Monday, February 04, 2008

Six days to liberate yourself from the Death Mass

Lent is soon upon us, and for thousands of parishes that are making their way back to chant, that means singing the Mass for the Dead every Sunday until Easter. This has become the normal practice for many parishes that are doing their best to live up to the ideals of Vatican II. This Mass setting is one published in Jubilate Deo (1974) and made its way into Missalettes under the title "Chant Mass."

Actually, this is only one of 18 settings that the Church has made available. And this one in particular is listed in the Liber Usualis as the "Mass for the Dead." I've always wondered if there was a bit of mischief at work among the opponents of chant that the only setting that lived after 1970 was the Mass for the Dead. Perhaps not. But in any case, the point is clear: this Mass is for Requiem Masses on weekdays. That's its primary purpose. It can be used in Lent, and no one would disparage a choir that is doing this. But we need to move beyond it.

There is a problem with the association of chant with penance only. And there is a further problem with this setting that it is the most stark, most dark, and, one might say, the most colorless of all the settings. It tends to reinforce a certain caricature of chant that it is always dreary and sad, and can be no other.

Our schola this year will take a big leap forward and sing the full setting of Mass XVII for Lent. This one is listed in the Kyriale as a possible setting for Lent, and it is considerably brighter than the Mass for the Dead. It is also very beautiful, and completely singable by the congregation.

You can find the entire setting here.

Here is one of the Kyries offered in this Mass:

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