not even know that there are proper texts aside from the readings.
The results of this are described in my post.

Mark said...

Yes, I see that. In fact, the first part is basically what I was trying to say…