Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music of the Ordinary Form (It only took 50 years to stabilize)

After so many years of working in the world of Catholic music, I finally experienced what I had long hoped and prayed for: a complete, ready-to-sing package of chanted music for the ordinary form of Mass that sounds solemn and integrated and is manageable by any parish choir.

Five years ago none of this music existed. Now you can do it all -- any parish can -- with just three sources. This little suite of music has finally accomplished what so many have hoped for. Experiencing them all in one Mass was truly a revelation. Following the Mass I was practically jumping up and down with joy.

Now, by way of background, the opening Mass of the Sacred Music Colloquium has always striven to present a do-able program for parishes in English. In the early days -- I mean ten years ago -- we sang hymns and an easy ordinary that was not in a plainchant style.

Each year we became more conscious of the need for propers and chant. But resources were hard to come by. We didn't want to choose music that was specially composed for the occasion because it wouldn't be available for other Sundays. We wanted to offer a paradigm that was both beautiful and practical. As every Catholic musician knows, this has been very hard to come by -- for decades.

Making a huge difference here were the Missal chants from the new translation of the Missal. They worked perfectly in this large cathedral. This music covered the entire ordinary and the dialogues for the Mass.

That leaves the propers and the Psalms. These have been a sticking point for so long. The books we used on Tuesday have appeared only in the last two years. Putting the entire suite together was extremely revealing.

The Psalm was from the Parish Book of Psalms, which contains Gregorian-style settings for Sundays and feasts. It was easy to sing, required no accompaniment, and was the perfect length -- just right for a parish.

The second book is Simple English Propers. We used this for the entrance, offertory, and communion chants. They all worked together so fabulously. Between these books and the chants from the Missal, the Mass was integrated and solemn -- an ideal in many ways. This was accomplished without accompaniment and without having to dig through files and find things here and there.

It will take a while for the news to get out, but I'm just thrilled to have finally seen it all put together.

Recordings will be available in time.

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