OUNG CHURCH MUSICIANS have a natural tendency, which is a healthy one. They desire to follow that which is correct. (Sometimes this desire can become a “mania.”) It’s similar to when one studies piano. One begins by scrupulously following the fingerings in the editions. Then, after many years of practice, one gains the freedom to devise one’s own fingerings. We remember that Toscanini (and all great conductors) constantly edited Beethoven’s orchestration to improve the result—but they certainly did not do things like that when they were still students!
Composing Antiphons? Anyone who’s attempted to sing the post-conciliar Divine Office—a.k.a. the “Liturgy of the Hours”—knows that it’s necessary to compose many (all?) of the antiphons, especially if one sings in the vernacular! Questions arise: Is this correct? Is this cheating? Is this bad? Is this inauthentic? As a matter of fact, there’s a long history of choirmasters being forced to compose antiphons for the Divine Office. In the days before Vatican II, most Catholic dioceses had their own special feast days. And if a High Mass took place on such a feast, it was necessary to compose music. It was very rare that an “official” book would contain melodies for such local feasts. Even more rare was a book containing organ accompaniments for local feasts—although you can see that Flor Peeters and his team did create such a book for Belgium if you go to the NOH website and download the sixth volume.
Modern Day Example: Because Dr. Calabrese sings Vespers in the Ordinary Form, I’ve noticed he often composes his own antiphons. Doing that is “NNN” … Normal, Natural, and Necessary. There is nothing “weird” or “incorrect” about doing that. Here is a beautiful antiphon he composed, followed by Father Guerrero’s MAGNIFICAT IN THE FIRST MODE (which can be downloaded at #84476). The recording—captured by an iPhone microphone—cannot accurately reproduce the sumptuous choral sound one hears in real life:
More Examples: When the Church added new feasts, a “delay” was quite common before the new feast was given musical notation. Some of the feasts were created rather willy-nilly. For example, Pope Pius XII wanted to add a feast for the Queenship of Mary (“Maria Regina”). The Commissio Piana wanted the feast to occur on May 1st, but the Holy Father wanted to reserve that day for the feast of “Christ the Worker.” (As a matter of fact, May 1st eventually became not Christ the Worker, but Saint Joseph the Worker.) Then it was decided to place the Queenship of Mary as 22 August [cf. Antonelli Development of the Liturgical Reform, page 281]. In the end, the feast of Mary’s Queenship was placed on 31 May. The NOH includes an organ accompaniment for that feast-day (Beatæ Mariæ Virginis Reginæ) as an appendix to Volume 3.