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Saturday, 1 August 2009


No, don't worry, G-rated.
They're fantasies of how I would program for my parish, were I free to do what I think ought to be done.
But no, alas, the "G" does not stand for "Gregorian."
I laugh ruefully to myself when I read derisive comments directed at parish music programs that inflict yet another de angelis on the assembly, or contemptuous pleas, to please -- not limit yourselves to a single Gregorian credo.

If only!

They don't realize what a leap forward a single movement from a single Gregorian Ordinary would me for the vast majority of parishes at this point, and how little control is in even the most well-meaning musicians' hands, all too often.

But from where I am now, from where my parish is now, from where my volunteer musicians are now, there are things I would like to do, things we could do.
But there are... obstructions? Yes, le mot juste, for they, (the obstructions,) are very much like the wooden saw horse-shaped barricades one sees.

Any way, were there not....

My first positive change when I began here, (as opposed to the negative ones-- simply forbearing to program the worst, kitschiest, most theologically suspect of our parochal favorites, or at least, programming them less frequently,) was to do the appointed psalm from the lectionary.
Further, the most egregiously paraphrased contents of what the editors of Gather laughingly think constitutes a psalter were eliminated, and others less... creatively worded? were brought gradually in line with a licit translation, any licit translation. (A lot of this was nothing more than daring to use pronouns, of course.)
And over the course of several cycles, most of the musically silly verses were replaced with chanted verses, so the people were not deprived of beloved ditties, (such as, "If today you hear HIS voice?") for their response.

At the earliest Sunday Mass I finally convinced people that if we were going to sing hymns we really had to also sing the psalms and various acclamations.

I refused utterly to use settings of the "Mass" that were no such thing, that did not respect the integrity of the text of the Missal. Eliminated "tropes" from the Agnus Dei. Used only correctly arranged Gospel acclamations, with the correct verse. (These all had the other advantage of putting the kibosh on some of the silliest musical settings.)
But I cannot extend these strictures to school or youth Masses.

At funerals we sing the In Paradisum, and, despite funeral directors urging the bereaved to "pick their favorites," only psalms for the psalm -- no, "You are Near," or "Amazing Grace" after the OT reading.

For Advent, instead of the oddity of a silent procession, I persuaded TPTB to let us chant the Introit in English, and on the principle that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission began doing the same, at choir Masses only, during Lent.

I instructed the cantors to bow profoundly during the Creed, and at the elevations.
After five years it finally caught on with at least some other ministers; a bow of the head at the Holy Name is taking longer. (If this were done by all it would also force a more appropriate tempo for various Glorias, etc., but I am not holding out much hope there...)

And we are allowed to sing the Sequence, (albeit in English,) on Easter and Pentecost, though only at choir Masses.

From after the Gloria on Holy Thursday until the Gloria at the Paschal Vigil all instruments are silent, (except guitars, over which I do not have dominion,) and the actual Litany of Saints is chanted, as well as a simplified chanted setting of the Reproaches.

As a choir we sing two Gregorian propers, communions, a year, (though only after the assembly has sung the more vastly important Well-Loved Hymn or Carol,) and I have pretty much, (though not entirely,) won the choir over to thinking that a setting of the proper or an anthem that approximates the propers is a more appropriate choice than Old Favorites.

But that is it.

I can go no further. (And we've even gone backwards in a few minor details, additional intrusive announcements, for instance.)

And it's a shame, because we, as a parish, as musicians, are capable of much more.

But either I have tried and been quashed, or know not to try the greater when the lesser has already been forbidden.

I do not foresee anything, opening up any possibilities for a greater liturgical maturity.

I don't think it's laziness on my part.
Not that I'm not plenty lazy, but I'm also pretty cheerfully confrontational, so if there were any chance of succeeding at anything, (beyond the aggravating of Father's ulcer....) I'd go for it.

But there's nothing.

Except dreams.

And oh, can I dream!


1 comment:

Jane said...

I feel your pain. We had an excellent starting point when we took over music for the Sunday evening Mass at our parish. The Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were already being chanted, and the congregation was accustomed to hearing solos for the Offertory, Communion, or both. The correct psalm was chanted, and they always used the "Easter Alleluia"--which is definitely one of the less silly options.

Since then, we've started singing the Gloria, the Memorial Acclamation and the Amen. We almost always sing the proper Communion chant (either in Latin, or in English from the American Gradual), and for the Offertory either a motet (if any of our four choir members actually show up) or the proper chant.

I know, pretty good right? But...it stops there. I doubt we'll ever sing the Introit except on special occasions (we did it on Palm Sunday). I know that we cannot sing a different Alleluia. We cannot introduce a different Kyrie. And yes, it's the "Requiem" Sanctus. The choir and the congregation are certainly capable of learning new Ordinaries. But I think they've been doing the same ones for fifteen years, and if we tried to change them...it would not go well for us.