N 2011, IN PREPARATION for the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal, I was busy giving workshops on “Singing the Mass” with Fr. Jonathan Gaspar, the Director of the Office of Divine Worship in Boston. We traveled around the Archdiocese, visiting several parishes. We sang through the new ICEL Chants, and touched upon topics both musical and liturgical. The idea of “singing the mass” was foreign to many. The idea of singing chant was even more foreign, no less unaccompanied! But the good people who came were open minded and eager to learn.
BUT WHAT WAS TRULY A DIVIDE were the many piano/guitar-based ensembles that felt left in the dark. You see, in Boston, the use of the ICEL chants was to be exclusive for a time. No other setting could be used in the time leading up and for a time after the implementation. So to help bridge that gap, I arranged a few piano/guitar accompaniments and distributed them for free for anyone who requested them.
Now, a few years later, I am discovering that a number of piano/guitar-based* groups are still singing the ICEL Chants of The Roman Missal, Third Edition from time to time. *(Note that I am avoiding the term “contemporary ensemble”. I dislike that term along with a casual use of the word “traditional.” The guitar is as ancient as the organ. There is traditional music of all styles. All music written today is contemporary. These generalizations are all very silly.)
HE IDEA OF THE ICEL CHANTS of The Roman Missal, was to have a common musical repertoire among seventeen English speaking countries around the world. That covers much of the Earth! As such, if the ICEL chants are sung from time to time at all masses in a parish, it fosters unity within that parish. This can be a pragmatic advantage as well as a spiritual one, as that parish becomes more united in prayer with much of the world. Furthermore, it helps a parish avoid being multiple (and separate) communities under the same roof. Therefore, below are three useful resources:
1 • These piano/guitar arrangements are written stylistically for those not used to singing chant and modal music. There are also some editorial adjustments to assist in timing and breathing.
2 • Exceedingly useful are the Chants from the Order of Mass by Charles Thatcher, published by World Library Publications. (WLP also makes it available as a digital PDF download.) Thatcher has struck a perfect balance between preserving the modality in an organ accompaniment, while providing matching guitar chords. With regard to unity, these accompaniments work perfectly with organ and guitar together. If you have not tried such a thing, please do. Strings on the organ with guitar make for a beautiful texture.
3 • Exquisite and steeped in modality are Jeff Ostrowski’s accompaniments. As always, Jeff is exceedingly comprehensive, providing no fewer than four accompaniments for the various forms of the Our Father. He also includes the Latin versions upon which the ICEL Chants are based, a wonderful addition.
Finally, here are recordings and practice videos of the ICEL Chants of The Roman Missal, Third Edition (including the Exsultet). Recorded at St. Cecilia Church in Boston, the four seconds of delay require the pacing and breathing to be a bit broader. Fr. Jonathan Gaspar sings the celebrants’ parts.
The chants are sung unaccompanied in this recording. Interestingly, I find that congregations sing these best when unaccompanied! Accompaniments can be a security blanket and even necessary at times. But in due season, let it go, and sing out!
I hope this is all of some use in praying the words of the Mass.