Every now and then I hear the Old Latin Mass described as a somber affair. Many think only dirges are sung and that everything is quite subdued. Granted a low Mass can be rather quiet as the Priest whispers much of the Mass.
But a sung Mass in the Old Latin Rite (Extraordinary Form) can be quite elaborate, especially if the Choir sings in polyphony (harmony). Some of the greatest music in history was composed during the Renaissance in a form known as “Renaissance Polyphony.” It is a kind of harmonic singing that features four or more independent melodies sung simultaneously in rich harmony. Much of this Church music was written in a kind of Dance Time, such that you can almost dance to it! While I am celebrating a Traditional Mass and this sort of music is sung, I sometimes tap my toe even though the rubrics don’t call for it. And while the Gregorian Chant is sung there unfolds a kind of mystical contemplation. No, Traditional Latin Masses are not somber, they are, especially in their sung form, joyful and even exuberant.
Enjoy a few videos that demonstrate this joyful and rhythmic singing.
Photo Credit: From the Website of St. John Cantius, Chicago, Ill.
This first Video is of setting by William Byrd. The text is Haec Dies quam fecit Dominus Exultemus et laetemur in ea, Alleluia! (This is the Day which the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it, Alleluia!). Enjoy, it’s rich harmony, jovial tone and dance-like rhythm
This second video of the Angus Dei (try not to tap your toe). The song was recorded at the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis – one of the most beautiful churches in the Country. The text is Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem (Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace). Enjoy another beautiful sample of Renaissance Polyphony in toe tap (dance) time.