Friday, February 02, 2007

Eleven Myths of Liturgy

The Adoremus Bulletin usually has good stuff, and this is no exception. The author is a 20-year veteran parish musician who has obviously read the documents--not just rolled over for the Liturgeist Crowd of American Idol rejects. Here are the Myths and some comments:

1) There is no need for a choir in today’s parish. If you have one, its only function is to support congregational singing.

But the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says: “Among the faithful, the schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical function, ensuring that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chants, are properly carried out and fostering the active participation of the faithful through the singing”.

2. The liturgy requires a leader of song.

Regarding the “leader of song”, the GIRM says: “It is fitting that there be a cantor or a choir director to lead and sustain the people’s singing. When in fact there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to lead the different chants, with the people taking part.”

Note that the GIRM specifies that it is up to the cantor to lead the singing when there is no choir. I served at a parish for many years that had no “leader of song;” instead the congregational singing, which was unusually robust for a Catholic church, was led by a trained choir and an accomplished organist who knew how to simultaneously guide and support the congregation. (See, e.g., St. Anthony's on 9th and Mitchell, for a local example.)

3. Mass must open with a congregational gathering song.

A congregational hymn or song as the Entrance chant has become de rigueur, yet it is not required by the GIRM. The American version of the GIRM permits it but only as the last of four options.

4. The nine-fold Kyrie, required in the pre-Vatican II Mass, is obsolete.

But the GIRM says: “As a rule, each acclamation (of the Kyrie) is sung or said twice, though it may be repeated several times, by reason of the character of the various languages, as well as of the artistry of the music or of other circumstances.”

5. The Gloria is strictly a congregational part.

Yet the GIRM states: “The Gloria is intoned by the priest or, if appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir; but it is sung either by everyone together, or by the people alternately with the choir or by the choir alone.”

6. When the psalm between the readings is sung, it must be sung responsorially.

It is preferable that the responsorial Psalm be sung, at least as far as the people’s response is concerned. Hence, the psalmist, or the cantor of the Psalm, sings the verses of the Psalm from the ambo or another suitable place. The entire congregation remains seated and listens but, as a rule, takes part by singing the response, except when the Psalm is sung straight through without a response. (Of course, a trained cantor is necessary.)

7. The readings, Creed, and general intercessions should not be sung.

Concerning the general intercessions, the GIRM says: “The intentions are announced from the ambo or from another suitable place, by the deacon or by a cantor, a lector, or one of the lay faithful.”

Regarding the Creed, the GIRM says “If it is sung, it is begun by the priest or, if this is appropriate, by a cantor or by the choir. It is sung, however, either by all together or by the people alternating with the choir.”

8. The Lamb of God is a litany that properly includes tropes.

There is simply no provision in the liturgical rules for any changes or insertions to the text of the Lamb of God, except for the option to repeat the petition as often as needed to cover the fraction rite.

9. The congregation must sing during Communion.

In describing the Communion chant, the GIRM says: “This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or cantor with the people.”

10. The time before Mass and the time after Communion are ideal opportunities for the choir to sing by itself.

It is clear that the song after Communion is to be sung by the congregation, not by the choir. It is not a time for a “performance” by the choir. Nor is it necessarily a time of meditation (one frequently hears mention of “the Meditation Song”), since a “psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn” may be sung.

I like to call this “throwing a bone to the choir”. The choir has its own proper liturgical role. It does not exist to “fill in the gaps”.

11. The most important congregational parts of the Mass are the hymns and songs.

But the GIRM says: “The acclamations and the responses of the faithful to the priest’s greetings and prayers constitute that level of active participation that the gathered faithful are to contribute in every form of the Mass, so that the action of the entire community may be clearly expressed and fostered.”

In addition to their generally astounding ignorance of the documents governing liturgy, most current "music directors" have an abysmal (or worse) knowledge of the Church's patrimony of music for the liturgy.

But they make up for it with insufferable sanctimony and condescension!

No comments: