13 August 2012

Has Chant ever been the 'norm' at Mass in recent centuries?

Paul Inwood has initiated an interesting discussion at Pray Tell about the repeated calls by the Magisterium of the Church for Chant to be 'restored' to a place of primacy in Church music, especially at Mass. These calls, he says, indicate that it has been a very long time since chant was the 'norm' at Mass.

He gathers a useful set of quotations from official documents, but reads them in an odd way. The more they say that Chant should be given pride of place, the more he thinks that Chant does not have pride of place, because if it it did they would not need to insist on it so much. One confusion here is that, as Ben Whitworth of the Orkney Schola points out in the comments, he fails to distinguish what is NORMATIVE from what is NORMAL. Chant is the norm, and has been the norm; that is not a statistical claim but a rule and a value-judgement. Tra la sollicitudini and Guéranger, when they called for the restoration of chant, were re-articulating a norm of Catholic worship which had forgotten by all too many.

There are many such norms today...

But another confusion in Inwood's post is his identification of 'chant' with the authentic chant melodies of the Graduale Romanum. He points out that the Ratisbon ('Pustet') Gradule in use until the Graduale Romanum of 1907, and Pustet's predecessors going back to the Rennaisance, were simplified (or 'bastardised', as he calls them). We can't blame people for not using an edition which had not yet been printed, however: before 1907 there was no 1907 edition, well, obviously! And for all its deficiencies, the Pustet edition was (a) recognisably Chant, and (b) widely used. So Inwood's claim that chant settings were not widely used before the Solemnes restoration simply falls on its face.

Similarly, he dismisses the simplified versions of the chant settings used later. He doesn't name it, but the 'Rossini' propers are the obvious example of this in the English-speaking world; they set all the propers of the year to psalm-tones. Their use to the exclusion of the authentic (or indeed simplified) Gregorian melodies is of course very regrettable. But it is still chant.

Chant was normative at the eve of the Second Vatican Council in a very practical way: in accordance with the magisterial documents, it was being taught in Catholic schools, and the places where the liturgy was being celebrated with full splendour, such as monasteries and cathedrals, chant was being sung with the best available editions and to a high standard. In other places this may not have been possible, any more than the normative form of the Mass - Missa Solemnis, with priest, deacon, and subdeacon - could not always be celebrated in small parishes. But even today, when chant has almost disappeared from Catholic liturgical life, outside of the Traditional Mass, it is still normative for Catholic liturgy, for theological and aesthetic reasons, and this normative role is respected by those musicians and composers who try to use chant in the liturgy and who use chant as an inspiration. And it is being flouted by those who do the opposite.

01 August 2012

Newman Institute Conference, Sept 21-22

JHNILM Conference September 21st /22nd 2012
at the Oratory, Birmingham

In September, the Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music celebrates its first birthday, and the second anniversary of the visit to the Oratory by Pope Benedict on the occasion of the beatification of Blessed Cardinal Newman, founder of the Oratory and Patron of the Institute.

To mark the occasion the JHNILM is holding a two day conference at the Oratory, on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd September.

Speakers include Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, currently the Executive Director of ICEL, who has had varied experience as a professional musician, schoolteacher and chaplain, and who will explore the way “Towards a new Culture of Liturgical Music”.

Mgr. Andrew Burnham, is also a distinguished musician, author and former Anglican Bishop of Ebbsfleet, will speak about the musical life and aims of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, of which he is a member.

The outstanding organist and choral conductor Joseph Cullen, former Organ Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, who has held posts in Leeds, Glasgow and Westminster Cathedrals and has directed the London Symphony Chorus and Huddersfield Choral Society for many years, is addressing the Conference on the subject of “Stripping the Cladding”, in which he examines the search for an authentic voice in today's Roman Rite.

Ben Whitworth, assistant editor of the liturgical journal “Usus Antiquior” will talk on the “Use and abuse of Hymns”, exploring their true historical place in the Liturgy and ways in which they have sometimes come to be misused.

Jeremy de Satgé, founder of “The Music Makers”, singer, composer and choir conductor, will speak on “How to get Catholics to sing, or why we should sing the Mass”.

Jeremy White, the internationally renowned operatic soloist and a Cantor of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, founded by the acclaimed plainchant Scholar, Dr. Mary Berry, will speak about his own experience as a church musician.

There will also be classes in practical liturgical musicianship presented by the speakers. Joseph Cullen and Jeremy de Satgé will take classes of children and introduce them to liturgical music and the art of singing it. Joseph Cullen will give direction to those who wish to learn more about the art of liturgical organ playing, particularly the accompaniment of plainchant.

First Vespers of the 25th Sunday of the Year will be sung in Latin and English Chant and directed by Philip Duffy KSG, who was for thirty years Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, and who now lectures in music at Liverpool Hope University.

The Conference ends with a performance of Catholic liturgical Music in the Oratory Church by the Sixteen under the direction of Harry Christophers CBE.

Attendance at the Conference and concert costs £65 and can be booked by telephone on 0121 454 0808, or by writing to JHNILM, c/o The Oratory, 141 Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UE, or online at admin@oratorymusic.org.uk. You can visit the Institute's website at: www.oratorymusic.org.uk