Some people on the traditional side of things are demoralized because Pope Francis has a markedly different liturgical style from that of Benedict XVI. Some might wonder if it is worth trying to promote the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and try to get going celebrations of Holy Mass with the 1962 Missale Romanum.
I respond that Pope Benedict gave us juridical provisions, a great example, a pat on the head, and direction to follow. It is up to you.
You need to be willing to be patient and to work hard and to make some sacrifices. You have to initiate projects and gather people and be persuasive. You have to learn to do things and be self-starters.
For example, you can get a Gregorian chant schola cantorum going. Gregorian chant is not quantum physics or olympic level biathlon. Get some people together, open up the books, and start singing.
Here is useful tool for project.
I received an email announcing that Corpus Christi Watershed, the people who put out the spectacular Saint Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal for the Traditional Latin Mass (HERE), now have available online the entire Extraordinary Form Graduale Romanum for Sundays.
You will find there, well-organized, the musical notation, videos of the notation with proper chants for every Sunday sung as the notation scrolls down and as English translation is displayed, the organist part (which I dislike – I intensely dislike chant with organ), and many of Sundays have mp3s that can be downloaded.
The creator wrote: “Now that the Sundays are complete, I will start adding the 1962 Holy Days, such as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast of St. Joseph, etc.”
This will be a great resource for people who want to start a schola cantorum.
I skipped around a bit and found recordings of the Monks at Trior were featured heavily. You can’t go wrong imitating their style. The rest seem to be strongly under the influence of what we might call a middle-period Solesmes style. For example, in the videos I dipped into I don’t hear any “repercussion” (this is somewhat beyond what beginners need to get into). Also, some Sundays provide more than one example of the chant being sung. Pentecost, has three different recordings of the Introit.
It is good to have those examples. They both help the timid or less experienced and they help the neophyte avoid two mistakes which are deadly to chant… prayerful chant.
We need to apply the Goldilocks principle when singing chant. The pace of our chanting must be neither too slow nor too fast. It has to be – everybody together please – just right.
Chant is prayer. It is the Church’s preferred sacred music. The texts are sacred. This means that they must be sung as texts and sung as if they were sacred.
If you sing the chant too slowly, you lose the sense of the chant, you lose the meaning because the chant, the text, becomes less and less understandable. Yes, you have to understand what the text is saying. You don’t have to be a Latin scholar to know that (though that helps a lot). People in the pews have books they can follow, that is true. But singing the chant too slowly risks breaking the integrity of the text’s meaning. Try listening to an audio book at a really slow rate of reading. As you turn the pace down, it eventually becomes incomprehensible.
If you sing chant too quickly, you tend to retain the meaning of the text, but you put its sacral character at risk. The texts are sacred. They deserve respect and time. They must not be rushed. They must be savored. Chant that is rushed has a nervous, jittery quality to it. It lacks the essential quality: it isn’t prayerful. The pace of a Mass must not be lugubrious. Every Mass and every element of Mass must retain a sense of progress, of moving forward towards a goal. When you tear through a chant, you might be making progress, but you lose the essential sacral sense. Every word of the chants are the voice of the Church singing with Christ’s own voice. Christ is the true Actor during Mass. He borrows us, the baptized, and uses our gestures and song.
Here is an experiment. I found on the Watershed site the famous Introit for today’s Mass: Iubilate. I used a program to slow it down and speed it up. I think you will find that the chant has quite a different sense depending on the pace. Keep in mind that not all chants are sung exactly the same way. Much depends on the text, the season, the moment of the Mass itself. An Introit and a Gradual and a Sequence are different kinds of chants. My point here is to demonstrate what a change in pace will do to any chant.
If you are wondering, yes, I have heard chant sung that slowly and that quickly.
If you pay attention to the meaning of the text, the moment of the Mass, the season, and the “feeling” of the actual Mass as it is being celebrated, with time you develop a good sense of the proper pace. There is no exact formula for arriving at exactly the right pace each time. Personal experience will be a guide, as well as the advice of the experienced.
In any event, Fr Z kudos to Watershed for creating this great new resource.
Novus Ordo… TLM… start making phone calls and get that new schola going!