As I discussed last week at Views from the Choir Loft, one of the most crucial things that must be done everywhere is the recovery of the Propers of the Mass. In this noble and necessary task, the Simple English Propers were a step in the right direction, but its author Adam Bartlett freely admits that it was an interim solution until something more complete could be put in its place. (That's not to say that the SEP can't continue to function well in places that are accustomed to using it, but only that musicians should be sure to check out the Lumen Christi Gradual and Fr. Weber's Proper of the Mass when these volumes appear, as each of them will contain all that the SEP has—and a great deal more.)
Most NLM readers are familiar with Bartlett’s company Illuminare Publications, which is bringing out the Lumen Christi line of books. By offering a panoply of English chant that accounts for all the inherent needs of the liturgy, the Lumen Christi series faciliates, for the first time—or at least, for the first time with any ease of execution—a fully chanted English Ordinary Form liturgy.
Not long ago I received review copies of both the LC Simple Gradual and the LC Simple Gradual Choir Edition, and I was quite impressed with the quality of their musical content, internal organization, crisp typesetting, and sturdy production. These should be no surprise to those who have already held in their hands the comprehensive and elegant Lumen Christi Missal.
The series may seem a bit complex, but it’s actually quite simple:
- Do you want the lectionary readings as well as congregational chant? Your book is the LC Missal.
- Do you want just the congregational chant? Your book is the LC Simple Gradual, with a few copies of the Choir Edition for the cantors/choir.
- Do you want to add a substantial collection of classic hymns? Add the LC Hymnal (once it’s available, which I hear is relatively soon).
- Do you wish to have fuller or more complex chants for the cantors/choir? Add the LC Gradual (once it’s available).
As they watch the rise of newly composed vernacular chant, some traditionally-minded Catholics fear that the ancient and magnificent Gregorian repertoire will be forgotten in the midst of this mini-renaissance. The beautiful thing about the LC Simple Gradual, as with its parent publication the LC Missal, is that it doesn’t necessarily require the sacrificing of the authentic Gregorian repertoire; it can work in tandem with it. As Adam Bartlett explained to me, at the Cathedral in Phoenix there are three different Sunday Masses, all of which feature traditional sacred music—but in different proportions of Latin and English, chant and polyphony and hymns:
2. Sunday at 9:00 am: Entrance hymn followed by LC Simple Gradual antiphon; English antiphon at Offertory or something more substantial on occasion; Gregorian Proper antiphon at Communion, at the beginning and end of the LC Simple Gradual antiphon, sung with English verses, and with congregation singing the English antiphon.
3. Sunday at 11:00 am: Gregorian Introit and Communion, Lumen Christi chants everywhere else, along with much polyphony.
All of this is done in the context of a fully sung Order of Mass and chanted Ordinaries in Latin and English, as a norm. Bartlett tells me that it has worked out beautifully.
Some parishes, relying more heavily on hymnody, may inch more slowly into the Lumen Christi material. Still, it has the great merit of being accessible to them, and has the potential to open the door to so much more when the time is ripe. Here, a policy of incrementalism in the Ordinary Form context would seem to be more prudent, more realistic about the habits that need to be inculcated, and ultimately more assured of success, as people grow to appreciate the musical and textual prayerfulness that chanted Propers and Ordinary bring to the celebration of the Mass.