Thursday, 1 January 2015

Proper texts to Improper tunes are still Improper!

Thanks (or not) to the folks at Chant Café for this great example of how to do things Improperly!

Final Shopping Day for Advent Weekdays in the Hymn Tune Propers Emporium
If you or a Pastor or Music Director you know would like to do something liturgically special for Advent Weekdays here at the last moment, just click here, print out as many copies as you need for your daily Mass crowd, place them on a table where they will be noticed, and sing these versified Entrance Antiphons at the beginning of daily Mass. Any Long Meter tune that is familiar in your parish will work fine.

What you get if you click is a page titled "An Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits - Liturgical Year 2015".

 It has one short scriptural verse in English - which is it the Entrance Antiphon for the day. No copyright acknowledgement to the scriptural translation or versifier. No clarification that it's for the 2014/2015 liturgical year. (Remember the new Mass - introduced in "Advent 2011" - which was December 2010 in New Zealand and December 2011 in lots of other placed. This sheet seems to take the opposite approach to naming liturgical years - highlighting perfectly why the abbreviated approach isn't good enough.)

For weekday masses, I do think that a sung one verse entrance "antiphon" makes sense: it unifies people, introduces elements of rhythm and melody which are spiritually important for some people, and makes the overall tone of the gathering spiritual.  And the Propers make great texts for this - especially because a weekday congregation is usually a lot more familiar with scripture, so will likely make the link between the short snippet and the wider piece which it comes from.

But the same tune, every day, for every single one?  I cannot see how that can work - unless the underlying tune is so blandly lit-muzak that it doesn't highlight any particular phrase at all! Liturgically Proper, yes. But musically not at all the proper thing to be doing.    If you're going to sing propers, then do it properly by puting at least some thought into choosing tunes that support the meaning of the text.

Reading some more:
"The Hymn Tune Propers Project provides an easy first step away from randomly-selected hymnody and towards the use of the proper liturgical texts of the Mass. The proper texts are spiritually beneficial for Catholics ... "

Randomly-selected hymnody? Does anyone really do that any more? Really? All pastoral musicians I know at least choose seasonally appropriate hymns based on the index of their hymnal.  For Sundays, most spend substantial time with the readings and other texts of the day, looking for materials that fit with them and will work with the particular community.

And I wonder if CC would care to explain exactly how the Proper text (remember, snippets of scripture presented out of context) are more spiritually beneficial than a scriptural hymn with several verses to provide "space" for context.   There's a whiff of magic thinking here.

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