From Ambrosian Chant

One of my favorite tunes in By Flowing Waters is the Sanctus “in the Ambrosian style,” #609. It is just wonderful. Paul Ford told me the original is #46 in the Graduale Simplex. I would prefer using this chant over the Sanctus in the missal. I don’t know that I can convince my parish musicians to sing plainsong. They were, as a group, decidedly unimpressed with the “official” chants. This piece, I thought, was way superior.

It brings to mind a thought I’ve been having about new music for the new translation. I wonder if we’re going to enter a new age of balkanization–that parish to parish we’ll see a large variety of different Mass settings. Settings that would be, for the first few to several years, unfamiliar to neighboring parishes.

To offer my contribution to the b-ization, I’ve reset GS46 with the new text. I also picked up a few notes and set the three acclamations for the Mystery of Faith:


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Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to From Ambrosian Chant

  1. Ken Macek says:

    Todd, I think beyond the shadow of a doubt that there will be Balkanization between possibly regions of the country, certainly between parishes, and very likely even within individual parishes that maintain varying degrees of autonomy for multiple choirs/ensembles. That is a perfectly normal expectation when you consider that is likely that the ‘next MOC’s functional equivalent will likely not come onto the scene until its composer has lived and absorbed the new translation for 5-10 years, maybe. Hey, just enjoy the ride until some ‘definitive’ renditions claim their position not via mandates but through an unofficial but unmistakable mass
    gravitation in their direction. Both parishes I work in picked Steve Janco’s Mass of Wisdom as the communal setting for year one; both places will no doubt go Balkan after then, which is still an improvement as it will be the first time in both parishes that the multiple music groups all are on the same page for a while.

  2. Lately it seems like I’ve evolved into some sort of sommelier of IRONY, finding the emergent reactions to the process of MR3 deployment indicated a variety of barely palatable reactions and jubilant reactions from unusual quarters.
    K/T, you’ve probably noticed the ire coming out of Canada this week about their lack of options, while the realization that the “natural” pre-eminence of MOC is now unstable. While AWR was, at the least, instrumental in the crafting of the ICEL setting, many of the PTB co-hort won’t touch it with a ten foot baton, and there’s not much more than a murmur from the CMAA co-hort other than a nod that it’s mandate to become standard practice is obvious, but…..?
    My first RCC music “mentor,” Rv. E.Don Osuna of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Oakland used to answer my questions about any sort of “nationalization” or “white list” sort of hymnal with a short answer: “Never gonna happen.” I think he got the essential reality that the “nation” part of that will always be a nation of immigrants and pilgrims, with a vast and likely untenable mixture of cultural heritages never likely to be culled into any sort of coherence as “national.”
    So, ironically, I don’t think that our current/past situations indicate “Balkanization” per se, but more likely analogous to pre-Gregory I Europe, where regional chant traditions thrived for centuries within the systematic aural/oral traditions in the monasteries. But “collecting” these various traditions now is fairly instantaneous, and thus more confounding to the locals as the catalogs of titles are spread out on the piano. And then there’s that inconvenient little truth that catholics prefer to have some authority decide “for them” the course of action, rather than to delve in and use their God given intelligence and free will to discern was is most worthy and best for their local situation. Irony.
    I concur with Ken’s prediction that a brilliant, encompassing English setting (a new MOC, so to speak) will likely emerge after time. But I also think it’s going to have to pass stronger stress tests than did Haugen’s, as Marty didn’t have a blogosphere full of experts like US!!! to contend with, harping about lack of this, or predominance of that. Irony.
    And the unkindest irony of all is that Latin chant enthusiasts (please don’t characterize us with pom poms, thanks) such as JT are recognizing that the deliberate, pristine and freely available solution to liturgical language unity will continue to be widely ignored or shelved forever, and that newly minted chant vernaculars will have to compete within a culture that isn’t conditioned to recognize the form of chant as a distinctly “sacral” expression.
    As I remarked to some very enthusiastic parishioners yesterday, I’m just happy to see chant finally being afforded a place at the table of worship, among the musics that all three of us have had access to for decades.

  3. Katherine says:

    Our diocese is going to recommend a couple of settings, including one we will use for ordinations, Chrism Mass, etc next year, so we will have a bit of diocesan-level unity.

    What Ken describes as Balkanization within parishes is my experience, too, exactly by allowing autonomy of musical groups/cantors in planning music. Our music director is fine with having us all learn the two recommended settings, but is reluctant to force people to learn a setting they actively dislike just because a different group wants to use it.

    Todd, are you willing to share your redo of GS 46? And have any of you had the chance to look at the little collection of new settings from Collegeville? I’m told they are chant-like, but haven’t gotten a look at them yet. I’d be interested in hearing your views.

  4. Todd says:

    Katherine, I found out from Dr Ford that he will be posting GS 46/BFW 609 online for free download sometime. The small change in words is a pretty simple matter to adapt. I will show my version to my parish’s musicians, but I feel funny about stealing a colleague’s thunder on this. It’s pretty clear how he will adapt it. And if I’m wrong, I don’t want to compete with his fine efforts.

    I would have an easier time selling this setting to a very skeptical batch of church musicians. I was really surprised our regional meeting uncovered so many problems with the ICEL chant setting. I’m not going to say it’s a loser, but there are better chant ordinary options out there. Much better.

  5. Well, Todd, that’s a big Roger Wilco on “Much better.” So, you’re what? Going to endorse Jeff Ostrowski’s “Ralph Sherwin” or settings by Aristotle Esquerra, some local contenda’s setting yet to be unveiled upon us all?
    I, for one, await your imprimatur, seriously bro.
    I must admit a little discordant vibe about “uncovering so many problems with the ICEL” as AWR and colleagues were likely given a task that would remedy all, but satisfy none, notably the inescapable association with the dread “Death Mass.” But the cold, hard, reality is that it is the ICEL’s chosen “golden calf” (dreadfully apt term) to which attention will be paid.
    I think of the ICEL as the equally dreadful term, “gateway drug,” which will hopefully lower the prejudice against congregational chant. And, God knows, there may follow a chant equivilent to the ubiquitous watermark of MOC from the genius of a new generation of dedicated RCC composers.

  6. Todd says:


    My personal preference would be to look for an old plainsong setting and adapt an attractive melody. Or compose my own.

    It’s not that I would turn my nose up at an unpublished setting, I’d be more inclined to use an unpublished setting by someone I know–like you, bro. But if I’m going to go off the published page, why wouldn’t I hone my own craft or do a favor for a friend? Like I’m really going to put Noel Jones in my people’s hands when I have a budding composer in one of my students. From what I’ve seen of the CMAA stuff, I’m not really impressed. The vibe is too “solemn.” And while I know that’s their meme, I think mainstream Catholics are going to insist on something more. A vibrant and attractive melody (six pitches, minimum, please) is going to sell chant a whole lot better.

    I have a sense that ICEL or the USCCB would do well to commission a handful of composers to set the new texts to plainsong. See what we come up with.

    I suspect that the ICEL settings will turn off a lot of people. But I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong.

  7. I suspect the weakest portions of the ICEL are the hold-over portions of Jubilate Deo, the Lhm (tho’ our huge congregation and all concelebrants took it up solidly), the Holy and the LoG. My setting of the XV Glory (accompaniment, soprano ison) flew quite nicely at our 150th anniversary Mass last night. I’ll get a better bead on the Memorial on the last Sunday of Sept.

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