Reviews of Mass Settings with New Translations – OCP’s New Settings

The second in a series that started with the GIA settings of the New English Ordinary. These settings, all new compositions published by OCP, can be found here.

Belmont Mass – Christopher Walker

The Gloria (or “Glory to God,” as it is labeled) is fine piece of work. Straightforward, chant-inspired, a bit contemporary. The organ seems a bit like overkill, but that could certainly be a matter of taste. The Sanctus (“Holy”) is very nice as well. The Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) is a bit long and boring, even in the context of a mass described as “Style: Chant.” I did not care for the Our Father at all- it seemed oddly sentimental, and reminded me a bit of the type of choral music in early Disney films (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty). That might just have been the harp.

Overall, this seems like a very nice setting for a parish that likes organ music already, and is trying to move towards a chanted mass but is a bit skiddish about unaccompanied music or has some hostility toward “Chant.” It would also be worthwhile for a parish or small cathedral that wants to sound “High Church,” but simply doesn’t have the time/talent to do a full (SATB) choral setting of the Ordinary.

Excellent work, Mr. Walker.

Mass of Christ the Savior – Dan Schutte

There were three styles of “folk Catholic” that developed during that genre’s heyday. The hum-n-strum guitar stuff from the mid-1970s gets the most attention (positive and negative), and that is the music most closely associated with Dan Schutte. The second style is the faux-Cathedral choral music, which developed more in the mid 1980s, and (if I have my timelines right) peaked in the early 1990s. This Mass setting is firmly rooted in that later development: big choir, organ, trumpets, strings- but still with a very singable melody and a contemporary feel. (The third style is the world-music trend of Iona and late David Haas).

I found this Mass to be very easy to listen to- quite nice musically. It would present a pretty exciting and worthwhile musical challenge to a parish choir not used to a big choral ordinary. It is a bit over-composed, though, and I think it would get really tiring week after week in Ordinary time. Best venue: a large suburban parish that likes contemporary liturgical music, during the Easter Season.

Mass of New Life – Scott Soper

This Mass attempts the style I just described of Dan Schutte’s new Mass, but Soper simply does not handle it well. The tunes are tedious, the harmonizations overwrought, and the orchestration seems schizophrenic. I am not a fan.

Mass of Renewal – Curtis Stephan

This Mass is well written, but I’m a bit conflicted about the style. It’s a big soft-rock ballad, the kind you write when you have a choir of notable celebrities singing about ending the war or believing in yourself. I’m just not sure that’s the rigth atmosphere for the Mass. Beyond that, I simply can’t imagine how anything like an average church can pull this off. Even if you have a full praiseband (hmmm), the scale of the instrumentation and the productino values on the recording basically dooms you to “this doesn’t sound as good as I remember it.”

If you like this sort of thing (and I have to admit that I do), buy the CD and keep it in your car. But don’t inflict it on Sunday worshippers.

Mass of Spirit and Grace – Ricky Manalo, CSP

I have to confess, I have never really cared for Fr. Manalo’s music. Every piece I have ever heard from him has seemed a bit weak, a sort-of lilting, easy to get through music that neither requires nor delivers very much. This Mass feels the same way. A lot of noise, a lot of triple meters, a lot of layers of (probably synthesized) strings and brass and woodwinds which all seem to attempt to distract you from the fact that the melody just isn’t that good.

On a personal note- I spent time in a parish staffed by Paulists (Fr. Manalo’s order). I am quite sympathetic to what seems to be a common progressive theology and ecclesiology among the order. But liturgy at the parish was a disaster. For example (and here’s the tie-in), we did Manalo’s “Come, O Spirit” as the Sequence at Pentecost. This piece, while based on the Sequence text, is not the sequence- it is neither proclamatory (for the congregation to hear the text) nor supplicatory (prayer directed at God), but rather a sort of easy-listening pop-song with a religious text that might give you a warm fuzzy feeling, if you like that sort of thing.

Mass of St. Francis Cabrini – Kevin Keil

I just don’t get this Mass setting. It seems designed to be as boring as stodgy as “folkies” think Chant is, but without being anything like Chant. The organ drones away (not literally) on square-metered minor chords while a choir of what sounds like sad Episcopalians uses their “legitimate voices” to screach out the oh-so-predictable SATB harmonization. I’m not sure who this is written for: the chant and polyphony crowd surely won’t find it solemn enough, and it pretty much exemplifies why the contemporary-music crowd hates the organ. Maybe you can find an Anglican-Use parish that really hates happiness.

Mass of St. Gregory the Great – Luke Mayernik

The name of this setting makes a promise linked to the musical genre with the same namesake. I’m sure Gregorian purists would find much wrong with this setting, but I think it’s got a lot of promise.

The Kyrie (in Greek!) opens with just the slightest flavour of Renaissance polyphony, and then proceeds into chant-inspired, but wholly contemporary in feeling, choral writing with very decent organ accompaniment. The Gloria went on a bit too long, and I don’t understand what seemed like made-up words for the Lenten Gospel Acclamation. The acclamations for the Eucharistc Prayer are lovely, but I have a hard time imagining an “average” choir doing a particularly good job. Same with the Agnus Dei, which reminds me a lot of the popular British choral writing of the 1970s and 80s (John Rutter).

The real gem here is the Kyrie, and there’s no reason you couldn’t do just that with another setting for the rest of the Ordinary.

Mr. Mayernik is young (about my age, I think) and I’m sure that his output in the coming years will be stellar, especially as the Kyrie here hints at what I hope will be a way to musically bridge the “old guard” (contemporary music, progressive theology) with the new movement in the Church (traditional music and liturgical orthopraxis).

Mass of St. John – Bobby Fisher

This has the out-dated “folk mass” feel that even the most of the folkies are starting to get tired of. The Gloria sounds, quite literally, like the rousing opening number of a theme-park pavilion show. (You know it’s going to be bad when the snare drum hit is the first sound of a track). The Gospel Acclamation sounds the same as the Gloria (exactly the same). The Lenten Gospel Acclamation feels as far removed from Lent as I can imagine.

The theme-park pavillion show thing pretty much sums up the entire experience, including the changing of style and feel as the Mass goes on, to match the “placement” of each piece in time, corresponding to a typical musical/emotional arc of a theatre piece. A deft music director could select just the right four songs to go along with this, and you’d almost have a whole production for Sunday.

Mass of St. Paul the Apostle – Christopher Walker

This setting simply does not work nearly as well as the other Walker setting reviewed above. It’s in the faux-Cathedral style I mentioned for the Schutte setting, which Walker helped pioneer. He has a much better control of the genre than Mr. Soper, but this setting suffers from some overwrought choral writing and an ill-advised attempt to emulate dance rhythms. One of the things that really confuses me is the insistence that this Mass (like ALL settings from the major publishers) is geared for congregational singing and “active participation.” No one who writes contemporary music seems to want to admit, “I wrote a concert Mass.” With a change in emphasis, the basic materials of this setting could have been a really good concert Mass setting. As it is, it doesn’t do that or congregational singing very well.

Mass of the Resurrection – Randall DeBruyn

Yet another almost-High-Church setting. I’m starting to think OCP is picking up a trend toward more “worthy” music for Mass.Like the Mass of St. Paul the Apostle above, I think the composer (or the marketing department) is fooling itself into thinking that a congregation will sing this easily. It seems all the world to be a lot of well-crafted noise, with a lot of correctly-written harmonies and brass parts and all the things you’re supposed to have in a big festival-styled Cathedral Mass. But it sounds uninspired and boring.

Mass of St. Cecilia / Misa Santa Cecelia – Estela García-López & Rodolfo López

I always wonder if Spanish-speaking Catholics really want mariachi music at Mass. It seems somewhat reductive and insulting to foist this on a congregation, but who knows- it could be exactly what they want. I doubt it, though. Especially this cleanly-produced and oh-so-preciously orchestrated recording that sounds like high-quality children’s music. (A side question might be- Why does Children’s music have to sound like that?)

The Kyrie was the only piece of interesting music in this setting, and I would have been interested in hearing a Mass with the plaintive, chant-like folk singing found therein. Instead, it’s mostly Mexican band-in-a-box: as spiritually enriching as Vacation Bible School, and as culturally authentic as public school cafeteria Taco Tuesday.

Summary:

Seriously some hits and misses here, but overall it seems that OCP has a better handle on getting quality Mass settings published than GIA does. I find the incessant pseudo-High-Church style to be a funny trend (epseically when you listen to several settings in a row), but one that may eventually lead toward bridging the gap between the liturgical music traditionalists and progressives. I will continue to say, though, that I don’t think any of these settings are a good choice for the First Sunday of Advent, 2011. The ICEL chants, unaccompanied, are your best bet, regardless of your parish resources, preferences, or demographics.

23 thoughts on “Reviews of Mass Settings with New Translations – OCP’s New Settings

  1. Just stumbled onto this blog. I’ve read through both this and your review of GIA’s new settings. The primary question that springs to mind is: Who are you? You’re entire method of reviewing a Mass is by listening to a few clips on a website? All you really provided was your personal quips on this or that styling and a few zingers to the composers themselves. This attitude in Catholic ministry is just disgusting. Even though I have never encountered anything published by you, I would not use anything you composed or arranged because of this. Perhaps you could spend more time perfecting your own craft before posting shallow “reviews” of others work.

  2. John, I’m sorry you feel that way.

    I’m not really sure “who I am” is relevant. I’m not famous or well known, so my opinion carries little weight in the world. I’m just a working parish musician who also writes some music (and texts) and has some things to say about liturgical music. If you were one of the handful of people who read my blog regularly or interact with me on the internets, you’d have some bases for deciding that our (yours and mine) taste line up in a way that gives some weight to my reviews in your mind, or you may have discovered that we disagree on taste and suitability, and so you’d be inclined to disagree with my musings. As it is, with no context, you might should just calm down and go listen to the new recordings for yourself.

    As to my method for reviewing, I’m not sure what more you’re looking for than someone who has just listened to the recordings on the publishers websites. I mean I guess I could have engaged in some serious score study or assembled my choir for a reading session. Does the fact that I didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to do those things mean that my reviews are particularly invalid?

    Then there is the content of the reviews. Of course this is my opinion, otherwise what is the point? I try to be honest, and I point out as many good things as I can. A few of the settings have some really great points (or did you skip over those paragraphs?). Are you upset because I made some denigrating remarks about some contemporary styled music at Mass? I can understand if that bothers you, because I myself am often in the position of defending contemporary styles of music against the attacks of my dear friends over at the CMAA forum. Let me assure you, I believe that contemporary styled music has a worthy place in Catholic liturgy. That’s actually one of the reasons I get upset by poor-quality contemp. music form the publishers- it does not help the case, and gives more fodder to the traditionalists who want to ban all music that doesn’t fit a narrow view of “Musica Sacra.”
    I don’t really view my writing here as quips and zingers. I do try to be compact and write in an entertaining manner, but for goodness sakes- what’s wrong with just saying that some of these mass settings are either dreadfully dull or obnoxiously peppy or wonderful gems of choral writing?

    I find your dismissal of my own work to be silly- petty and obnoxious, as if it hurts me terribly that you won’t be singing any of my music any time soon. Combined, of course, with a subtle dig about how my music isn’t being published by any of the major publishers.
    1) It makes no difference to me whether you do or don’t sing my music. Your decision to never use it affects me not at all. Particularly since I release most of my work under a Creative Commons license, it doesn’t cost me a cent.
    2) I have made no effort to “get published,” so it’s hardly surprising that I am not. IF they showed up at my door with a check and a contract, it’s likely I would sign both- but I do not desire big-label publishing enough to make any effort to seek after it.

    As for perfecting my own craft, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. If you mean that I shouldn’t cast any stones, being without sin myself, I would probably point out that I haven’t attempted to kill anyone with heavy rocks, I’ve simply stated my opinion about the work of a few composers. If you’re suggesting that no one offer critique or review unless their own work is above reproach, well- that sounds insane to me. I’ve never heard of a theatre critic who was a great actor, or a movie critic who was a great director, or a great literary critic who was also great writer (okay- actually Harold Bloom…. but, still). The basis of my opinion is not that I am a stellar composer. I’m not. I have never made any pretensions to greatness in my writing.
    So- will I “spend more time perfecting” my own craft. Well, I’ll spend more time on it, but I doubt much of that time will be at the service of “perfecting.”

    I’m not sure how my blog is part of the disgusting attitude on Catholic blogs. I have seen a lot of snark and slander from all corners of the “Catholic blogosphere.” I try very hard here to be upbeat, fun, and useful. I also try to build something of a bridge between liberals and conservatives, and my (pretty small) readership seems pretty well split (with a lean away from my own ideology, actually). I absolutely understand your concern about the pettiness and bile that runs through a lot of Catholic internet avenues. I really don’t think this is an example of that. Nasty snark and polite compliment are not the only two options. I feel it’s okay to disagree with someone, or to voice a negative opinion about publicly available work. Unlike you, I didn’t attack any people. In fact, I’m a big fan of many of these composers’ other works.

    Also- I note that your comment didn’t defend any of the works mentioned. If you think I’m wrong, then a productive approach would be to review them yourself and post your thoughts/rebuttals here, or on your own blog (be sure to leave a link here in the commments).

    Finally – Since your first question was, “Who are you?” I would encourage you to spend some time getting to know me before you declare me to be terrible person and a bad Christian:

    For more information about my own tastes in liturgy, check out this post about my ideal Mass.
    For more information about my intellectual framework for thinking about liturgical music, check out this post on my reading of The Constitution on the Divine Liturgy in the light of the Reform of the Reform.
    For ongoing interaction with me, I frequent the discussion forums over at MusicaSacra, and I’m trying to spend more time on my friend Fr. Ruff’s PrayTell blog.

  3. I must not be understanding the objection.

    If a work of music isn’t satisfying to hear — if it doesn’t pass the listening test — why would anyone go on to examine it in some other way, buying a score and doing a test reading with a choir?

    Maybe this explains the state of parish music, in part: people may be choosing music that doesn’t pass the listening test, but meets some other criterion. Perhaps convenience is important, and people take the publishers’ recommendations since it requires little effort to do so. Perhaps they choose some music because it’s easy to perform. Maybe some pieces are satisfying for the performers to perform, even if they aren’t that great from a listener’s point of view.

    Ah, well. You can’t please everybody, Adam.

  4. I’m new to this site too. Thanks for the reviews (and for a calm and sensible reply to ill-judged comments). I have a question or two about your subdivisions of so-called ‘folk’ styles.

    (i) What makes the choral style ‘faux’? Choral is just choral, isn’t it? Or would it be different in some way if it was genuine?

    (ii) What connects the choral style at all to the simpler guitar-based idiom? It’s not clear that they are really related, other than being in the vernacular and for the people to sing. I’m not sure ‘folk’ is a helpful cover term for the music of, say, Richard Proulx or Bernadette Farrell.

    Just wondering! Thanks again for your blog. I’ll keep looking in.

  5. Thanks for the comments, RC and MB!

    MB:
    To answer your question (to the best of my ability)…
    Sub-division of musical styles is tough and subjective, so I can’t say that those descriptors were the best. Mostly I’m just pointing out the connection through trends in lit. mus. styles over the last couple decades. The composers who started with with simple melodies and guitar accomp in the mid-1970’s mostly graduated into larger, more serious (or serious-sounding) composition as time went on. The faux-Cathedral music (for lack of a better term) was, in my mind, a development of the folk-Catholic style, not a separate style. I base this “same style” argument on: a)a lot of the same people were writing it b) alot of the same people were listening to / using it c) common elements in melodic and chordal structure.
    As to what makes some of the choral writing “faux,” again- 100% subjective, especially without detailed score study or talking to the composers. But- much of it seems to be melody+chords, and then arranged for choir. That lead-sheet driven music does not quite seem the same as the choral music of someone like Lauridsen or Rutter. That is to say, it sounds like the ones I label “faux” something like a pastiche of genuine choral music.

    That being said- I don’t think there has been anything like a useful attempt at stylistic analysis and taxonomy for contemporary (last 40 years) Catholic music, and that is a conversation I would love to have. Sometimes one can’t help but flounder around when trying to put things in context here, because the context is so ill-defined.

  6. John does have a good point: basing reviews on listening to small patches of music on a web site is not the ideal way to review Mass settings. And let’s be clear: we’re talking about music that is meant to be played and sung, not listened to.

    A serious review of liturgical music will comment on how the music plays, vocal arrangements for choir, and how an assembly might or might not sing it.

    That said, I’m more critical of publishers who are throwing up music clips and withholding the actual arrangements–I know, I know: their hands are tied. I can tell you I won’t be buying any Mass settings based solely on what I hear.

    Adam, I see where you’re going with subdividing the genre, but I don’t think the analysis is very useful with the snark inserted. John is right here, too: we have too much of this already. It’s more boring than static organ accompaniments.

    “But- much of it seems to be melody+chords, and then arranged for choir.”

    You could say the same thing for Vaughan-Williams: his orchestration and four-part harmonization of KINGSFOLD. I probably like the instrumental version a bit more, but in the hands of a deft arranger, there’s nothing wrong with starting with a melody & chords and moving from there. It worked well enough for the tradition of figured bass.

    I suspect what we’re really talking about is musical arrangements in the hands of less-skilled composers. I’m with you in being all over that one.

  7. I completely agree with you that it was not the “ideal” way to review the new settings, and that a more serious reviewer would do all those things. If you are aware of any reviewers who have taken that time, please link to them in the comments here.

    I don’t really think of my writing as snarky. Specifically in reference to the genre subdivisions, I don’t have much bad to say about those styles: I like plenty of the early folk Catholic stuff (I have Dameans and SLJ in rotation on my mp3 player) and I also like a lot of what I call faux-Cathedral music. The snarkiest thing I said (I think) was:

    It’s a big soft-rock ballad, the kind you write when you have a choir of notable celebrities singing about ending the war or believing in yourself.

    Which was followed by:

    If you like this sort of thing (and I have to admit that I do)

    I’m not trying to be snarky, honestly. I do try to insert some humor in there (like imagining an Anglican Use parish full of people who hate happiness… that makes me giggle for some reason), but I bear no ill-will to specific genres or styles. I just think that many of these settings are not particularly good representations of their style.

    Please don’t confuse disagreement (I think something is bad that you think is good) with negativity (I think everything is bad and that you’re a heretic for liking it).

    As for the last bit about composing for choir vs. arranging:
    You are probably right in all of that. Without serious score study and all of that, it’s hard (for me) to pinpoint where the difference is, exactly, between the Cathedral-choir writing of the serious British composers and the the big-parish-choir writing of the American “popular Catholic” composers.
    People who are smarter than me: Am I the only one who notices these distinct styles? Are there specific techniques and elements that are responsible for this difference in sound?

  8. I’ll confess I don’t want to go to these web sites to listen. At some point my music committee will have to review all this stuff. It’s one thing when Chris Walker goes into the studio with a perfectly balanced 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors, and 3 basses. It’s another thing when a parish choir struggles with balancing voices, and you’re trying to decide if sax works instead of clarinet or flute.

    One example: Jeffrrey Tucker skewered the Mass of Light Gloria on Catholic Radio 2.0 in one of our discussions. Quite frankly, I didn’t care for the recording either, and if I had to render it that way in the parish, I’d decline to use it. I think the piece needs less production, a somewhat faster tempo, played in one rather than in three, and hence, not the piano arrangement as given.

    I’m feeling impatient and unimpressed these days about the music that’s coming out.

  9. I’m feeling impatient and unimpressed these days about the music that’s coming out.

    Me too.

    I have a recording of the Mass of Light somewhere (the original). I like the Gloria a lot. I do not care for the new version of it- the new text doesn’t fit the music well. I had hoped to use the original at my Episcopalian parish during the Christmas season, but alas, I didn’t have a competent piano player for Christmas Eve (my usual accompanist has a long-standing gig).

    The over produced recordings make it very difficult to imagine the pieces in a normal parish. They all have these marketing blurbs about how they’re geared for the average parish, and then you listen and think, “Yeah, right.”

    I’m excited about the ICEL chant settings. I’m excited about my own setting (more on that later), but it will likely languish in obscurity. And until recently, that was about it.

    But I’ve been asked by a composer to look over another new setting from outside the Big Three, but still from an established publisher. I’m working on the review now, and I am VERY excited about it. It’s beautiful, fresh, solemn, contemporary… oh I hope it takes off in a big way!
    Look for my review in the coming days.

  10. Adam, will you be taking a look at WLP’s offerings? Even though they’re the smallest of the Big Three, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their new settings. Janco’s Mass of Wisdom seems like the most accessible setting I’ve run across, and Proulx’s Gloria Simplex is a work of brilliance—one I think that’s actually easier to learn and more expertly crafted than the official ICEL Gloria.

  11. I will be looking at WLP next- and that will do it for the “Big Three.” I’m also hoping to do a “Best of the Web” edition that covers some of the settings that are being self-published or published through smaller distribution channels. I’ve also got an entire post planned on what might be my new favorite NEW setting.

  12. WLP’s Ordinaries are by far the best of the “big three,” but still miss the bar. As for the majority OCP and GIA’s new settings . . . they are an “appalling dump heap overflowing with the most deplorable assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!”

    The stuff Jeff Ostrowski is putting out for FREE is hundreds of times the quality of these settings. Not to mention it is more suitable for the Mass.

  13. Hi, Adam. I am just checking in to see if I can send you any review copies of WLP’s Mass settings. No obligation — but if you are interested in recieving a copy of any of the choral scores or if I can send you links to sound files, I’d be happy to help. Just send an e-mail to odegardj@jspaluch.com with a shipping address. Thanks.

  14. Would love to!
    I’ve sent you an email with my address.

    Note to all others: I am happy to review any Mass settings I am asked to. I certainly CANNOT promise a timely response, but I will certainly do my best.

  15. Pingback: Reviews of Mass Settings with New Translations – WLP’s New Settings | Music For Sunday

  16. Todd, I concur.
    But more to the point, OCP’s most serious Achille’s Heal has always been its adherence to middle of the road “Gebrauchsmusick” Mass settings. It’s driven me crazy over decades. Let me illustrate-
    For the late JPII’s visitation in 87, OCP commissioned the Proulx “Responsorial Mass” for the Los Angeles Mass. It was typical Proulx, great melodic motifs which from which he then extrapolated goofy, Bartokian harmonizations for organ, quire and brass. But the melodies and format worked big time. OCP kept it in the MI/BB for two years, and dropped it. Judy Hylton stayed….
    Second big drop, Rv. John Schiavone’s “Mass of the Holy Family.” This little gem never made the MI/BB “Show,” only the “Kyrie” which was an accompanied setting of an extant chant.
    Proulx again- OCP splashed his Missa Oecumenica in 2000 and even had it in MI/BB for two years despite the lack of a Glory. It was extremely valuable to both choir and congregation for the accessibility of melody and the “comfort food” of the Orthodox-like homophony for the quire. But again, dropped likely due to a perceived lack of comprehensive use (a fact that can only be deduced by octavo sales or lack of same.)
    I am sympathetic to Adam’s intuition that the application of lots of sonic lipstick and some beer goggles has continued with this first round out of Portland, and that’s not encouraging given my take of their track record.
    The reason that’s a huge shame is that of all the pulp paper collections, only OCP has managed to have the lion’s share of subscriptions. I have hope against hope that the artistic content of their Mass settings in those yearly issues would not reflect the “throwaway” ethos the medium infers. Nice, new voices like Mayernik should be cultivated and given a requisite amount of time to inculcate their “genius” into repertoires.
    But I really don’t see this happening at OCP in the long hawl.

  17. Adam, thanks for taking the time to review some of the new Mass Settings. In general, I think you’re spot on with your observations whilst acknowledging your subjective taste. But ultimatly, effective reviews mean nothing if made in a vacumn. It really boils down to the venue, diversity (or lack thereoff) of one’s community, resources, the skill set of the music folks and the spirit with which that community is engaged in sung prayer. If one is looking for a New Mass Setting for the local Cathedral with full organ, instrumentalist and a paid staff of highly trained musicians. The sky is the limit. But this only account for 5% of the Church. The rest is a diverse mish mash that needs Settings that are easy to effectuate with limited resources and also easy to learn. But I agree, some of what I’ve heard seems to be entertainment. So far, we’re going for Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior. Schutte is know for melody and melody is easy to learn. We too are thinking of using Bob Hurd’s revised Mass of Glory and while we have a very small Spanish group, I’m still at a loss. I hear ya about the Mariachi music. We have folks from Puerto Rico, Cuba and some from Central America – most are educated and speak English but are not interested in what they tell me is farm worker Mexican music. They want something more sophisticated. Thanks again for your time with these reviews. They have been helpful

  18. Thanks! Context IS totally important, and I tried (a little) to discuss when and where these different settings might be appropriate.
    And I would say… farm workers deserve better than that goofy mariachi music also. Quality is not just for the elite.

  19. I have been struggling to find a new mass setting that I like. Frankly after listening to the cd that ocp sent me with all the different settings to choose from it left me depressed. I am currently writing music to the new words which is a bit overwhelming but has to be better than what I’ve heard. I wrote a gloria 10 years ago because I wanted the congregation to be able to sing it like a prayer instead of constantly repeating a phrase over and over again. I am a music director of a parish of 3200 and we love to sing. I know if they like a song because if it’s new we’ll sing it for a month and if after that they don’t sing than I usually don’t sing it again until the following year and try it again. After that I scratch it beause there are alot of other songs they like.If you find a mass setting that doesn’t hurt your ears let me know and I’ll try it. For now I am relying on my own capabilities.

  20. WLP’s settings (reviews here) are excellent, across a wide variety of styles. If you want contemporary, I would go with their Mass of St. Anne (Ed Bolduc). If you’re looking for something more contemplative, the Psallite Mass is WONDERFUL (review here. If you’re looking for something more chant like and traditional, check out Jeff Ostrowski’s new setting. It might also be worth looking into singing the good stuff.

    You should write a new Mass setting because you want to, and because you have something to say. If you write out of despair, I fear the results will be… despairing.

  21. Thankyou so much for the suggestions. I usually love Ed Bolduc so will check all your suggestions out. I just finished the gloria and am pretty happy with it. If I don’t find anything as good I’ll give it a try with my congregation. I loved your ending quote. It gave me inspiration!!!

  22. Hi Adam,

    Just to throw this out…. I direct a music program for a large parish in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is as typical a place as one could get. Over the years, we’ve beaten to death Haugen, Proulx, Alstott, Vermsulst, etc…. I was going to morph into the revamped Proulx Community, but thought it was too butchered. So, I went in the complete opposite direction and chose Mass of the Resurrection (DeBruyn). After three weeks of using it, the arrangement has worked quite well for our parish. The congregation seems to recognize the challenge and has risen to the occasion. I initially listened to the Mass of the Resurrection and was uninspired. But, playing it through was a different story. Thanks for the reviews!

  23. Just a point on your trying to pinpoint the difference between British Choral writing and big parish American writing.

    British Choral composer typically spends 5 years of his childhood (as a chorister in a cathedral or college) immersed in a very limited high quality sound set, daily. He then, as a hobby, studies theory,counterpoint, harmony, composition and is well versed technically and full immersed and invested in a highly specific choral language before he hits University. He then repeats the process – another 4 years of daily immersion as a choral scholar – and further refinement of the skill sets in one-on one tutorage. British choral compositions are effortlessly and essentially horizontal – usually in a non-imitative form. Sure – they also have a unique harmonic flavor thanks to the likes of Britten, Finzi, Howells, Tavener. These undergraduate composers are fully immersed in this music – their task is simply to break out into their own voice – they have all the technical skills – the craft of composition – down – often before they even hit University study. So they end up studying relatively fewer styles of choral music than their American counterparts, but experiencing them at a very high level. Let’s jump to America – sang in the school choir (yeah we did all sorts of stuff) – The musical experience of even the very best American high school choir does not compare in any way to the experience of the British Cathedral or collegiate English boy chorister (performing daily) in terms of the musical experience and its effect on their formation as musicians. A one or two year AP music theory class and a promising voice or a small portfolio of music compositions and you suddenly find yourself enrolled in an American college music course. Normally we learn to hamonise correctly at college. (something that British have done way before they get to that level). Americans then leave college being able to write and harmonise melodies correctly and write crude imitative counterpoint (often a short lived canon at the unison) in a very studied manner with little individualization in voice. They study a very broad variety of music (again) but to very little depth. These are the reasons for the difference in my opinion.

Comments are closed.