I am not a subscriber, but Church Times, (British and Anglican church, that is,) has a piece on the resurgence of plainchant, (the "oldest continuously sung repertoire in Western Europe." Was the qualifier of "Europe" necessary?) that others may wish to, and have the means to, read.
It is in reference to Christopher Hodkinson reflecting on the publication by the RSCM of a guide to plainchant, and a revision of a work by Dr Mary Berry, .(all bow.. eh, Scott? :oD) whose current successor Mr Hodkinson is (not sure how many others in the years intervening...).
He also had this to say, about a Mass in Barking, (a place name I admit to having always loved) -
There are rare moments in life when we are privileged to see the world not merely as it is, but as it could be.Also, word of a workshop
One such was a rainy Sunday morning a few months ago, when I was able to attend Mass in a parish I hadn’t visited before. By the time Mass began the church was packed full, with close to three hundred people present, including many families with children (fifty of the younger ones went out to the Sunday School during the Liturgy of the Word). A team of about eight boys processed with the priest to the altar, carrying candles and incense.
During the Introit, as at the Offertory and Communion, the small choir chanted the Proper texts of the day in English using Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers with light organ accompaniment. The music for the antiphon was provided to the congregation so that they could join in, but there was also time at each of these points to sing good, time-honoured hymns. As Mass continued, the priest sang his words to the tunes in the Roman Missal, and the congregation responded confidently. The Ordinary of the Mass was sung in Latin chant: Mass XI (Orbis factor) rather than the more widely-known Missa de Angelis. The strength of the congregational singing suggested deep familiarity with the Gregorian melodies, and this was demonstrated in stunning fashion at the Alleluia, where the whole congregation joined the choir in singing one of the authentic Gregorian Alleluia tones, complete with its melismatic jubilus.
Considered from an artistic point of view, the Mass demonstrated a pleasing aesthetic unity: a happy marriage of English and Latin chants and with some familiar hymns interspersed. In other words, the music served the liturgy, and was for the most part an integral part of it, so that the aesthetic experience was also a liturgical experience. The essential key to achieving this was the priest singing of his parts: the sung dialogue between priest and congregation impressing silently upon us that music was the medium by which the words of the liturgy became the praise of Almighty God.
Where, you might wonder, was this remarkable parish, this model of good liturgical praxis? This was a typical Sunday at St Mary and St Ethelburga, Barking.
At first sight Barking might seem like an unlikely venue for the scene I have described. The church is a modest brick building constructed in the 1970’s, with pews on three sides of the altar and a leaky roof. The congregation I saw was as diverse as any in the country; people who might be described as ‘White, British’ were certainly a minority, and the parish could hardly be described as wealthy. The choir consisted of a handful of faithful volunteers, led by an organist who helps out playing sacred music on Sunday mornings even though his real métier is jazz piano on Saturday nights. Perhaps the only indisputably excellent feature of the church is its small pipe organ, a chamber instrument with a lovely tone which was donated to the church some years ago.
If you are familiar with English parish life you will already realise—it could hardly be otherwise—that the liturgical achievements of the parish are largely due to the tireless work over many years of the parish priest, Fr William Young. Possessed of few resources and largely self-taught, he has nevertheless achieved a genuine realisation of the spirit of the liturgy in his parish; a celebration that is at once genuinely inclusive, culturally rooted and faithful to the practice of the Church.
If this can be achieved in Barking, it is hard to see why it cannot be achieved everywhere.