Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pushing the Music Agenda

"In encouraging the participation of the entire congregation in the music of the liturgy, there is an important principle: “singing means singing the Mass, not just singing during Mass.” The participation of the people is all the more authentic when they are singing the central and essential parts of the liturgy. This applies particularly to the Ordinary of the Mass, for two principal reasons. First of all, the people’s parts of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) are generally liturgical actions in and of themselves, and not the accompaniment of another action."
Mahrt, William Peter (2012-01-16). The Musical Shape of the Liturgy (Kindle Locations 4304-4309).  . Kindle Edition.

In Mahrt's book, The Musical Shape of the Liturgy, which I consider to be one of the bright moments of the liturgical reform/restoration discussion (cf. Mutual Enrichment ), the author makes an important distinction between music in our tradition intended to accompany actions (like processions) and music which is in and of itself an action. Without being too bullish or intimidating about it for us poor priests who die a thousand deaths every time we think about solo singing ourselves in church, Mahrt makes the point that the apex of Latin Rite liturgy is indeed the Solemn Sung Mass. That for background to contextualize the above quote!

In the light of the publication of the 2nd Una Voce discussion paper on the 1962 Missal, Liturgical Piety and Participation , I think it is very important to point out that our "assisting" at Mass, our "active participation" is a reasoned sort of thing which goes far beyond some kind of "doing". Chant Cafe (Jeffrey Tucker) had recently invited analysis of an article published by Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ, in America Magazine about the Jesuit's revisiting the EF and not being able to find his way back to that way of worshipping. Some of what appears in Father's article is a defense of the OF parish status quo relative to active participation and it strikes me as un-reflective or emotive defensiveness and no more. His wanting to go and see is little more than a literary contrivance setting the stage for the statement of an a priori rejection of our lived liturgical patrimony as expressed in the EF.

As I say, apart from my own fear of "flying" (unaccompanied solo singing), I think that what Mahrt advocates as a Sunday Worship Music Program would be far less demanding and more enriching for priest and people than the usual parish hymnody. Just as for most people the "And with your spirit" hurdle proved imaginary or contrived, so I think that moving people from hymn singing to doing what Mahrt rightly states to be the congregation's parts ( Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei ) and working on a choir or schola for the Mass propers (Introit, Gradual, Communion) might shock any honest man or woman into discovering that all of a sudden they are getting more out of Mass because they are into the flow of it as it was always meant to be.

I think that some people really ought to read Mahrt's book and find the wherewithal for "jumping the music hurdle"... And with your spirit!

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