Thursday, 7 July 2011

Confused about Which Mass Settings to Use?

Over at Pray Tell, Fr Anthony Ruff OSB has produced a gem by compiling a very helpful list of new/revised settings of the Ordinary of the Mass which he intends to use in due course.  This should not deter you from seeking out other Mass settings, but in all likelihood you will not be any the poorer for not so doing, such is the breadth of his list.

A few points:
(a) It appears that almost all of the settings he will be using are American, which might pose a problem for parishes in other English speaking countries where the local bishops have endorsed and/or are recommending local settings;
(b) the sheer number of new congregational Mass settings from America is bewildering - this has its benefits (we all like variety, creativity ought to be allowed to flourish, and a given parish is more easily able to find a setting which is 'right' for it) BUT also has its disadvantages (it seems to thwart the admirable hope of bishops and many people that a common repertoire be established through-out the English speaking world, or at least within the one country)
(c) it's excellent to see that the Missal chants are being used and that they are listed first (as I have mentioned previously, they should be the 'generic' or 'default' settings in a parish in that they should not be entirely overlooked by any parish in favour of other Mass settings)
(d) the quality of many of the settings is surprisingly satisfactory
(e) I re-iterate my claim that no injustice is done if only the Mystery of Faith acclamations from the Missal are used.  Then we might actually have one part of the Mass which is common through-out the whole English speaking world all of the time)

Based on this, for parishes outside America, how is this for a rough plan?
- Implement the Missal chants as the 'generic' Ordinary (and alternate between the English and Latin settings where the latter are provided in the English Missal) [and make sure that the words AND notation are provided in the pews!!]
- When those are thoroughly learnt (but before they become tedious through excessive repetition), introduce another Mass setting recommended by your local Bishops' Conference (after consultation between the parish priest, the qualified musicians in the parish and other interested parties - ideally a good sample of parishioners of varying musical ability who will be expected to sing the setting) [and make sure that the words AND notation are provided in the pews!!]
- Perhaps introduce another recommended setting in due course (or one from another country if this is permitted) - or as many settings as your parish can cope with
- Give serious consideration to introducing one/a few of the Latin settings of the Ordinary from the Graduale Romanum.  Mass VIII is widely known, Mass XVII during Advent and Lent is easy to sing (and there is no Gloria during these seasons so the task of learning these chants is made considerably easier), etc - this links us to our rich musical/liturgical hertiage and also provides another opportunity for unaccompanied singing
- Where applicable, encourage the parish priest to let you (a competent organist and/or choral director) set up a schola capable of singing the Propers and more advanced settings of the Oridnary (from the rich musical inheritance of the Church, or new choral settings)
- Encourage the congregational singing of simple Propers in the vernacular where singing them from the Graduale Romanum is infeasible