Ordinary of the Mass, Sarum Edition

If TEC is beginning to gear up to start to plan to prepare to form committees to appoint study groups to undertake the work of thinking about a new hymnal, then it makes sense for us’ns to start thinking about hymnal contents as well.

There are, of course, two major contents to Episcopal hymnals: service music and hymns.

As far as hymns go, I’ll let them off with but a single comment—we need good and suitable Office hymns…

But today, I’d like to think a little around the issue of service music. Two things are sparking this:

  • first, the discovery of this wonderful resource, The Plainsong of the Mass Adapted from the Sarum Gradual (bls, have you found this one before? most of the resources I think I’ve found you’ve already located…)
  • second, the unfortunate concurrence this weekend of the Star Trek prayer with the Darth Vader Sanctus. No. Just—no. It’s so hard to keep a straight face on that combo.

I’m not suggesting anything specific here but rather lifting up two items from the front-matter of the Plainsong of the Mass book:

  1. I had always kind of assumed that mass sets were just that—sets. Clearly they are in later periods. According to this text, however, that’s not necessarily the case for the early  chant settings: “The different melodies may be sung at discretion, as there is no modal connection between parts of the Mass…” (pg. vii)
  2. The work then goes on to reproduce a chart of suggested ordinary chants based on the liturgical height of the day (pgs. viii-x). There’s nothing unusual about this. Indeed, if you look at the recent Gregorian Hymnal you’ll similarly find suggestions. So too does our own Fr. John-Julian’s mass-sets. My question, then, is why we don’t have sets with suggestions as to when they should be done, and with which Eucharistics prayers they work best (or least!)?

10 thoughts on “Ordinary of the Mass, Sarum Edition

  1. JP

    Agreed on all counts, as usual. Can’t help adding, though, that I’d love to know how the Darth Vader Sanctus goes – since I’m outside the US, and don’t have an Episcopal hymnal to hand, sadly this doesn’t mean anything to me. Should I be grateful for that small mercy?

  2. Hoosierpalian

    A few thoughts, also questions:

    Would you support a return to the style of the 1940 Hymnal, where an entire Mass setting is printed together? This might prevent the mixing and matching that the 1982 Hymnal allows.

    Too, I guess we may need to wait to see what our Rite II will look like in decades to come–will we be consulting the new Roman Catholic Mass texts, keeping Rite II as it is, or having a second look at a contemporary English version of the Rite I (1928? 1892? 1789?) texts? Will we be in talks with the Moravians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and ELCA about frequent use of the ‘ecumenical’ Eucharistic Prayer D?
    Ho o
    o ly? Is that the Darth Vader Sanctus?

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    The Darth Vader Sanctus is S128 in the hymnal, so-called because the chords in the accompaniment sound so much like John William’s theme for the Imperial troopers.

    Yes, I would support that style, but some more thinking may be required due to the complexity of matching settings to several Eucharistic Prayers—an issue the ’40 hymnal didn’t have to deal with.

  4. Oriscus

    JP – It’s William Mathias’ setting.

    Give me plainsong (de Angelis, Marialis, whatever – in bland or flavored English, or in Latin) or Willan Missa SMM or Merbecke (“Scottish Chant” Gloria is cool, too).

    Fwiw, I didn’t “grow up” with any of these, but I’ve had to sing ’em all, and I can tell you from experience what “sings” and what is just plain annoying to endure.

  5. Vicki McGrath

    In our parish we do keep to one composer’s setting of the propers as much as possible. We generally don’t factor in for which eucharistic prayer matches the musical setting, but we do tend to use settings seasonally, so(in general):
    Advent – Hurd
    Christmas – Schubart, with Matthias for the Gloria
    Season after Epiphany – Powell
    Lent (Rite I)- Healy Willan
    Easter – Schubart/Matthais
    Season after Pentecost – Proulx and Powell and different times.

    But we’ver certainly done our share of Merbecke and some plainsong. I also really like the Old Scottish Gloria; of course I learned in the days when we were still singing the Gloria at the end of the service!

    But Oriscus’ comment about somethings not singing well – for me thye Matthias Sanctus and Agnus fall into that category, so I’m glad we don’t sing them very often.

    Although I can’t dredge up examples now, some of the Anglican chants from the 1940 Hymnal that were printed with particular canticle texts (and thereby in my mind became the Right Chant for that text) was either moved or eliminated from the 1982 Hymnal. so the half dozen times a year we use Morning Prayer the canticles are printed in a separate insert with the Anglican chant, text and pointing out of the 1940 Hymnal. Maybe it’s just me being a not-so-old curmudgeon, but some of those chants did sing very well with those texts.

    As far a hymnody goes, I take your point about office hymns. The one hymn I really miss from 1940 is Turn back, O Man, sung to the Old 124th Psalm tune. I suppose someone thought the text was sexist (though nobody ever says that when the text is sung in Godspell!), but the imagery and the ideas are just as potent as they were in 1919 (a Clifford Bax text)and we need them them as much now: Earth shall be fair, and all her folk be one!

    Well, that’s enough from me – especially after vacation.


  6. Oriscus

    “Turn back, O man” was ostensibly regarded as Pelagian, though I think that may have been code for utopian socialist. (There’s something frantically compensatory about some of those late-70’s early 80’s descisions – compare the July 4 collects in the ’28 and the ’79 BCP’s – it’s like we’re trying to prove something)

  7. John-Julian, OJN

    I think the compilers of Hymnal 1982 were simply deadly in error on the the business of mixing Mass musical Propers. Mass is already fragmented enough with mixed hymns, etc.. There is absolutely NO reason not to keep common Mass settings together.

    We have used Canon Douglas’s editing to very good effect (in that he has collected together settings of similar style and similar difficulty in separate “packages” rather than merely accept the Liber groupings).

  8. Jason Lewis

    I don’t have a copy of the Hymnal 1982 at home, but I do have the Hymnal 1940 and the ‘Chant and Service Book 1894.’
    The 1894 Chant book is a supplement to the then-new Hymnal, and contains choral services for the Daily Office, Canticle chants, as well as service music for Holy Communion, both as individual versions of each proper, kyrie, gloria, creed, offertory, comfortable words, sursum corda and sanctus, etc.

    Also included are three complete communion services by different composers. I think that something like this might make up for the deficiencies of the 82 hymnal (versus its ’40 predecessor).

    I wish I had a copy of the 1894(?) hymnal to see exactly how it relates to the ‘Chant and Service Book’…

    p.s. – I finally found Mathias’ Sanctus online… I see what you mean. ‘Star Trek prayer followed by that…

    Sometimes I think it’s alright when one has to struggle to maintain decorum due to some random service music… Last month, the arrangement our organist selected for Psalm 34 had us singing the antiphon (“Taste and see that the Lord is good!”) like a commercial jingle… my wife and I almost cracked up in our pew, and I know we weren’t the only ones, because the setting the next week was a little more somber. But Jesus didn’t take himself half as seriously as many of us do, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that. God has a sense of humor.

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