Mass Settings Found Wanting

My parish’s music committee has found significant flaws in just about every Mass setting we’ve reviewed so far.

In our initial meetings, there was a concensus to learn one new Mass setting and implement in October. Then add a second new setting for Lent before looking to revive an older setting, revised.

The current listing, which has been in place for the past five or six years:

  • Remembrance, Haugen, in Advent and Lent
  • Creation at Christmastime
  • Glory by Hurd and Canedo, Easter season
  • Celtic, Walker, in ordinary time
  • Angels and Saints, Janco, in ordinary time

Each of these settings has their own problems. Remembrance is pitched too high, and the “Amen, Alleluia” is awkward to start. I like the Gloria, but we don’t use it. The Lamb of God is the highlight, and most musicians feel the same about it.

There’s a fatigue with Mass of Creation. My own sense is that it was one of the better options in the mid-80′s. But every Mass setting Marty Haugen has published since then is superior. I have to ask: why would we use a composer’s 6th-best Mass in a parish that sings five?

Glory has a learning curve, and we’re well past it in the parish. The revisions look good to me, and I wouldn’t object to retaining this setting if the parish insisted. But the first (and I think best) sense of the committee was to hold off on the revised settings until later.

I confess I’ve not been a fan of the Celtic Mass. I don’t think the part writing for instruments is good, and my better musicians have used more direct language in their critique. I remember an OCP clinician really, really pressing the alleluia at a conference in 1988. I didn’t like the in-your-face promotion then, and it took me years to warm up to the piece. The refrain is really a very nice piece of music. And it’s the best of the whole setting. Too bad we don’t have an available Mass setting from Fintan O’Carroll.

The Mass of Angels and Saints was pushed by the archdiocese in 2000. I grudgingly complied with teaching it in my parish at that time, and it has grown on me since. At first, I thought it was kind of a Creation-lite. But as I’ve gotten used to playing it the past three years, I’ve come to appreciate the feel of the accompaniment on piano, guitar, and hammer dulcimer. Every piece in this Mass has a direction–it moves forward. The one complaint I hear is that the Sanctus gets too repetitive. And maybe that’s true, but it still makes sense musically. But like the Mass of Glory, I’d be inclined to retain this setting–it’s just that the musicians and I think we’re better off introducing a new setting.

The archdiocese has listed five Mass settings it has given an endorsement of sorts.

  • Community, revised, by Proulx
  • Black Mountain, revised, by Morris
  • Resurrection, revised, by DeBruyn
  • Christ the Savior, by Schutte
  • chant setting, ICEL

Each of these has problems, too. My parish’s musicians who attended the regional music meeting this past Monday night weren’t thrilled with any of them. I’m going to save my impressions of these Masses for another post. Maybe later today. Maybe tomorrow.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Mass Settings Found Wanting

  1. Charles in CenCA says:

    Todd, the Janco is the one I’ve ever endorsed in the past.
    We discerned all new for the MR3-
    StAnn-Bolduc WLP
    Simplex-Proulx WLP (new to us)
    New World-Haas (ironic!). GIA
    St Therese Child of Jesus-Nickel CCW
    ICEL last Sunday of each month

    Those are spread among 12 English Masses, with Bolduc the primary. How’s that for a chant guy?;-)

  2. Right on all counts, Todd. We are learning Tony Alonso’s Mass of Joy and Peace. Pleasant, has a nice sense of movement to it, and simple enough to learn the new words in.. We will go back to the Hurd as well. Also, Rory Cooney is revising Mass of St. Aiden… he sent me samples and it looks promising.

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