Monday, July 28, 2014

A Month of Latin Masses

It just struck me that I've had a rare blessing: all the Sunday Masses I've attended this month have been celebrated in the Extraordinary Form (to use the expression given us by Benedict XVI of ever-blessed memory; strange to think he's still alive). On the 6th of July, I attended Mass at Lewisham (a Missa cantata), while visiting Sydney; on the 13th, I M.C.'d our first ever Latin Mass in Launceston (again, a sung Mass); on the 20th, I again M.C.'d for Fr Rowe at his Missa cantata in Hobart; and just yesterday, being in Melbourne for an important but rather sad reason, I assisted at the Solemn High Mass in Caulfield. It was a particular pleasure to hear the verse of the Offertory sung: I do like a Mass sung in plainchant throughout (Mass XI and Credo IV, plus all the propers of course, and a hymn in honour of the Sacred Heart at Communion, as its doxology revealed). Assuming I make it to Hobart this weekend (as I may decide to stay here, given that a relative will be recovering from an operation), that will make it five Sunday Latin Masses in a row – what a blessing!

The Sunday Offertory and verse (quoting Daniel iii, 40-42) was as follows, aptly paralleling the prayer In spiritu humilitatis prayed by the priest during the offertory rite:
Sicut in holocáusto aríetum et taurórum, et sicut in míllibus agnórum pínguium: sic fiat sacrifícium nostrum in conspéctu tuo hódie, ut pláceat tibi: * Quia non est confúsio confidéntibus in te, Dómine. V. Et nunc séquimur te in toto corde et timémus te et quærimus fáciem tuam, Dómine: nec confúndas nos, sed fac nobis juxta mansuetúdinem tuam et secúndum multitúdinem misericórdiæ tuæ. * Quia non est confúsio confidéntibus in te, Dómine. 
As in a holocaust of rams and bullocks, and as in thousands of fat lambs: so let our sacrifice be made in thy sight this day, that it may please thee: * For there is no confusion to them that trust in thee, O Lord. V. And now we follow thee with all our heart and we fear thee, and seek thy face, O Lord: put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness and according to the multitude of thy mercies. * For there is no confusion to them that trust in thee, O Lord.
Note that there is a divergence between the Missal and the Offertoriale here: the Missal reads holocaustis, the chant books, holocausto. There are a small number of such variants that were approved by the Holy See when Solemnes restored the plainchant repertoire.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Longest and Shortest Ordinaries

Thanks to dear friends, our first Launceston Missa cantata since Vatican II was graced with Byrd's Mass for three voices. Before their most generous offer, I had initially planned on our own humble schola singing the so-called Missa primitiva, which consists of the oldest and shortest and easiest settings of the Ordinary: Kyrie XVI, Gloria XV, Credo I (though I was planning on using III), Sanctus XVIII and Agnus Dei XVIII. They are syllabic, with only one note per syllable in the main.

According to a handy website giving the texts and sound files of all the settings of the Kyriale, these would indeed be quite short and easy to sing, and in total would take a bit over 9 minutes (nearly half of that for the Creed). One can fruitfully compare them to that mainstay of times past, Mass VIII De Angelis with Credo III, which the same site indicates would take nearly 12 minutes to sing. (The website only gives the Kyrie in the modern sixfold form; I estimated the length of the traditional ninefold form.)

But I began to wonder, what would be the longest composite Ordinarium Missæ? Having spent some time looking over the chants of the eighteen Mass Ordinaries, with their variants and extra chants ad libitum, it seems to me that the following (with performance times in brackets, supplied from the above website) would constitute the longest Ordinary, taking nearly 17 and a half minutes to sing:
  • Kyrie II (3:06)
  • Gloria III ad libitum (5:01)
  • Credo VI (5:56)
  • Sanctus VII (1:33)
  • Agnus Dei V (1:47)
All of these are neumatic chants, including long melismas on some syllables. It is interesting to compare the length of these to that of Byrd's polyphonic setting: unusually for polyphony, Byrd's setting of the Kyrie is only threefold, and very short (thus usually supplemented, as at our Mass, with six plainsong invocations); his Gloria and Credo are quite similar in length to the above lengthiest plainchant settings; but even his three-voice settings of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei are twice as long as those of the longest Gregorian ones.

All things being equal, I do prefer a Sanctus (with its Benedictus) that is long enough to occupy the time taken for the silent recitation of the Canon of the Mass – which is only possible if it is sung in polyphony. At the same time, many polyphonic Agnus Dei's are too long, being evidently intended for use at Masses where only the priest communicates, and no one else.

Speaking as an M.C., the Agnus Dei should ideally fill up the time between the priest singing Pax Domini and, after his preparatory prayers and reception of Communion, his turning to the congregation holding the Host and saying Ecce Agnus Dei. At least it should last until the bell is run thrice at his triple Domine non sum dignus, immediately prior to his Communion. Depending on the speed or otherwise of the celebrant, some plainchant settings are too short.

The longest composite Ordinary, assembled above, would also be suitable for a celebration of the Extraordinary Form in Eastern Rite lands, where the sensibility of local Uniates and Orthodox persons of good will would demand a lengthy Mass – one in which the Introit would be sung with several psalm verses if need be, the Gradual would have its response repeated after the verse, the Offertory would be sung with all its ancient verses, and the Communion chanted with selected psalm verses also…

UPDATE: The postconciliar Kyriale simplex contains an assemblage of simpler settings of the Ordinary, some from among the Masses and ad libitum chants otherwise given in the Liber, etc., plus a few simple forms of the Kyrie and Agnus Dei taken from chant settings of several litanies; the most noteworthy, however, is what is given as Credo "IV" more ambrosiano, which ought really be called Credo VIII (as the older books contain Credo's I to VI, plus Credo VII as an insert, as I have in my Liber) – it is the Ambrosian chant setting of the Creed (simply replacing the Ambrosian variant words ad cælos with the standard Roman in cælum), a simple note per syllable setting, with the only flourishes at all being at the very end: two notes on the first syllable of sæculi and nine for the Amen. I calculate that this should take about 3:20 to sing; and a recording of Ambrosian chant that I possess includes it, the elapsed time for chanting it proving to be 3:36 in fact.

So the very shortest Ordinary would be the Missa primitiva referenced above, but with Credo "VIII" more ambrosiano.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

To Hobart

I'm almost better from a nasty cold (or bronchitis almost) that's been plaguing me for eight days.

I didn't make it to Hobart last Sunday, but did manage to MC our special Launceston Mass, which was very well attended, with all present very moved and rapt in the sublime worship, God be praised. All thanks to our visiting priest, Fr Rowe, the marvellous choir – Byrd in three, plus the chant propers and several motets – and servers! I also served his private Low Mass on Monday morning, which was very special.

I head down to Hobart this afternoon, as Fr Rowe will again celebrate Mass for our community at Sacred Heart, New Town, at 10:30 am tomorrow, Sunday the 20th of July, before he concludes his visit to Tasmania and returns to the West on Monday.

As he has recently celebrated his 20th anniversary of ordination, do pray that he be ever more and more a priest after the Heart of Christ. And please offer prayers for Mother Stephanie, at our Launceston Carmel, as she is very frail and aged, and her long life appears to be drawing to that end which we all must face ere long.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Off to Sydney and Melbourne

It's been a while since I last posted, but various matters have taken up my time.

To-night, I'm off to Sydney for the weekend, then I'll fly down to Melbourne for the week, and be back here on Saturday, before driving to Hobart, where I'll stay the night, then MC morning Mass there, before driving myself and Fr Rowe (who'll be visiting Tasmania that week) back to Launceston, where I'll MC the special 6 pm Missa cantata at St Francis, Riverside, on Sunday 13th July. Please do come if you can!

Some matters are too serious to trust to the internet, but do keep me in your prayers.