UBLISHING SETS of English Mass propers began to catch on in earnest only a few years ago. The trend began with individual efforts, largely published freely online. The trend is growing, apparently into something of a market.
An abundance of free, propers-based resources are available here at CC Watershed. The Simple English Propers project remains freely available here. Richard Rice’s Communio project is posted here for free download.
Several wonderful collections of propers have been released in recent years by CanticaNOVA Publications. There is also Fr. Weber’s excellent book, The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities, still available through Ignatius Press. Filling a void for the oft-neglected offertory propers is Dr. Jon Naples’ outstanding collection, Offertory.
The field is no longer limited, though, to niche markets.
Interestingly, the trend towards propers has begun to find a home even in the large publishing houses of liturgical music. For example, just released by GIA Publications is the first volume of Honey from the Rock, a new collection that takes texts from the antiphons of the Roman Missal and sets them to music in a variety of genres. This is actually the first installment of a promised four-volume series from GIA.
There are other examples, too. Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB has settings of entrance and communion antiphons for the year available through OCP. International Library Publications offers a few collections of antiphons here.
For a long time, the Mass propers have not accounted for a very large share of the liturgical music publishing market. This is strange, of course, since the actual liturgical texts would seem the ideal texts for producing liturgical music. This new momentum says something about where we are in the project of restoring truly sacred music.
The fact that major publishers are offering collections based on proper texts is evidence that there is a market for this. Publishers would not be producing new vernacular settings of the propers if they did not expect them to sell. This means that the propers movement has achieved at least some degree of traction.
Needless to say, not all of the aforementioned resources are of the same quality or the same suitability for Catholic worship. Nevertheless, the fact that more publishers are taking seriously the need to provide music for the official liturgical texts, rather than simply songs of our own creation, is quite significant. It means that our ongoing grassroots efforts for truly sacred music, rooted in the liturgy of the Church, is bearing fruit.
Someone else reacting to the new collection from GIA might be disappointed, looking down about the modern music styles used by the composer. What I see, however, is hope.
Growing attention to the Mass propers—even in styles that may not epitomize universality, beauty, and holiness—is evidence that authentically Catholic liturgical music has promise.
Editor’s Note: Richard Rice recently released 900 pages of English Propers with accompaniment (Volume 1 and Volume) which can be downloaded free of charge if you create a Lulu username & password.