OMETIMES a truth once generally accepted becomes obscured. To give an example: Josef Hofmann was once known as king of pianists; by the general public, as well as artists like Rachmaninov, Samaroff, and Friedman. He belongs on that pedestal—oh, without question!—and ought to be rediscovered. Steinway placed him in a class with only two other pianists; even higher than Rachmaninov. Yet very few people today even know his name.
Regarding singing at Low Mass, over the past few years, the shocking truth has been restored to a large extent through documentation (see below) posted by CCWatershed. Notice it says “through the Gospel” here:
DURING A LOW MASS, there is usually time for four hymns—one from the beginning of Mass up to or through the Gospel, but certainly to be finished by or before the end of the Gospel Reading, so as not to interfere with or delay the making of announcements or the preaching of the sermon. A second hymn can be started at the Credo; another after the Elevation, and the last one during Communion, to end with the last Gospel for the prayers after Mass.
—Caecilia Magazine of Catholic Church Music, 64: 4 (1937)
Once we understand that, we can appreciate this incredibly rare book:
How strange to see such items! A metrical setting (in English) of the Asperges Me in 1906; English songs being sung throughout Low Mass, including during the Gospel; English songs being sung during the Credo, Last Blessing, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Pater Noster, etc. 1
Important Reminder: I am not advocating the revival of such a practice. I am merely presenting what was done. Thank you in advance for not attacking me because I acknowledge what actually happened in certain places.
THERE CAN BE no doubt such things occurred. Consider this fascinating excerpt from the 1910 hymnal by Fr. Gregory Ould, OSB:
Did you notice the “Creed” and “Our Father” in English are called hymns? Did you notice also Number 248?
Now, carefully read Page 3 from Cardinal O’Connell’s hymnal (Boston):
Finally, consider this excerpt from the New Saint Basil:
Vatican II wanted people to “pray the Mass, rather than pray at Mass.” However, the exact opposite happened after Vatican II, and currently we have a situation where very few people even realize what the Mass Propers are! There is much work to be done…
A Review—written in 1906—of the hymn book by Fr. Thomas Seed, SJ:
Lady Euan-Smith has rendered a signal service to the congregational singing of our churches, by setting to music Hymns by Faber and other well known Authors (price 6d.); Mass Hymns by Father Thomas Seed, S.J. (price 6d.); and Benediction Service as sung in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, London (price 4d.) Novello & Co. are the publishers of these compositions. They are all done in a pleasing and thoroughly musicianlike manner. The harmonies are full, varied, effective, and well chosen; nothing strained or beyond the reach of ordinary choirs. To us, in Ireland, the most useful of the three batches of music will be the Benediction Service.
With regard to the hymns we are not sure that the method of placing all the words at the bottom of the page, away from the music to which they are to be sung, is the wisest and handiest. The old style of inserting the words right under the music seems better. We have noticed here and there rather strange and inconvenient forms of the accidentals. We should have preferred, for instance, C-flat instead of B-natural in the bass of the first bar of the soprano solo in the litany at page 5. The same might be said of the last bar of the alto part of the Tantum Ergo at page 6.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 During the 1990s, our priest did allow the school children to sing English hymns for the Offertory (Low Mass only), and I would not condemn such a thing.