This week the repertoire for Sunday’s Organ Mass has a Marian theme. It was such a shame not to celebrate the feast of the Assumption with solemnity today and while the Mass of the day will be XI Sunday after Pentecost, in Scotland the bishops have transferred holy days that fall on Saturdays to the following Sunday and before the 1962 Missal, the Assumption had an octave (yes, I realise that Sundays are not included…) So, those are my excuses, if any are needed for a dose of hyperdulia, for paying musical tribute to Our Blessed Lady, Assumed body and soul into Heaven and reigning as Queen over all!
Introit- Chorale, Suite Gothique, Leon Boellmann
Offertory- Prier du Notre Dame, Suite Gothique, Leon Boellmann
Communion- Ave Maria, Op. 65 Alexandre Guilmant
Communion of the Faithful- Versts on Ave Maris Stella, Improv and Op. 65 Alexandre Guilmant
Programming music for liturgy is a delicate business- the last thing that we want is to have consecutive items which clash in key or style. Although most folk don’t realise it, which is kind of the point, I always programme music that is from one particular style and try to ensure that consecutive items are related in key so as to avoid any subtle yet distracting gear changes!
The current covid-compliant liturgical arrangements have some bearing on the music chosen; mainly that rather than an uplifting ‘sortie’ a second communion piece is required after Mass as the people ‘receive and leave.’ Timing is also a factor since usually I only programme the Prelude and Postlude with only improvisations after the offertory and communion motets (unless we don’t have enough singers for motets in which case I do programme organ music.). This makes timing the end of the music to the end of the liturgical action quite straightforward. With full pieces, there may be a need to improvise an ending if the priest is ready earlier than expected, especially at the moment when playing for Low Mass with no ceremony (no incense etc).
Recent organ Masses have been in the French Classical (what we call baroque) and French Romantic styles with all of last week’s music being by J.S. Bach. This week we have an English flavour with music by the 18th Century London composer John Stanley.
Introit- Adagio, Voluntary IV, D Minor, Op.VII
Offertory- Andante, Voluntary IV, DMinor, Op.VII
Communion- Adagio, Voluntary VII, E Minor, Op.VII
Communion of the people- Voluntary VII, G Minor, Op. V
As we return to public Mass and we labour under continued restrictions, music directors are trying to figure out what is possible when it comes to liturgical music. Here are a few possibilities.
A Sung Mass with one Cantor. In Scotland, the guidance from the bishops allows for a cantor to be used ‘at a distance.’ I am not a scientist but as a singer, I know that for possibly centuries, we have been using a breath control exercise which involves singing without extinguishing a candle at mouth level. If the candle does not go out, I wonder how much singing really propels droplets. Anyway, due to the inability to have servers and therefore incense etc, a Low Mass with the ordinary and propers sung by one cantor/organist is possible. The congregation are not allowed to sing and should not join in with the ordinary of the Mass- under the guidelines.
An Organ Mass. This is not the alternatim practice of baroque France but rather an instrumental version of what would have been the most common practice in preconcilliar Scotland, a Low Mass with Hymns. Where once hymns would have been sung, up to the Introit, during the Offertory, Communion and at the end of Mass, organ music is played (Fortescue, pg 177). This is a long standing tradition in Catholic music which the French call it a ‘Messe Basse’ and there are pieces of music written for the purpose. I have even read that the French symphonic repertoire, with its four movements or parts in each opus were written to fit the Procession, Offertory, Communion and Sortie of the Mass. Organ music can also be played between the elevation and the Pater Noster and adapting music written for an alternatim Mass such as Couperin’s Messe pour les couvents can be effective as can the elevation toccatas of Italian composers like Frescobaldi and Zipoli. An accomplished organist may also improvise these pieces of music as is done every Sunday at the weekly Organ Mass at St Jame’s, Spanish Place, London. It should be pointed out that while my default is the Traditional Latin Mass, it is possible to achieve a similar effect in the Novus Ordo although with some alterations because all of the prayers except the offertory, if you are lucky, are read aloud. The ‘Introit’ piece/improvisation would have to end when the priest reaches the altar and the offertory would not be as long but communion and ‘sortie’ music should work without issue.
Some may ask, why bother, why not just have a Low Mass. Well, the Church has been the primary patron of the arts for most of Her history. Why? Because God is worth the maximum beauty that we can offer and because sacred music lifts the heart and mind to God- the chant most fully as is clothes the sacred silence and provides an exposition of the text in sound, and other music after that. Sunday is different. We can steep ourselves in the silence of the Low Mass during the week but Sunday is the Lord’s day and deserves the most solemnity that we can achieve.
So, there are my thoughts on Sacred Music in Lockdown Liturgy.
I will be playing an Organ Mass tomorrow, with the following music.
Introit- (Up to the Introit)- ‘Duo’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Offertory- ‘Récit de Nazard’ Suite du Deuxieme Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Communion- ‘Récits de Cromorne et de Cornet séparé en Dialogue’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Sortie- ‘Grand plein jeu’, Suite du Premier Ton, Louis Nicolas Clérambault
Clérambault was organist of the Church of St Sulpice, Paris. He died in 1749.
We have gone through a very difficult few months. In addition to the physical and emotional suffering caused by Covid 19, many people of faith have suffered the spiritual pain of the closure of places of worship for the common good. We have all made sacrifices.
As the situation is developing, however, many people of faith are questioning whether or not the place of churches is appropriate in relation to non- essential leisure activities in the plans of the Scottish Government. See below the communication which I have put out as Chairman of Una Voce Scotland and please take action if you are able.
For Easter Sunday, follow the ideas for a dry Mass as described in my Palm Sunday Post.
Holy water can be sprinkled during the Vidi Aquam.
Find the text here by selecting the correct date and the rubrics from before 1955.
Here is a playlist of all of the chant I have included organ music for before and after as well as the I filli et filliae as an opening hymn and motets for the Offertory and Communion. For the ordinary- Kyrie etc- I have included both the chant Mass for paschaltide and a more festive choral setting so that you can choose which one to use.
The home altar should be decorated in white and gold, candles lit and incense burned if you have some.
I have put together another playlist of the sacred music that can be found here (after the liturgical music of the day, I have included some other pieces that might be used for the stations of the cross or just in the home to aid recollection throughout the day.)
Ideas for celebrating the liturgy at home
The traditional Good Friday Liturgy is celebrated in the morning.
If you followed the instructions in my Maundy Thursday post, you will have stripped your prayer space of any altar frontals/linens/cloths. The candles are not lit. No incense is used. A single crucifix (used for veneration later) is placed standing upright on the altar or table and is covered with a purple or black veil.
The father of the house leads the family in the opening reading, in English or Latin and the accompanying tract can be listened to using the playlist. Then the prayer is said.
The mother of the family could then read the next reading and the accompanying tract can be listened to and followed in the booklet.
The Passion is then read. C- Mother, S- All, + – Father
The Great intercessions are prayed by the father. The mother may wish to say the “Flectamus genua, Levate”as these instructions are usually said by the deacon and subdeacon.
The Adoration of the Cross
The father takes the veiled crucifix and holds it facing the family. He removes the top of the veil to reveal the top of the crucifix. He says or sings the Ecce lignum Crucis and the family respond with the Venite Adoremus. This could be done in English. All kneel.
He then reveals the right arm and repeats the chant, beginning on a higher note.
The process is repeated a third time, now revealing the whole crucifix.
The crucifix is placed on a cushion covered with a purple or other dark cloth, on the ground in front of the altar/table
The father imitates what the priest would do at this time by removing his shoes, kneeling several times in approaching the cross before venerating it with a kiss. The family follow as the playlist resumes at the Reproaches- Popule Meus. When not venerating the cross, the family meditate on the translation of the chants being sung. These are some of the most moving in the whole liturgical year.
The candles are lit towards the end of the Crux Fidelis
The Mass of the Presanctified
The Vexilla Regis is listened to or sung. The priest would usually be retrieving the Blessed Sacrament from the altar of repose in procession at this time and so the family at home begin to prepare to make a fervent spiritual communion.
In the absence of the Blessed Sacrament and given the liturgical character of the day, it might be best not to use incense at home at this point, although the Blessed Sacrament would usually be reverenced thus in the church.
The Pater Noster is said with the other prayer in the booklet and the family make an act of spiritual communion.
The liturgy ends abruptly after the prayer “Quod ore sumpsimus”
It would be good if the house could remain in silence (or close to it depending on the age of the children) until Stations of the Cross are prayed at 3pm.
Remember my perpetual disclaimer, it is better to do less and do it well than to push small children beyond what they can handle. All or part of this can be used to enable the family to worthily observe the Passion of the Lord while we are not able to attend church.
Once the children are in bed, the adults could pray the office of Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds of Holy Saturday anticipated).
Live-streamed from the Birmingham Oratory at 7.30pm here
The father of the house leads the family in the confiteor (The Judica Me is omitted in Passiontide) and reads the translation of the Introit before listening to it.
The Kyrie is listened to or prayed out loud with the father leading and family responding.
At the Gloria, bells should be rung. This is the last time that bells are heard in the liturgy until the first Gloria of Easter.
After the Gloria, the Bishop would ordinarily bless and consecrate the holy oils. This is an opportunity to catechise the family on what this entails. We have exorcised oil at home which I use instead of holy water for blessing the family when necessary so this will be used as a focal point. Details can be found here.
The father leads the collect.
Listen to the gradual using the playlist or read it aloud. An older child could help with this.
The mother of the family might read the epistle in the place of the subdeacon.
An older child might read the Gradual before it is listened to on the playlist.
The Father reads the Gospel and gives some words of explanation according to the age of the children.
Sing the Credo
Sing the offertory
After the offertory, select some prayers from offertory of the Mass to prepare for a spiritual communion. (Suggestion- Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, asking God to receive all the Masses throughout the world. The preface could be read and the Sanctus sung (See same video as the Kyrie in the playlist). Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Act of Spiritual Communion, silence.) I have included two beautiful Eucharistic Motets to aid a time of silent prayer.
Finish the prayers of the Mass. End with “Benedicamus Domino” in place of “Ite Missa Est”
During the Mass, the priest would usually consecrate an additional host which he would receive on Good Friday. After Mass on Holy Thursday, the priest would process to the altar of repose with the Blessed Sacrament while Pange Lingua Gloriosi is sung. Options in the home could include singing or reading the Pange Lingua, asking your guardian angels to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in your parish church or making a Blessed Sacrament Banner and singing the Pange Lingua in procession around the house and garden and back to the home chapel/prayer space.
Optional – Vespers follows and is said, not sung. Perhaps the children could be excused now and the adults could pray Vespers. You could skip this step and go to the stripping of the altars.
After vespers, the altars are stripped of any cloths as psalm 21 is chanted (See pg 14-16 here).
Usually, there would be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Perhaps we could have one image of Our Lord exposed so that we can revisit the prayer space through the day for ‘adoration’ of Our Lord as we usually would the Blessed Sacrament. Another option would be to set up a device and livestream adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Mandatum or foot washing is optional and was performed separately at a different time. I have included the chants on the playlist. Some families may wish to have the father wash the feet of the family to represent the servant leadership of Jesus. Some may feel that this ceremony is too sacerdotal to be recreated in the home.
As I said last time, this is the maximum that can be done to celebrate the liturgy to the best of our ability at home but, we must be prudent and adapt to what we can achieve in our own setting. To do less and do it well with a prayerful atmosphere is better than forcing your kids to sit through too much and end up causing resentment and or tantrums!
In the evening, Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds of Good Friday) can be prayed. I will put up a separate post on this.