Blogged by James Preece 7 Months ago...
I always thought an in trout was the opposite of an out trout - it is Friday you know, I'm sure fish jokes are allowed. Even really bad ones. Consider it a pennance.
Meanwhile, over on the blog so inoffensive no-one reads it Leutgeb has been taking mind altering drugs or else going to a liturgical conference (what's the difference?) and has penned the following excellent commentary on music at your average everyday run of the mill ho hum Catholic parish...
When did you last sing an Introit.
Quick answer: Sunday, see below and next will be tomorrow in English and to Psalm Tone 8g according to the CMAA cut out and keep guide to psalm tones in the Liber Usualis.
If however, as an unsuspecting layperson in the Archdiocese of Southwark, I was seeking ideas about what I should be doing at an OF Mass, of a Sunday, I might well go here go here.
This would lead me to think that I should be choosing lots of hymns and carefully fitting the words to the readings. Big problem. There are all these other proper texts called PROPERS. They have been chosen by the Church. You can sing them in Latin to chant. You can sing them to any number of different English settings, but PROPER they are.
Choosing hymns is not good. First of all choosing. Who chooses? I have done that lots of times. The Roman Rite lays down all the words, all the gestures of the priest, in the GIRM, I believe, when the congregation stands, sits and kneels etc. Then some random person who may be a priest, but who is probably a layperson chooses some hymns. Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd? One person gets to impose their choices on everyone else? Maybe they spend ages doing it. Maybe they chuck some hymn numbers up just before the bell rings. Maybe they always do some stuff because the guitar chords are easier. Maybe there's a whole committee charged with the choosing. Whatever. The very fact that some people get to choose is bad. We don't make up the liturgy, it is given.
Then hymns. Hymns are not part of the Mass they are plonked in, usually to cover walking around bits. Priest enters and leaves. Offertory procession. People receiving Holy Communion. It's all about walking. They are just killing time music.
Hymns come from Low Mass usage in the Catholic Church, presumably because people didn't like all that silence - ding, genuflect, rustle, crash as kneelers go down, 'In nomine Patre...' Mutter, 'Orate, fratres...'
Hymns are often Protestant. Our hymn books are full of musical clangers and words that have seemingly never been checked for doctrinal fidelity. If you are a musician, it is clear they are written by idiots who do not understand the difference between an organ and a piano. Personally, I like my family to be treated by really well-qualified experienced doctors. In the Catholic Church we entrust music to people who do things which make other people deride the Church. (They don't even need to start on tricky moral stuff. The music, hah!)
Some people think music doesn't matter, it's just a frothy diversion. Lots of people freely tell you how they won't attend a certain Mass because they cannot stand the music. Did you ever hear anyone say that about the flower arrangements? The other people in the church? The quality of votive candles?
Where was I? Oh yes, hymns are often Protestant. Vernacular hymns in England were, it seems, a Methodist invention. Luther was there in Germany ages before selling sola scriptura via metrical ditties. We have the Wesleys. It ain't Catholic. Ben W said on Sat that the Anglicans pondered deeply, as Anglicans do and then introduced them anyway in the 19thC, also as Anglicans tend to do with tricky things. Cf any moral dilemma, you can think of. (That's my take on Anglicanism, btw, certainly not his, he is a true gent and far too polite for that sort of thing.)
As Joseph Cullen pointed out being metrical is not all that Catholic. He described setting the responsorial psalm and how he kept having to change the time sig all the time. Whenever I write them I just seem to go up and down a scale, basically. May as well, oo, use a psalm tone, not that they fit English terribly well.
Modern hymns frequently do not manage to be strophic. That causes untold problems. Note to the publishers of Hymns O&N, if every verse has to be written out separately and the hymn involves a page turn, it's rubbish for congregational use.
Now people often point at Catholics and gleefully go on about how we don't sing. There are lots of reasons for this. I believe, contrary it seems to many important people, that Mr and Mrs Catholic there on a Sunday, maybe with small children in tow, maybe old and frail, maybe on their own, whatever, all know that hymns are not part of the Mass and are just some arbitrary selection. Compare this to other parts of the Mass then, they are of no worth at all. So they don't sing. They try to block them out. They are a distraction. You don'y need this racket if something very serious is going on in your life and most modern hymns are not serious. Look outside, unfortunately many people's lives are touched by tragedy. Modern hymns are not robust enough to take it. Suffering never happens it seems.
Enthusiatic cantor people beware. We don't appreciate you. You distract visually from the liturgical action on the altar. You sing through a microphone lending your sweet voice a harshness and volume that is stressful to listen to. In a Cathedral you are lost in the echo. If you are a woman, why are you wearing something that looks a bit like a cassock? That's just dodgy. very well-meaning, but dodgy. If you like doing solos, get involved in secular music. Seriously. Performing, tis a great thing. Not at Mass.
Mr and Mrs Catholic may not have English as their first language or may not speak English at all. They are now further culturally dislocated from that which they should hold in common with everyone else.
Mr and Mrs Catholic are musical. They are grinding their teeth. Maybe they sing to be helpful. Maybe they stay silent. Maybe they drift away and find a church with helpful music or no music or just drift away. The Church seemingly not caring about its tradition or about really beautiful things.
You have favourite hymns and think they are all being rubbished and I am advocating banning them? No. We can sing them on extra liturgical type dos. Processions. Benediction. Maybe we need hymn singing dos for people who need that sort of thing. Then there's the car, iPod route. They might be really helpful for some people. But we don't all need to hear everyone else's favourites.
We need to hear the music that is proper to this Mass. We can then get on with singing the Ordinary. You know that's the real deal because it's part of the Mass. How often do we get 4 random hymns and muttered ordinary. What does that say about the priority given to the texts?
An autobiographical note. After spending 14 years being educated in Catholic schools, I spent 12 years teaching in them, 8 as a Head of Music. I'm now in my 20th year as a full-time in the class-room Music Teacher. All those hymns you hate. I have played them. I have sung them. I have attempted to get 14 year old boys to sing them. I've tried. I've gone against my better judgement. I am the empirical research.
PLAINCHANT IS THE ONLY WAY FORWARD.
IT IS THE SOUND OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AT PRAYER NOW AND FOR OODLES OF CENTURIES.
THAT AND TOTAL SILENCE WITH MAYBE A THURIBLE SWISHING AND
A BABY COOING.
Dear The Bishop of Middlesbrough, please can you do something about this in our diocese? Perhaps before my children are old? Many thanks...
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
From Jeffrey Tucker...
What is truly tragic is that no one has alerted you to the real significance of chant. It goes far beyond using a chant as one of the four songs you can pick for Mass. The Gregorian chant grew up alongside the Mass itself, one step at a time. Some might date from the early Church, which sang the Psalms exclusively. The tradition developed as the liturgy developed over the next one thousand years as the parts of the Mass were organized and systemized into a liturgical year. There was music to go with the prayers. It was sung by martyrs and saints and heard in all times and all nations where the faith thrived.
The essential musical structure of the Mass as it emerged in the middle ages had an Entrance prayer that was set to chant. This is called the Introit. Sometimes you hear the first word of the chant used to describe the Mass of the day. This is where we get the terms "Gaudete Sunday," "Laetare Sunday," and "Requiem Mass." What is called the "gathering song" or the "processional hymn" is really a replacement for this Introit.
When Vatican II said that the chant should have primacy, what it means is that this Introit should be sung, and that when it is not possible to sing it, the preference for chant still remains.
It is true with other parts of the Mass too. The Offertory is not a musical intermission but the name of a real prayer that is set to music. The same is true of Communion. These are gorgeous chants. Even the Psalm has a melody in the chant books. The more you get to know these treasures, the more it strikes you just how unified the text and the music are. Their assignment is not at all random.
Often the melody clearly reflects the story of the text, so that the melody goes up when speaking of Heaven and down when speaking of humility. The complexity of them can be enrapturing the more you study them. You find beautiful presentations of Gospel narratives and parables. Each chant serves a particular musical function. The Introit and Offertory are processional chants, for example, so they have a forward motion with less elaborate musical expression on individual words. The Psalm chants are more for reflection, so they are long and elaborate.
The chant, then, is not just one choice among many. It is the music of the Mass itself, and the only form of music that truly qualifies by definition. The chants mentioned above are called "propers" and they change week to week. There are also chants for the "ordinary" of the Mass, so-called because their text remains the same. There are parts for the people: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Agnus Dei. You have heard a few of these, most likely the ones people have started to sing for Lent. But the Church has given us fully 18 sets of these pieces of music, and you can see from their structure that they are intended for everyone to sing.
In the experience of our parish, people can pick up these ordinary chants rather quickly. They love singing them. They don't need accompaniment. They use the human voice alone, the very instrument that God has given all of us. This way there is an absence of elitism in this music. It needs no specialists who know how to play piano and guitar and drums. Actually, you don't even need the music really. In fact, for the first thousand years of Christianity, the chant was sung without being written out in a way that could be widely distributed. It was learned and carried forward by frequency of use, the way people learn "Praise and Worship" music today.
There are other marks of chant that make it distinctive. It lacks a regular beat-style rhythm such as that we hear in rock, country, soul, blues, or any other style. It is what is called plainsong, so there is an underlying pulse but it doesn't cause you to want to tap your toe or dance. What it does do is draw the senses upward toward the Heavens. It assists in the goal of all liturgy, which is to take us out of time and help us pray and listen to eternal things. In contrast, music with a beat keeps us grounded and internal.
Another feature of chant is its humility. A major problem with Praise and Worship music is that it tends to focus everyone on the person doing the performing. The bands are featured in the front of the church. The band members are showered with complements. The singing style elicits a kind of egoism that probably makes you uncomfortable but is integral to popular styles. Chant is completely different because it does not seek to put the talent of the singer on exhibit. Instead, it is all about community prayer. The ego is buried. It doesn't unleash the self but rather requires a submission of self to holiness. In this way, it is like the faith: as St. John Baptist said, let me decrease and let him increase in me. This is what the chant does – what the chant requires.
You are right to suspect that chant requires a substantial change of pace. It is not just a matter of substituting one song for another. The chant leads the embrace of a completely different approach to liturgy itself. The music serves the liturgy and the liturgy serves God. Where does that leave the singers and the community? Precisely where we should be: not as consumers but as servants.
You are all too aware that you were cheated out of a robust form of Catholicism when growing up, not by design but merely because of the unfortunate timing. These were difficult days. In the same way that many aspects of the faith were not well presented to you, the music of the Church has not been presented to you either. But you were born into these times, as a musician, for a reason. Perhaps you are being called to make a difference.
The Pope has made the restoration of sacred music a centerpiece of his liturgical goals. He speaks about the issue often, and has written so much about it. Perhaps it is time to consider that he is onto something profoundly important here.
I don't know what I can add to that...
Is it not enough to cheat my generation? Must we cheat my children as well?
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
This is a lie. The photos are fake. Do not believe it.
Children cannot possibly learn Chant.
You'll be expecting Leona to walk next!
Blogged by James Preece 4 Years ago...
Learning to sing, is, of course, impossible. Which is why this course is a waste of time:
Learn to Sing
A free 5 week course for all ages, aimed at newcomers to singing and those who have not sung for a while.
Starting on Tuesday 23rd September, 7pm at the Main Hall, Brittain Building, Teesside University, Borough Road.
If it were possible for people to learn to sing (which of course, it isn't) then when when our parish was faced with an absence of musicians, people could have simply learned to sing (but that can't be done) instead of it being seen of a desperate situation requiring a digital organist because "people can't sing if there is no music".
If, like me, you're not part of the current loser generation of rapidly ageing people who seem to think they invented sex (and English) and the world started in 1962 then you probably don't find the idea of experimenting with things that were commonplace in the Church for say, hundreds of years, terrifying.
If that's you, then you might be interested in this: An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes.
But remember, only people that can already sing can sing and those people just don't exist in the Church these days. If they did, you'd see them on X-Factor.