AVE YOU EVER SEEN a commercial paid for by a political campaign? Have you noticed how so many are biased, misleading, and incomplete? This same tendency has become rampant in online articles about the liturgy, which use eye-catching headlines as click-bait. I once confronted an author who frequently does that, and he basically admitted he can’t defend what he writes—but “without a exaggerated headline, I wouldn’t get as many views.” We avoid such disgusting tactics here at Watershed, which is why I feel a little funny typing the following dramatic statement:
Although liturgical progressives constantly praise the “stylistic diversity” of music in the Ordinary Form, the Extraordinary Form has much more.
Consider what you might hear when you attend a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Obviously, you might hear the ancient plainsong; but you might also hear a Viennese “classical” Mass with strong rhythm, violins, and timpani. You might hear a 19th-century “romantic” work by someone like Franz Liszt. You might hear a “medieval” motet by Binchois or a Machaut Mass setting. You might hear a piece from that glorious era: the High Renaissance. 1 You might hear masterpieces from the so-called “transitional” periods when experimentation happened. You might hear motets and Masses in an early 20th-century style by composers like Maurice Duruflé, Louis Vierne, or even Richard Keys Biggs. You will hear every manner of organ music: J.S. Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Charles-Marie Widor, and so forth. Some vocal pieces will be in a rhythmic poetic form, such as the DIES IRAE, evoking an earlier age & sensibility. Other pieces—such as antiphons—are excerpts from the Bible, which could have been chosen yesterday or 1700 years ago. Even the “assigned & unchangeable” texts like the Gradual can be sung in melismatic chant, falsobordone, or recto tono with luscious organ chords. Sometimes you’ll hear rare liturgical works by composers like Ernst Krenek (not my cup of tea). You might hear “contemporary” motets and Masses by Francis Poulenc or Kevin Allen. 2
Ordinary Form congregations who take seriously the directives by Vatican II will use all this music—but very few OF parishes do. 3 I truly believe that 98% of Catholics don’t realize the Roman Gradual was revised in the 1970s, and that the Propers are 1st Option for the Ordinary Form.
The reality is, 95% of Ordinary Form parishes limit themselves to music composed hastily over the last 40 years. 4
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 These were the days of the Nanino brothers, Luca Marenzio, Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Orlando Lassus, Giovanni Palestrina, Cristóbal de Morales, Thomas Tallis, Clemens non Papa, Pierre de Manchicourt, Cypriano de Rore, Costanzo Porta, Philippe Verdelot, Giovanni Gabrieli, and countless other masters.
2 For the record, it’s not easy to classify what is “contemporary” because it keeps changing.
3 There is even a special provision passed by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in the 1960s allowing older ENGLISH settings to be used at Mass, even if the translation does not match the ICEL one.
4 Some parishes have taken laudable Anglican tunes for their hymns—but you’re actually more likely to find this done in the EF than the OF!