Last night (All Souls' Day), the choir sang the Requiem, at least a fair bit of it, in Latin, including the Introit, Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. But the Tract, Offertory and Communion got lost and replaced by the Responsorial Psalm and vernacular hymns mostly of recent composition and therefore unfamiliar. The Dies Irae also disappeared. The latter is in fact the Sequence and not part of the Ordinary Form, but can nevertheless be included. And that is about as good as it gets at an OF Mass.
The previous day, All Saints' Day, we had a visiting choir which sing a collection of things including the Kyrie by (probably) Haydn, a baroque polyphonic piece at the Offertory and the Sanctus from Fauré's Requiem, interspersed with a modern vernacular Gloria and a slew of Protestant hymns. It was a buffet menu put together so that there was at least something to please everyone. But it added up to nothing coherent, and more like a concert than a service.
The standard of singing by choirs and congregation, is first rate, as are the organists, but the choice of music is another matter, being dominated by Lutheran or Methodist hymns, dated, dull and uninspiring. The sense of lively Catholic spirituality is absent from the sound, a situation that is almost the norm in contempory Catholic parishes almost everywhere. It fails, amongst other things, to connect the church to its own traditions and its ancient Judaic roots. It like going to a Macdonalds and getting the bun without the burger inside. Of course one receives the Body of Christ, but the context is unworthy.
The ray of hope is the weekly EF Mass. Unfortunately, this is usually at an unpopular time, poorly attended, and rarely sung. However,
there have been occasional, usually unplanned, high points where the Propers have been
sung with the correct tunes, ie not using psalm tones, with the Ordinary
sung to a perfectly good Missa de Angelis. The latter is really all it
takes for an authentically Catholic liturgy, but it seems to be the hardest thing in the world to achieve. Why is there this resistance? In the long run it is damaging because the liturgy is the church's "shop window" and principal means for conveying its teaching.
It would help if more members of the parish were familiar with the chant, in accordance with the instructions given following Vatican 2. It would further help if there were good scores to sing from ie in the correct four line/square note notation. When Gregorian chant is sung from modern notation, such is the loss of information that it is hard not to end up with a dreary sound. The new edition of Cecilia, due out early next year, ought to have addressed this by including the Gregorian settings in their proper notation but for some reason this has not happened. Someone is going to have to fill the gap.
I have pretty much given up on my local Catholic parish (there are alternatives) because the music is irredeemably dreadful. It is not that ...
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