PRAYERCAzT 30: 3 tones of the Christmas Preface (1962MR)

Say The Black - Do the RedWelcome to another installment of What Does the Prayer Really Sound Like?

Today we will hear the three tones of the Preface for Christmas in the 1962 Missale Romanum and the 2002MR as well. I don’t speak them this time.  I just sing the ferial, solemn, and more solemn tones.

If I could make a recommendation to priests who sing prefaces.  When you get to the end of a phrase, and especially at the end before the Sanctus, soften the volume a little.  Few things are as nasty as hammering that last note of a phrase in any chant, but especially going into the Sanctus… even more especially if there is a bit of a gap while the choir is trying to figure out what to do next.

How can choirs be surprised that it is their turn to sing?  Why are they so often not ready? Why do they start look for a pitch after they were supposed to begin?  That is the stuff of another entry.

Also, I have the prayers for the Masses of Christmas in another PRAYERCAzT here.

If priests who are learning to say the older form of Holy Mass can get these prayers in their ears, they will be able to pray them with more confidence. So, priests are my very first concern.

However, these audio projects can be of great help to lay people who attend Holy Mass in the Traditional, or extraordinary form: by listening to them ahead of time, and becoming familiar with the sound of the before attending Mass, they will be more receptive to the content of the prayers and be aided in their full, conscious and active participation.

Pray for me, listen carefully, and practice practice practice.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. revs96 says:

    I (and I’m sure many other people as well, both priest and lay) would like the sheet music for each of the prefaces, especially the tonus solemnior, as it is rarer.

  2. KevinSymonds says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z., for a beautiful piece!

  3. Father S. says:

    I am a priest who offers the EF and OF. (In fact, I am headed over to church in a few moments to prepare for the OF for First Saturday devotions.) We often have a Missa Cantata on First Saturday, presuming that our schola can be present. I am also an organist and vocalist, having practically grown up in the choir loft with a father for a choir director. I was likewise a seminary organist for five years while in the seminary. I only give this preface because I think that I can speak from both sides of the the Communion rail, so to speak.

    In terms of timing, rhythm and flow, I think that the burden here lies more on the priest than on the choir. [Sorry, all the priest’s texts are in the book and, usually, they all follow the usual order of things.] The choir is greatly helped by musical cues, since they rarely have the Missal opened in front of them to see where we are in the text. As you say, Fr. Z., we can indicate the end our prayers by tone and speed. Now, we are not singing show tunes. We are not performing nor trying to draw attention to ourselves. The singing of Holy Mass, though, requires a leader.

    I think that recording ourselves can be very helpful for this. (As a side note, it can be helpful for sermons, too. Sometimes the preacher simply stops without coming in for a landing, as it were. This kind of abruptness is obvious when we see ourselves do it on video.) Also, particularly when offering Holy Mass ad orientem, we need to be particularly aware of our tonal quality because we cannot make eye contact with the organist via the organ mirror in the choir loft. Going to a sung Mass (in the OF or the EF) is like going to a high school orchestra concert. If everything goes well, the music is uplifting. But, if there are still folks in the orchestra who only play notes but have no nuance, the music is cumbersome and painful. Singing is not noise; it is music.

  4. Father S. says:

    Pardon me, I meant that I am headed over for the EF this morning. It’s time for Low Mass. Our schola is away, but the line for Confession will still be long!

  5. Tom in NY says:

    Naturally, liturgical singers must concentrate on their cues, hit their pitch and stick together. Singers often leave the burden of sheet music, cues and pitch to the organist.The organist who missed too many cues would need to find another Calling; fortunately, in my life in church choirs this need has been rare. These was also life in choirs before V-II. Diebus antiquis choir could follow the ordinary of Mass from memory, as well as in a missal.
    When singing a capella , the leader’s pitch pipe and sense of rhythm can keep the group together; practice brings familiarity with the music that leads to good expression.
    So much for the talking…now to the music.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  6. Fr. W says:

    Since our schola is very basic, and our people participate in the dialogue, would it be acceptable to use the opening dialogue of the Preface in the Solemn tone which they are used to, but then sing the Preface in the tono solemniore? I find it beautiful, but our schola would not be able to switch to those responses easily.

    Just wondering.

    P.S. – The sheet music for epistles and gospels is available on-line, I use it every Sunday.

  7. gatorchant says:

    Father Z, I know in the case one parish I’ve sung at, the choir has to wait for the priest to finish intoning the preface, as he usually elongates the final word (“… we join in their unending hymn of praaaaaaaaaaise”). Even now that we know it’s coming, it’s still a bit of a surprise and leaves us with our eyebrows raised. Imagine how dissonant it would sound (not to mention how impatient and insensitive it would seem) if the organist started to play the Sanctus before the priest was done singing!

    In this case and in most cases, I imagine the situation might be helped if the priest received a starting pitch from the choir, so that the preface and the Sanctus could be sung in the same or relatively similar keys/modes.

  8. It’s called preparation and communication. The priest and choir director/organist should get on the same page before Mass begins. Just a quick check with each other.

  9. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Z:

    What a beautiful and helpful recording. Fr. Matthew McNeely, of the FSSP stationed in Sacramento, CA, also has a most beautiful voice for singing the solemn tones (St. Stephen’s is so blessed to have him). As usual, you provide a most helpful service for your brother priests.

  10. Fr. Sotelo: We aim to be useful.

  11. Father S. says:

    Well, Father, you are most certainly entitled to your opinion. You certainly have many years of faithful priestly experience to draw upon. That being said, I nonetheless reassert what I posted before. I will expand on it by saying that order does not seem to be the issue. The issue seems to be the clarity of moving from one item to the next with the liturgy. Certainly this burden does not rest entirely with the priest. Nor, for that matter, does inadequate preparation excuse the choir, However, the rhythm of the liturgy seems to me to be set by the priest.

  12. Father S: Which means, of course, that when the priest is nearly finished singing the Preface, he reaches out to the choir loft with his psychic powers and prompts the choir to start singing the Sanctus at precisely the right moment.

    Alternatively, Father can wheel around and, waving, whistle and shout “NOW!”

  13. Father S. says:

    Father Z: It doesn’t mean that at all, really. As I said initially, I think that this communication can be done musically. The priest’s tone, tempo and pitch can indicate when his part will conclude. This is not much help for the choir that is daydreaming, but it is of great help to the choir who is ready. I think of the typical example in my experience of the priest who has great difficulty singing the preface. Sometimes, he stops near the end, singing the wrong cadence. He stops for a breath and joins his hands. The organ starts to play and then he gets going again. This is easily avoidable if the priest is clear about what he is doing.

  14. Father S: Because the choir director may still be confused after having heard – how many times? – “Et ideo…” or “… una voce dicentes…“. Yes, indeed… he might not know that the priest is getting close to the end of the Preface. Surprises me every time, now that I think of it, and I have been singing these things for 20 years and listening to them for longer.


  15. revs96 says:

    I say the choir should have a copy of the preface. If they have copies of what their singing, one more piece of music wouldn’t hurt, even if they’re only following along. Many like me in the pews follow along.

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