Music Notes for 2/22

One of the items I’ve started doing for the Cathedral is including information about music in the bulletin every week. As these notes also reflect my thoughts and vision of church music, I thought I’d start posting them on my website for a larger audience than those that show up in the pews here in Baltimore. These are the notes for the bulletin for the first Sunday of Lent when we will begin using the Mass of Charity and Love by Steve Warner.

Music should be considered a normal and ordinary part of the Church’s liturgical life. However, the use of music in the Liturgy is always governed by the principle of progressive solemnity.

Progressive solemnity includes not only the nature and style of the music, but how many and which parts of the rite are to be sung. … Musical selections and the use of additional instruments reflect the season of the liturgical year or feast that is being celebrated. (Sing to the Lord, #110 & 112)

It has been my experience that in many parishes, music for Mass looks the same week after week. Sure, the hymns may change every week, but in most places, you would have to listen to the prayers of Mass rather than the music to know what time of the church year is being celebrated. I’ve lost track of how many celebrations I’ve attended where the music just seemed to be a selection of the organist or choir director’s favorite hymns with the same Eucharistic acclamations that have been used for years.

In celebrating the liturgy singing is not to be regarded as an embellishment superimposed on prayer; rather, it wells up from the depths of a soul intent on prayer and the praise of God and reveals in a full and complete way the community nature of Christian worship. (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, #270)

Music is a means of prayer that should help us celebrate the liturgy and mark the season. Everyone clearly recognizes that singing Christmas carols is best done at the Christmastime. Likewise, there are hymns that are most appropriate in Lent or Easter. As we begin this season of Lent, we will also change the music for the Eucharistic Acclamations. The new setting I have chosen is a simpler setting, based upon a familiar tune, but chant like and requiring only simple accompaniment (if any). This will enable the music we sing to take on a more humble penitential spirit that reflects the nature of the Lenten season. We will change again at Easter to mark the joy of the resurrection. In this way, our music is integrated into the celebration and the season.

Wishing you a happy Lent,