The Music I Need More Of

This is both a call to composers/arrangers to write more of it, and a request for knowledgeable folks to help me find what exists already.

I am sure I am not the only choir director in the world who works under the following circumstances:

  • Aging soprano section that cannot sing well in the upper register and has trouble being heard over the rest of the choir.
  • Decently strong alto section.
  • Male singers of varying number- usually 1, sometimes 2, up to 4.
  • Limited rehearsal time.
  • Difficulty with rhythmic complexity, including contemporary (syncopation and groove) and classical (polyphony, staggered entrances).
  • Difficulty with diction, especially as tempos increase.
  • Breath problems
  • Singers with a good ear for common hymnal-style harmony, but difficulty with late-Classical and Modern dissonance.
  • An organist who does not come to choir rehearsal.
  • Congregational antipathy for Latin plainchant (In my case, my parish is Episcopalian, so the strong preference is harmonized, metered, and in English.)

Even as much as each of these problems may be corrected, or at least improved upon, the reality is that these issues dominate my repertoire selection criteria, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

And I know I’m not the only one!

Moreover- this is not some “problem” of defective choirs. This is the REALITY of normal choirs, filled with good, hard-working amateur musicians all throughout Christendom. The “ideals” of traditional Sacred Music – chant, polyphony, and choral- grew up in circumstances very different from the small provincial parishes that make up the bulk of Liturgical worship, and my lovely “old white ladies” should NOT be made to feel bad because all the “good” choral music is three whole-steps out of their range.

So what should composers do about it?

More than anything else, I need more “anthems” (choral pieces) that have as many of the following characteristics as possible (some are mutually exclusive – this is not a description of the perfect piece, but a direction-line I need to pursue).

3-part, SAB.
A single male line, in the middle-baritone range (solidly on the staff) is a big help. The hegemony of SATB as the standard for all choral arranging is a bit of an albatross around the neck of traditional-minded choir directors in smaller, aging parishes. I often end up dropping the tenor line of SATB chorales anyway- it would be nice if it was just written that way in the first place.
SAB arrangements that work well with “extra” males doubling the melody at an octave.
I call this SA(T)B. The need for this stems from a multitude of factors, mentioned above:

  • We often have an “extra” male at Mass who can’t make it to rehearsal. I am loathe to turn away singers, and it is easiest to just say “sing the melody” so that I can focus on musicality rather than note-learning.
  • The strongest singer in our choir is… me, a male (Tenor 2). I know, I know- choir directors shouldn’t sing with their choirs, but the difference in end-result when I do vs. when I don’t means it’s a crutch we will rely on unless and until we get more singers.
  • Sopranos have a hard time with both staying in tune and being heard over the rest of the choir. If they are alone on the melody, it causes problems. Shifting a strong voice (usually me) off a harmony line to the melody helps them stay on track and better balances the sound as a whole.
Melody in the Alto with the Sopranos singing a “non-essential” descant.
For similar reasons to the last point. Also, the Alto section is just plain louder than the Sopranos. Yes, yes- I can get them to back-off for blend and so forth, but it really helps keep the peace (and peace of mind) if the altos could have the melody a little more often than never. It sounds good, and it makes them happy to sing something other than D-D-D-EEEEEEEEEE-D-C#-DDDDDDDDDD-D— D.
“Fauxbourdon” harmonizations that work with one strong male singer on a melody, with a Bass/Baritone below and one or two female lines above.
Obviously, related to above points. I have had decent success with taking a “song” (melody with piano or organ accomp) and turning the accomp. into an SAB vocal harmony under a melodic solo.
Unaccompanied
This goes without saying, really- a lot of choral music already is unaccompanied. But most of it is SATB, TTBB, or (egads) SSAATTBB. More music that has the above characteristics AND ALSO is a capella would be very helpful.
Hymn-based structure with variations in voicing and/or harmony
You know what makes my life super easy? Teaching 8 to 24 bars of a choral arrangement one time and then being able to say something like “Unison on v1; women on v2 with a couple altos on the Tenor part; men on v3 with me on melody; v4 in full SATB.” It sounds like we have a whole, real choral arrangement. It takes as much work as learning a new hymn.
Hymn-based text setting
Homophony is my friend. Full-on polyphony is VERY difficult, because it requires strong, independant, self-leadership within each section. That’s close to impossible if two of your three Sopranos don’t show up one morning.
Even short departures from homophony in an otherwise homophonic piece are problematic. “When we come in before everyone else, it sounds like we’re making a mistake or something.” Yeah, it does- particularly if it’s a one-person section.
Also, even if all of that could be solved, the nature of most vocal polyphony requires a clean, clear straight-tone. Robust homophony covers a multitude of vibratic sins.
Straight-forward harmonies
I know, I know- composers and well-trained musicians get bored with common-practice harmony. But it’s pretty, normal people like it, and average-skilled choristers can sight read it.
Limited vocal ranges
Yes, yes, I know what the range of a Soprano should be, and yes- we ALL know that everybody can sing a D just fine in the middle of “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
But, in reality, amateur voices have a real hard time singing WELL as they approach the top of their range, especially in a choral (as opposed to congregational) setting, where voices are more exposed. (Doubly so if unaccompanied).

In my opinion, the practical ranges should be:

  • Soprano Middle C up an octave to C. BRIEF moments of C# or D if well-prepared by step-wise motion and/or aural precedent in prepatory chords, and NOT during a dissonance or other over-exposed situation. And DO NOT hang out around the C, either. The bulk of the line ought to be about Eb – Bb.
  • Alto Ab below middle C up to about Bb above. The bulk of the line ought to be about Db – Ab.
  • Baritone Middle C down just over an octave to about Bb. The bulk of the line ought to hang around C below middle C up to A. This makes Key of F Major a real good choice, BTW.
I’m sure that real choir directors would turm their noses up at such a limited vocal range, and some would either fire the choir members (for not being professional enough) or me (for not training the choir better), but those ranges are the reality I deal with week after week. Composers and arrangers would do the liturgy (and our singers’ self-worth) a great deal of good by respecting the singers’ abilities instead of making them feel bad about being shaky on an unprepared high Eb entrance.
Easy (square) rhythms
For all the usual and obvious reasons.
Phrasing that lets singers breathe
I’m all for the long line, and I work as best I can to improve breath support and capacity. But I don’t have a choir full of Westminster-trained pearl divers. (I bet you don’t either).
Texts based on scripture, particularly Psalms and Canticles
As much as I love the Protestant hymn tradition, I could really use fewer rhyming doctrinal treatises and more settings of commonly used Psalms and Canticles. One or two flexible settings of the most commonly-used Psalm texts and Canticles (having the above-mentioned characteristics) would make programming throughout the year MUCH easier.
Texts based on the Propers, especially the Simplex (Common) Propers and in-season (Advent, Christman, Lent, Easter) Offertories
This is largely covered by the above request for texts based on Psalms, and the reasons should be obvious.
Harmonizations (see above criteria) of popular/common Gregorian Hymns, in good, modern English
Go through the Parish Book of Chant. If I had easy, SAB (et al, see above) settings, of all those pieces in non-weird, well-rhymed English, I would use them ALL THE TIME.
Unharmonized plainchant (which I love) has its own problems, not the least of which being that my choir and the rest of the parish would turn on me if we did monophonic (they would say “unison”) choir pieces with much frequency. (It’s not really the Anglican aesthetic.)
Anglicans have good reason to prefer English over Latin, so let’s not get into it. But (sadly) even many Roman Catholic parishes suffer from Latin-aversion. I can get away with about 3 or 4 Latin pieces a year- your mileage may vary. But the point is, we need good English versions of all those chants. Many of them exist in translation already, but many that do are in some kind of weird archaic English that dosn’t play well with some folks or (more often than any of us admit) doesn’t rhyme anymore. I’m all for hieratic language, really I am- but e’en I mayst not long-suffer the wrathful countenance of mine enemie and brethren which shew forth yponen mee the whyle of singing divers songs and hymns among my fellowe clarks and quires.
Work decently well as both Choral “Anthems” and Congregational “Hymns”
If I can introduce a new hymn to the congregation by first having the choir sing it, that helps.
Flexible in length
Related to the hymn-like strophic structure I mentioned above. Try as I might, I just never know how long the collection is going to take.
Feast-day appropriate and also easy
You don’t want to short-change big (or even small) Holy Days, but you also don’t want to spend loads of time working on something that will only be sung once a year.
It’s particularly helpful when these things are sturdy, robust, and resist aging. If you’re only going to do something once a year, it’s nice to build a tradition of doing them every year.

If I had more time to compose/arrange, this is all I would work on- the need is (I believe) huge.

So:

  • If you are a composer, please write more of this.
  • If you are a publisher, please publish more of this and also promote it better so I can find it (I have a comments section for a reason).
  • If you are a knowledgeable church musician and can point me (and the rest of us) toward existing resources for the above, please do so (again- I have a comments section; please use it).
  • If you have additional thoughts and/or criteria, please share them below (you know, in the comments).

Hymn for Ascension

This hymn reflects thoughts I’ve been ruminating on for some time regarding the meaning of the Angel’s words after the Ascension: we, the Church, are not called to stand and stare in wonder at the Risen Lord who has left our sight, but rather to do the work he called us to do while he was with us, and to understand his ongoing presence.

Shaker Mass Update

I’m almost finished with my new Mass setting inspired by Shaker chants and spirituals.
Few noteworthy things:

Jerry Galipeau Responds & a Servant Model of Composition

After posting my reviews of WLP’s new Mass Settings, I sent Jerry Galipeau (Associate Publisher at WLP, and blogger) a link to the article. His response was, of course, very kind. I’m posting a portion of it below, because I thought his backstory about the WLP approach was worth noting.

Thanks very much for your commentary. Please know how much I appreciate the time you took to review our settings.

I have been so proud of our composers and employees all the way through this process. I think what sets us apart, perhaps, is that we began the entire process four years ago with the following approach. We decided not to say to our composers, “OK, folks, here’s your chance to compose that Mass setting you’ve always wanted to write.” Instead, we said, “What does music in Catholic parishes really look like?” When we thought about some of the rural communities, places where we know that there is an organist with a microphone in a tiny choir loft (and that’s the extent of the parish’s music ministry), we knew that we needed simpler settings, like the chant-like settings. I was in Alabama a few months ago giving presentations to catechists there about the new translation. A woman came up to me and told me that their pianist had just moved to Florida and that their thirteen-family parish had no other musicians. These are real parishes with real Catholics who want to sing.

His point about the 13-family parish is an important one. The Contemporary music “establishment” is producing music far beyond the reach of these places, and traditional sacred music (Gregorian Chant) is probably seen as simply too hard. The general effect of this (as I’ve seen it) is poorly played 1970s folky Catholic stuff, with a few protestant hymns played slowly on a bad organ. Mass settings tend to be along the lines of Heritage Mass or Mass of Remembrance (as in, “Remember the Mass of Creation? Yeah, here’s another one.”), also usually played slowly and poorly on a bad organ.

WLP is responding to that clear pastoral need with care and love: a number of these settings are simple and could be sung easily unaccompanied or with the simplest of keyboard or guitar accompaniment. While I love the Mass of St. Ann and the Mass of Awakening, it’s these simple settings: Simplex (Proulx, O’Connor), Grace (Stafford), and Charity & Love (Warner), along with settings like the Psallite and the ICEL Sacramentary Chants (and a few I’m writing!) that I think the Church really needs right now. It’s not quite as exciting for a publisher or composer to do this kind of work, and WLP’s commitment to it speaks volumes about their company.

Another project that represents this servant model of sacred music is the Simple English Propers. Despite Jeffrey Tucker’s unbridled enthusiasm (if you think his blog posts are ecstatic, you should see his personal emails and IMs), at heart this project isn’t really EXCITING. It’s not Rockstar music, in either the Contemporary (Matt Maher) or the Traditionalist (Palestrina) sense. It’s not music that draws attention to itself for it’s beauty or creativity (even though it is beautiful and creative), and (as I understand the behind-the-scenes process) the actual writing of it was a bit grueling. And yet… it might be the most important contribution to English Speaking Catholic music in a generation. Adam Bartlett is a true servant.

My wife attended the Episcopal Youth Event last week (as a chaperon), at which there was a Presbyterian speaker who, quoting someone else, said:

The Church of Jesus Christ is not short on people seeking after power.
The Church of Jesus Christ is short on servants.

We live in a time when people- lay and ordained, traditionalist and progressive- are seeking power over the liturgy. (It has always been so, I imagine). There are petitions against the new translation, attacks on traditional styles of music, attacks on contemporary styles of music, rhetoric against the Tridentine Rite, rhetoric against the Novus Ordo, elitism, exclusionism, nasty blog comments and all manner of rudeness- all these people imposing their limited vision on the Church of Jesus Christ.

Among all of that, and while we will always be “short,” it is heartening to see so many servants: the composers and staff at WLP; the composers, teachers, and volunteers at CMAA; the people at CC Watershed who make digital scans of rare manuscripts (along with countless other projects; Paul Ford and the Collegeville Composers; those who have been writing accompaniments to the ICEL chants; Andrew Hinkley and his 259 pages of square-note transcription

We live in exciting times. God bless you all!

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

Finally, the long awaited conclusion to my series of reviews of new settings of the new translations of the Ordinary from the “Big Three” publishers.
Unknowingly, I saved the best for last.

(GIA settings here, and OCP settings here).

Please note, I have only been looking at new settings, not revised settings. Also, (for the sake of disclosure) please note that WLP was the only major publisher to actually reach out to me and send me scores and so forth. I believe, however, that my more positive view of their offerings was not influenced by them being nice to me.

Links to all of WLP’s New and Revised Mass Settings can be found here.
(There’s something wrong with the styling on that page, and if someone sends me a corrected link, I will update here.)

So here we go…

Mass of Grace – Lisa Stafford

I’ve been looking forward to this setting ever since Jeffrey Tucker mentioned it in our interview. It is chant-inspired (Diet Chant!), which is, right out the gate, a good thing in my view.

The Kyrie is simple and straight-forward, if a little boring. That last point is not really a criticism, since I have yet to hear a Kyrie that was both “exciting” and actually appropriate.

This setting includes a setting of the Asperges Me, which is pretty outstanding in and of itself. It’s not amazing, but it’s nice and it’s easy to sing.

There are two (musically related) settings of the Gloria, one with a refrain and one through composed. This is a fantastic idea. Also, this is the first (yes, the first) refrain-style setting of the new Gloria text I have heard that I actually liked. It’s very nice, and the Psalm-tone-like verses are excellently set down. The through-composed setting I do not care for as much, but it is certainly not bad at all- and the perusal score make an amazig sugestion: try singing it antiphonally. What a wonder.

Since I have received a bit of criticism of my reviewing methodology after the GIA and OCP posts, I have actually taken more time to listen and read-through this score (and the rest of them), so I actually am familiar with every movement of this setting. But I have to say about the same thing for each movement: Nice. Nice. Decent. Not amazing, but nice. The strength of this setting is not that Lisa Stafford is a fantstic composer (she might be, I have no idea). This is not incredible, amazing music. It is good music- strong, sturdy, easy to sing, easy to learn (that is mentioned all over the marketing material), and is intended to adhere closely to the ritual needs of a contemporary, but solemn, vernacular Mass with a congregation that wants to sing. It can done unaccompanied (my preference), or with either an organ or piano- this means it could serve as a common setting at a parish with three or four different “styled” Masses on the Sunday schedule, and even at a daily Mass without an accompanist.

(Side note: Given the simplicity of the accompaniment, I rather think chord symbols would have been easy to add and helpful for some congregations. Also, what I’d really like to hear from this setting would be a choir singing the written accompaniment without instruments (it’s mostly homophonic) which the congregation sings the melody. I think that would be lovely.)

It is solemn without being boring, easy without being trite, chant-like without being foreign. This setting is exactly what many Catholic parishes need right now.

Mass of Awakening – Scott Soper

So- this is really cool… The CD (and website sales page) for this setting includes two recordings of every movement: One labeled “Traditional Style,” the other labeled “Contemporary Style.” Just from a marketing standpoint, this is brilliant. Now, of course- they mean something different by “Traditional Style” than I do. I would mean unaccompanied chant, they mean organ and big choir (and handbells and brass), as opposed to piano/guitar/winds/ensemble (Contemporary Style). Still- this is really great as it shows the different options available, and also shows how a single Mass setting can “unite” a parish with differing musical forces/styles at different parishes. (I have heard that the reason Mass of Creation was so successful is that it was written intentionally to be ensemble-size flexible.)

(Side note to the producer of the “Contemporary Style” tracks: A bit more sustain pedal on the piano would have been more authentic. Also… I don’t think anyone plays guitar like that.)

Anywho…

I like this setting.

The Kyrie is musically intersting, contemporary in style, and appropriate to the liturgical action at this point in the Mass. It is chant-ish in its melodic structure, and very singable.

I really like the Gloria. It is refrain-style (I know, know… that’s a downer for some of you), but the refrain is actually worth singing several times over, and each verse is scored differently in a way that makes musical sense to separate them the way a refrain does (like a classical use of the ritornello. I particularly like the change in modality in verse 2.

The Gospel Acclamation is musically very nice, although I (personally) prefer a bit less to-do for the Gospel Acclamation (I program unaccompanied settings exclusively in my parish work). The Sanctus is also very good. I usually pull away from elaborate (over-scored, overly festive) settings of the Sanctus, because they usually seem foreign to the Eucharistic Prayer. I’m thinking my reaction there may be tied to the length of the piece (syllabic setting and tempo) and also the length of the introduction (how long from “this hymn of praise” to the hymn of praise actually being sung). I say that because I don’t get that discomfort with this setting, even though it is very “done up,” both in its writing and in its scoring/recording. Even with all the exciting goings-on, the singing is straightforward and the piece moves right along. The same thing could be said for the other acclamations and the Amen.

The Lamb of God is nice, and I particularly like the choral writing in the response, but I wish it was scored that way the first and last time as well. This setting (like many others) includes an option of using many Christological invocations in place of “Lamb of God,” a practice which is specifically disallowed. Interestingly, though (and unintentionally, I imagine) this setting provides a way to follow the rule (only say “Lamb of God”) while dealing with the reality of needing to make the Agnus Dei last for a longer period of time: the 2nd and following invocations have a slightly different melody than the first and last. This provides a musical clue that we have, indeed, arrived at the last repetition.

Overall, I really like this setting. It is absolutely contemporary in style (Folk-born Contemporary Catholic… not Contemporary like P&W), so my traditionalist readers will just want to skip on by this one. Also (and I think this is true of a lot of “big” settings) this setting is very “festival,” if that makes sense to you, and I think it’s energy might be a bit much for Sunday-after-Sunday use throughout a long season. I might only program it (for example) during for the Christmas season, the Easter Season, or perhaps the Ordinary Time between Christmas and Easter.

But this is one of the best (maybe the best) contemporary-styled settings I have heard. So those of you (like me) who love Catholic Contemporary music, but are increasingly frustrated by the trite, the banal, the childish, and are looking for a shining example of excellent music in this genre- this is the Mass setting for you.

Thank you Scott Soper!

Missa Simplex – Michael O’Connor, O.P. (inspired by Gloria Simplex by Richard Proulx)

Yet another excellent setting from WLP.

It’s hard to really talk too specifically about the individual movements of this setting, as they all sound very similar- they are each based on the same single piece of music, and so the same melodies, the same harmonies, the same phrasings get used over and over. The upshot of that is sort of the opposite of my GIA favorites: a setting that works very well in an actual liturgy but makes a horrible car-ride CD. (BTW: That’s how it is supposed to be.)

This is a wonderful setting that is also chant-inspired and yet contemporary. It is through-composed, rather than Psalm-tone-like (although there is a fair amount of what I would call recitative. The melodic material is not chant, though- it is folk. I think this is a very good thing: it brings the practical aspect of chant (good for public prayer, good for prose texts), without the alienating foreignness of the modes and typical Gregorian melodies. (I know that’s a big down-side for my chant-loving friends). The text setting is excellent, which should be more normal (don’t most of these composers speak English?) but sadly is somewhat rare.

This is a really wonderful setting, and I think would serve well in most parishes. I particularly think that a Music Director who is trying to move a typical parish toward more solemn Mass music, but does not (or can not) plan to go all-Gregorian, would find this an excellent step in the right direction, or even a decent place to stay for a while. Also, I think this setting is durable enough to last for a long season (OT from after Ascension to Advent) without wearing out its welcome.

We were all saddened by Richard Proulx’s death last year. This setting is a wonderful tribute to his legacy.

Mass of Wisdom – Steven Janco

The recordings of this setting also offer both a contemporary and a traditional orchestration. So apparently this is part of a wider-campaign on WLP’s part to be awesome and useful. (In contrast to some other publishers, which are frequently neither.)

The Kyrie has two options: one with invocations and one without. Most settings do one or the other, but not both- so that’s a plus right there. Also (like most of WLP’s settings) both English and Greek are provided in the score. The Kyrie sounds oddly familiar (in a good way), and is both contemporary and simple. I can’t imagine using the provided scoring for woodwinds in a Mass (I just feel like maybe the Kyrie should be a bit more subdued), but the writing there is really nice and would sound wonderful if you chose to use it.

The Sprinkling Rite music (The Waters of the River) is excellent. It’s fun, it’s full, and I think would be easy to learn and perform. I think it would be well-liked. It’s choral, American-sounding (contemporary white Gospel) with a soloist singing verses over a SATB refrain (which the congregation is supposed to sing along with, although I’m not sure about that). I don’t think, though, that it makes a lot of sense to use it for its intended purpose. Unlike most of the other parts of the (OF) Ordinary, the liturgical action at this point is not “singing or speaking the given text,” but rather the sprinkling itself- the singing being an accompaniment/enhancement to that action. For this reason, I’m not sure a piece of music which draws as much attention to itself as this one does would be appropriate here. However, I could see using this piece as a choral anthem or as a general song of praise.

“In response to more than a few requests, and drawing upon my own experience as a parish music director, I’ve written a through-composed Gloria.”
I love that his reason is not “That’s what you’re supposed to do” (which is basically true), but rather “because it’s demonstrably better, and also people like it,” which is just awesome. The setting itself is really neat. It’s also very large. Even if you were to strip away all the scoring (which you’d almost certainly do in a normal parish on a normal Sunday), it has a big, concert-feeling just to the melody alone. When you add in everything else that you could, it’s one of the best big-contemporary-festival-Cathedral-concert settings (for lack of a better word) I’ve seen, and it reminds me of Rutter’s more exberant pieces. This is the sort of setting I really want to hear on Christmas or Easter morning. I’m unsure about how I would feel about even a stripped-down version on a week-after-week basis. I think it would depend a lot on the musical-culture of the parish generally (I’m sure any parish that had Steven Janco as its music director would be into it).

The Gospel Acclamation is excellent as music, but it’s more like music for a Gospel Parade than for a Gospel Procession. (I mentioned earlier my preferences on that.)

The Holy Holy, while very exciting to listen to (and probably a lot of fun to sing), is just way too much- too long, too complicated- for its liturgical function. My impression here is that the Eucharistic Prayer (perhaps the most important series of words ever spoken) is being interrupted by a concert piece. The other acclamations are disturbing in a similar way, and the Amen is almost frightening. The Lamb of God is not as bad, but it’s getting there.

Musically, I like this setting, but I have strong reservations about it’s use in normal parish life. Unfornately, I don’t think anyone out there is doing Contemporary-styled Concert Masses, as I think that would be the best venue for this work. But if you really like it, my advice: use the Kyrie and do something else for the rest of the Ordinary. Save the Gloria for Christmas morning (and hire an orchestra).

Mass of Charity and Love – Steven C. Warner

This setting is based on the hymn-tune CHRISTIAN LOVE by Paul Benoit. I wish that hymn has been included with the Mass in the recordings and score. (Oh well).

The Kyrie is simple, stright-forward, and a little boring. But it’s also solemn and easy to sing, so no complaints there. It is given without any invocations (my preference, BTW).

The Gloria is alright but not great, and the text setting is a bit weird in a few places. I think the melodic material is perhaps not that well suited to the structure of the prayer.

There is no Gospel Acclamation included- which is really more “right,” as the Gospel Alleluia (or Tract in Lent) is actually part of the Proper, not the Ordinary, of the Mass. (I don’t think most Catholic musicians know that, which is pretty sad.)

The Sanctus is similarly uninspired, and again the text setting is tough (“Blessed” as a single-syllable… no). The rest of the acclamations and the Agnus Dei have the same problem. I think perhaps I just don’t like the original hymn-tune.

(Update: That’s actually not the case. Apparently, the tune is based on the Gregorian hymn Veni Redemptor Gentium, which is really nice.)

Overall- this Mass just sort of bores me.

Mass of St. Ann – Ed Bolduc

While there are a number of “Contemporary” settings available, most of them are folk-based-Catholic (which isn’t exactly contemporary). This is the first I’ve seen (are there others?) which is specfically in the Praise & Worship style (which is actually Contemporary). I think if word of this setting gets out, it will become very popular.

The Kyrie (free of invocations) is very nice. The composer has found a way to be meditative within the pop style and the result is very prayerful.

Once again, the Gloria is given in a refrain-style setting and a through-composed setting. The writing here is just very exciting (I think the P&W crowd uses the word “uplifting”). Given the specific needs/habits of the P&W crowd, I imagine the refrain-setting would be more useful. Thankfully, the refrain here is actually worth singing four times. Also, I have to comment on the text setting: I was not at all sure that this new translation would fit contemporary styled-music very well. Mr. Bolduc does an excellent job with this, it sounds completely natural and idiomatic to the genre.

The Gospel Acclamation is (as with most of these) a bit much for its liturgical use. I think it would be more than excellent, though, repurposed as a general song of praise. (And introduce a Gregorian Alleluia into your LifeTeen Mass… they’ll love it… trust me.)

The Sanctus is weird to me. I could get over my usual thing about over-done Sanctuses (Sancti?), but this is one is just… I don’t know… odd. Perhaps, it’s actually a bit too short for its style (P&W music usually goes on and on with a lot of repeats). Perhaps it’s the out-of-character 16th-note pickups to “Hosanna.” I think the ending is also very abrupt. Whatever it is, it’s just not quite working for me.

On the other hand, the other acclamations are musically very nice, and (in the context of the style) work very well. I particularly like the melody and I find it to be very singable. However, the Amen is just too much. Way too much.

The Lamb of God is nice, but a bit generic-sounding as compared to the first two movements and the Mystery of Faith acclamations.

If you’re not into the style, or think it’s not appropriate for Mass, this review hardly matters to you. For the rest of you: this setting is very promising. I think the Kyrie and the Gloria are excellent, and if I was running doing music for a P&W-styled Mass, I would definitely use them. I’d hate to lose the Mystery of Faith acclamations, but I think I would look for a different setting of the Eucharistic Prayer sections (or write something myself designed to fit, so I could use the part I like here). I could take or leave the Agnus Dei, depending on if something better was available.

Summary:

Several people mentioned that WLP’s settings were the best of the Big Three. That certainly turned out to be true.

WLP embraces a diversity of styles within Catholic liturgical music. GIA and OCP do also, but the new Mass-setting offerings (and the hymnal output) from OCP and GIA has made me quite worried about even the idea of contemporary liturgical music. WLP has restored my belief in the possibility and power of diversity within the unity of the Roman Rite.

I know nothing at all about the goings-on or the motivations behind the decision making at any of these publishers, but I get a sense from their output that OCP and GIA are committed to “diversity” and contemporary music styles because of their perception of market demand, while WLP is committed to diversity (no scare-quotes) and contemporary styles because of an actual belief in catholicity. I think they really “mean it.”

Sacred Music Pricing

I recently reviewed a wonderful new Mass setting by Chris Mueller, which he is self-publishing and selling on his own website for $75.

This sounds really high, right?

Well- except that you’re getting digital content which you are free to print and copy at your leisure. A score for a Mass setting from a mainstream publisher would cost significantly less, but (to stay legal) you’d need to buy multiple copies: one for every choir member (which is probably a lot if you have the kind of choir that would be doing Chris’s mass setting) plus your conductor score and (probably) and organist copy.

This brings up an important issue in Sacred Music publishing today… how do price/sell/distribute your work today?

Let’s look at the facts.

  • A vast amount of traditional sacred music is available for free from sites like the Choral Public Domain Library and the Jean LaLande Rare Books Library
  • A new generation of passionate revolutionaries (which is likely to grow) is writing new sacred music in a variety of styles and giving it away for free, for a host of reasons (which are unlikely to go away) and distributing that music using a host of technologies (which are becoming cheaper and easier to use every day)
  • Consumers of sacred music are increasingly reliant on these free resources and expectant that everything should or could be free
  • Consumers of sacred music have less money than they’ve had for a long time:
    • We’re still in a down economy, and giving is down
    • The New Translation of the Roman Missal is causing many Catholic parishes to spend their already limited music budgets on new mass settings, new hymnals, and other new ritual books.
  • Mainstream publishers seem unwilling to adapt to either the changing ethos of music distribution or to the new wave of liturgical and musical traditionalism

Some Options

Traditional Publishing. If you can manage to get noticed and welcomed into the fold at a mainstream publisher, you have the advantage of a larger distribution network (probably), and you don’t have to spend (as much of) your own time promoting and marketing your own work. You also don’t have to figure out things like e-commerce websites or cross-state sales tax.

The problem I see with this approach is that you effectively cede control of your work to a commercial organization which may choose to promote your work, or not. They might change your text or arrangements (without your permission) to fit either their commerical agenda (guitar music sells better) or their corporate theology (apparently “Master” is too conservative a descriptor for God). And they might simply stop printing your music altogether.

On the other hand, the advantages of the support system offered by a mainstream publisher are undeniable: more people singing your music, less work on your part. Additionally, it’s a little disingenuous of the Traditional Sacred Music folks to bemoan the lack of high quality literature among the “Big Three” publishers while at the same time declaring that they would never choose to work with them.

Ultimately, though, this is hardly an important issue, as most of us won’t ever have the opportunity to publish with GIA, OCP, WLP, or even a smaller publisher like LitPress, even if we wanted to. I suspect most “I don’t believe in Mainstream Publishing” ideologues would sign a contract if it was offered, especially if it was clearly going to expand the composer’s reach and/or wallet. I’m pretty sure I would.

Self-Publish and Sell. This is the option taken by my new friend Chris Mueller. All of his choral scores are available on his own website. This gives him a great deal of control over his music, but it also limits his distribution in at least two ways:

  1. Not being in a quarterly catalog or in the “You Might Also Like” sidebar (advantages of mainstream publishing) means that potential buyers are only going to find his music based on his direct or indirect efforts. That’s great if you can catch the attention of a famous reviewer of new Mass settings, but what if your stuff just doesn’t quite fit the tastes of the handful of well-read liturgical blogs?
  2. Having your music available on your own website puts it (psychologically, for the buyer) into the same category as other micro-publishing intiatives, many of which give music away for free. If you look like a duck, quack like a duck, but cost a lot more than a duck- who’s buying you? This can be overcome if your music is so ridiculously good that it’s obviously worth it (Chris Mueller falls into that category, as does Kevin Allen), but
    1. Most of us don’t write music THAT good.
    2. I suspect it still is a hindrance to sales.

Most Sacred Musicians are not particularly business savvy, so things like marketing and sales (not to mention the complexities of setting a website and handling e-commerce) may be daunting. But for excellent composers with a bit of moxie, this can turn out to be a lucrative (relatively speaking) way to go.

Just Give it Away. This is my preferred method, primarily because I’d prefer to have a few people actually singing my music, rather than a smaller few paying for it. My assumption is that I will never make enough money as a composer for it to matter that I made any money as a composer. I don’t know if that’s downplaying my own abilities, or just being realistic about the fact that between my day job, my church job, and my regular life, I’m lucky if I write six new short pieces in a year (including arrangements and hymn-texts).

Moreover, there’s a lot of people (I like to think I’m one of them) who simply feel that the Church needs good new music, and they want to provide it as a service free of charge. I have to admit, when I finish a piece which I feel is worthy of being used in liturgy in a way that would give glory to God and comfort to God’s people, I have a hard time following up that feeling with, “And nobody should be allowed to use or photocopy this work without paying me.” I get all the justice issues and fair wage issues, but I think that only applies when using other people’s work, not when figuring out what to do with your own. That is- you should respect the intellectual property rights of others, but you shouldn’t seek to restrict your own.

The problem with giving music away is: How do you sustain/support a life dedicated to the creation of new music? It’s all well and good for me to declare that I don’t care if I ever make money on my composition- I have a day job, and composition is not high on my “employable skills” list. I wasn’t “born to write,” so I don’t think of composition in terms of supporting myself, my wife, and our future (God willing) children. Clearly, though, there are others (I mentioned both Kevin Allen and Chris Mueller) who are obviously called to be composers of Sacred Music. These people need to find a way to make sure that they can sustain their lives while devoting their time to the creation of music (they both seem to be doing well with that, by the way). Those in that situation are less likely able to give their music away, and if they were to do so, would need to find either patronage or related-work.

Freemium, or The Mixed Model Of course, you don’t have to be all in one way or another. I think, for micro-publishers the Mixed Model is probably the most sensible from a business standpoint.

The “Freemium” model is where some things (of usable value) are given away, while other things (of higher value) are reserved for paying customers. This is different than the “Free Sample” model of advertising, where unusable or barely usable things are given away in order to draw attention. Freemium gives away enough that many users are able to realize significant value without paying. This is good for PR, it’s good for Karma (or whatever), and it’s a way to be ideologically in the “give it all away for free” camp while reaping the benefits of actually selling things. In fact, I dare say that in most instances, you are likely to make more money in a Freemium model than in one where everything costs money.

The Freemium model is all over the place in modern business, because the cost of technology and content delivery is so low. (If you have a Pandora, Skype, or GMail account, you’ve experienced Freemium). A few examples in the Sacred Music world:

  • Noel Jones uses the Freemium model for his Catholic Choir Book series. All the material in the book is available for free, but you can also purchase “real” copies. Clearly, some see a value in that. Others (me!) can’t afford the hard copies and get a lot of use out of the free PDF version.
  • CCWatershed publishes a ridiculously large (and ever expanding) treasure trove of free music: Psalm Responses, Gregorian Propers, Gospel Acclamations, Rare Manuscripts, Latin Ordinaries. But they also offer materials for purchase, like this fabulous polyphonic Kyrie. They have built a fan base which has seen the high quality of their free output, and are able to leverage that goodwill into sales of premium content. (It also helps that everyone knows that the proceeds from sales get put back into the orgainization so that CCW can provide even more free resources int he future.)

What to do?

There are a lot of real strong opinions all over the Internet (shocking!) about what other people should do with their work, their money, their time. I think making declarations about what is the good or right way to do these things is arrogant at best. I can offer only some suggestions, gleened from my observations in the Sacred Music world and my experience in the Secular world of internet business and marketing.

I think it’s vitally important that composers realize what their options are, and think through the consequences of their decisions, particularly decisions that can’t be taken back (like putting a work into the public domain or signing away rights to a publishing company).

Beyond that, I think composers need to do the thing that will allow the most people to hear/sing the most amount of their music. For me, giving it away for free is the best way to get more people to use it. For others, charging some amount would allow them the financial resources to write more music, increasing the relative impact of their gifts on the world. The balance of free vs. not free, and the distribution/marketing/sales channels are going to be different for each, but that is the best judgement criteria I can come up with: what makes the most music.

I’m sure a more thoughtful reader will come up with a better philosophy here.

Learn More

The secular world has been dealing with these issues in a much more robust way than the Sacred Music world has. While not all lessons are transferable, I highly recommend learning from what they have been talking about. Two excellent places to start:

Discuss

What do you think is the best way forward for pricing and distribution of Sacred Music? Do you think mainstream publishing is on it’s way out? Is the “Give it away Free” model killing composers?

New Mass Setting Reviews: Missa pro editio tertia, Chris Mueller

I was recently made momentarily famous by Jeffrey Tucker, who first linked to my blog, and then interviewed me, on the Chant Cafe.

In an attempt to cling desperately to that shred of notoriety, I put out a general call that I would be more than happy to review any other new Mass settings for the new translations. Even though I write about liturgy and music, compose new settings and write hymn texts, apparently I am most famous for making snap judgements over the work of other, better composers. Ah well.

After making that general request, I got an email from Chris Mueller asking me if I would review his Missa pro editio tertia.

General Characteristics

The Mass is scored for SATB choir (unaccompanied ideally) and also includes optional scoring for Unison with Organ. The style is clearly Sacred Choral, with a contemporary harmonic sensibility (Contemporary in the Art Music meaning, not Contemporary like Pop).

It’s really beauitful.
Chris Mueller definitely knows how to write some gorgeous music.

That out of the way, let me talk for a minute about the only “problem” with the setting (if you could even call it that) and then come back to what’s so lovely about it.

Not Congregational

Naturally, there are many schools of thought about just how much singing the congregation should, could, or wants to sing in a Mass. My opinion (the Ordinary belongs to the people) is really just one among many legitimate options. Moreover, different types of Masses, on different days, in different places, for different occasions, have different musical needs.

So, you may find this to be a weakness, a strength, or really neither, but- This Mass does not strike me as something a congregation is going to sing. The composer includes a Unison/Organ setting, ostensibly for the purpose of a cantor leading a congregation. But I find it really weak that way. The beauty of this work is the choral writing. Besides, I just don’t think a congregation is going to sing this the way they would sing a plainchant Ordinary or one in a popular style.

Ridiculously Beautiful, though

I don’t really know how else to say it. The music is gorgeous. The writing is as good as anything from the big-name choral composers. Except, I think, it’s actually better than that because it’s clear (at least, to me) that the composer has a Catholic liturgical grounding, as opposed to, say, a musical sense geared for concert performance or to the traditions of Anglican church music. Even though I believe this music is decidedly not congregational, it is still devotional in nature, something I usually would not say about even the most beautiful contemporary choral art music.

Kyrie

The intoning of the Kyrie by a solo singer is reminiscent of chant (I don’t know if the melody is wholly original or if it is borrowed from a chant source).
The response for each call flowers into quite stunning choral harmonies that actually made me tear up a little the first time I heard it.

Gloria

As it was with the Psallite Mass, it’s hard to talk about this setting wihout mentioning the new translation. The new Gloria text goes beyond a word or phrase having changed- the structure of the Latin poetry is restored. New settings which notice this structure, and work with it, get my strong vote of approval.

This setting certainly “gets it.” The composer used the natural sense of the short, litanic phrases (“We bless you, we glorify you” etc) to inform the musical structure, without becoming too choppy (on the one hand) or attempting to string them into a longer, more “classical” melodic line (on the other). This is writing in the spirit of Palestrina: using the full range of contemporary theory and technique, but subordinating that skill to the needs of the text. It’s a glorious thing to hear.

Sanctus

The first thing I noticed about this movement was the amount of space I feel in the first “Holy.” The sound is open and giant. I’m reminded of the feeling (not the sound, just the feeling) of a Copeland suite. Also (oddly) of the “Echo” Chorus from Dido and Aeneas.

The second thing I noticed was that the music clearly fit (my understanding of) the text, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.” (See my rambling explanation of this in the Psallite Mass Review). I still don’t know if my understanding of the Latin/Hebrew grammar is right, but at least I’ve found one composer who shares it.

Beyond that I’m having trouble finding more ways to say “I really love it, and think it’s really beautiful.”

Agnus Dei

The Agnus Dei is remarkably comforting. Yes, I find myself thinking, You have taken away the sin of the world. I know You will have mercy, even on me.

I said this disparagingly about a pop-based setting, but now I find myself making the same analagy in a complimentary way: The feeling here is reminiscent of the “3/4s piece” in a musical theatre work. That’s a song about three-fourths of the way through the show that is intended to reassure you that the exhausting journey of the show is almost over, and that everything will be alright in the end. The final battle (or whatever) is still to come, but you should know it’s going to be alright.

When this is done in a cheezy or cliche way, it’s really inappropriate to worship. (If it works, it’s emotional blackmail. If it doesn’t, it’s cartoon music.) But here it is happening unselfconciously. The composer isn’t trying to make you feel any particular way (I don’t think), the composer is simply providing you an opportunity to ponder the great mystery.

Because of him kings shall stand speechless;
for those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Overall Thoughts

As I said, it is my opinion that this is not congregational music. And I think the only weakness in it is the composer’s non-acknowledgement of that fact. I don’t know if he really thinks that could be sung by a congregation, or if he is just feigning ignorance because he knows everybody wants music that the congregation can sing. Tough to say.

I, for one, found myself rethinking my own strong bias against a non-congregational setting of the Ordinary while listening to this work. The usual answer from people who do not care for/about congregational singing is that the people should “actively listen” and that “actual participation” involves interior meditation, not outward activity (such as singing).

Well- I wouldn’t go that far. As I said before, I think the Ordinary in particular belongs to the people. However, in some situations (touristy cathedrals, solemn “High” OF masses, etc- not to mention concerts and concert Masses) I can imagine a desire and/or a need to have a good choral ordinary. This first Mass settings I’ve heard that, to my ears and heart, sounds like it would fit the artistic needs of a choral ordinary while actually serving the needs of a praying congregation beyond the usual beautiful “earwash” mood music.

I compared the setting to Palestrina earlier, and I would extend that comparison further to Byrd’s few-voice Masses. I don’t mean that comparison musically (apples and oranges, really), but rather in the spirit of the thing: this music sounds new. It is not a copy of some earlier, falsely venerated style. But it’s not new for the sake of new, either. Here we have a very gifted composer (who should be more famous, by the way) marrying his craft to the needs of the liturgy and, more, to what I can only assume is his very deeply held personal faith.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to Chris Mueller both for writing this setting and for asking me to review it. It was a pleasure.

You can listen to samples from this setting, and purchase scores for your own parish use, here.

Sanctus – New Setting of the New ICEL Text – Missa Sakanala

I’m not done with the whole setting, but I think I may be soon, so I thought I’d let people see and hear the Sanctus from my Missa Sakanala.

The Mass is based on (inspired by… copied from…) early American Chant, particularly Shaker chant. Many people are aware of Shaker songs, but fewer seem to be aware of their chant tradition. I find it quite refreshing and wonderful, and I really think this (rather than pop/rock) is really what is meant by “enculturation.” The idea here is to keep the inherent solemnity and simpleness of Latin plainchant, and yet write in a music (melodic) idiom that is not quite so foreign to contemporary American ears.

The name of the Mass setting is Missa Sakanala. (UPDATE: Actually, that’s not true anymore. See below.)

Sakanala is, according to Shaker tradition, the name of an angel who delivered to one of their members a lengthy message about God’s protection over their community through all strife. The tune of the song forms the basis of the Sanctus melody, and the story of the original text is (while I don’t believe in Shaker cosmology) appropriate to our time- indeed, to all time.

I hope you enjoy.

UPDATE!
Under advice from my wife and Fr. Anthony Ruff, I have changed the name of this setting to Mass of the Blessed Fire. Please take a look at the website for this setting and sign up to get email updates about its completion.

New Mass Setting Reviews: Psallite Mass, At the Table of the Lord

Several months ago, after my reviews of OCP’s and GIA’s new Mass settings, I got an email from Paul Ford asking me if I would review the new Psallite Mass setting.

I said I would.

And, until now, I haven’t sat down to write a review. The problem?
It was too good.

I was so excited about the setting when I first heard it, that I knew I had to write a really excellent review to make sure there was no doubt that this was a wonderful Mass setting.

But I didn’t have time to write such a long, wonderful, and specific review. So then, a few weeks later, I started to think, “Gosh- now that I’ve waited, I better make sure I write an even better review than I originally intended.”

Of course, that extra requirement made it even less likely that I would have the time to do it. So months passed. And passed.

I decided today I just have to write it. Even if it’s not going to be the most well-written review ever, and isn’t everything that this new setting deserves. It certainly deserves my best-available effort, at least.

I’ll briefly describe the style, go through the individual movements, and then wrap up with why I think it’s a great setting.

Overall Style

The Psallite Mass is (potentially) unaccompanied, chant-like, unmetered, and scored for SATB choir.
(I say potentially, because there is also a keyboard part and lead-sheet chords provided. A very very judicious use of piano or guitar may be worthwhile in some places. I’ll talk about that later.)
English, Latin, and Spanish are all included. I think I have heard that it will be available in other languages (maybe a commenter can add some info on that point.)
The style is essentially Psalm-tone in nature.

Kyrie

A repetition of the congregational response for each “eleison” provides a sort-of “back-door” restoration of the nine-fold Kyrie. Also, I’m pleased with a lack of an English alternative here (Everyone can learn three words in Greek. Also, since it was foreign to Latin speakers in the Latin liturgy, it might as well stay foreign in a verncaular liturgy.)

The melody is very straighforward, and not particularly interesting (that’s a good thing here). The choral harmonization blooms only in the last phrase, which is really pretty. The voice leading (as it is thorughout) is very clean and something about it here reminds me of Renaissance music.

Gloria

This is one of the simplest and most prayerful Gloria settings I’ve ever heard. I really love it. The structure (several lines to a melodic/harmonic formula, then a new formula for several lines, etc) makes the structure and logic of the prayer text itself more apparent than any English setting I’m aware of (this is, of course, aided by the new translation). This really seems as if the music was written FOR THE TEXT (and I bet it was!).

When I first heard it, the simple melody seemed easy to sing while still being prayerful. Forgive the clumsiness of this, but: It sounds like what modern ears want Gregorian chant to sound like, except real chant never does. That is, it has the heart of chant, but is written for people still expecting contemporary harmonic/melodic vocabulary.

That’s a feeling I have throughout the piece, but it is especially the case for the Gloria.

Creed

I honestly don’t understand why people want to sing/chant the creed. I know the traditionalists are mostly really pro-chanting the creed, and obviously in a fully sung Latin Mass, it needs to be sung along with everything else.

That being said, the tone written for the Creed is very straightforward, easy to sing, and provides excellent forward-motion, so that it doesn’t feel like the Creed is taking FOREVER (which is how I usually feel about sung creeds).

This one, I could get into it. And I’m sorry that my personal bias on this point means that this is about all I can say about the Creed movement of this excellent setting.

Sanctus

Like everything else, very nice.
Here is probably my only criticism of the whole piece, and it may be entirely based on my misunderstanding:
I have always understood the Latin:
Sanctus sanctus sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth
as being two phrases broken thusly:
Holy holy holy…. Lord God of Hosts

That is, “Lord” belongs to “God of Hosts” (or to “God”) more than it belongs to “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
This was confused by the old-ICEL translation:
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord…. God of power and might.
But is blessedly corrected in the new, actually accurate, translation.

Anyway…
Musically then, I would want the melodic writing to match the grammar. Which here, it does not. The writing makes the phrase, “Holy holy holy Lord… God of Hosts.”
The same thing is done in the Latin as well.

This is, however
1) Not that big a deal
2)Easily overcome by thoughtful singing
3)Possibly a completely incorrect understanding of the Latin grammar.

Otherwise, I like the Sanctus a lot.

One of my big problems with most contemporary, non-chant Mass settings (even ones I like) is that they seem to pluck the congregation out of the Eucharistic prayer for a short (or too long) unrelated musical aside. It’s almost like a cartoon joke about musical-theatre. (And it’s why there are more Mass settings that I would listen to in a car than there are ones I would program in a normal liturgy).

This Sanctus is short, beautiful, and to the point. If you were using instruments, there would be little more than a chord strum as an intro. It matches the text (almost) perfectly, and allows the people to participate (actively! fully! conciously!) in the prayer without being distracted from what is actually going on.

The Lord’s Prayer

O goodness, that’s pretty! I’m listening to it right now as I write this. So simple.

My Thoughts on Instruments with this Setting

I first learned to chant in a small chapel at a retreat center run by Franciscans. The Brother who provided music for Mass and the Daily Office accompanied Psalm Tones and other harmonized chants with a piano.
I know that there are many a purist who find piano completely out of place in liturgy. And even more who might find a limited use for it but would nix its presence for chant. (Likewise with the guitar.)
While my strong preference here is for unaccompanied singing (which, besides being the normative choice in the Roman Rite is also just unbelievably beautiful), I can definitely imagine a very restrained and unobtrusive use of either piano or guitar to accopany this Mass setting. Besides the tonal support this would provide (some choirs need it!), this could go a long way toward helping a congregation steeped in contemporary/folk/pop music transition to a more solemn (and really, more contemporary) form of sung prayer.
One of the things I like best about this setting is that it doesn’t draw attention to itself- it gets out of the way so that the people can pray. In many places, it would draw LESS attention to itself when accompanied by a piano or guitar, and I think that is a good thing.

Final Thoughts

I’m of the strong opinion that the ICEL chants are the way to begin with the new translation of the Mass. But soon after Advent 1 of this year, the words of the Ordinary will be what they are now: words we are used to saying and/or singing Sunday after Sunday. So it won’t be too long before we are all going to be wanting to select other options for our parishes.
The Psallite Mass should be near the top of everyone’s list. It is solemn, contemporary, easy to sing, inspired by chant (the official music of the Roman Rite), and just beautiful. It will (I hope, I hope, I hope) provide a bridge between the increasingly separate factions within Catholic music.

I imagine the folk mass crowd suddenly discovering that they actually like simple, unaccompanied singing. I imagine the chant-only traditionalists realizing that there are wonderful possibilities for contemporary musical sensibilities within a solemnly-undertaken vernacular liturgy. I imagine a long-suffering RotR music director at a “Spirit of Vatican II” parish secretly smiling to herself as the progressives actively participate their way through a chanted Ordinary. I imagine contemporary-music lovers getting the chant bug, and finding their way from this beautiful setting into a Latin Kyriale or an Anglican psalter.

This is, by far, the best new setting of the Ordinary I have heard or seen since the new translations were announced.