Some 200 choir members from various parishes attended an introductory session at the Church of St Teresa.

Session on appropriate musical styles held for choir representatives


More than 200 church choir representatives gathered at the Church of St Teresa’s auditorium for an introductory session on the new translation of the Roman Missal.

The event, organised by the Liturgical Music Committee (LMC) on July 30, was the first of several to help orientate the musicians, and in effect all Catholics, to the changes in the Mass, which would take place by Advent.

LMC spiritual director, Fr J J Fenelon, led the session with a brief historical background of the Mass, what it means and the role of liturgical music in it. He then highlighted the various problems in the way liturgical music is sung and played in Singapore churches today.

One example was the “experimentation” of musical styles during Mass – the inappropriate use of “embellishments” and choice of hymns, he pointed out.

Fr Fenelon also highlighted an often neglected issue – the “death and resurrection of Jesus being made real for us at every Mass”. The music sung must thus “bring us back to the solemnity of the occasion”, he said.

In this respect, he supports the use of the traditional pipe organ and other similar instruments as accompaniment, as mentioned in the 1967 Church document, Musicam Sacram.

Citing the document, also known as Instruction On Music In The Liturgy, Fr Fenelon explained specific points to help the participants better understand the roles of the priest, choir and congregation and how each plays its part in contributing to the Mass in song.

Another resource cited was the 1963 Church document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which provides more generic information about the different elements of the Mass.

The use of song or recitation during various parts of the Mass was also raised. There are segments during the celebration which are considered sequences in themselves and should not be made disjointed by alternating between song and recitation, Fr Fenelon said.

One example is the Communion Rite where to date most priests recite, “Let us pray with confidence to the Father...” and “deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our days...”, whereas the congregation sings the Lord’s Prayer.

This results in the “flow” of the prayer being disrupted by the alternating modes of expression. A more appropriate approach here would be to either completely recite, or sing and chant.

With the new Mass translation, the main musical style – at least for the Order of the Mass – will be chant.

LMC’s chant expert, Mr Francis Nyan, said he believes the new translation “brings a new expression of the Latin traditional ... done to enrich our worship”.

Many choristers found the session informative.

“They have presented a very meaningful and spiritual interpretation of the Catholic Mass and how music is a key component ... I learnt how the tone of the music should fit that particular part of the Mass,” said Mr Leonard Mah, a youth coordinator at the Church of Christ the King.

Mr Anthony Lie from the Church of St Francis of Assisi, said the session was “very informative” and realised “that we have been practising the wrong things”.

Fr Fenelon said he recognises that “adjustment will take time” and thus a single chant version of the new translation will be implemented for one year to create familiarity in all churches. A greater variety of musical interpretations will be available in due course.

The LMC also warned that the new translation is not to be projected in any way as licences have not been acquired for screening. What parish priests have done is purchase booklets containing the necessary adjustments for their parishes. From now till Advent, only these booklets may be used.

By Tiffany Ng and Dennis Leong

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