12 March 2007

Blast from the Past.

I found something interesting the introduction of the book the Schola uses for the Propers of the Tridentine Rite. Since Puff started this blog as a discussion of Church Music and other matters, I thought it appropriate, edifying and perhaps a little amusing to reprint instructions given to singers back in 1933.

Decalogue for the Organist and the Church Singer

1. Since music in church becomes part of the liturgy it is in itself Worship. Church music, therefore, must be offered in the best possible way.

2. The first requirement for a good rendition of church music is that the the singers be permeated with the Spirit which prompts Holy Mother Church during the different Seasons of the Ecclesiastical Year (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost).

3. Choir members, in order to sing with the proper expression and to give God intelligent praise, should become familiar with the meaning of the phrases of the liturgical text through the English translation of the Missal.

4. Church singing must retain the character of choral music. Consequently, no individual voice in the choir should be heard above the others; no personal ambition or desire to "show off" should be tolerated.

5. The singing should always proceed smoothly(legato). The tedious defect of producing a separate impulse of the voice for each note and syllable should be carefully avoided. The contrary defect of "sliding", "slurring", and "scooping" should also be avoided.

6. In chanting the Proper of the Mass the tempo to be observed is that of a solemn, oratorical declamation of the text. A short pause will be made after the middle cadence of the psalm -tone and whenever the breathing mark () is found. The recitation on the "long note" (Dominant) of the psalm tone must be done evenly as if each syllable of the text carried an eighth-note.

7. The correct accentuation of the words is an important factor in good singing. In fact, talking and singing follow similar rules, the accented syllable always receiving the greater emphasis.

8. The Italian pronunciation of the Latin is prescribed by the Church. Singers, therefore, should carefully enunciate both vowels and consonants according to the Italian system. (I may post these rules, from 1933 later.)

9. The organist should never forget that the organ accompaniment must serve only to "support" the singing, and should never overpower the voices.

10. Liturgical chant in early Christian centuries belonged exclusively to the Choir of Levites, and our church singers today, although laymen, are taking their place. Members of church choirs, therefore, should consider their office as a "privilege" and should show themselves worthy of the same by a dignified, modest and devout bearing.

Organist and Choirmaster
St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, Pa
(c) 1933

Although the writing style is stuffy and a tad dated, (and, incomprehensibly to our era, grammatically correct) I like the seriousness with which he treats the position. It is indeed a privilege to sing the praises of the Lord. I would put in my own command:
11. Have fun.
It is hard to make a joyful noise to the Lord if one does not feel joy. I don't think joy and seriousness are exclusive, and in fact I think they play well with each other.

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