Ash Wednesday Propers in English

Lent is a great opportunity for church musicians to re-evaluate what they are doing with the music in the liturgy. In our parish at the moment we have very little rehearsal time before the weekly 10.30am Mass, partly due to the implementation of a 9 o’clock Latin Mass. Evening rehearsals are difficult to maintain on a weekly basis and as a result, two or three of us end up singing the Introit , the Gradual and some of the motets at the exclusion of the rest of the choir.

I have decided that in Lent l would like all of the choir singing all of the propers and l want to attempt to get the congregation more involved with the singing of the texts of the Mass rather than the same old collection of irrelevant hymns.  This means, simpler melodies, more English text, and more music on the congregational handouts. Thankfully we have a new printer which might aid the latter point at least.

I recently heard that a parish near us in Sussex has had success getting the congregation to sing the Simple English Introits by Adam Bartlett. I am not sure if this would be successful in our parish but there is no harm in trying.  We have been using the Offertory and the Communion psalm tone settings by Tom Haggar from Seaford. These are fantastic settings particularly if you have very limited rehearsal time. ( l will upload all the files for Lent in a separate post.)

One new Lenten initiative l am really excited about it is the children are learning to sing the Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII in their children’s liturgy session. Jane who is teaching them has two children of her own and her son, who is six has already easily grasped the transition from singing in English to the Latin text. From this Sunday we will be singing Mass XVII Kyrie and Sanctus and Mass XVIII Agnus Dei.

Tomorrow for Ash wednesday, we are going to sing all the propers in English, along with Mass XVIII the Ordinary for weekdays in Lent (and Advent.) There will be NO hymns! There are several great resources available online to aid the singing of English propers:

  • Simple English Propers  Adam Bartlett : Introit, Offertory and Communion. There are practice videos for all the propers.

The other important musical resource to consider this Lent is silence. and it has the added advantage that it comes in any language. I think this Lent, especially when there is limited rehearsal time, we need more silence in our liturgy. Prayer, after all, is never going to be aided by dreadful singing.

In silentia procedit pius animus , ‘in silence the devout soul makes progress.’ Thomas a Kempis from The Imitation of Christ
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