Thursday, November 27, 2008

Service Music based on Hymntunes

To my fellow Ministers of Music: I present to you a topic for discussion. I thought of this as I was preparing the music I'll be playing for Immaculate Conception's Saturday 5.30 pm Vigil Mass. I noticed that the entire Entrance Rite will be set to music, specifically a new setting with text by Alan Hommerding and music by Paul French. French incorporated themes from CONDITOR ALME SIDERUM throughout the piece. Antiphon, Entrance Hymn, the priest's Greeting, and the Penitential Rite pretty much go on continuously, and ends with the people singing a two-note Amen to conclude the Penitential Rite. It's a 13-page octavo published by World Library Publications.

Then I noted that the rest of the service music programmed comes from Richard Proulx' Missa Emmanuel. I'm sure you can infer from the name of the Mass setting that it incorporates themes from VENI, EMMANUEL.

As a side note, I've programmed for St Joseph's the Trisagion, Sanctus, and Fraction Anthem (Agnus Dei) from Proulx' Missa Oecumenica, with themes from Russian Orthodox chant.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I would have programmed the Hommerding/French and Proulx' Missa Emmanuel for Advent, or at least, not the two together. Unless I want the congregation to be oversaturated with these hymntunes, I would be quite hesitant to program either "Creator of the Stars of Night" or "O Come O Come Emmanuel" during Advent.

So, here is where I'd love to hear your opinions. What do you think of the musical settings I've listed above? Do you think it would help or hinder your choice of other Advent hymns and other music to go along with them? Would you have programmed this music together, as will be done at IC, or would you have chosen different settings?

Please feel free to leave your comments in the combox.


Charles said...

Hey mon ami-amour Lyn, joyful greetings from the very coastline of California. I'm sitting with my son-in-law in a WiFi cafe as he's downloading some needed tunes for a wedding reception he's DJ/KJ'ing tomorrow in Pismo Beach (we're all in Morro Bay.)
Before offering my two dinari's worth, if you continue to use OECUMENICA, know that I have my own composed setting of the GLORIA ready to send you in pdf. Uses both of the two main themes from Kyrie/Agnus and Sanctus, and some stuff I created to bridge those.
My concern with your question centers upon what aspects of the liturgy are truly meant to demarcate the seasons, and which should be considered to transcend such demarcations. That said, I don't believe they are mutually exclusive. However, all the standard criteria by which you'd assess changing a known and well-sung Ordinary should be considered the additional "marking" of the season with MISA EMMANUEL. With the season being sufficiently long enough, and the setting have precedent use, by all means, change.
However, then is it overkill to use the doubtless beautiful Hommerding Entrance/Propers?/Penitential/Opening Prayer piece (13 pages?!?) with the Ordinary switch. Presuming you're also using standard Advent "alius cantus aptus" tunes elsewhere for the processions as well, instead of the Proper antiphons, does the chemistry and atmosphere overall become a little cliche? I dunno. Only you and the congregation will experience the reality.
I've probably used this analogy before but....
Everyone has a birthday once a year (or every leapyear.) Do we change the melody of "Happy Birthday" if the birthday is in July instead of December? If we invited the whole world to sing "HB" to you via the internet in a thousand vernaculars, wouldn't the melody remain the same? The upshot of that is change for change's sake shouldn't be an ideal.
I'm trying to get my sis and I back to NC ASAP. Let you know if/when that will happen.
Have a blessed Advent/Christmas/New Year

Lyn F. said...

Interestingly enough, mon cher ami: a lot of the interesting discussion in this very topic is happening over at Facebook, where Tyler (fission on this blog), BMP, and Andrew have weighed in. If I feel up to it, I'll summarise their posts in another comment.

The point I was making was that I feel like the congregation is going to be so oversaturated with these tunes that by the end of Advent they're going to be crawling out of their skins. Perhaps one or the other, but both simultaneously?

I did get questioned about how to find the new Hommerding/French setting. Naturally, computer whiz kid Tyler found an audio clip of it. And yes, Charles - 13 pages. I've worked it out on the organ, and will hopefully have a chance to sit down with our (very luckily) very good singing priest tomorrow before Mass to go over his bits.

Anyway, click here for an audio sample. It's very brief but gives you an idea how it goes.

With that out of the way. Would you still program "Creator of the Stars of Night" during Advent if you're using the Hommerding/French setting? And if you were using Missa Emmanuel, would you program "O come o come Emmanuel" for Advent IV?

(Come over to the Dark Side, Charles. Go get a Facebook account. ;-) )

Lyn F. said...

I just came from Mass. I know if I were playing I would be sick and tired of both Conditor Alme Siderum and Veni Emmanuel by the end of next week.

Have a look at the links I provided above. The French is basically Conditor Alme Siderum from the time the cantor sings the Introductory Antiphon all the way through to when the celebrant chants the conclusion of the Penitential Rite and the people respond with their two-note Amen.

And then there is the Sanctus/Mem. Accl./Amen/Fraction Rite (it's not an Agnus Dei, I'm sorry) that repeats a theme from Veni Emmanuel.

The question I was clumsily asking was, if you programmed those two settings *together*, would you still program "Creator of the Stars of Night" and "O come o come Emmanuel" during Advent?

Now, after having survived that Mass, my answer would be a resounding no. Actually, I would not have programmed the French and the Missa Emmanuel together.

But that's just me.

I'll post my music lists on Blogger (which can be seen on both Fb and my LJ friends list) some time tomorrow. The "Song of Thanksgiving" was the Booth "Find Us Ready, Lord."


After Mass, I spoke with the Pastor, who celebrated this Mass. I found it very interesting indeed that he questioned the programming of the Booth piece in the first place. Hmmmmmm. I told him I simply played what I was told to play; who am I to question it.

Charles said...

Come over to the Dark Side, Charles. Go get a Facebook account. ;-)

Precisely why I won't, Lyn. FACEBOOK and MYSPACE are for yungin's. Which includes everyone other than myself. To mimic Bush V.1, "Can't do it, won't do it."
It's an eschatological thing.

Jason Pennington said...

Yes...I'm back in the land of the living! Actually, I always was, just doing something else!

Interesting topic. So, what do I think about a Mass whose musical motif is a chant or a hymn? Or rather, what do I think about such a concept? This sort of thing is certainly not new. It's been around for centuries. There are countless examples of polyphonic settings with titles that reveal their compositional muse -- just off the cranium, I come up with "Missa Maria Dixit", Hassler. And, dare I bring them up, but there are of course the famous parody Masses which found disfavor then found favor, then found disfavor, and which now are heard almost solely in the concert hall. I think what really sets these "classic" compositions apart from what we now see is the fact that contemporary (or at least the majority of them) hymn-based ordinaries have melodies all unison which quote note-for-note the entire hymn tune or chant with no new melodic development or variation. The "classic" (I'm not saying Classical) settings quote a phrase, usually an opening, a most familiar one, then play with it melodically and harmonically to create something entirely new that fits the text like a glove. Some of the newer compositions distort stress of the words to fit a hymn tune in a different meter. Land of Rest comes to mind with its silly silly "hoLEE hoLEE (it's from the church we flee -- and that quite lit'rallee).

I'm not familiar with the Missa Emmanuel or the Conditor Alme Mass. If all the melody does is sing the ordinary text to the tunes, then, they are worthless, in my opinion.

Consider this alternative, which has worked nicely since the 16th century -- Luther's Liedermesse, wherein each movement of the ordinary is adapted textually into a hymntune. This would never fly in most Roman circles, since so much is placed in the phrase "vi verborum" -- by the power of the words. If you change one word in the spell, it won't work, unless ICEL approves it, I suppose, or a Vatican committee for that matter puts the gris gris on the text draft with the finger bone of St. Peter. I digress.

So, this say I: Missa Quidcumque is good if the composer is creative, quotes one or two familiar phrases as the subject of his work, then presents our ears and vocal cords with something new and exciting. If the composer is lame and just rips off a hymn, sticks a lousy ICEL text to it and has us singing "glorEE to God ON high and peas to his peoPLE on earth", then forget it.

Scelata said...

I didn't know there were, (perhaps I didn't look hard enough for,) other parts of the Ordinary than the "acclamations" to the Land o' Rest Mass, so I wrote a Kyrie and Angus that were based on inversions of the tune.
Someone complained, ("It's not the SAME!!!!") but I imagine after a season of using them, any complainers were grateful not to be singing the same **** tune over, and over and over and over...
I think the problem originates with pastors who want the entire congregation singing everything perfectly the first time. They think such settings are a great idea.
Theta don't realize how quickly "catchy" palls.
I use a gospel acclamation based on Conditor Alme Somethingorotherum but since the tune was not in the parish repertoire when I introduced it, it was really so that they could eventually sing the tune competently and enthusiastically. (It took three years.)

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Lyn F. said...

@Jason -

LOL, you know I never really thought about it, but as I was practicing the music for the LOR Mass (which I'll be playing early tomorrow ... erm, I mean, later on this morning), I realised that yes, the stress of Holy would be thrown off. Heh.

Missa Emmanuel, the main theme (from the hymn) is repeated ... there may be some variation with the Fraction Anthem (it's not an Agnus Dei IMHO) but it's primarily Veni Emmanuel in new clothes.

Hommerding/French's Conditor Alme Siderum Mass, it is mostly that tune, but there are enough variation so that it's not too monotonous. But still, it did feel overwhelming to be faced with this from Introductory Antiphon all the way to the end of the Penitential Rite. Plus, you'd need to have a priest who is confident with his singing (yes, singing, not just chanting) in order to pull this one off, IMHO.

Thanks for your comment, by the way. :-)

Lyn F. said...

@Scelata -

Thanks for your comment. IIRC, GIA put out an octavo containing the whole of the LOR Mass. I don't have my copy on me handy, so I can't tell you off the top of my head what is contained therein. I want to say there is also a Fraction Anthem there ("Lambagawd Litaneeeeee") but don't quote me on that one ...

Since I was just the sub last Saturday, the priest can't really criticise too much if the congregation doesn't get it straight away. (Actually, I'm sure he was more focussed on his singing, which he did just fine ... that and the stupid sound system and electronic hymnal problems that plagued us at the beginning of Mass ...)