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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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PDF • “Ecclesia Dei” Responses (14 November 2018)
published 28 November 2018 by Jeff Ostrowski

87023 Commission “Ecclesia Dei” Responses (14 November 2018) ATHER DAVID PIETRAS, a Polish priest, wrote to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” three months ago with twenty-nine (29) questions about the Traditional Latin Mass. The reply, dated 14 November, was posted anonymously on the CMAA forum.

Several questions deal specifically with Gregorian chant and music in the Extraordinary Form. The Dubia of Father Pietras (24 September) uses very poor English and—unless I am very much mistaken—was originally written in Polish. 1

    * *  PDF Letter to “Ecclesia Dei” (24 September 2018)

    * *  PDF Official Response (14 November 2018)

The 24th question is garbled and self-contradictory:

Question 24: During the Mass, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, Gregorian chants performed using a different method than the Solezmian method provided for by the Graduale Romanum (1961) are acceptable? In particular: (1) the semiological method of Eugene Cardine’s house (eng. Semiology, “Gregorian’s Semiology”; House Eugene Cardine); (2) singing method by Marcel Peres (vocal technique based on eastern {especially Croatian} practice used widely by Marcel Peres and his students); (3) using Graduale Romanum 1908, omitting rules and regulations regarding the technique of singing the Gregorian chant prescribed in the Graduale Romanum 1961.

Ecclesia Dei Response: “Affirmative.”

… but the question makes no sense.

Fr. Pietras asks whether the Solesmes rhythmic method of 1961 must be used. Those who attended the 2018 Symposium realize that (technically) the Solesmes rhythmic method of 1961 is not allowed by the official decrees of the Church. Private rhythmic methods (such as the 1961 Solesmes) were tolerated so long as they don’t contradict the official Vaticana rhythm. 2

87024 De musica sacra 1958

This was explicitly written in §59 of De Musica Sacra, issued under Pope Pius XII (3 September 1958). The “rules and regulations” of the 1961 Graduale—to which Fr. Pietras makes reference—are not the official rules. The official rules are in the 1908 Graduale, as we have explained many times. Technically, the Solesmes rhythm is not allowed—because it frequently contradicts the official Vaticana rhythm—but the CSM (“Classical Solesmes Method”) has become so popular over the last 120 years, it seems foolish to oppose it. The NOH attempted to oppose it in the 1940s, using the official rules which (by law) are printed in the front every Graduale. An English translation of those rules can be found here. 3

To be clear, I am not attacking Fr. Pietras for being confused; the whole situation is rather esoteric. It took me several years to fully grasp it.

By the way, Fr. Pietras claims the method of Marcel Peres is “widely used.” I believe he’s mistaken; it’s not widely used. Moreover, he makes reference to a “singing method” of Dom Cardine—yet Cardine repeatedly made clear he did not leave a particular system, and in his Last Will And Testament (1984) reiterated again that semiology “is not a method.”

The 27th question is also quite garbled, and difficult to understand:

Question 27: Is the female solo singing allowed during the liturgy in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in connection with the instruction of Musicam Sacram published in 1967? The Sacred Congregation of Rites, in reply to the “On July 10, 1959,” for dubia regarding the Instruction De musica sacra from 1958 (questions were asked by Alojzy Carli, bishop of Segni), she ruled that solo singing should not be performed by a woman (No. 3-4).

Ecclesia Dei Response: “This Pontifical Commission would not be opposed to this where the practice exists.”

Fr. Pietras seems to inquire whether a female can sing a solo during the Extraordinary Form. Ecclesia Dei says yes; but it would have been better if the person asking the question had specifically asked whether operatic solo singing is allowed.


1   For example, when Fr. Pietras makes reference to “House Eugene Cardine,” he is probably attempting to speak of the Cardine school.

2   The official Vaticana method never really caught on. For one thing, the morae vocis are frequently ambiguous for the singers, especially regarding the Virga. Moreover, the “white notes” are difficult to locate, unless you place your nose close to the bottom of the book spine. John Rayburn wrote in 1964:

The place of the controversial Solesmes editions is clarified by the final paragraph of the 1958 Instruction (De Musica Sacra). It is interesting to note that, for the first time in Vatican decrees dealing with the Solesmes books, a word other than “tolerated” is used; the paragraph cited states that such editions are “permitted.” This is undoubtedly due to the widespread circulation the Solesmes books have achieved in the past fifty years. At any rate, the monopoly held by Solesmes for so long in this country and elsewhere is evidently broken.
Regarding the wording of the 1958 decree, section 59 makes it clear that private rhythmic signs are allowed unless they modify the official edition’s melody. For instance, to add pauses where there are no pauses (or to remove pauses where “white notes” create them) is not allowed precisely because it “alters the melodic line”—and the 1961 Solesmes rhythmic markings do that about 45% of the time. Ictus markings (i.e. counting 1-2-3) is permissible precisely because it preserves the “force and meaning of the notes found in the Vatican books.” However, the CSM (“Classical Solesmes Method”) has been the universally preferred way to perform plainsong for 120 years, and denying this reality would be futile.

3   The Liber Usualis also contains an English translation of the 1908 official rules. However, a few pages later, the editors contradict these very rules!