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Congregational Mass Settings


Philip
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Probably a subject that has been raised before, but we're looking to introduce one or two new mass settings into our repertoire. They would have to be congregational (as good as choral settings may be). We currently do Mass of St Thomas (everyone's favourite, mostly in festival seasons), Gregory Murray (boring but the vicar likes it because its very "singable") and the DOM's own setting.

 

Has anyone any other recommendations? The vicar wants something that the congregation can pick up fairly easily, but the choir want something thats reasonably interesting. We're already looking at a few settings but I wondered if anyone has any suggestions.

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In all honesty, for good congregational singing you cannot beat Dom Gregory Murray's New People's Mass. The harmony is good, it doesn't try to be clever or "modern" and it has really taken over from the pre-ASB best congregational setting which was Martin Shaw's Anglican Folk mass. At one church I did Murray from 3rd Sunday before Lent until Holy Saturday, during August, at all Requiems and from All Saints' Day until Advent 4. The rest of the time we did Mass of St Thomas and that arangement worked well.

 

My present erudite congregation in middle class Gin an Jag commuter land complained that Murray was too difficult for them to join in. At another church I taught it to a smallish Parish Mass congregation (mainly new to church-going) round the piano for about four Sunday mornings before the service; they learned it easily and loved it.

 

My personal view is that settings with separate choir and congregation parts (ie Rawsthorne) really do not work because they are neither one thing nor the other and assorted settings in Celebration Hymnal such as the Inwood Gathering Mass and a Coventry Gloria are useful only for non-musical purposes on the evening of 5th November, alfresco.

 

Thirty yeas ago I was using Gelineau, which was simple and worked quite well, and Rutter which got boring after many repetitions and probably has not stood the test of

time.

 

Like all these things it is a matter of personal (and congregational) taste but I do believe that a repertoire of 2 or 3 settings in ample.

 

Malcolm

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Actually, this raises a very good question. Whilst the Murray is probably the best known of the settings, I find myself bored to distraction with it. But I can't think of one setting which I could recommend totally without caveats.

 

Are there any really good settings out there? ;)

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I agree on both counts really. Gregory Murray is easily singable and uncomplicated, and a congregation who find it too difficult might as well not bother singing the mass at all! We started it at Trinity, and were using it week after week (bar the odd festivals when we used St Thomas) until just a couple of weeks ago. I was away for two months in the summer as I was back at home, but even I was fed up with it. It is just so boring and uninspiring to keep doing it week after week.

 

Unfortunately, we use Celebration Hymnal, although I can't say have or even would look at the settings at the back. I have looked at the Rawsthorne, but it would take some learning and I'm not sure its what we're looking for. The only choir/congregation item I think would be do-able is the Gloria from Martin How's Parish Communion, because it is such a simple response for the congregation to do and, providing they are given the correct sequence, they can follow it easily. The rest of the Parish Communion I found overly complicated when I had a look at it. The Vicar likes this Gloria too and its a definite possibility, but obviously needs to be put with the rest of the mass.

 

The others which I quite like include the Mathias Series 3 setting, which my home church (as opposed to my church here at University) do week on week, and have done for many years. This is a great setting, and definitely not one the organist gets bored of! But it'd be quite a daunting task teaching it to the congregation, as like any Mathias it is full of accidentals! Peter Nardone (Chelmsford DOM) has also written quite a nice one (his Mass of St Cedd). I like it, but it has sequences of running notes which again a congregation would struggle with.

 

Then you have simpler things, like Addington (which the vicar does like but the DOM has dubbed the 'Paddington service' - say no more!). We also looked at one by Appleford and Rizza's Mass of the Bread of Life, but none appealed to us from a musical point of view. They might be simpler, but they are probably even less interesting than Gregory Murray.

 

As Holz said, herein lies the challenge! To find a really good setting, which has a simple line for the congregation to sing, some way in which the choir can add to this through harmony, descants etc and something to keep the organist happy. The St Thomas fulfils all these for me, but there must be some others out there too!

 

(Incidentally, I'm in touch with Nigel Allcoat and am aware of the setting he has written, which I look forward to having a look at.)

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I've just been commissioned to write two, both for the same church in Cheshire. One is to be unison with organ + optional SATB, for use at the morning Eucharist. The other is to be more 'rocky', with optional guitar, etc., for use at the family HC. They should be surfacing some time in the new year. Anyone wishing to try either of them out and then give them a savaging, I mean, give me some feedback, please PM me.

Cheers,

Paul

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Has anyone any other recommendations? The vicar wants something that the congregation can pick up fairly easily, but the choir want something thats reasonably interesting. We're already looking at a few settings but I wondered if anyone has any suggestions.

 

Have you looked at the Salisbury service by Bill Ives? We've been using it for a couple of years now, and everone seems to like it. It does have a separate choir part, but it also works as we o it, with all singing the congregation part. It does take a bit of learning for the congregation (the organ part is fairly independent), so it's helpful to have a choir to give a lead.

 

Prior to that we used the oly Tiniy setting by Christopher Tambling - also worth looking at.

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I've used Richard Proulx's Mass of the City from time to time: challenging, certainly, but well worth the effort. The Murray setting is always a good one to fall back on. Out of loyalty I must mention Alan Rees's Papal Mass (the Sanctus is particularly fine), and Paul Inwood's Eucharistic Liturgy (an early work of his), with a sung Eucharistic Prayer surrounded by a Preface/Sanctus and an Agnus Dei. Incidentally I am totally opposed to a sung Our Father. This is the one prayer that all Christians know, and to sing it risks excluding visitors or those who simple cannot sing.

 

But what I find myself doing these days more and more is a mix and match. A Kyrie from here, a Sanctus from there and so on. Besides which, I think it time we started to move away from the classical 4-movement Mass setting and use the music to emphasise the mood of the celebration. While the Sanctus and other eucharistic acclamations should always be sung, the theme of the Mass might suggest a spoken Kyrie or Agnus Dei, for example.

 

Just a few thoughts...

 

Peter

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I've never been able to see anything good about it at all. Dreary in extremis.

 

I don't think the Gloria is too successful but the rest of the setting - or the parts I use, Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus - seem to do what it says on the tin as it were - a Mass setting for the people rather than a professional choir.

 

Peter

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Nigel A's Parish Mass is rather good. So is Merbecke. Mathias and Ives Salisbury are OK too. How has its moments. My distant predecessor at St Peter's, David Beeby, has written a responsorial one which I'm very fond of.

 

Leighton in D has a unison part and is quite nice and swimmy. Well worth a look.

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Nigel A's Parish Mass is rather good. So is Merbecke. Mathias and Ives Salisbury are OK too. How has its moments. My distant predecessor at St Peter's, David Beeby, has written a responsorial one which I'm very fond of.

 

Leighton in D has a unison part and is quite nice and swimmy. Well worth a look.

 

I quite like the How setting but can't help wondering whether the Agnus Dei was an afterrthought as it sits uncomfortably with the other movements.

 

Also, so far nobody has mentioned the Latin plainsong settings - Missa de Angelis, Missa Orbis Factor, Missa cum Jubilo and so on.

 

Peter

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I've never been able to see anything good about it at all. Dreary in extremis.

I agree. Too many parallel 5ths, bass line following the top line, clumsy and inept harmonic progressions, lack of melodic interest. I don't think it's well written at all. It's interesting to see how DGM has managed to avoid the basic tenements and rules of harmony and yet still created something truly insipid.

 

The David Thorne setting is really quite passable - it has some quite good moments suitable for an average parish church on a Sunday morning. I've used the Ian Sharp St Katherine setting, which is quite OK but not that widespread these days.

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I agree. Too many parallel 5ths, bass line following the top line, clumsy and inept harmonic progressions, lack of melodic interest. I don't think it's well written at all. It's interesting to see how DGM has managed to avoid the basic tenements and rules of harmony and yet still created something truly insipid.

 

Please point out the parallel 5ths, bass/sop consecutives and "clumsy and inept harmonic progressions" to which you refer, Colin. Thanks.

 

Peter

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I agree. Too many parallel 5ths, bass line following the top line, clumsy and inept harmonic progressions, lack of melodic interest. I don't think it's well written at all. It's interesting to see how DGM has managed to avoid the basic tenements and rules of harmony and yet still created something truly insipid.

 

I am also about to introduce a new setting. I've never seen a satisfactory non-responsorial setting of the Gloria, which I blame entirely on the unmusical metre of the words. I will certainly get a copy of the St Thomas Mass by David Thorne as a lot of you seem to recommend it.

 

I think the Murray setting is at least unobjectionable and, after a quick look-through, I don't see the consecutives and ineptitutude to which you refer.

 

Has anyone done any of the Alan Wilson settings? I used to do the All Saints' Mass and found it quite good.

 

Stephen Barber

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We do the Thorne and it works quite well - another church I sometimes play at does the Murray and I must admit to finding it decidedly tedious. I have done the Wilson All Saints Mass and it has some good points. David Halls from Salisbury Cathedral has written a really good setting - we had it published in our local Diocesan Festival book (Salisbury) a year or two ago - refreshingly new in approach.

 

AJJ

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I'm sorry, I've just had a quick look through the DGM Mass and it's not the one I was thinking of and certainly not as bad as I made out. Apologies.

 

I could only find one or two minor quibbles, like the way the organ intro for the Gloria starts on the upbeat in the tonic and the downbeat of the next bar is the dominant in 1st inversion (with a random f#), which must throw quite a lot of people off the beat, esp in 2/4 time. There were a few other things like doubled 3rds (A&T on Ho(sanna) in the Benedictus), the tenor g in bars 3-4 of the Sanctus organ intro is slightly awkward (I know it's not a // 5th but a tied note that resolves to a 7th in the chord doesn't work in this context) but these are minor things. I feel the altos must get very bored at times (just 4 notes in the Agnus dei, mainly ds). However, there are some quite nice moments in it but with all those repetitive formulaic II7b - V - I cadences all over the place, it reminded me a bit of the music of Caleb Simper...

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...I know it's not a // 5th but a tied note that resolves to a 7th in the chord doesn't work in this context, but these are minor things...all those repetitive formulaic II7b - V - I cadences all over the place...

 

Well my dear orld feller, I liked ee much better before ee knew arl this sart of thing, right, and would just comes out with ow it were by yore reckonin' a total poile of.... etc.

 

This is what an ARCO does for you, folks.

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I'm sorry, I've just had a quick look through the DGM Mass and it's not the one I was thinking of and certainly not as bad as I made out. Apologies.

 

I could only find one or two minor quibbles, like the way the organ intro for the Gloria starts on the upbeat in the tonic and the downbeat of the next bar is the dominant in 1st inversion (with a random f#), which must throw quite a lot of people off the beat, esp in 2/4 time. There were a few other things like doubled 3rds (A&T on Ho(sanna) in the Benedictus), the tenor g in bars 3-4 of the Sanctus organ intro is slightly awkward (I know it's not a // 5th but a tied note that resolves to a 7th in the chord doesn't work in this context) but these are minor things. I feel the altos must get very bored at times (just 4 notes in the Agnus dei, mainly ds). However, there are some quite nice moments in it but with all those repetitive formulaic II7b - V - I cadences all over the place, it reminded me a bit of the music of Caleb Simper...

 

 

As I said, the Gloria has never been IMHO a great setting but my altos have never complained about the other stuff nor, more importantly, have members of the congregation - you know, those we serve. Remember them?

 

P

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As I said, the Gloria has never been IMHO a great setting but my altos have never complained about the other stuff nor, more importantly, have members of the congregation - you know, those we serve. Remember them?

 

P

We cycle round Mathias, How & a setting by Andrew Teague (a former DoM) and one fully choral communion each month. We were given & did sing the DGM for a while but the congregaton complained it was too boring so its been dropped. I've played the Thorne elsewhere and congregations seem to sing it with some verve.

 

I have a copy of Diana Burrell's Trinity Mass which looks quite attractive - anyone done it?

 

MGP

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Probably a subject that has been raised before, but we're looking to introduce one or two new mass settings into our repertoire. They would have to be congregational (as good as choral settings may be). We currently do Mass of St Thomas (everyone's favourite, mostly in festival seasons), Gregory Murray (boring but the vicar likes it because its very "singable") and the DOM's own setting.

 

Has anyone any other recommendations? The vicar wants something that the congregation can pick up fairly easily, but the choir want something thats reasonably interesting. We're already looking at a few settings but I wondered if anyone has any suggestions.

 

One of my churches uses the Alan Rees 'Saint Begh Service' which I don't think anyone has mentioned. Published by Mayhew 1997 and written for a school in Whitehaven, it's easy to pick up - the church does it without a choir. Unison throughout with optional solo/semichorus bits in the Gloria, and optional descants. Highest note is D (apart from descants) so congregation friendly. Rather more fun than Murray IMHO. Recommended!

 

R.

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Whilst my personal preference would be the Masses of Mozart, Vittoria, Byrd, Schubert &c., (but not Harwood in A flat or even Stanford in B flat Masses) if you are going to have congregational settings you are extremely lucky if you can still do the Martin Shaw Anglican Folk Mass; at least he had the benefit of a decent librettist. (From what I have seen of it in the press the new, as yet unpublished, English translation of the Missale Romanum is more in the style of old-type pre-Series 3 Anglicanism.)

 

Not sure what all this has to do with pipe organs, though!

 

Malcolm

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As always, many thanks for the responses which I am noting with interest. Do keep them coming if you have something to add. I will certainly try to track down a few of those mentioned, probably starting with the Ives Salisbury Service as that seems to have a couple of recommendations. The meeting we were going to have about it has been put back a little so I have a bit of time to do some searching and possibly ordering.

 

I am aware that this does, of course, have very little to do with pipe organs, although it has something to do with organists! I have seen on here in the past threads about hymns, anthems, settings and the like, and so assumed that it was an acceptable topic on which to post. If Mr Mander disagrees with this, then I am quite happy for him to take the necessary action, although I do feel that talking about topics such as these on here can be useful, and this forum is once again proving helpful in this respect!

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I am aware that this does, of course, have very little to do with pipe organs, although it has something to do with organists! I have seen on here in the past threads about hymns, anthems, settings and the like, and so assumed that it was an acceptable topic on which to post. If Mr Mander disagrees with this, then I am quite happy for him to take the necessary action, although I do feel that talking about topics such as these on here can be useful, and this forum is once again proving helpful in this respect!

 

Well, as it's music to be played on a pipe organ albeit in an accompanimental role, I (for one!) think it totally relevant! :o

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In all honesty, for good congregational singing you cannot beat Dom Gregory Murray's New People's Mass. The harmony is good, it doesn't try to be clever or "modern" and it has really taken over from the pre-ASB best congregational setting which was Martin Shaw's Anglican Folk mass.

Both these settings, of course, can be found in the New English Hymnal supplement New English Praise, numbers 694 and 695 - assuming you meant Murray's A People's Mass.

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