Saturday, May 21, 2011

More photos and thoughts on the new Roman Missal in English

Liturgiam Authenticam, §120 said that "the books from which the liturgical texts are recited in the vernacular with or on behalf of the people should be marked by such a dignity that the exterior appearance of the book itself will lead the faithful to a greater reverence for the word of God and for sacred realities", and building upon this, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales produced Guidelines for the Publication of Liturgical Books that said that liturgical books "should be clear in their arrangement and typography, worthy in appearance and quality of paper and binding".

In an informative video featured here on the NLM recently, the Catholic Truth Society in the United Kingdom, which is publishing the new Roman Missal for use in England, Scotland, Wales and Australia, explained the care taken over the quality of the paper and binding of this important liturgical book.

In this set on Flickr, the Bishops Conference has released more contextual photos of this edition of the new Roman Missal. It will be available in November 2011. The photos shown here, and in the Flickr set, are by Mazur.

However, I am disappointed that the new Missal uses modern musical notation, or a 'hybrid' form of notation, as I was told by the CTS. This notation is an improvement on the current Missal, and I am aware that even David Hiley's recent Cambridge Introduction to Gregorian Chant uses it, but I am still not convinced that 'square notation' constitutes a barrier, or that this hybrid notation is any better. I believe that the rationale offered by ICEL was that "pastoral considerations argued against [using traditional chant notation]. There is danger that the traditional four-line notation would pose a practical hindrance and psychological barrier for some singers".

Practical experience shows that this fear of the 'danger' of square notation is not well-founded. In our churches and on our English Dominican pilgrimages, traditional notation is predominantly used, and congregations of several hundred do manage to sing and participate with ease. Personally, I find it more difficult to read the modern rounded notes, and I fear that they will detract from the pleasure of using an otherwise beautiful Missal. So, pastorally, square notation makes sense. I recall that a few years ago the Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral cogently argued that traditional chant notation had the benefit of being in relative pitch, unlike modern musical notation which, strictly speaking, is fixed. So, musically, it makes sense too. And it's not that difficult to learn to read chant notation, as Dom Anthony Ruff, former head of ICEL's music committee, has argued here. It's a shame that he was not able to convince ICEL to think likewise, and render the chants of the new Missal in traditional notation.

Shown below is how it could have been:

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