Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mass Propers, 15th Sunday After Pentecost

For musicians, and for everyone really, a beauty of the old calendar and traditional Latin Mass is its full coherence as a liturgical structure. The Missal is in lock step with the Gradual and the Kyriale, and there is no confusion about what belongs where. The ordinary form has been with us 43 years and this level of certainty and balance is still not there, though we are gradually working toward figuring it. What follows below are the sung propers that pertain to this particular day of the old calendar, this coming Sunday September 1.

To be sure, before 1963, average parishes were not singing these but cathedrals were and everyone understood the ideal and aspired toward it, even it was not possible. Psalm tones often replaced full chants in the high Mass, and even though the Low Mass was the norm, these sung propers were at least spoken by the celebrant even if the choir sang a hymn. What was normative and what was a permissable substitute was very clear. It was a structure that was widely understood and even taken for granted.

A combination of factors after the Council blew this up in more ways that anyone could have possibly intended. The main problems: vernacularization without preparation, populist ideology, the attack on professionalism and technique, the reshuffling of the liturgical calendar, the introduction of a vast array of options without any clear attempt to enumerate priorities -- all of these factors combined to create an atmosphere of chaos and confusion.

So one can only long for a restoration of the clarity of vision that yielded masterpieces such as these, some of which date from the 7th century and before and were preserved the oral culture and careful scholarship all through the the modern period. And it is particularly spectacular that now, for the first time in the long history of chant, we have a nearly complete set of videos that present the music and masterful performances that are accessible through any smartphone. Remarkable.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: