28 September 2006

Pride of Place: Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy
Mundelein, 2006, Part II

In Part I below, I talked a little about Mass and Vespers and social gathering, but for those who don't have a clue about the subject matter, the meat if you will, of the conference was about, I suppose I ought to flesh out my tale.

In the morning, there were two workshops that folks could attend. Margaret and I were in charge of the session aimed at beginners, and we do mean beginners. We started off with a primer on chant notation and modes, went over the tones for the Mass and the readings, and taught three sets of Ordinaries--the three that the Gonzaga Schola use for Mass: the first was the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from the Requiem Mass with Kyrie from Mass XVI and Gloria from Mass VIII, the second was Mass XI with Kyrie B, and the third was Mass XVII with Kyrie C). When Dr. Schaefer put together the materials for the Chant Mass at Gonzaga, he chose settings that he thought people would be likely to have heard/know, if they were at all familiar with chant. If three settings seems like very little for a really good Schola, remember that Gonzaga's Schola only sings for Sundays during the school year--the only major feast on their calendar is Easter, and they do a polyphonic ordinary for that. They don't sing for any Marian feasts, or during Christmas, and only a few Sundays of the Easter season.

Dr. Schaefer talked about the chants of Holy Week with the more advanced group of musicians. He also taught them to sing the Gradual for that week, and a brave soul volunteered to sing the verse. Beyond that, I have little idea of what they discussed.

Monday and Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, both groups met together and Dr. Schaefer lectured. Margaret and I provided occasional musical support for examples. We spent most of Monday afternoon going through Vespers so that everyone would be able to sing along, and would know when to stand, sit, bow, and all that good stuff. In relation to this, we also discussed psalm tones.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Liturgical Institute's Fr. Martis came to talk about the forthcoming Mundelein Psalter (he led the conference participants in Morning Prayer from the Psalter each morning of the conference). The Mundelein Psalter uses the modern format of the Liturgy of the Hours, encompassing Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. Everything will be contained in one 1200-page hardbound volume (with 3 ribbons! as Fr. Martis excitedly pointed out), and is due to be available in February. Everything is set to music using St. Meinrad tones by Samuel Weber, though he also said something about someone from St. Cecilia's in Omaha writing more "exciting" music for the antiphons (which are currently set to the same psalm tones as the psalm). I am not sure whether the more elaborate antiphons will be in the book or not. The book is all in English. Personally, I don't like the new LotH, and if I made a habit of saying the Office I'd use the old version. It seems like it will be a good resource for people who are less experienced with chant who would like to sing the Liturgy of the Hours.

On Wednesday morning, we talked about resources for chant and also for polyphony. CanticaNova received several mentions, as did Choral Public Domain Library, the Solesmes books of course, many of which are available through GIA, and also the Missa Cantata book and other resources available through Dr. Schaefer's Priory Press. Dr. Schaefer discussed the pros and cons of the Graduale Simplex and By Flowing Waters.

At Dr. Schaefer's suggestion, copies of my thesis were sold for $5 apiece. I'm not sure how many copies he brought, maybe 6, 10 at the most, but they were all sold. My thesis is titled "The Motets of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in Contemporary Liturgy" and deals mostly with Palestrina's Offertory motets on Proper Offertory texts, of which there are 68. They are all in 5 parts, and 58 of them are SATTB. I arranged two of the motets for SAATB as an example of how the others might be arranged, since I know that many parish choirs these days don't have enough tenors to divide the section, but frequently have enough women to cover three parts. Also included are two tables lining up Palestrina's Offertories with the Sundays and Feasts for which they are Proper, since some of the Propers were shifted after Vatican II, and the Sundays were renamed which might cause confusion for someone not familiar with the old system (i.e. Sundays After Pentecost); one table is arranged by Sunday/Feast date in chronological order, and the other is arranged by motet in alphabetical order. If you think you would find the tables, the arrangements, or the whole thesis useful, feel free to email me and I will make it available to you. The whole paper (which is about 50 pages) I will only send out by snail mail for the cost of copying and mailing, but the table I will email for free as a Word file, and the arrangements I will email for free as a Finale file or snail mail for the cost of mailing--I am not interested in making a profit off this particular project, but merely in making it easier for singers to use the music in the Liturgy.

Dr. Schaefer and I were somewhat disappointed in the reaction of many of the conference when asked what they thought they might take back to their parishes out of all this. About six of the 35 people had had to leave already, and I would have been very interested in what they might have had to say about it, but those who remained mostly seemed to have missed the most important point we had tried to get across. Maybe we didn't stress it enough.

The point was this: SING THE MASS. Don't just sing at the Mass. If all you're doing is singing at the Mass, even the most beautiful of the chants will seem somewhat out of context, and people will subconsciously pick up on that and it will always be a little uncomfortable. To go from chant back to normal speech is jarring, and the more the choir chants, the more jarring the experience of the Mass will be because of the number of transitions. Chant-to-chant is not so startling. The choir directors mostly seemed worried about whether their choir would be able to sing an Introit and whether they might be better off singing the English entrance antiphon set to a psalm tone, and whether their congregation would or wouldn't pick up a chanted Gloria. What they should have been worried about was how to get the priest to sing the orations, the canon, and everything else--English or Latin, take your pick. Possibly how to train lectors to sing the readings (the two places I've been to where the Pauline Mass is chanted in Latin have the readings spoken in the vernacular--I was told that their "liturgical sensibilities" didn't allow for chanting in the vernacular. Mine do, and I suspect so do yours, so sing the readings). In case you missed it the first time, I'll say it again: SING THE MASS.

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