The following has nothing to do with correct liturgical practices, or what would be pastorally appropriate in particular parish. It does not represent what I would actually do if put in charge. It does not represent my understanding of Sacrosanctum Concilium or the USCCB’s guidelines on anything.
The following is what I, personally would like to experience as a consumer of music at Mass.
1/3 Plainchant, mostly in English, sometimes in Latin
1/3 “Contemporary Catholic” music from the last 30-40 years: St. Louis Jesuits, a lot of David Haas, Dona Pena, Bob Hurd, Talbot, the Iona Community, Taize
1/3 A mixture of everything else- mostly Protestant Hymnody (especially early American), Sacred Polyphony (mostly Palestrina) and Choral music (mostly British), with a smattering of Contemporary Praise and Worship, Black Gospel, and other ethnic styles from time to time.
The choir and instrumentation:
Mostly piano based, with a rhythm section. It’s great if you can have a separate set drummer and hand drummer. A mandolin or other small lute instrument is a nice addition.
I usually can’t stand organ, so it would be no loss to me if there wasn’t one. (Again- this is just about what I personally like).
Most importantly, though- everyone doesn’t play on everything.
In fact- there should be a strong preference for acappella singing whenever possible, even with contemporary styles. Up to half of the music heard should be unaccompanied.
Which brings me to some specifics:
I want the Ordinary of the Mass (all the dialogues and all the acclamations) chanted, unaccompanied. In English (except perhaps the ones everyone knows well like the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei). There are some composed Mass settings I really enjoy as music, but all that stuff really clutters up what I think should be incredibly simple.
I enjoy the common “four song slots” practice- Gathering (Processional), Preparation (Offertory), Communion, and Sending (Recessional). Those would generally be the Contemporary music styles, with some taken from the last 1/3rd when textually appropriate.
In addition to hymns and songs, the Propers would be sung or chanted. For example- after the contemporary congregational singing during the procession, a Cantor or Schola would solo or lead the Introit. A similar practice would be taken with the other Propers. This would probably lengthen the Mass considerably- which would be fine with me (my preference, here, remember). Some compositional attempt would be made to connect the music of the Propers with the hymns and songs they are being paired with. That is a project I would gladly work on each week.
When the congregational communion song runs out of verses, the choir has the opportunity to sing some (textually appropriate) Palestrina or Tallis or Rutter or Faure or something beautiful along those lines. Sometimes the children’s choir sings. Sometimes we have instrumental music. This music is allowed to go on after everyone has received communion- there is no rush to get the Mass over with.
The congregation, of course, sings contemporary pop hymns and ancient chant equally well, full of joy and earthy heavenliness.
The Ordinary Form is used, and the Priest faces the people. (Prayers are addressed up and out, to God). Gestures are large- slow, and deliberate.
There is incense. There are bells at the Elevation. There are Gothic style vestments and deacons in dalmatics. Altar servers wear the traditional black and white. Processions take a long time. Everything takes a long time. There is plenty of silent space around each action, each reading, each prayer. There is no ad libbing (AT ALL), but the spoken prayers are read so sincerely that we all think they are the Celebrant’s own words. When we do clap, we clap on 2 and 4.
This wide variety of songs and styles will be very well planned out, so that it will feel like a unified whole and not a random collection of things. Great care will be taken with each element individually.
I’m probably missing some details. And I know that this hypothetical Mass would be two hours or more, and that lots of people would dislike at least 1/3 of the music. Some will call it too solemn, others not solemn enough.
I understand all of that. And again- I am not writing this to teach others about proper Liturgical programming. I just thought some of you may be interested in knowing what perfect Mass I have in my head when I dream about Liturgy.
So- rather than fill up my comments telling me that I’m wrong (since I can’t be wrong, because this was really just about what I want), I would like to encourage everyone to write about your perfect Mass.
Not what you think is right. Not what you think is Pastorally appropriate. Just, for the fun of it (maybe more), describe your ideal Mass- the Mass that would most completely cater to your needs, tastes, and desires.