Mr Tucker is a little too hopeful, me thinks…

I picked up this story on Fr Z’s blog recently, who linked to this post by Jeffrey Tucker on his blog “Chant Cafe”: “Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal”.

Tucker is a great advocate of (1) banning all metrical hymnody at mass and (2) reviving in its place the traditional Gregorian chants for the liturgy. We do not entirely agree with him on his first “great object”, but we do agree that something should be done along the lines of the second.

Nevertheless, we think he is being rather hopeful when he claims that there is a “dramatic” difference between the old GIRM and the new one, a change which he sees as favouring the traditional chant over hymnody. And we are not alone in this skepticism. Fr Anthony Ruff OSB (who recently packed his bat and ball and walked off the field in protest at the new missal translatoin) agrees in this post on the PrayTell blog.

Keep in mind, folks, that both these guys are Americans writing about the US version of GIRM. It is one of the rather untidy facts of the continuing liturgical confusion in the Church that the Vatican releases a standard GIRM and the local Bishop’s Conferences each make their own version of it. Ironically this is one case where the local Bishops Conference trumps the original Vatican version – although it must be said that the Vatican has to approve the local variation/translation before it is allowed to be enacted as liturgical law.

In any case, the Australian version of GIRM still uses the word “song” (rather than “chant”) to translate “cantus” in the fourth option for the Entrance Chant given in paragraph 48. Nor do we yet have a definitive list of “approved” songs from our Bishops Conference (I don’t think they have one in the US either): a fact which makes compliance with this fourth option rather difficult. But compliance with options 1-3 is not simple and straightforward either.

I haven’t seen the new missals, so I don’t know how they will handle the “Entrance Antiphon”, “Communion Antiphon” etc. But GIRM, whether the Vatican, US, or Australian version, clearly favours the use of the traditional chants in some form or other at the Entrance, the service of the Word, the Offertory and the Communion. The problem is that no one appears to have gone out of their way to make these chants readily available to parish priests or musicians. The missals we are currently preparing to throw away – sorry, I meant “put in the archives” – failed us miserably on this score by only giving the “antiphons” to the chants for these parts of the liturgy, without any indication that they were in fact “antiphons” to something else (which was missing from our books). In a recent class on the new translation of the liturgy, I pointed out to my students the requirements of the GIRM regarding these chants at Mass, and they were truly surprised: they had never even heard of the “Entrance Chant”, let alonge the Offertory or the Communion Chant.

Would it not be a wonderful thing if the traditional psalm verses and antiphons for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion chants were made as clear and accessible as the Psalm chant currently is in our missals and parish musical resources? The settings need not be Gregorian (Jeffrey would not approve!), but could be in the variety of forms that we currently have for our Psalmody. Is there any reason, indeed, why paraphrases of the psalm texts and antiphons in hymnic form could not be used? (Again, I know, Jeffrey would not approve).

I have lately made it my practice, when chosing music for the liturgy when I am rostered on as cantor in my parish, to consult the various online available resources regarding the traditional chants, and attempted to find music that at least approximates these chants. I have found the following resources helpful:

The Anglican Use Gradual
The American Gradual
The Liber Usualis
The Gregorian Missal
The Graduale Romanum (1961)
The Graduale Romanum Index for 1974 Missal

Does anyone know any other good sources available on the internet?

UPDATE: Charles from Boston wrote in to draw our attention to “The Simple English Propers” for the Ordinary Form of the Mass. It’s available in book form from Amazon for about $17 and free to download from the Musica Sacra Website. They even have “practice videos”!

Robert has also given us the link to the Chabanel Psalms, another good resource.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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23 Responses to Mr Tucker is a little too hopeful, me thinks…

  1. Stephen K says:

    No, I don’t know any resources but I like your approach to the matter.

  2. Charles G says:

    Don’t forget the new Simple English Propers by Adam Bartlett. These and a plethora of other free downloadable resources are available on the CMAA website:

    • Schütz says:

      Absolutely! Thanks for this link. I knew about the project, but am thrilled that it has now been completed. I hope that it complies with the new translations of the Propers? Do you have any information about this? I can remember writing to Adam about it when he began, and I don’t know where it led. But also, great kudos to Adam and the others who worked on this for making it freely available on the web. Also good to see that it has been published in book form (see Amazon, folks). This should be widely promoted.

      • Charles G says:

        Hi David,

        The SEP uses the English translations that are in the Solesmes-prepared “Gregorian Missal” of the Latin Graduale antiphons, which in some cases are different texts from the entrance and communion antiphons that appear in the Missal. The latter antiphons have been newly translated in the new missal translation, but the Graduale antiphons do not appear to have an official English translation (other than the Gregorian Missal, which is an approved Solesmes book — I understand Solesmes does have some kind of official status as regards the liturgical chant books). It’s not quite clear to me the provenance of Solesmes’ Gregorian Missal English antiphon translations. With respect to the Psalms, the SEP uses the Revised Grail psalms that have been granted recognitio for the US and are eventually supposed to be used in the new US Lectionary (and I believe the new NRSV Lectionary for Australia that is in the works).

  3. Stephen H says:

    The ACBC website carries the following information on the pages of the National Liturgical Music Board:
    At the May 2009 plenary meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the list produced by the National Liturgical Music Board, of Recommended Hymns and liturgical songs required by “Liturgiam Authenticam” was presented to the bishops, who endorsed and approved it, in order to seek the formal “recognitio” from the Congregation for Divine Worship.
    There are links to lists of hymns / songs for download in PDF.

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, I know about these lists, Fr Stephen – I should probably put a link to them under my liturgical resources.

      The only difficulty is that, from what I know, Rome hasn’t given this list its required “recognitio”. That raises an interesting question about its applicability to option 4 in para. 48 of GIRM: it has, after all, been approved by the Bishops.

  4. Robert says:

    This website might be worth consulting. It supplies various (presumably out-of-copyright) organ accompaniments, in conventional musical notation rather than neumes, for several different Credo melodies:

    Frankly I find myself at rather a loss to understand Dr Tucker’s full-on aversion to non-plainchant hymnody. It’s hardly a state secret that at Masses well before Vatican II, parishes in various Catholic countries had their own vernacular hymns; and while some of them were on the musically saccharine side (I would put Mother Dear, O Pray For Me in this category), most, at least in my experience, weren’t. Pace the implication of Dr Tucker, the Vatican II liturgical teaching that “Gregorian chant is to have pride of place” is not synonymous with “Gregorian chant is to exclude everything else.”

    • Schütz says:

      thanks for this important link too, Robert.

      I agree with you: “pride of place” does not equal “exclusive”. But I think his point is that currently hymnody “exclusively” replaces the traditional chants. I don’t think we solve matters by going from one extreme to the other!

  5. On the question of metrical hymns, I contend that the Reformation did the entire Western Church a great service, and the inclusion of suitable hymnody in the celebration of the Roman Rite is — in my experience — one of the essential building blocks of truly outstanding parochial liturgy. The purists, of whom Mr. Tucker is one, wage war on hymnody because they are purists. They also disdain the accompaniment of plainchant even by the organ because they are purists. But I find that unaccompanied plainchant is simply a non-starter in parish churches, and it foolhardy to insist on ideological purity in such matters.

    At my parish in South Carolina, the Entrance, Offertory and Communion antiphons are sung unaccompanied by the choir, and then the choir and congregation sing together a metrical hymn. The Ordinary is usually or completely Latin plainchant, but since we want the entire congregation to sing, it is also accompanied. The sound of a church full of Catholics belting out the Missa de Angelis and the best of English-language hymody in a place like Greenville, South Carolina is evidence I offer in contest with the purists.

    • Schütz says:

      That seems to me like liturgy made in heaven, Fr Newman!

      • PM says:

        Indeed it does.

        On the subject of accompaniment, I agree entirely about the self-defeating purism that drives out the good for the sake of the perfect. But I must enter a caveat, having recently been subjected to a throwback to the 1950s and the murdered Missa de Angelis. Sung even tolerably well, it is exquisite – a foretaste of heaven. But a bad – i.e. too slow – organ accompaniment turns it onto a dirge to listen to and a breathless stagger to sing. And the besetting sin of a certain type of parish organist is playing everything too slowly!

    • Jim Ryland says:

      I read Jeffrey Tucker’s comments on a regular basis. Some things that he says are excellent and others leave me cold. When it comes to liturgy and its music, I am a great believer in the idea the Holy Father put forth, that liturgies need to enrich one another, not compete. In truth, that is how our liturgies have always evolved. Good and worshipful practices are not restricted to a single parish, a single diocese, nor a single denomination.

      Congregational hymnody far predates the reformation. We have collections, beginning in the 10th century, from Germany, Austria, France, The Netherlands, and even Italy. If one were to produce a list of the 10 most beloved hymns, more than half of them would have their origins in those countries and predate any Reformation. The unfortunate thing is that the singing of these hymns began to decline in the Counter-Reformation period but were picked up by the reformers. The Latin See has (with some notable exceptions) not produced much congregational music that is worthy since that time. The Anglicans, Lutherans, and Calvinists have been very busy creating some of the finest hymn-texts and hymn-tunes. Good theology and good music know no denominational boundaries.

      The via media is a sound path. To reject what is excellent, but has not been created by “our denomination”, is absurd. Worse yet, taking those great hymns and bowdlerizing them to make them appear like “our denomination” simply destroys great works of piety and art.

      Mr. Tucker decries the “hymn sandwich”. I applaud it, although I usually use only two. It has been my practice to chant the Introit from the back of the nave, whether the Mass is the EF or OF. That is followed by a great processional hymn. The end of Mass is the opposite “bookend” with a strong recessional hymn and either the dismissal or the Last Gospel done from the rear of the nave.

      I have always disliked Communion Hymns when sung during the administration of the Eucharist. They are simply distracting and shatter the meditative ambiance that surrounds sacramental reception. Juggling a hymnal at that point is simply annoying. Let the choir and/or organist set the tone with a lovely anthem or voluntary.

      I’ve always varied the Mass settings depending on the liturgy. Sometimes it’s exclusively Gregorian with the congregation joining those sections that they know. At other times I will use a masterwork setting, and occasionally one of the few good congregational Masses. Most congregations, like their Anglican brothers, have little difficulty with the Merbecke. Luther realized the power of congregational singing and used it well.

      For 50 years I have filled Masses with chant, Anglican anthems and chant, Lutheran chorales and cantatas, Spirituals, Motets, chant from the Uniates, and glorious music from the Russian Orthodox Church. Father Hopkins said it best; “Glory be to God for dappled things…”.

  6. Robert says:

    Fr Newman writes: “I find that unaccompanied plainchant is simply a non-starter in parish churches.”

    Several times I have found unaccompanied plainchant to be problematic even – or rather especially – in churches where the traditional Latin Mass is standard. There’s a simple reason for the problem: it’s all too easy for the pitch to go waaaaaaaay flat when choir and congregation sing chant unaccompanied. (Unless, I suppose, by some miracle everyone in both choir and congregation has perfect pitch.) Including the organ as backing for the chant prevents the collapse in pitch from occurring.

    My apologies, incidentally: I could’ve sworn I’d read somewhere that Jeffrey Tucker had a doctorate, but his Wikipedia entry, which I’ve now consulted, makes no mention of one.

    • Schütz says:

      Harking back to the Reformation (which Fr Newman mentioned), it is a strength of Lutheran liturgy (as I knew it as a child and still experience it from time to time) that the chant was conducted with organ accompaniment. Occasionally, when we had no organist, these well known chants were done unaccompanied, and that made a nice change, but the congregation has to really know it to “belt it out” well!

  7. matthias says:

    Schutz where has Fr Ruff now taken his bat and ball .

    • Schütz says:

      He was a member of the music team for the new missal (a very small and select group, but including our local Cathedral capellmeister, Dr Cox) . He has resigned from this position, and for his role in promoting the new translation in the US, after he decided that he couldn’t in conscience give his full support to the new translation. So he hasn’t so much gone anywhere, as withdrawn from the game.

  8. matthias says:

    Perhaps he will become a minister of the EF

    • Schütz says:

      Well, he certainly has the knowledge and ability to celebrate one!

      • John Nolan says:

        But not the inclination. AWR is moving to the left even as we speak, and his blog is edited by a female self-styled liturgist who habitually removes comments not in accordance with right-on liberal opinion.

  9. John Nolan says:

    There was a letter in yesterday’s Catholic Herald from a gentleman who took exception to some remarks made by James MacMillan in the previous week’s edition. He admits he does not know MacMillan’s music, and his comments, undoubtedly sincere, need consideration, as they encapsulate what I suspect most Mass-going Catholics experience in the liturgy as celebrated not just in the UK but throughout the English-speaking world.

    “… the music so lovingly provided in many ordinary parishes … comes from children and enthusiastic members of music groups … They may not always hit every note, and they may play ‘new music’ which Mr MacMillan obviously despises, but week in, week out, they are there at Mass providing music for the rest of us.”

    And there’s the rub. For ‘new music’ read ‘pop music’ – the correspondent seems not to realise that MacMillan writes ‘new music’- and note the assumption that they are providing music for the congregation; no mention as to whether the music is related to the liturgy or not, or if the congregation join in; in my experience neither is the case.

    I do not frequent such Masses; they are usually accompanied by divers liturgical abuses and I try to avoid the occasion of sin, in this case anger; but, sad to say, this is the liturgical fare served up to most Catholics, which is why I give my three times three to Jeffrey Tucker (and, of course, Pope Benedict).

  10. Tony Bartel says:

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt as I now worship in the Byzantine rite, However, when I was preparing Western liturgies I found Paul F. Ford’s book “By Flowing Waters” (Liturgical Press: 1999) helpful.

    It is an English version of the Graduale Simplex. It is based on the Gregorian chants and the antiphons are easily picked up by the people. It can be sung unaccompanied.

    Note: there are a few translation issues to be careful of (for example, the NRSV is the source for Scriptural texts).

    Much of Gregorian chant is way beyond the average parish in Australia. I would think a book like this would be a way to give Gregorian chant pride of place in an ordinary parish setting. My ideal for a western rite liturgy in the average parish would be for a book like this to form the basis of what was done and for it to be supplemented by other approved hymns and songs.

    • John Nolan says:

      Tony, I agree and disagree. The Propers from the GR are difficult in varying degrees but they were designed for a monastic schola with more complex parts for the cantors. The parts for the priest and deacon are very simple as they have other things to do, and the congregational responses are likewise. Even simple Propers, in Latin or the vernacular, are the preserve of the schola for the simple reason that you can’t expect congregations to learn something new every week. Gregorian settings of the Common can be learnt by congregations by dint of repetition (which was always the case) and the provision of square-note notation is a useful aide-memoire for those (the majority) who don’t read music. Gloria XV and Credo I, the default settings in the new translation can and should be taught in English and Latin (the melodies for both are almost identical) and the chants for the priest/people dialogues, taken as they are from those produced for the Latin NO by Solesmes, are similarly interchangeable.

      Unfortunately, we are already seeing settings of the new texts in the over-accompanied and saccharine pop-music style being pushed by bishops’ conferences (e.g. Canada). Despite the efforts of James MacMillan, Mgr Wadsworth and Fr Guy Nicholls, I fear the opportunity of improving music at parish level will be missed. And we shall all be the poorer for it.

  11. Robert says:

    “Much of Gregorian chant is way beyond the average parish in Australia.” Really? It wasn’t, from what I’ve been told, in Australian parishes before Vatican II. I’ve met quite a few Catholics who were around then, and who were not by any means living in wealthy city areas, who sang such chant periodically, if not indeed regularly.

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