Report on the music at Mass, given 22 January 2023:

A liturgical service takes on a nobler aspect when the rites are celebrated with singing, the ministers of each rank take their parts in them, and the congregation actively participates.

This form of celebration gives a more graceful expression to prayer and brings out more distinctly the hierarchical character of the liturgy and the specific make-up of the community. It achieves a closer union of hearts through the union of voices. It raises the mind more readily to heavenly realities through the splendour of the rites. It makes the whole celebration a more striking symbol of the celebration to come in the heavenly Jerusalem.

[Musicam Sacram 5]

Some of the music books we use

We try to follow the principles expressed in the Vatican II Instruction Musicam Sacram, [“MS”] singing what should be sung (MS 6), ensuring that the people can sing their part in Latin when appropriate (MS 47), using music which is worthy (MS 4; MS 43) and within the Anglican patrimony. For these purposes, “Anglican patrimony” is that body of work which stretches from before the Reformation, through the music and texts of the Church of England which are consonant with Catholic teaching and practice. Musicam Sacram is a development of the earlier Instruction of Pope Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini.

MS 29 describes different “degrees of participation”, “so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing.” There are three degrees of participation, “so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second or third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first.”

Thus: we sing almost everything which is in Musicam Sacram’s “first degree of participation”:

  • the greeting before the Collect and the collect;
  • the acclamations at the Gospel;
  • the prayer over the offerings; the preface and Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon and its Amen;
  • the prayer after Communion; the dismissal
  • but not the Lord’s Prayer or the Peace.

    Items in the second degree which we sing are

  • the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei
  • but not the Creed.

    Items in the third degree which we sing are:

  • the songs at the Entrance (hymn and introit);
  • the Gradual; the Alleluia; the Offertory antiphon and Communion antiphon
  • but not the readings themselves.

    We also have a hymn at the end of Mass. The text of the hymns is chosen to highlight an aspect of the readings or the season (MS 36).

    Because each of the “degrees” of participation builds upon the last, we should ideally seek in due course to sing the Creed (MS 34) and the Lord’s Prayer (MS 35). Merbecke set both items, and settings exist for the Latin masses we sing too (Mass VIII can use Credo III; the Missa Simplex might use Credo II; the Lord’s Prayer has a common chant.) Currently we use a single Alleluia — the Alleluia of the Easter Vigil — and I hope to be able to introduce other settings of the Gospel Alleluia to enhance the seasonal character through the year.

    The pandemic and the restrictions on what was permitted actually allowed development of the liturgy, particularly in using settings of the propers as found in Divine Worship: The Missal. In common with many Ordinariate communities, we use the St Peter Gradual for these, and while it could do with a bit more variety it has allowed a particular structure to develop which isn’t as frenetic as other celebrations of Mass can be. We’ve been able to welcome more singers to assist with this, again in accordance with Musicam Sacram which encourages the creation of a small schola (MS 19), and to whom I’d like to put on record my thanks. Men who can read music and can hold a part would also be very welcome.

    This has also allowed a particular form of Requiem to be developed, following that published in Divine Worship: The Missal, and using the ancient chants of the Church.

    A pipe organ (MS 62) is out of the reach of both the Ordinariate community and the diocesan parish, and wouldn’t fit in the building. We were fortunate to be able to take advantage, eighteen months ago, of the permanent loan of a good electronic instrument which is also in use by the parish.

    With the restriction imposed on shareable service booklets in 2020, we’ve been providing a weekly leaflet for each Sunday containing the entire Mass and the notices. This has allowed the complete text to be included, which in turn (I hope) allows those less familiar with the Divine Worship liturgy to find their way around. We’ve also been able to include words of hymns not in the available hymnbooks, hymn tunes, music for the Marian antiphons and liturgies outside Mass like Prayers for the late Queen and new King, the Act of Remembrance on Remembrance Sunday, the blessing of the Image of the Divine Mercy, and the solemn Veni Creator at New Year.

    A new service book was almost ready for printing when the pandemic struck: this was planned to contain the Mass with its weekday/Sunday parts clearly indicated; texts and music for the Marian antiphons after Mass; music for the Missa Simplex, Missa de Angelis with Credo III, Merbecke, the Missa Sancta Magdalena by Healy Willan and the Walsingham Mass by Fr Mark Elliott Smith. The last three settings use the form of words found in Divine Worship. The book could be reworked for the way the liturgy has developed in the meantime; or we could continue with weekly sheets, perhaps producing a music booklet to go with those instead.

    Resources for music in use and planned are available on our Orders of Service page.

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    It is above all necessary that those parts which of their nature call for singing are in fact sung and in the style and form demanded by the parts themselves.
    The faithful [should be] also able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them.
    Sacred music is that which, being created for the celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a certain holy sincerity of form.

    Every precaution is to be taken against introducing anything merely profane or out of keeping with divine worship.

    Sometimes it is even quite appropriate to have other songs at the beginning as well as at the end of Mass. It is not enough for these songs to be ‘eucharistic’ in some way; they must be in keeping with the parts of the Mass and with the feast or liturgical season.
    Because it is a profession of faith, the Credo is best sung by all.
    The congregation should join the priest in singing the Lord’s Prayer.
    The choir is responsible for the correct performance of the parts that belong to it, and for helping the faithful to take an active part in the singing. In smaller churches … a choir should be formed, even if there are only a few members.
    The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument that adds a wonderful splendour to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up the spirit to God and to higher things.