Musicians Prepare for Coming Changes in Mass Text

Adapting to the upcoming changes to the English text of the Mass was among the principal concerns of the nearly 2,000 people who attended the convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in Detroit in July.

“All of the musical settings need to be rewritten,” said Annette Wright, director of music at St. Francis of Assisi/St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Ray Township, Mich. The current arrangements cannot simply be tweaked, she argued, because parishioners are so familiar with them. For example, changing the words of Marty Haugen’s “Mass of Creation,” one of the most popular arrangements among church musicians, would most likely confuse people, Wright said.

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The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is in the final stages of reviewing the new translation of the Roman Missal. Once the Vatican issues its recognitio, or approval, the president of each bishops’ conference will decide when to implement the new translation. In the United States the changes are expected to take effect beginning in Advent 2011.

Composers are already taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the new translation. One hundred fifty arrangements were submitted to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in advance of this year’s convention. Attendees listened to the four semifinalists and voted for their favorite.

Louis Canter, coordinator of music ministries for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said it is important for parish music directors to understand the new translation so they can educate their congregations. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes we did with [the changes that came out of] Vatican II at the beginning, when there wasn’t a lot of catechesis,” Canter said.

Some parish music directors are expecting some members of their congregations to resist the changes. “I think you’re going to lose some people, at least temporarily,” said Matt Kush, director of music and worship at St. Kieran Parish in Shelby Township, Mich.

Many Catholics know the current responses by heart, Kush noted, and he doubts they will be willing to refer to a text in order to recite the new responses correctly. “It’s hard enough to get them to pick up a book to sing a song,” Kush said.

Ron Vanadslen, director of music ministry at St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles, Ill., said music directors should manage the way the changes are introduced to their congrega-tions. Vanadslen recommended the approach of Liturgical Training Publications, which advises that “eight months before the changes officially go into effect, we should introduce the new Gloria, and then some months later introduce the new Creed.”

Though not enthusiastic about the com-ing changes, Kathleen Hughes, R.S.C.J., counseled her colleagues to stay positive. A former member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the body that developed the current English translation of the Mass, Hughes advised attendees to “make a choice now not to be cranky about the new translations” and instead to “develop generous hearts about the tastes, practices and beliefs of those with whom we disagree.”

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