Tuesday, March 19, 2013

CNA: "Oriented Toward Gregorian Chant"

One of our readers drew our attention to this article which appeared recently on the Catholic News Agency (CNA), written by Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, CSJ:

'Oriented toward gregorian chant'? What does this phrase mean?

By Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J.

It’s so beautiful, I could faint! This will surely be your response if you should want to visit the website of Corpus Christi Watershed (http://www.ccwatershed.org/blog/categories/loft/). The music is not Gregorian chant but contemporary sacred music composed in a way that is oriented toward the chant. Http://www.chantcafe.com/ and http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org are two other websites filled with information about beautiful liturgical music and ways to make it available to parish communities. Here you will find many links to composers, who, for years, have been inspired by the Church’s ideal of bringing to the faithful beautiful sacred music that is easy to sing and music that is synonymous with prayer. Much has been written about the phrase, ‘oriented toward Gregorian chant,’ but it calls for explanation.

Characteristics of Music ‘Oriented toward Gregorian Chant’

To begin with, music of the liturgy must sound different from street music, music of a rock concert, music sung in a discotheque, or music for the movies. It differs from the sounds typically associated with romantic music. It is prayer that is sung, prayer that bears the imprint of silence. Orientation toward Gregorian chant involves melody, rhythm, types of sound and harmonization.


There is a renewed emphasis in two main directions, both essential to the full participation of the faithful in the Mass. First, we are witnessing a renewal in singing the Mass. This means singing the Ordinary parts: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. There are eighteen Mass settings of Gregorian chant Ordinaries in the Liber Usualis, the liturgical book containing the complete Latin settings of Gregorian chant for every Mass of the year. The easiest Mass settings are Mass XVI and Mass XVIII which can be sung during Lent and Advent.

Second, there is a renewed interest in singing the Proper (changeable) parts of the Mass in English because of the rich texts from the Old and New Testaments. Post-conciliar years saw many parishes drop the prescribed Proper parts of the Mass: the Entrance or Introit, the Gradual, the Communion.

Composers of Corpus Christi Watershed

If you wish to hear music whose orientation closely aligns with that of Gregorian chant, you can find it in the music of Kevin Allen, Fr. Samuel Weber Bruce E. Ford, Jeff Ostrowski, Aristotle A. Esguerra, Adam Bartlett, Arlene Oost-Zinner, Brian Michael Page, Richard Rice, Ian Williams, Kathy Pluth, David Frill, Chris Mueller, Richard Clark, Noel Jones, Charles Culbreth, Jacob Brancke, and other composers. Their music is modern, accessible, and beautiful.


The Missalette and the Vatican II Hymnal

There is a growing revulsion among pastors, clergy, and laity at the use of missalettes to which most parishes subscribe. More and more, they see them as a bad investment, a waste of parish funds, already stretched to the limit. These flimsy, disposable paperbacks must be changed a few times a year for the entire parish community. The cost is prohibitive.

These shabby, unattractive throw-aways with God’s word printed between the covers would make a rabbi gasp in disbelief, for the Torah is encased in precious jewels. So too is the book of the Gospels in the Christian East. In the Roman Rite, the Sacramentary and Lectionary are reasonably attractive books. What image does a missalette project? Texts are printed on cheap paper, and most music is unsuitable for worship. “We are teaching ugliness to our Catholics,” writes Alice von Hildebrand, dismayed. Why shouldn’t the faithful hold in their hands a beautifully-bound book containing the word of God from which to sing?

The Vatican II Hymnal is the first hymnal since the Second Vatican Council to include the texts of the sung Propers for every Sunday and major feast. A newly-minted missal, it is beautiful to look at with beautiful music notated within. A parish community can feel proud to hold this splendid example of the Church’s treasury of sacred music, both traditional and contemporary. The paper is of the highest quality with a resilient binding, the designs, beautifully appointed. It has the readings for all Sundays and feast days – the complete cycles, A, B,C. It will be about twenty years or perhaps thirty before another translation is made. Here is music for the new evangelization. Vatican II Hymnal serves as a musical ambassador for Christ.

Read the entire article at CNA.

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