Reviewing Mass settings, 3 years into new translation

As I play at multiple parishes and get exposed to more than a few different Mass settings, the last three years since the introduction of the new Mass translation have given me a lot to work with. Here’s a quick review of the settings I’ve come across since they went into effect:

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Mass of Christ the Savior (Dan Schutte)I started with this one at my main parish. It’s a very solid middle-of-the-road Mass. My congregation picked it up quickly and sings it well. Had to do some minor tweaks (adding a couple measures to the Gloria, for example) to smooth it out, but this is a fine setting and will remain in the rotation for Ordinary Time. Recommended.

Heritage Mass (revised, Owen Alstott)I’ve never liked the Amen from this Mass; I think it’s kind of blah. But otherwise, this is one of the smartest rewritings of a Mass setting out there, and it’s one I can blast comfortably on the organ. The congregation at my main parish is picking this one up fast, too. Recommended.

Mass of Glory (revised, Bob Hurd and Ken Canedo)No. Just no. It wasn’t good before the rewrites. It’s not good after them. In case you need DEVASTATING EVIDENCE, consider that the Gloria recording has “West Side Story”-esque finger snaps. Not recommended.

Mass of St. Ann (Ed Bolduc)This has grown on me. I didn’t care for it at first, but it’s fairly singable and catchy, to the point that three of my parishes are using it. It’s still not entirely my cup of tea, but if your congregation is more contemporary, you certainly could do worse. Recommended.

Mass of the Immigrant People (revised, Bob Hurd)The Alleluia is so, so weird, and not in a good way. But that’s the original one, right? In any case, bilingual Mass settings (in this case, an English line, a Spanish line, and a bilingual line) are often awkward, and that’s the case here. I don’t think most English congregations would be in the mood for this, so I’ll pass. Not recommended.

Mass of Creation (revised, Marty Haugen): One thing I noticed was that the St. Louis Jesuits didn’t bother to revise their signature Mass. I think this was a good decision on the SLJs’ part, regardless of how they reached that point. And I wish the same decision had been reached on some of the other signature Masses. I think it’s widely agreed that the revisions to the MoC don’t contain the same sparkle that the original Mass contained (people grumble, but the reason the Mass setting became so popular was that it was excellent to begin with). In some cases, the vocal constructions are awkward and the melodies are weird, as Haugen and crew scrambled to rewrite. It’s a shame. I try to avoid this if I can. Not recommended.

Mass of Redemption (revised, Steven Janco)I think this is the best of the revised settings I’ve heard, though I hadn’t heard the original. Catchy, strong, and continually forward-moving, I love this setting and am working toward introducing it at my main parish. Recommended.

Mass of Joy and Peace (Tony Alonso)This feels just so, so lightweight. Instantly forgettable. Not recommended.

Land of Rest Mass (revised, Richard Proulx)Proulx rewrote the Sanctus and acclamations, but apparently either didn’t get to the Agnus Dei before his death or decided, “Meh.” Unless you want to make up your own version to the old melody (and this hurts, because I loved the old Land of Rest Mass), this isn’t enough by itself to hang onto. Not recommended.

Mass of Light (revised, David Haas)In the introductory notes to the revised version, Haas wrote about the challenges of adapting the old Mass of Light (great melodies, iffy accompaniment) to the new words. I wish he’d gone St. Louis Jesuits and let this one go. It’s the old problem of trying to shoehorn new words into roughly the old melodies, and it leads us to awkward vocal constructions that don’t give the vocalist a ton of time to breathe. Not recommended.

ICEL chantsWe do the Gloria during Ordinary Time and a solid chunk in Lent at my main parish. In my opinion, all Catholics should know these, both in English and Latin. Musically, they’re based on the old chants, and they’re adapted into English relatively smoothly. Recommended.


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