Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Scrap Gloria

In response to the following in the "Tablet", reported by Damian Thompson and others,

"UK music publisher Kevin Mayhew said his firm would be commissioning many new Masses, but said worshippers would take months to learn new settings, and felt sure that favourites such as the “Clap-Hands Gloria” and the “Israeli Mass” would remain in use."

someone should send the message, loud and clear that these are NOT favourites. I did not coin the name "C**p Gloria" but I have heard it more than once.

I think we have a cultural problem. The Clap Gloria is a classic example of someone trying to dress up a text about which they have little understanding or insight. Rather than trying to make it "fun" and "cool" for the kiddies they would do well to immerse themselves in the text until they are completely saturated in it, understand it for themselves, and mean it.

I have some sympathy with those who point out the difficulties of adapting English to Gregorian melodies. True, English is different. This is particularly noticeable with regard to rhythm where English involves a vastly greater proportion of single syllable words but English has its own musical characteristics. I submit that, instead of simply copying the musical forms of Gregorian chant, composers need to do for the English liturgical texts what the Gregorian composers did for the Latin texts. Above all they should not be afraid of setting for the naked (unaccompanied) human voice. It is the instrument we all have and for which there is no better use than the praise of God. Would it be really so difficult?

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