Masses (music) | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Masses (music)

Masses. In music, 'mass' usually means a setting, monodic or polyphonic, of portions of the congregation's part of the mass - the unchanging Ordinary, as distinct from the varied (according to the day) Proper.


Masses. In music, 'mass' usually means a setting, monodic or polyphonic, of portions of the congregation's part of the mass - the unchanging Ordinary, as distinct from the varied (according to the day) Proper. Other names in English for settings of the mass are 'the Office of Holy Communion,' 'Holy Eucharist,' and 'the Communion Service.' The movements of the sung mass are: Kyrie eleison, Gloria in excelsis Deo, Credo, Sanctus with Benedictus, and Agnus Dei. The monodic Gregorian mass was used widely until the 12th century, when polyphonic masses began to appear, usually for three voices and by composers whose names have not survived. The Messe de Nostre Dame, a four-voice setting composed between 1349 and 1363 by Guillaume Machault, was a culmination of this first flowering of the polyphonic mass.

The publication in 1549 of the Book of Common Prayer made acceptable the setting of the texts in English, though the Greek (Kyrie) and Latin titles were retained (excepting the Responses to the Commandments, introduced to the English liturgy in 1552). Anglican composers have continued to set both Latin and English texts. The publication in 1985 and widespread adoption of the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada presented new liturgies different enough from the traditional service to require new musical settings. That vernacular masses were regarded as unsuitable by the Roman church of the day is borne out by Pius V's Missale romanum (1570), which prescribed the exact sequence of the Proper and the Ordinary and decreed the exclusive use of Latin. These dicta remained in force until the 1960s, and consequently the mass cultivated by Roman Catholic composers prior to that date was the Latin mass.

Though spoken mass is the custom in many Canadian churches, sung mass has been perpetuated by some Roman Catholic and Anglican congregations. Even by these, however, it commonly is retained for Sundays, Feast Days, Holy Days, and special occasions, and the settings used vary widely in quality and difficulty, depending on the predilections and ambitions of individual choirmasters and the capabilities of their choirs.

The first mass settings by Anglo-Canadian composers probably were hymn-like or chant-like in nature, for use by local congregations. Examples may be seen in The Book of Common Praise (1908, rev 1938). Later, as the sophistication of congregations, choirs, and particularly choirmasters increased, more elaborate settings were written for particular choirs. Charles A.E. Harriss wrote two ambitious settings with orchestral accompaniment - a Festival Mass in 1901 (premiered that year in Buffalo and sung the following year at the Basilica in Ottawa) and a Coronation Mass Edward VII in 1902 (written for the Cycle of Musical Festivals). Clarence Lucas completed a Requiem Mass in 1937 (some 46 years after he had left Canada). The 14 Missae breves composed between 1928 and 1963 by Healey Willan gave an impetus to English-language settings of the mass without Gloria or Credo. No fewer than four titled Mass of St Thomas (by Bancroft, Betts, Robert Fleming, and Holman) emerged in 1974, the 700th anniversary of the death of St Thomas Aquinas, and of these all but Betts' were published in that year by the same house: Waterloo. Other Missae breves have been composed by Keith Bissell (three settings), Charles Camilleri, F.R.C. Clarke, Graham Coles, Margaret Drynan, Fleming, Graham George, MacNutt (four published), MacDermot (a rock treatment), Ruth Watson Henderson (Thompson 1966), Imant Raminsh, Judy Specht, Nancy Telfer (Lenel 1985), Charles Wilson, and Leonard Wilson. Canadian choral settings of the new Anglican liturgies include Richard Dacey's Priory Mass, Frances Macdonnell's Madawaska Mass (1985), and Patrick Wedd's Mass of the Crown of Life (1987) and Mass of the Gates of Praise (1985) and a setting by Jacobus Kloppers of Edmonton.

Quentin MacLean wrote several Latin masses, and the Latin texts have been set as well by Keith Bissell, Clifford Ford (full text, including Credo), and Bernard Naylor. However, certainly prior to the Vatican II Council of 1963-6 (which authorized and encouraged the use of the vernacular, to facilitate congregational participation), the Latin mass was cultivated more assiduously in French Canada than in English Canada. The four Messes of Antoine Dessane (dating probably from the 1850s and 1860s), the Messe des morts and Messe de Noël 'Deo infanti' (the latter published in 1870) of J.-J. Perrault, and in particular the three Messes of Alexis Contant (the earliest from 1884, the latest performed in 1903) bear witness to the earlier development of the Quebec tradition (both French and Irish) of the Latin mass. J.A. Fowler's Mass of the Blessed Virgin (Suckling 1893) and Mass of the Sacred Heart (Whaley Royce 1898) are Latin mass settings written for his choir at St Patrick's Church, Montreal. Guillaume Couture's Requiem Mass, written ca 1900 and performed in Montreal in 1906 and 1915, represents an inheritor of that tradition in his maturity, as do Achille Fortier's mass of 1902, Charles Labelle's Messe funèbre, and the Belgian-born Jules Hone's mass, which was sung at Montreal's Notre-Dame Church.

Later, Perrault's Messe des morts and Couture's Requiem Mass were joined by others in that genre (called, variously, Messe pour défunts, Messe funèbre, and Missa pro defunctis) by Alexandre d'Aragon, Auguste Descarries, Roméo Larivière, Joseph-Léopold Lemieux, Oscar O'Brien, Frédéric Pelletier, J.-Antonio Thompson, Amédée Tremblay, and Benoit Verdickt. Three Christmas Masses followed Perrault's - by Édouard Desjardins, by Alexandre d'Aragon, and by Thompson, who also wrote an Easter Mass. Other settings from French Canada for particular purposes or commemorations include those by Édouard Biron (Messe de Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix, Messe au Christ Roi), Maurice Blackburn (Mass, 1949, for children's voices), Charlotte Cadoret (Messe à Notre-Dame, in addition to one generically named), Claude Champagne (Missa brevis), Donald Heins (Messe de Ste-Ursule), Alfred Lamoureux (Messe du Saint-Nom-de-Marie), and O'Brien (Messe de St-Joachim). The three by Paul-Émile McCaughan (1938, 1943, and 1944) are solemn masses for regular use. Gabriel Charpentier's eight-minute three-voice setting (1952) of the Latin mass is suitable for church use by sufficiently sophisticated singers. Among 'post-Vatican II' masses Pierick Houdy's Messe québécoise uses French-language texts.

André Prévost's Missa de profundis, like Clifford Ford's Mass, is, for practical purposes, a concert piece, though in theory it could be used in the eucharist because of the traditional Greek and Latin text and in spite of the spoken interpolation of the De profundis text. But Clermont Pépin's Messe sur le monde, Symphonie No 4 has unconventional texts by Teilhard de Chardin and is essentially a concert piece. Like Prévost's, Walter Buczynski's setting of the Latin text includes the De profundis (following the Agnus Dei) and also incorporates an Asperges me (before the Kyrie). Other concert Masses include Clifford Crawley's Childermas: Mass for Holy Innocents (1979) for five soloists, chorus, piano duet and strings, and Jacques Hétu's Missa pro trecentesimo anno, Opus. 38 (1985) for mixed chorus and orchestra, written to commemorate the tercentennial of the birth of Bach. Scott MacMillan's Celtic Mass (1991) uses ancient Celtic prayers, sea-songs, pipe and fiddle tunes, choirs, and string orchestra to express reverence to God for the gifts found in the sea and carries a strong environmental message.

The 1970-1 translations of the texts of the liturgies by the International Consultation on English Texts have been set by Godfrey Ridout (The Hymn Book, 1971) and Barrie Cabena (Catholic Book of Worship, 1972). Victor Togni and Father Stephen Somerville have written settings for the Roman Catholic rite, and Cabena has published a Mass in the Dorian Mode with multiple texts. The many settings by Canadian composers of sections of the mass have not been treated here, but mention should be made of Harry Somers' 23-minute Kyrie for four solo voices, choir, and instruments.

Masses written after 1980 include Jacques Faubert's Messe de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste (1985), Frank Haworth's, Mass of Reconciliation (1981) and Mass of the Sacred Heart (1982) both for accompanied unison chorus, and his Messa di Sant'Antonio (1986) for a cappella chorus; Richard Johnston's Missa Brevis (1984) for organ solo; Michael Parker's Missa Silvatica (1981); Paul Pedersen's Chorale Mass (1983); and Ruth Watson Henderson's Bloor Street Mass (1987) commissioned by Bloor Street United Church, Toronto.

Further Reading