Thursday, April 20, 2006

Managing the transition: A "Gloria" case study

As as NLM musicians know, the great struggle concerning liturgical music is the transition from the current miasma to the ideal. Our Schola has been working in this direction for 5 years, and the Gloria in Latin chant has so far not been an option for us. Pastors--liberal, conservative, or whatever--all express the same concern: the people will be under the impression that the Gloria has somehow been "taken away from them" and given to the specialists to sing.

This issue is not easily dismissed as idiosyncratic. Yes, participation through silent prayer is real participation, but people do want to sing the Gloria. At the same time, the Latin is unfamiliar. No settings are commonly known (not even the Missa De Angelis). But the only way to get to know the text is to make it known through repetition. But pastors are concerned that during the period of pedagogy, people will have nothing to do during the Gloria. They will tune out. They are concerned that waiting six months to a year for people to get know it is too long.

Thus were we challenged to find a Gloria that is in Latin but is antiphonal, that is to say, that has a few easy parts that people can sing on the very first Sunday that it is made available. Of course no such thing exists in the Gregorian repertoire, and for good reason. But do we therefore pass up the opportunity? No way.

We settled on the Gloria XV, the Dominator Deus. It is simple and clean--very singable. We introduced to it two additional antiphons of "Gloria in Excelsis Deo"--in a way that would not disrupt the music.

See what you think of the result: Gloria Dominator Deus. A corruption? We don't think so. In some ways, it provides an interesting look at the structure of the Gloria: three sections. As we work through it over the next six months, we will look for ways to eliminate the Antiphons, and we'll be left with the pure chant as the Church asks us to sing it.

I'm curious about the reaction of readers. Remember that we are dealing with modern reality here, a sociological structure of parish life that is not accustomed to Latin and chant, one that does not lend itself to easy conversion to the ideal. We are thinking about the goal, and the hugely important issue of the transition, a transition that accommodates the concerns of both pastors and laity.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: