What To Sing For Mass

I have already presented what I see as the three key activities of the Guild:

  1. Build a schola cantorum capable of singing at least a sizeable portion of the Gregorian repertory, Ordinary and Proper.
  2. Foster the use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy, at least within the Champaign Vicariate.
  3. Encourage the musical participation of the congregation, both by listening and by singing.

All three of these points, individually and collectively, inform all of our activities, but they have particular bearing on how I pick the music for a given “gig” at Mass. I have no strict system by which I choose what we will sing, but the following general principles may be observed:

  • Under points 1) and 2), I generally confine myself to the Gregorian corpus, perhaps with a side extension into music that is not strictly Gregorian but was composed as plainchant; only in rare circumstances will I choose a metrical hymn.
  • Under point 1), I will select Propers from the Graduale romanum if the Guild has sufficient time to practice them, and so build up that part of our repertory. If time is not available, simpler pieces from the Liber cantualis and/or the Cantus selecti may be chosen. I am not fond of the Graduale simplex, and so tend to avoid it.
  • Point 3) indicates that the Guild does not intend to sing alone exclusively, but wants to get the congregation involved as well. In my opinion, this is most effectively done by choosing the Ordinary from parts the congregation knows, or choosing an Ordinary that can be taught to the congregation relatively quickly. We normally use Kyrie XVI, Gloria XV, a spoken Creed, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII.
  • The Proper is not always choir-only, however; for instance, on our Easter Monday appearance, the Alleluia, Communion, and Recessional were pieces with which the congregation was familiar.

In this way, the Guild attempts to strike a balance between what we sing exclusively and what the congregation sings with us, while also giving the congregations we sing with fuller exposure to the Gregorian corpus.

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