Last night our choir sang at our parish’s first Missa Solemnis since the 150th anniversary for Ascension Day. I thought it was a tremendous achievement both in the organ loft and on the altar for such a small parish to achieve this. And the only reason we can do put it on a Mass of this calibre is quite simply because we do it every week.
As most can appreciate, you cannot just open a book and sing from it. neither can you just turn up on the altar and know where to stand and when to kneel etc. In the past we have relied on additional help with both the music and on the altar, originally we had an MC who drove down in the snow from Crawley to make Mass happen and we even had brilliant chant singers who wouldn’t think twice about jumping in the car and coming all the way from Kent to help us out. Now we just make it happen in the parish.
Last night, l thought the music was the culmination of what we have achieved. Our entire choir sang all the Gregorian Propers in full (with the exception of two cantors singing the Alleluia verses), Tallis O Sacrum Convivium and Victoria’s Jesu Dulcis Memoria and the Veni Creator Spiritus at the end to prepare us for Pentecost. I decided we would not sing a polyphonic Mass this time for several reasons. It is half term this week and we simply had a two hour rehearsal before Mass, also l find that many EF Masses that l attend or l see advertised tend to have four semi-professional singers singing a polyphonic Mass and then one or two cantors, invariably male, rattling through the chant, almost as an after thought. The chant should be the prime focus, polyphony second, but sadly it rarely works like that. We also opted to sing the beautiful Mass I, the plainsong Mass for the Easter season which surprisingly does not get sung as regularly as it should do. The other point that is often underestimated, is that a plainsong Mass (probably with the exception of the Missa Di Angelis) requires as much work to sing well, as a polyphonic Mass. We have been singing Mass I for over a month now and it was only last night that l felt confident enough for the choir to sing the Gloria. These things take time if you are going to do them well.