The following has been prepared for a presentation to be given at our Diocesan Music Retreat in September. The presentation is on The ICEL Chant project and its development alongside the new Missal translation.
The Vision of Vatican II: The Music that never was…
As the new translation of the Roman Missal has come into being over the past several years, a related project has been underway that has not garnered as much attention but which is of considerable importance to church musicians. It is, in a sense, the fulfillment of the vision set forth in the documents of Vatican II for musical settings of the Mass texts, particularly the Dialogues and the Ordinary of Mass. To understand this new initiative, we have to look back more than 40 years to when this vision was articulated in Musicam Sacram:
54. In preparing popular versions of those parts which will be set to melodies, and especially of the Psalter, experts should take care that fidelity to the Latin text is suitably harmonized with applicability of the vernacular text to musical settings. The nature and laws of each language must be respected, and the features and special characteristics of each people must be taken into consideration: all this, together with the laws of sacred music, should be carefully considered by musicians in the preparation of the new melodies.
The competent territorial authority will therefore ensure that in the commission entrusted with the composition of versions for the people, there are experts in the subjects already mentioned as well as in Latin and the vernacular; from the outset of the work, they must combine their efforts.
55. It will be for the competent territorial authority to decide whether certain vernacular texts set to music which have been handed down from former times, can in fact be used, even though they may not conform in all details with the legitimately approved versions of the liturgical texts.
56. Among the melodies to be composed for the people's texts, those which belong to the priest and ministers are particularly important, whether they sing them alone, or whether they sing them together with the people, or whether they sing them in "dialogue" with the people. In composing these, musicians will consider whether the traditional melodies of the Latin Liturgy, which are used for this purpose, can inspire the melody to be used for the same texts in the vernacular.
57. New melodies to be used by the priests and ministers must be approved by the competent territorial authority.
58. Those Episcopal Conferences whom it may concern will ensure that for one and the same language, used in different regions, there will be a single translation. It is also desirable that as far as possible, there should be one or more common melodies for the parts which concern the priest and ministers, and for the responses and acclamations of the people, so that the common participation of those who use the same language may be encouraged.
Unfortunately, these directives were not given top priority following the initial translation of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1972, and unapproved and oftentimes amateur vernacular settings filled in the void created by the lack of an approved body of settings of the Mass texts during these critical few years. By the time Pope Paul VI issued Jubilate Deo, the official “minimum repertoire” of Gregorian Chants for use in the new liturgy in 1974, the cat was out of the bag and popular-tune settings of the Ordinary had supplanted the traditional melodies that were envisioned as being the primary music of the liturgy only seven years earlier. It would be another 30 years before the vision set forth by the council would be revisited and a major effort to restore the traditional melodies of the Roman Rite would be initiated.
The ICEL Chants
With the new translation of the Roman Missal well underway, the Bishops saw the coming implementation as an opportunity to revisit the council’s vision for liturgical music, and in 2006 began an initiative to create vernacular settings of the texts of the Mass based on the traditional Gregorian melodies…something like an English Language version of the Jubilate Deo of Pope Paul VI. Officially known as Music for the English Language Roman Missal, this project has come to be called The ICEL Chants after the committee responsible for the new translation. This project has been an integrated part of the translation project since 2007, and in the Spring of 2009, the Introduction material was released to the public on the USCCB website.
What is known about the ICEL Chants at this time comes entirely from the Introduction and from several letters issued by the USCCB to publishers of liturgical music. The Introduction begins with a straight-forward description of what the project entails:
For the forthcoming English language Roman Missal (sometimes called the Sacramentary), the International Commission on English in the Liturgy will offer to the Conferences of Bishops of the English‐speaking world chants for everything that is set to music in the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia (2002):
•The dialogues between the celebrant (or in the case of the Dismissal, the deacon) and the assembly such as the Sign of the Cross (“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”) and the Dismissal (“Go forth, the Mass is ended”);
• Tones for singing the presidential prayers (Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Prayer after Communion) with all prayer texts pointed for singing;
• The chants before and after the readings such as “A reading from the book of…” and “The Gospel of the Lord”;
• Separate tones for singing the First Reading, Second Reading, and Gospel;
• The Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful;
• The Preface Dialogue and Prefaces, including a musical setting of every Preface;
• Full musical settings of Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III and IV, and the concluding Doxology;
• The Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Lord’s Prayer;
• Chants for particular days and feasts such as “Hosanna to the Son of David” on Palm Sunday, the Universal Prayer and “Behold the wood of the Cross” on Good Friday, the Exsultet (Paschal Proclamation) at the Easter Vigil, antiphons for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd, and the Proclamation of Easter and Moveable Feasts for Epiphany.
• Some of the Latin chants will also be provided, including the Sanctus, Pater noster, Agnus Dei, and intonations for the Gloria and Credo. A chant setting of the Greek Kyrie from Mass XVI will also be provided.
This initial description of the ICEL Chant project is followed by a set of principles to be followed in their composition:
• To preserve and recover the tradition of unaccompanied singing in the Roman Rite, since the liturgy “is given a more noble form when . . . celebrated solemnly in song” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1963 [hereafter SC] 113);
• To facilitate “full and active participation by all the people,” which is “the aim to be considered before all else” (SC 14);
• To take full account of the accentuation of the English language, since “the nature and laws of each language must be respected” in the adaptation of traditional melodies (Sacred Congregation for Rites, Instruction on Music in the Liturgy Musicam Sacram, 1967, 54);
• To retain vernacular chants now in use where possible, since “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them” (SC 23).
These principles are, in fact, the foundation of the vision of liturgical music articulated in Sacrosanctum Concilium and Musicam Sacram. This return to the original directives of the council in composing the musical settings for the new Missal is significant: It signals a new commitment by both ICEL and the USCCB to restore the traditional musical forms of the Roman Rite for at least the Dialogues and the Ordinary of the Mass.
Examples of the Chants
The Introduction also presents examples of the actual chants and some specifics of how the English texts are being adapted to the Gregorian melodies. A good example of this is the setting of the new “Gloria” text, using the Gregorian melody from Mass XV (Dominator Deus).
The decision was made to use the melody from Mediator Deus rather than the much more familiar Mass VIII (Missa de Angelus) so that the more familiar setting will remain a uniquely Latin setting and gain wider use as such.
In the original version of the Introduction, it was said that a setting of the Creed would likely be proposed based on the Credo I rather than the more familiar Credo III, because “while it is true that the melody of Credo III is better known, it seems preferable to leave that familiar melody for use with the Latin text in the hope that it will remain in use or come to be used more widely in Latin.” In the latest update to the Introduction on the USCCB website, the setting based on Credo I has been completed and a setting based on Credo III is still being considered as an additional setting to be included.
In the case of both the Gloria and the Creed, there is an expressed assumption that there will be a greater use of the Latin settings alongside the proposed English settings in the future.
A fragment from the new setting of the Sanctus is also given, based on the Mass XVIII setting:
As with the Gloria and the Creed, an interesting insight into the future of liturgical music is revealed in the reason given for adapting the English text to the Gregorian melody in a way that maintains the two-note figure on the second syllable of the word “holy”. In this instance however, the language used is much more definite:
This setting follows the Latin melody closely. There would have been good reasons, based on natural English accentuation, for placing a single note A on the second syllable of “Holy,” as in the current setting:
But it was decided to imitate the Latin with its displaced accent more closely here, in part because the Latin setting is likely to be sung with great frequency by congregations in the future, which argues for similarity between the Latin and English settings.
One has to wonder why, given that the Latin settings have been nearly completely disregarded for the last 40 years, the Bishops and those working on this project would now predict that “the Latin setting is likely to be sung with great frequency by congregations in the future”. Such statements give added weight and impetus to the place of the ICEL Chants in the future liturgical landscape.
A Letter from the USCCB to Catholic Music Publishers
In July of 2009, the newsletter for the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship (formerly the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy) made known the following portion of a letter that was sent to publishers of Catholic music.
"With the exception of the popular setting of the Lord's Prayer by Robert J. Snow, the Committee is open to the inclusion of the new chants that have been approved by ICEL. It will also request that publishers make those chant settings in the Missal the first option provided in participation aids. Other settings could be used as well, but this approach is meant to encourage use of the chants."
An individual who is very familiar with this issue has said that this means the ICEL Chant settings will be published in all approved worship materials (hymnals, missalettes) as the Primary Setting for the Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamations and Agnus Dei. It has also been indicated that these will be the settings presented in the catechetical sessions for clergy and musicians leading up to the implementation of the new translation.
At this time, this is all that is known about the ICEL Chants and their place in the implementation of the new translation. There is, of course, speculation surrounding other new settings of these texts and how they will be related to the proposed settings, but at this time there has been no definitive position from the USCCB, ICEL or the music publishers on other settings. What is known is that there is a strong desire that the ICEL Chants become the “Common setting for all English speaking Catholics” that has been sought since the Second Vatican Council, and that this common setting will “preserve and recover the tradition of unaccompanied singing in the Roman Rite”.