« PoprzedniaDalej »
of interesting the people in the choral services of the Church; and many other particulars that might be mentioned.*
The above, we are aware, is somewhat of a digression; but the points may be new to some of our readers, and it is often both interesting and useful to compare our ways of doing things with the practices of other Catholic countries.
To return, then; the other idea of having the Mass sung by a trained choir, and with artistic music, to which the faithful may listen, is, (provided the music be of the right kind,) perfectly legitimate; and it must be left to circumstances and discretion to decide in each case which plan should be adopted, or whether both should have their place. If in some of our larger town congregations we could follow the continental plan of having two Masses with music, say at nine and eleven (abroad the hours are usually eight and ten), there would be an opportunity of trying the congregational plan at the earlier one.†
We venture another suggestion, which may be taken for what it is worth: might it not be practicable and advisable sometimes to turn what is called the Children's Mass into a congregational one? The children would not be ousted, for they would then simply become the leaders of the people's singing. This would probably be one way of attaching the people as they grow up to the services of the Church; for when school children only are employed to sing (and this, of course, very much as a matter of school routine), it generally happens that as soon as they leave school all their interest in it ceases. The present plan, we believe, in the "Children's Mass," is to have a series of English hymns sung almost continuously from beginning to end. Many thoughtful persons have questioned whether,-carried to the extent it is, and with
It is gratifying to know that in several French dioceses (e. g. Rouen), various improvements of the kind suggested are already in progress.
+ Canon Oakeley thinks "the Mass is most properly regarded as an act in which the people share" in the way of attention and meditation, rather than of direct and personal participation, and that therefore he is not disposed "to acquiesce in the view that the choral portions of the Mass are intended to be sung by the people." It does not appear, however, that joining in the choral parts of the Mass need prevent the attitude of meditation here desired; on the contrary, it might in many cases secure a degree of attention otherwise too often absent. It has, moreover, an immense amount of authority in its favour. Of course perfect liberty is left to individuals to assist at Mass in the way which most edifies them; and this will be sometimes in joining the singing, sometimes in listening and meditating;-as indeed will be the case also in those services such as Benediction, &c., where Canon Oakeley himself, in accordance, we may remark, with the instructions in the "Ritus" for Benediction, prefers that the people should join in the singing.
hymns of so miscellaneous a character,-this plan is likely to bring up the young in a way calculated to teach them afterwards to hear Mass well. Be this as it may, the taking up the whole time in singing hymns by the children, of which the older people who hear Mass at the same time know nothing, is often found very distracting to the latter, whereas on the plan suggested the wants of both would be met. The congregation would all join in the choral parts of the Mass, and the children might still have their hymns before and after it.
We deprecate strongly with Canon Oakeley the rushing unprepared into a congregational Mass, the result of which would in all probability be the disgust which he describes; and this all the more, that the ears of the present generation are generally more musically trained and more accustomed to sweet sounds than was the case some years ago, or is the case still with the majority of French congregations. We might certainly begin
a certain number in the body of the worshippers," and with careful supervision there is no doubt that in time, as Canon Oakeley says, a very excellent and impressive effect might be produced. We need not exaggerate the difficulty, nor should we forget that in this country musical education among all classes has arrived at a high pitch, and that what was impossible at one time may be perfectly possible now. We understand that among other religious bodies, the fulness and precision with which whole congregations are taught to join in their services (and these, as a whole, not really more simple than our own) is quite remarkable. It only needs the re-establishment of the system of musical instruction in our schools, of which we have before spoken (which would only, after all, be in accordance with the bene legere, bene construere, bene cantare of old times), to bring us up to the same level, and enable our people to join heartily in our own services, which are, of course, of a far more beautiful and impressive character.*
* We have all heard of the astonishing effect produced by simple melodies sung by a large body of voices. Not to speak of the recent Centenary at Rome, which may be thought an exceptional case, there are many instances of the same kind, though on a smaller scale, such as the Te Deum, Hymns, &c., at Notre Dame de Paris, sung by 5,000 voices; and again, the Miserere, or De profundis, at Notre Dame des Victoires, sung by a mass of people, words and all, from memory. It is also well known, that when performances of the Requiem Mass, Stabat Mater, Lauda Sion, &c., have taken place, both in the unison melody sung by a large number of voices, and in figured music by a body of the best performers, the former has carried off the palm, even in the opinion of professional musicians. And as to unison singing, too often despised, the greatest musicians, down to the present day, have largely employed it, and have by its means produced some of their grandest effects. We may
There is one sentence in Mr. Nary's remarks which strikes us as deserving notice in a practical point of view. He says, "Plain Chant, or music as simple as Plain Chant." It has, no doubt, also occurred to others, that in order to have congregational singing, we need not absolutely confine ourselves to one set of melodies; and seeing that the old chant depends so much for its effect upon a large number of voices, especially of male voices, it might often be desirable, in commencing with the young, to make use of a lighter and easier style of music, in which there should be a good deal of change and variety in the melody, as well as in the organ harmonies. In these days of varied and effective organ accompaniments, much might be done in this way.
With regard to the practicability of teaching the Church chant to our people, and especially to the young, we have the opinion of the author of "Christian Schools and Scholars" before quoted to the following effect, an opinion which would appear to be founded upon personal experience:-"If this suggestion to teach Latin and the Church chant be deemed preposterous on the ground of its difficulty, we would simply beg objectors to try the experiment before passing judgment. A very short experience will prove, that with ordinary perseverance nothing is easier than to make a class of boys recite fluently and chant correctly from notes the Vespers and Compline, or the Gloria and Credo, and other portions of the Mass, and we may add that nothing seems more acceptable to the people themselves. Possibly, in a congregation thus trained, there might be fewer complaints of children behaving badly in church: when children understand and take part in what is going on, they do not behave amiss."
We should hope that the experience of this writer would encourage others to make the attempt to teach the children of the parochial school, or at least a portion of them, in the way here suggested.
We think that in most, if not all schools, a certain number of boys will be found of sufficient respectability, good behaviour, and intelligence, to render it worth while to bestow upon them a somewhat higher kind of education; and this might well include an elementary knowledge of Latin, and of
add that the hearty singing even of a few hundred voices will have an excellent effect. Witness, for instance, the Holy Family, and other evening services, at S. Mary's, Chelsea; where the zeal of the clergy and the skill of the organist have combined to produce a most successful result. Similar examples may be found, we believe, at St. Anne's Spitalfields, and St. Joseph's, Kingsland.
some modern language, such as French. A plan of this kind would go directly to improve and elevate a certain number at least of our male population, and would probably enable many a young man to attain a better position in life than he or his parents could otherwise have hoped for. Some would thus be qualified to become assistants in bookselling, or printing, or mercantile establishments; or in such trades as chemists, &c., where some knowledge of languages is often of itself a passport to employment; others might become teachers; the more musical again might turn out organists; and some might even show themselves hopeful candidates for an education for the priesthood. In all such cases, it is easy to see the importance of laying such a foundation, and of giving with it also such a musical instruction as would both supply our young people with a pleasing recreation, and enable them to assist intelligently in the public services of the Church. The extra cost need not be great; indeed where, as in some of our parochial schools, an upper class is formed -distinct in a great measure from the ordinary poor-schoolparents are often found not only willing, but glad to pay such a higher sum as suffices to meet the additional expense.
Nor it appears to us is this subject important only as regards the middle and lower classes. It has been observed with much truth of those "who have to do with the education of the young, in whatever class of life"; that "the omission of the musico-liturgical element seems an unaccountable oversight, more especially in this day when a double current may be noticed by the most superficial observer; first in the direction of general musical cultivation, and secondly in that of a revived taste for Catholic ritual. Of both these tendencies it will surely be our highest wisdom to avail ourselves." *
Complaints are sometimes made of the little interest shown by the more educated classes among us in the higher departments of literature, and it is a question how far this may not be due to an inadequate acquaintance with the beauties of the Church offices, and, as a consequence, a comparative lack of the imaginative and poetic element in the character. We throw out this idea, though the scope of our present inquiry does not admit of our pursuing it.
The remark of the author above quoted, as to the behaviour of children in church, is, we should think, well worth attending to. If young people are to attend Vespers, it seems at
* Catholic Opinion, Oct. 17. We are glad to have an opportunity of bearing testimony to the valuable services rendered by this periodical, not only on the above subject, but on many other important topics of the day.
least desirable that they should know what is being sung, even if they do not actually join. Children at the school age cannot be expected to keep up a spiritual meditation for any lengthened period, and the time of Vespers would therefore, unless intelligently employed, be apt to become one of idleness and ennui, as, indeed, we sometimes witness. Our nuns and teachers could with very little trouble do the same for the children here as the Sisters of Charity and Christian Brothers do in France; and it must be remembered that Vespers and Compline, with their oft-recurring Psalms, when once taught, will not readily be forgotten.
We do not here enter upon the question as to how far it is desirable to introduce Vespers in a congregation consisting chiefly of the less educated class; but if it is to be done, it should be done thoroughly, not in a maimed and incomplete manner. Under the notion of making the performance easier a practice prevails in some places of invariably singing the Sunday Vesper office; in other places only the Vespers of the Blessed Virgin. But surely this is to incur all the trouble of getting up, and accustoming the people to a Church office, and then to throw away its chief advantage-the beautiful adaptation to different days and feasts. If one office can be learned, all can. Let us suppose a class of boys to be taught Vespers. We begin with the Sunday Psalms and Magnificat, then we go on to the Vespers B. V. M., next to those of Confessor and Bishop. After this all others are easy, and the peculiarities of the coming festival have only to be prepared for beforehand.* While the Psalms and Hymns are being learned, the Antiphons will of course be in abeyance as far as the singers are concerned, and will be sung simply by the Priest and assistants. After this they will be easily taught to the boys, since they will be found to consist of melodies easy in themselves, and often repeated. Last of all will follow the teaching of the people to sing in alternate verses.
There is another mode of reconciling, or rather combining, the two departments of Choir and Congregational singing, which is worth mentioning in this place, and which we believe has been tried with complete success. This is by adopting the plan of alternate performance. Suppose, e.g., the Psalms, Hymns, Magnificat, &c., are sung thus-one verse by the boys in the choir, the other verse by the men of the choir, joined by the whole congregation; or, again, the choir
*Such is the plan generally adopted in the diocese of Rouen, as we find by a popular office-book, prepared by authority of the Archbishop, and used in the schools.