Anglican musical patrimony–some thoughts

Brother John-Bede Pauley has a great website called Music and the Anglican Patrimony.   Though aimed at musicians, there’s a lot there for those who merely appreciate good music and it role in true worship.

He writes:

English choral music was originally meant for worship and would be heard in a state of quiet meditation. Indeed, this music would have been performed (and often still is) by a choir divided in half — facing one another, rather than the congregation. In my own practice writing this sort of music, this is an important distinction: It is an observed private ritual. Nobody is meant to clap, and the music is not presented to an audience for approval; rather, it is meant to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths. It was not originally intended to happen at 7:30 at night for the pleasure of an audience coming from work, with just enough time for a rushed Chablis before the warning gong goes off, quickly checking ticket stubs and crawling over other patrons’ coats.

When I compose, I find myself returning to this tradition, particularly as it relates to creating musical drama without a Romantic sense of ebb and flow leading to a climactic moment. You can have a thrilling 90 seconds with roller-coaster harmonies focusing on two words only, followed by a single line of plainchant, followed by counterpoint outlining harmonies completely at variance with what we would understand to be the rules.

One of my favorite memories of the one time I traveled to England was attending Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford.  I could hear the choir praying together before they came into the church.   The music was sublime, but it was worship and not a performance.

Brother Pauley also has an update on the progress the gradual for Divine Worship: the Missal.

An update on the news reported here last December concerning a gradual for the Divine Worship missal (DWM).

The gradual is in the proofreading stage. It follows the DWM outline of minor propers for the Sundays after Trinity.  But it will include an index that cross-references the Graduale Romanum’s chants according to the Ordinary Time sequence.

The post contains some detailed notes from Clint Brand, one of the members of Anglicanae Traditiones.

5 thoughts on “Anglican musical patrimony–some thoughts

    • Their website and Facebook seem to have a bizarre aversion to using any language that might indicate their Catholicism at all. They seem to consciously and consistently refuse to call their Mass “Mass,” for instance. (“Easter Worship Service” – uh… Okay? They also refer to the “Lord’s Supper.” But no Mass.) Their What We Believe section, and their reasons for why you should join their church, sounds like it could’ve been pulled off any Protestant community’s website.

      Look, I’m not saying referring to the Mass as “Worship Service” or “Lord’s Supper,” or to use other culturally Protestant terminology, is intrinsically wrong. But one would think they’d at least mix it with traditional Catholic nomenclature. As it is, it just strikes me as very weird and inexplicable omissions.


      • On September 11, 2016 the service is referred to as “mass”. Emory Stagmer, the man with the guitar, and indefatigable lay leader, is making the effort via Facebook to provide a sense of community to a group without its own church or pastor. Be charitable.


      • Please forgive if I sounded uncharitable. I was not presuming to judge, nor trying to nitpick, but reading my comment in light of yours, you are right: my tone did not reflect this. I apologize.

        I actually first encountered the community when I found out recently that some good friends of ours go there. I know they are solidly orthodox, and I have no reason to believe the congregation isn’t.

        But I was truly confused when I first encountered their self-presentation via their website. I’ve just honestly never seen a Catholic church that referred to its Masses as “Worship Service” (to a “regular” Catholic, that might sound like “something other than a Mass,” say a lay-led Liturgy of the Word, Office, or communion service without a priest).


  1. Note that the first quote is by the composer Nico Muhly, not by me (Br. John-Bede). Nico is one of a number of young composers who was involved in choirs in the English choral tradition when he was even younger and was thus evangelized/catechized by this heritage.


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