19 July 2011

Pr. Peters had a post

this morning on the place (or not) of hymnody in the Mass (Roman vs. Lutheran).  It is absolutely true that for Lutherans, there is no final or real preference between chant and hymnody.  They flow back and forth.  A Lutheran Mass in the early days after the Reformation might have the Gloria chanted in Latin or Decius' paraphrase "All Glory be to God on high" sung in German.  They were completely at home with either chant or hymn.  The Latin Sanctus might be solemnly chanted or Luther's soaring setting of "Isaiah, Mighty Seer."  They were pretty much interchangeable in the minds of the framers of the Church Orders.

And it is one of the strengths of LSB that it is not weak on either.  True, there are tons of hymns, but we also find chants among them.  The Victimae Paschali is tucked in beside "Christ is Arisen" - and there the chant and the hymn join in a vigorous resurrection dance together.  The O Antiphons are pointed for chanting and printed opposite the hymn based on them:  "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" - perfect for using both.  Divine Service III features some Anglican chant and some German and some based on old Gregorian (the Kyrie or Agnus, for example), but also offers opportunity for numerous hymns.  The Psalms (and Introits and Graduals and Verses) may all be chanted in the simple modern chant settings popularized among Lutherans in LBW and later books.  The pastors here frequently chant the collects, preface and proper prefaces (the prefaces retain their traditional Gregorian tones).  Anywho, it is a virtual banquet of music, in all sorts of genres and from all eras of the Church's life.

What IS missing that figured huge in Lutheran musical history is the music performed by the choir and orchestra each week.  Our choir "anthems" are a pale reflection of the richness to which Lutheran congregations in years past were treated on a regular basis (at least in the cities).  Just check out this or this or this.

Still, when Roman Catholic visitors have commented on the services of St. Paul's, they frequently mention "all that music."  I haven't a clue about what the average Roman Mass in the area offers, but apparently it does not come close to offering the musical richness that our typical liturgy offers.  The full treasure house of the Church's hymns AND chant - just one of the many, many joys of being a Lutheran Christian.


Marinus Veenman said...

so true. I was smitten by the richness of Lutheran liturgy/hymnody/chant from the moment I heard it.

Terry Maher said...

The comments of you RC visitors are not surprising at all. Would have said the same thing myself years ago. And the reason for that is something that is as true in the post Vatican II era as at any time before. (Pause for breath, Past Elder actually said something did not change with Vatican II.)

Which is, whether one is talking about the great Masses (as a five part musical form) of the classic composers or the postconciliar emphasis on congregational singing, the Mass itself remains NOT a musical event by nature, even when chanted (chant is still on the RC books as having pride of place), in fact, especially when chanted.

From my earliest experiences when we school kids were the chanters for funerals etc, to a Benedictine schola cantorum, to graduate study, it was always emphasised that chant must never be approached as music.

Rather, text is always primary in chant, and the purpose of chant is to aid in the declamation of the text, a sprechstimme, a form of speech, not song, and that music as we know it developed when other things began to be added over the voice which held (tenor, to hold) the chant.

Which is not to say music is at all unwelcome in an RC service of any era, but that it simply does not hold the role it does for Lutherans. That is why any rite, of any era, is written first and exists independently of any music.

christl242 said...

I haven't a clue about what the average Roman Mass in the area offers, but apparently it does not come close to offering the musical richness that our typical liturgy offers.

The average Roman Mass? Oh, try Marty Haugen's "Gather Us In" or the ever popular ditties by the St. Louis Jesuits.

But that's OK. My husband was raised RC (in the "old" rite), attended parochial schools all his life, went into culture shock when he attended his first novus ordo liturgy many years later and asked "what the hell is all this singing" (if you can call the one or two stanzas that most Catholic sing "singing"; its a perpetual frustration to RC parish music directors who have been told that singing is supposed to help form "community" in the parish).

Terry is quite right, music does not hold the same importance in the Roman mass as it does in Lutheran liturgy, where we sing the hymns and the liturgy and our hymns are actually vehicles that support our beliefs.

As I discovered to my amazement in my prior Roman sojourn.


Dixie said...

Rather, text is always primary in chant...

Now that sounds like something a Lutheran could also get behind!

Despite Lutheran's strength in music we can't disparage the musical contributions of the Roman Catholic church. I attended a Mass (composed by Mozart) last year in Vienna sung by the Vienna Choir boys (along with a group of men who just did the chanting) that just about carried me to paradise. It may be that the average parish is still mixing it up with Marty, and Matt Maher and John Michael Talbot but it wouldn't be difficult to find an average Lutheran parish doing about the same with CCM...or worse, playing organ music poorly.

To be sure the Lutherans have a rich musical heritage. To be sure music may not weigh as heavily in other denominations. But I remember beautiful hymn versions of Tantum Ergo, O Salutaris Hostia, Salve Regina, etc. The Roman Church has a beautiful history of music, too. Let's pray both the Lutherans and the Romans can recapture it and that the last 50 years will end up as just a blip on those church's historical radar screen.