Monday, May 14, 2007

The Sanctus Doesn't Have to Drive You Nuts

Some people have asked me why I'm suggesting that a change in music at a parish should start with the ordinary parts of the Mass as opposed to hymns or dialogues (Post 1, Post 2). The reason is practical and realistic: this is the portion of the Mass that features some of the worst music one can find in Catholic Church today and it occurs right when it matters most that the music approximate something that sounds beautiful and respectful. We all know the feeling. Just when the celebrant says "with all the angels and saints we praise your glory" what follows is a sung absurdity that does not sound anything like what we think of angels singing, as least so long as they are not wearing love beads and tie-dye.

In any case, it doesn't have to be this way. The music can integrate well into the rest of the Mass, and with little effort. The ideal is precisely what the Second Vatican Council said: Gregorian chant, which means the Latin settings in the Kyriale. But that is quite a step from the existing reality. So in many parishes, there needs to be a transition that at least offers plainsong, if only in English. Mostly, it would be nice to have music that is not ridiculous, and more fitting to the occasion. Thus do I offer this super-plain but enormously beautiful setting, taken from the Sacramentary, of the Sanctus, Mysterium, and Agnus that can (and should) but sung without accompaniment.

The Holy here can begin on Eb or F. The Mysterium is obvious. The Angus sounds much like the Holy but watch the half step between the 2nd and 3rd notes. Some people have complained that my suggested starting point here is boring. I don't really agree but it is certainly true that you would not want to stop here. What is great about these is that they are not what is usually sung, so they provide a long-overdue relief from the aesthetic punishment inflicted by most Missalette "Mass Parts" and they don't sound like anything you hear on the radio or on television. They sound and feel like prayer, and that is the minimum requirement of music at Mass.

Here is a pdf you can download

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