Throughout the next year, and until the implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal, The Authentic Update will focus on issues surrounding the New Translation and developments in Sacred Music arising from it. I hope you will visit here frequently and join in the conversation as the Church enters into this remarkable period of liturgical transformation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What is to Become of the ICEL Chants?

As we move forward into the coming year, one of the nagging questions that is still "hanging out there" is the role that will be played by the ICEL Chant Settings of the Ordinary. These settings were "composed" (OK... they are actually adaptations of the Gregorian melodies fit to the newly translated Ordinary texts... but that is a fine point!) under the direction of ICEL and are to be included with the New Missal as the normative settings of those texts. Other Chants are also included in the collection, such as the dialogues and prefaces, as well as psalm-tone settings which may be used for singing the Gospels on particular occasions. The totality of this collection comprises what I have come to call "The ICEL Kyriale".

The project came to light in 2008, much to the surprise of many. Immediately there was discussion and debate about what role these settings would play in the implementation of the New Missal Translation. Foremost among the questions posed was whether these settings would be somehow mandated for use. At this time, it is a question that has still not been answered.

Most mandates, at least within the Catholic liturgy, are exclusive mandates... mandates that particular things must be used, or be said, or be done to the exclusion of other things being used or said or done. There are mandates that particular materials must be used for sacred vessels, and that particular substances must be used for the sacred hosts and wine. There are mandates that the readings of the particular day must be used, and that these must be from the approved Lectionary for Mass. There are mandates that the words of consecration must be said without variation or alteration, and on a greater scale, a mandate that the texts of the Mass must not be altered or improvised by anyone, including Priests. There are mandates that particular folmulae and actions must be used in Baptism, and that particular actions must be done as indicated in the books regarding the consecration of the Bread and Wine. All of these, and many more, are exclusive mandates in that they indicate both what must be used or said or done, and proscribe that nothing else may be used or said or done in their place.

So the idea of there being a "mandate" regarding the ICEL Chants would be bound to raise more than a few eyebrows, and for good reason. To begin with, previous mandates regarding musical settings had more to do with the texts than with the musical settings themselves. Musical settings per se were addressed by less stringent documents which proscribed some attributes of the settings regarding formal characteristics and liturgical use. However, there has never, at least to my knowledge, been a specific setting of the required texts mandated for use, nor would it be practical to do so.

A mandate of any liturgical nature has two distinct parts. First, there must be a mandate to produce and provide the thing that is being required, whether it be a Lectionary with specified texts, candles made of the appropriately proportioned Beeswax, or whatever the thing is that is required. While many such things were historically handled "in house" by the Church, today much of the production end of things is handled by private concerns which must follow the Church's proscriptions in order to be considered liturgical vendors for catholic parishes.

Secondly, there has to be a legislative mandate that the thing, whatever it may be, MUST be used or said or done to the exclusion of other things. There must be a specific "disallowing" of other options.

And this is precisely why the situation of the ICEL Chants is becoming more of an issue as we move towards the implementation of the New Translation in November 2011. At this point, the ICEL Chants are the only setting of the Ordinary yet to be approved for liturgical use. Publishers are REQUIRED to include the ICEL Chant settings as the normative setting in all published liturgical books, hymnals, guides or Missals intended for liturgical use. In both permanent and renewable hymnals or songbooks, where there are settings of the Orinary included with an Order of Mass, the ICEL Chant settings MUST be included as the setting within the Order of Mass. This much has already been mandated

Furthermore, a quick look at the web sites of the major publishers will reveal a statement like the following:

We have been asked by the United States Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship to remind you that the musical settings are for preview only and not yet approved for liturgical use. In addition, we are not yet being allowed to share any complete settings.

So... in addition to the ICEL Chants being mandated for inclusion in all published resources, all other settings, at this point, have not received approval for inclusion, for sale, or even for posting in their entirety online for viewing. One seriously has to ask.... why is this? Is there a process for these settings to be approved? If not, why not approve them now? Is it simply to keep these settings from being used ahead of time? That would make sense and may well be the explanation. But if that's the case, why release the ICEL settings now since they are also not to be used until November 2011?

As the time gets closer we'll have to watch what happens concerning approval for these "other settings" of the Mass texts. My general impression is that they will eventually be approved for inclusion in the books, but always in addition to the primary ICEL settings.

As of right now, it looks strangely like a mandate, but a mandate of a very different kind, allowing exceptions but in a secondary capacity. That's where things are right now.


Charles Culbreth said...

All very good concerns.
But, while reading the sequence of specific concerns, a sort of counter intuition nagged at me. With the sole exception of the FEL/Chicago copyright debacle, has there ever been any major policing of actual copyright or practical abuse of "intellectual property"?
With the advent of the Xerox and the PC, the cassette player/RECORDER, Napster ad infinitum, has there been anything other than an economic shift of profit previously "assigned" to one entity being transferred to another entity? Do we buy more or less "duplication paper" now than we did 50 years ago? When Napster converted to "pay per" out of a huge legal decision, did that stop illegal duplication of digital IP? No, and ITunes et al will continue thriving until the next paradigm shift, when something else will materially benefit.
My point, and I do have one, is that the "curiouser and curiouser" factor is simply, well, a curiosity as regards the adherence to a mandate superimposed upon the liturgical practices of English RC Christendom.
Whom will the Papal Nuncio dispatch to Dr. Jerry and Alan Hommerding to give them a "cease and desist" order regarding the publicity and distribution of their revised Masses?
I completely understand the frustration among all the interested clientele about MR3's whole schtick, and thus far it strikes me funny because it seems so, well, inept.
If there's something about Vatican II that ironically might have come out right, is that we, from bishop to PIP, have direct access to the tools, the craft, the distribution and use of musical art and chant that can effect our worship towards the "sacred, beautiful and universal."
What ARE they gonna do about it, sue us?

John said...

I'll admit to being thoroughly confused now. What is an "ICEL Chant" in the first place?
When I think of Chant, I think of Gregorian Chant in particular. I thought the term was relatively exclusive.

What does the committee on use of ENGLISH in the liturgy have to do with chants that're done in LATIN?

Nemo said...

Can't you just use the normal Latin ordinary chants? Wouldn't that solve the whole problem? Also, they are in public domain.

Chironomo said...


The ICEL Chants are the chant settings of the Ordinary IN ENGLISH that have been adapted to the Gregorian melodies for publication with the new missal translation. They are intended to act as a sort of "normative setting" and the major publishing companies have been asked to include them as the primary setting in all hymnals, missalettes and renewable worship resources published for liturgical use.


Well of course... if there were a mandate, why would there be any obligation to follow it? That's why I tend to believe that actual change in liturgical music is going to come from the "bottom up" rather than the "top down". But that same attitude that rejects mandates from the Church may also turn out to reject "mandates" (in the form of imposing revised settings) from the publishers. That being said, I stil have always, and continue to believe that there will eventually have to be a 21st century equivalent of "Tra le sollecitudini", perhaps if only to clarify and guide a direction that has already been established in practice.


That would be the preferable option, and one that I would advocate for. It doesn't seem to be in the cards as a widespread practice any time soon though

Anonymous said...

"the ICEL Chant settings MUST be included as the setting within the Order of Mass. This much has already been mandated"

I am not doubting you, but can you tell me where this is mandated?
And by whom?
A url would be appreciated.

Chironomo said...


Sorry to take so long to respond to you! I got this info first-hand from Dr. Jerry Galipeau, Chief Editor at WLP. The exchange that we had can be found HERE: