ET’S TAKE A STROLL down memory lane. For decades, Fr. Samuel Weber has been sending out his compositions via email. For example, he sent me this score in 2007. Over the years, Fr. Weber has produced dozens of versions for each chant. After all, music must be tested & refined over a period of time. As a composer, I frequently come back to something I wrote years earlier and see things in a different light.
Consider Fr. Weber’s 2006 setting of the Entrance chant for the 3rd Sunday of Easter:
It’s fascinating to compare their new version with their previous version. Progress is being made! Moreover, notice how the Parvum editors carefully compose their melodies to match perfectly the corresponding Latin version given on the facing page. The organ accompaniment in that video was composed by myself—download it if you wish:
My fellow blog contributors have stressed that Fr. Weber includes no fewer than four different versions of each chant in his 1,292 page book. Some of his versions are quite simple, as Pope Pius XII suggested in his 1958 Instruction:
It is better to do something well on a small scale than to attempt something elaborate without sufficient resources to do it properly. (§60a.)
His more complicated versions, however, are vernacular adaptations of the official chants in the Graduale Romanum. You can see this with your own eyes by comparing his Entrance chant for the 3rd Sunday of Easter—the same chant discussed earlier—to the official Graduale version in this YouTube.
TOWARD THE END OF A BOOK REVIEW, the normal procedure is to discuss a flaw or error found in the book. (It drives me crazy when amateurs adhere to this procedure religiously.) I did spot one minor drawback worth mentioning: Fr. Weber occasionally sets the SPOKEN ANTIPHONS instead of the SUNG ANTIPHONS.
WARNING: Only liturgical “geeks” will be interested in the rest of this article!
This issue has been treated in various places. 1 The post-conciliar reforms divided what had previously been one book (MISSAL) into three books (LECTIONARY, SACRAMENTARY, and GRADUALE). However, priests were accustomed to reciting Mass Propers; to completely remove them seemed disruptive. The Offertory antiphon was annihilated—along with the medieval Offertory prayers—but the Introit and Communion were revised and placed inside the priest’s Sacramentary, to be read during private Masses or Masses without singing (“Missis lectis”).
In 2007, the USCCB was scheduled 2 to vote on a statement reminding musicians of this fact, and Bishop Donald Trautman placed the following statement in his action item:
“Recent research … has made clear that the antiphons of the Missale Romanum, which differ substantially from the sung antiphons of the Roman Gradual, were never intended to be sung.”
With regard to Sundays and Solemnities, it’s inaccurate to assert that the SPOKEN ANTIPHONS “differ substantially” from the SUNG ANTIPHONS. There are no “spoken” versions of the Offertory antiphons—100% match the Graduale—and 99% of the Entrance antiphons are identical. However, the Communion antiphons don’t always correspond perfectly. In layman’s terms, some of Fr. Weber’s Communions are the “spoken” version, whereas the Simple English Propers, Lalemant Propers, Motyka Communions, and numerous other collections correspond to the official post-conciliar chants in the books revised after Vatican II.
Perhaps I’m missing something here, but isn’t the whole purpose of the “Reform of the Reform” to go back to authentic/ancient chants whenever possible? That is, choose the “most traditional” options possible? How does it help choirs to (eventually) sing the authentic Communion chants by teaching them the wrong text & mode? Some may say, “I wanted to sing what was in the priest’s Missal” but why is this same mentality not applied to the Offertory antiphons?
TODAY’S CHOIR DIRECTORS can choose musical settings of the propers from tons of sources. In addition to the Graduale Parvum, Simple English Propers, and Lalemant Propers, one can easily obtain complete collections by Lawrence Rutherford, Bruce Ford, Fr. Columba Kelly, Paul Arbogast, Peter Johnson, Richard Rice, Andrew Motyka, David Burt, Francis Burgess, and many more. How can a choirmaster choose from among so many collections? Without question, the decision will be based on many factors, but in my judgment the overriding concern should be to avoid confusing the congregation.
The following brief story will make clear why I brought up “Sung vs. Spoken” and confusing the congregation. From the very beginning, I was part of a team that produced the Jogues Pew Lectionary. Most people don’t realize how long this book took to create. It almost didn’t happen because of this Sung/Spoken issue, which was discussed from a thousand different angles. There were many reasons to favor SUNG ANTIPHONS (I’m probably forgetting some):
There was only one reason to include the SPOKEN ANTIPHONS, but it was a big one: many priests lack familiarity with the Gradual and wrongly assume the Sacramentary texts always match.
As I mentioned already, our team found this question vexing, but we finally decided upon a solution: make things easy for the congregation. Rather than include every possible option—which is impossible—we took only the first option. 3 We were unable to think of any reason why, for example, somebody would replace Dóminus dixit at Christmas Midnight Mass with Gaudeámus omnes (or any of the other multitude of lawful options). If you view a sample page, I think you’ll agree it came out splendidly straightforward.
Some have suggested the Sacramentary texts should be chosen whenever possible to help unify Scripture translations at Mass. From a theoretical standpoint, all Catholics would welcome such a thing, but anyone who carefully studies our situation realizes how far we are 4 from this goal. Several publishing companies tried to get “ahead of the game” after the 11-27-2011 release of MR3 by including a psalm translation that—it was said—would eventually replace the current Lectionary text. Recently, we learned this text is also being revised. Therefore, thousands of pew books sold by those companies contained texts that were never in the Lectionary and never will be! But even if those pew books could somehow be replaced when the new text finally appears, we would still be a long way from the “unified” Scripture translation mandated by Liturgiam Authenticam. Most people, however, are not willing to look closely into these matters; when somebody tells them something about liturgical translations, they generally accept the answer as given. For example, many Catholics believe the readings changed when MR3 was released (in fact, the Lectionary was not touched).
Many will say, “Gradual texts…Sacramentary texts…who cares?” If you think this matter is insignificant, check out the letter Archbishop Gordon Gray sent the pope on 1 August 1967:
The notion that “Catholics and non-Catholics” would be “gravely scandalized” by Rome’s failure to approve the ICEL translation of Eucharistic Prayer No. 1 is utterly absurd.
This article is part of a series on Fr. Weber’s Book of Propers:
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
2 In fact, the vote never took place due to a reason not germane to this discussion.
3 In those rare cases where the Gradual provides two options, we chose the most traditional one. For instance, on Trinity Sunday, we included the traditional prayer after the 1st Reading instead of the (massively long) hymn given as an option. As far as we know, this optional hymn—while technically lawful—has never been sung anywhere by anyone.
4 It’s bad enough that the same Scripture passage is currently rendered differently throughout the Mass—in the Propers, Readings, and so forth. What’s even more shocking is that the same passage is rendered differently in the Responsorial Psalm REFRAIN & the PSALM with which it is paired! In a recent article, I pointed out five (5) different translations of the same brief Psalm passage, all found in current liturgical books—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Furthermore, as of the year 2015, the Responsorial Psalm texts and Lectionary itself are in the process of being completely revised.