Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Previous parts:
Pars prima / Pars secunda / Pars tertia / Pars quarta / Pars quinta
Pars sexta / Pars septua / Pars octa / Pars nona

The "Different Kinds of Music in the Liturgy"

Music for the Sacred Liturgy

67. “Sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.” This holiness involves ritual and spiritual dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context.

Sadly, to many, this seems to mean songs that focus on our "gathering" or "being as one". Yeah, promote unity by singing together, not by bragging about how "united" we are.

68. The ritual dimension of sacred music refers to those ways in which it is “connected with the liturgical action” so that it accords with the structure of the Liturgy and expresses the shape of the rite. The musical setting must allow the rite to unfold with the proper participation of the assembly and its ministers, without overshadowing the words and actions of the Liturgy.

69. The spiritual dimension of sacred music refers to its inner qualities that enable it to add greater depth to prayer, unity to the assembly, or dignity to the ritual. Sacred music is holy when it mediates the holiness of God and forms the Holy People of God more fully into communion with him and with each other in Christ.

70. The cultural context refers to the setting in which the ritual and spiritual dimensions come into play. Factors such as the age, spiritual heritage, and cultural and ethnic background of a given liturgical assembly must be considered. The choice of individual compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action.

You still want to avoid stuff like this. Further, age doesn't justify having to infest your congregation with sacro-pop. I can't stress enough my belief that today's junior choir is tomorrow's senior choir. Teach now the music that belongs to the Mass - simple chants, solid Catholic hymnody, etc., not sacro-pop.

71. With gratitude to the Creator for giving humanity such a rich diversity of musical styles, the Church seeks to employ only that which, in a given style, meets the ritual-spiritual demands of the Liturgy. In discerning the sacred quality of liturgical music, liturgical musicians will find guidance in music from the Church’s treasury of sacred music, which is of inestimable value and which past generations have found suitable for worship. They also should strive to promote a fruitful dialogue between the Church and the modern world.

Gregorian Chant

72. “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” Gregorian chant is uniquely the Church’s own music. Chant is a living connection with our forebears in the faith, the traditional music of the Roman rite, a sign of communion with the universal Church, a bond of unity across cultures, a means for diverse communities to participate together in song, and a summons to contemplative participation in the Liturgy.

73. The “pride of place” given to Gregorian chant by the Second Vatican Council is modified by the important phrase “other things being equal.” These “other things” are the important liturgical and pastoral concerns facing every bishop, pastor, and liturgical musician. In considering the use of the treasures of chant, pastors and liturgical musicians should take care that the congregation is able to participate in the Liturgy with song. They should be sensitive to the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity and peace.

That is, other things being equal place below Gregorian chant.

74. The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin. In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged.


75. Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered.

I took the Gloria in three sections when teaching the people at Holy Ghost - 1) Et in terra pax to Jesu Christe (this was the day I got that lovely e-mail from a parishioner saying that I was singlehandedly driving people out of the parish - needless to say, I stuck to my guns), 2) Domine Deus, Agnus Dei to Miserere Nobis, and 3) Quoniam tu solus sanctus to the end.

76. “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.” When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended. Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings.

As opposed to that lovely little "gathering song". (blech!)

77. The Entrance and Communion antiphons are found in their proper place in the Roman
Missal. Composers seeking to create vernacular translations of the appointed antiphons and
psalms may also draw from the Graduale Romanum, either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir.

One should keep in mind, however, that the Entrance and Communion antiphons from the Roman Missal were meant to be recited when there is no singing to take place.

78. Gregorian chant draws its life from the sacred text it expresses, and recent official chant editions employ revised notation suggesting natural speech rhythm rather than independent melodic principles. Singers are encouraged to adopt a manner of singing sensitive to the Latin text.

79. Missals in various languages provide vernacular chants inspired by Latin chant, or other melodies, for sung responses between ministers and people. For the sake of unity across the Church, musicians should not take it upon themselves to adjust or alter these melodies locally.

80. Whenever strophic chant hymns are published with Latin or vernacular texts, their
melodies should be drawn from the Liber Hymnarius.

The Composer and Music of Our Day

81. The Church needs artists, and artists need the Church. In every age, the Church has called upon creative artists to give new voice to praise and prayer. Throughout history, God has continued to breathe forth his creative Spirit, making noble the work of musicians’ hearts and hands. The forms of expression have been many and varied.

OK, so what actually happened to the composer? In all actuality, the composer got shunned in many places in favor of the songwriter.

82. The Church has safeguarded and celebrated these expressions for centuries. In our own day, she continues to desire to bring forth the new with the old. The Church joyfully urges composers and text writers to draw upon their special genius so that she can continue to augment the treasure house of sacred musical art.

I wouldn't consider All Are Welcome or Gather Us In drawing upon a special genius. That is, unless that genius is particularly in the art of wreckovating the liturgy.

83. The Church never ceases to find new ways to sing her love for God each new day. The Sacred Liturgy itself, in its actions and prayers, best makes known the forms in which compositions will continue to evolve. Composers find their inspiration in Sacred Scripture, and especially in the texts of the Sacred Liturgy, so that their works flow from the Liturgy itself. Moreover, “to be suitable for use in the Liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith.” Therefore, “liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.” Only within this scriptural, liturgical, and creedal context is the composer who is aware of the Church’s long journey through human history and “who is profoundly steeped in the sensus Ecclesiae” properly equipped “to perceive and express in melody the truth of the Mystery that is celebrated in the Liturgy.” No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God.

That last sentence can be dangerous.

84. In the years immediately following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, especially because of the introduction of vernacular language, composers and publishers worked to provide a new repertoire of music for indigenous language(s). In subsequent decades, this effort has matured, and a body of worthy vernacular liturgical music continues to develop, even though much of the early music has fallen into disuse. Today, as they continue to serve the Church at prayer, composers are encouraged to concentrate on craftsmanship and artistic excellence in all musical genres.

85. The Church awaits an ever richer song of her entire gathered people. “The faith of countless believers has been nourished by melodies flowing from the hearts of other believers, either introduced into the Liturgy or used as an aid to dignified worship. In song, faith is experienced as vibrant joy, love, and confident expectation of the saving intervention of God.”

When done right!

The next section will cover Instruments.

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