New liturgical music will enhance the celebration of the Eucharist

Kathleen Beyers, diocesan Music Director, holds the Mass of Wisdom setting, available through WLP Publications. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter

KANSAS CITY — You’ve figured out that GIRM stands for General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in other words, GIRM is the official Vatican document that explains how we celebrate the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. You’ve gotten used to the idea that many of the familiar words of the Mass are changing, and you’ve finally wrapped your mind around the fact that as of the first Sunday of Advent this year, Mass will sound different. But did you know that liturgical music will be changing also, to fit with the new translations?

Kathleen Beyers, Music Director for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has been chairing the Roman Missal Music Subcommission, and working with parish music directors to help everyone get on the same music sheet. The subcommission was created earlier this year by request of the Diocesan Commission on the Implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. Changes in liturgical music have been incorporated into the GIRM workshops which continue to be held throughout the Diocese.

Wait, the music also? But what about my favorite hymns and psalms? The familiar hymnals will still be in the pews, and the congregation will still be invited to sing with the cantor or choir during the offertory, communion and the closing. It’s the music of the Mass itself that will change — the Gloria, the Sanctus, the Memorial Acclamation, parts of the Mass that may or may not be sung such as the Our Father and parts of the Mass sung by the celebrant. The music for those parts is called a setting.

Beyers said members of the subcommission — Beyers, Dr. Mario Pearson, Tom Smith, Elizabeth Barmann, Sandy Prothman and Maureen Henderson — were chosen from a variety of backgrounds — cathedrals, small and large parishes, and a high school and a university — representing the diverse demographics and music styles of the diocese.

Parishes will be encouraged to select new or revised music settings for the Mass that are appropriate to their community, Beyers said. There are several to choose from. Earlier this summer, several members of the subcommission reviewed the settings and shared their impressions and opinions of the settings to aid parish music directors in choosing features of the individual settings that will best suit their parish congregation. The selections may change from parish to parish.

Beyers said permission had been received from Bishop Robert Finn to begin incorporating the new music into the liturgy effective Sept. 1. That will allow almost three months for parishes and congregations to learn and become familiar with the changes in the liturgical music before Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent, when the old liturgical music will no longer be used.

The “Kyrie” is actually in the Greek language traditionally — “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison” — and that will not change, Beyers said. If a parish opts to say or sing it in English — “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” — they can. For Mass parts that may be said or sung in Latin, including the Gloria, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei, now, during, and after this transition, there will always be the option of singing either the Latin or English for any Mass part at any time in a regular Mass/Ordinary Form Mass, she said.

Beyers did say that in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, whether the Agnus Dei is said or sung in Latin or English, Bishop Finn has directed that only the invocation “Lamb of God,” may be used. Therefore in English, we will say (or sing), “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us; … Lamb of God, you… grant us peace,” and in Latin: “Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; … Agnus Dei …dona nobis pacem,” as it is now.

Another change that may surprise U.S. Catholics is the Mystery of Faith, formerly called the Memorial Acclamation. The familiar text, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again,” has not been approved for continued use. All forms of this text must not be used during Mass after Nov. 26. The acclamations that have been approved include:

• We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again;

• When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again,

• Save us, Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.

Wait, so we not only have to learn and memorize new words and phrases in the Mass, but we have to learn new music to go along with it? We’ve already had several changes since Vatican II. Why more changes?

Actually, there have been eight major changes in the Order of Mass over the centuries. The first were approved by Pope Clement VIII in 1604, followed by additional changes by Pope Urban VIII in 1634. Then in 1884, Pope Leo XIII approved more changes. Pope Benedict XV signed off on changes to the Order of Mass in 1920. Vatican II opened in 1962, and before the close of the Council, Pope John XXIII approved its monumental changes to the Order of Mass, translations of the Latin into the vernacular, and the layout of churches (e.g., priests facing the congregation), among other revisions.

Pope Paul VI gave his approval to changes in 1970 and 1975.

Pope John Paul II announced new revisions to the Order of Mass in 2002, and now in 2011 the revisions are being implemented with Pope Benedict XVI’s approval.

For U.S. Catholics, “the new translation is, in essence, a more accurate English reading of the original Latin text that comprised the Order of Mass,” Beyers explained. “The words we use currently that we are changing, or what’s being termed the ‘Old Translation’ is also an English translation from the original Latin text. What Pope John Paul II basically did, in the simplest terms, is say ‘we are going to re-look at the Latin Order of Mass and re-translate it into English (or other languages) to make it more accurate.’ This new translation into English replaces the old translation in English,” she said.

And music written to accompany the old translation may not fit with the new translation, Beyers added. So, several members of the music subcommission reviewed new and revised settings to accompany the new translations. Beyers said the reviews were not meant to serve as recommendations more as aids for music directors to discern the features of individual settings that will best suit their congregation or assembly.

*Tom Smith, music director for the Co-Cathedral in St. Joseph, reviewed the Gloria Simplex, a stand-alone Gloria, which Smith described as “a parting gift” from Richard Prouix, who died in 2010. Smith said the setting can be sung by a choir, cantor or the assembly, with a keyboard or unaccompanied. The Gloria is written in chant style, and very accessible, Smith said. The Gloria Simplex is a WLP publication and choral editions are $1.50 (order #005304).

The Mass of Wisdom, by Steven Janco, is suitable as both a festival setting, with choir, cantor, descant, instruments, handbells and the assembly, and for simpler celebrations with a cantor and keyboard. Beyers called the music a “simple but beautiful step-wise ascending melodic pattern,” which will allow music ministries and congregations a chance to learn the new words of the 3rd Roman Missal as they sing them, without having to deal with complex vocal lines. She said the Mass of Wisdom is suitable for large or small parish congregations, and school communities with young and changing voices. Mass of Wisdom is a WLP publication and choral editions are $5 (order #018041).

In Tony Alonso’s Mass of Peace and Joy, it is evident that the composer attempted to create melodies that fit naturally into the liturgical text, said Maureen Henderson, Rockhurst University Campus Ministry. The setting is appropriate for soprano, alto and bass voices, an assembly or congregation, a cantor, presider, with keyboard and guitar or options strings or woodwinds. Henderson said the “relatively simple setting” with lilting rhythmic patterns … “lives up to its name, Peace and Joy.” She said it was written to ensure a comfortable range, easy learning and retention. Mass of Peace and Joy is published by GIA Publications and choral/vocal editions are $4 (order G-7813).

Beyers reviewed Christopher Walker’s Belmont Mass, a “simple and elegant setting written for unison voices (presider, cantor, and assembly) and organ/piano.” She said its chanted melodies were suitable for smaller worship communities, parishes with limited musical resources and simpler Masses, including weekday liturgies. Beyers said that the Belmont Mass, although written in modern keys, contains “a noticeable ‘feel’ of modal music,” linking it to “our distinctly Catholic musical ancestry in practice and spirit.”

She added that the Belmont Mass has several “bonus” features, including a “beautiful and intuitive Lord’s Prayer,” and a Lenten Gospel acclamation. The Belmont Mass is published by OCP Publications. Electronic downloads only. Keyboard/choral editions $9 (item 30104308); assembly edition (item 30104309) free until Nov. 26. To order, visit

Elizabeth Barmann, music director at St. Therese North, reviewed Age to Age, a new Mass setting by Chris de Silva. She said the tunes are “readily singable.” The composer has also incorporated the Church’s “Latin and Greek traditions alongside the vernacular within the various parts of the Mass,” and included in the General Intercessions English, Spanish, Tagalog and Latin responses. Age to Age is published by GIA Publications, and choral editions are $4.95 (G-7860).

The subcommission also reviewed several revised familiar Mass settings, including Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation. Elizabeth Barmann said the revised setting of the Mass of Creation completely reflects the new translations of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal yet is still one of the more familiar settings used in many U.S. dioceses over the last 20 years. She added that “discernment will need to be made” as to “how readily a community will adapt to new words, phrases and rhythms set to a mostly familiar tune.” Barmann said that Haugen’s music has enjoyed much use in parish life over the past two decades and this Mass will most likely continue the trend. Mass of Creation is published by GIA Publications, and choral editions are $4.75 (G-7694).

Another Haugen revision, the Storrington Mass, also conforms completely with the new Roman Missal translations, said reviewer Maureen Henderson. The Storrington Mass was originally commissioned by the Catholic Parish of Our Lady of England in Storrington, England, she said, “and the new text fits nicely into a melodic, flowing musical line.” She added that the setting may be used with simply a keyboard or guitar, for a subdued, lilting liturgy, or with a full complement of instruments for one that is majestic and festive. The Storrington Mass is a GIA publication, and choral editions are $4.50 (G-7696).

David Hass’ Mass of Light reflects the new translations, Barmann said, but cautioned that the composer suggests supplemental tropes (Christological phrasing) for the Lamb of God. Mass of Light is published by GIA and choral editions are $4.50 (G-7771).

Randolph Babin’s Missa Pacem conforms completely with the new translation, said reviewer Maureen Henderson. She added that the “joyous and dancelike, regal setting” written for soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, assembly, cantor and organ or keyboard, is easily learned and retained. The Missa Pacem is published by GIA. Choral editions are $4 (G-7663).

Steven Janco’s Mass of the Angels and Saints, has been revised to conform with the complete new translation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal, said Tom Smith of Co-Cathedral. This is very user-friendly setting, easily accessible for smaller parishes, he said. “The melodies are flowing and often step-wise.” Step-wise melodies are easy to learn, Beyers said. Mass of the Angels and Saints is published by GIA and choral editions are $5.25 (G-7846).

The revised setting, Sing Praise and Thanksgiving, by J. Michael Joncas, is a festive setting that conforms with the complete new translation, said Smith. It also includes the Sprinkling Rite, Penitential Act, the three Memorial Acclamations, and more. Sing Praise and Thanksgiving is a WLP publication and choral editions are $5 (#018021).

The ICEL Chants, published by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, are unison chants that may be sung with or without accompaniment. According to Beyers, “the ICEL Chants promote pride of place of Gregorian Chant in the Roman Rite, and do so in a truly spiritual and aesthetically pleasing” manner. “The recurring simplicity and natural pacing of the melodies encourage reflection on the texts,” she said. As a Mass setting, the chants, which are available in both English and Latin, are appropriate for any congregation or celebration, Beyers said.

“These ICEL Chants will be used in every English-speaking country in the world,” she said. “To learn and use these setting in liturgy will in many ways form a common spiritual bond with our brothers and sisters we’ve never met, and connect us musically to the truly universal Church.” The ICEL Chants are free to use and distribute with proper attribution. To download, visit

Pastors and parish music directors have a number of new and revised Mass settings to choose from. Beyers said it’s all about what individual parishes, with their musical capabilities, budgets and the demographics of their community, can and wish to do.


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October 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph