The Roman Catholic name for the celebration of the Eucharist; Lutheran, Anglican, Orthodox, and other traditions refer to essentially similar liturgies with some variant of "the Holy Eucharist, "Holy Communion," or "the divine liturgy." Also, a musical setting or performance of all the texts of such a Eucharistic celebration. Also, a musical setting of the ordinary prayers of the Roman liturgy in Greek and Latin languages: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus, Agnus Dei, and in early examples, Ite Missa Est.
   The form of the mass—the particular texts and actions that compose it—has evolved more or less continuously and gradually since early Christian times, but also on occasion rapidly, as after the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Local traditions, such as the Ambrosian of Milan, may have variant forms. Historians have traditionally distinguished between two broad classes of included texts: the propers, which are prayers chosen to commemorate a particular feast, and the ordinaries, The prayers that occur at every mass regardless of the feast day. The table lists a typical solemn mass form.
   The sources of the texts are various. The Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory, and Communion are believed by some to have at one time introduced the chanting of complete psalms to simple formulas. Later, the psalms were truncated to a single verse framed by an antiphon that referred explicitly or obliquely to the proper feast. If the liturgical action were prolonged, more psalm verses and antiphons could be added ad libitum. The Kyrie antedates Christianity and was often used as a response in the litany of saints. The Gloria is a prose hymn stemming from the proclamation of the angels in the Gospel of St. Luke (2:14).
   Proper      Ordinary      Function       Performance mode{}
   Introit               Entrance procession   Schola/cantores
         Kyrie Supplication                    Schola
         Gloria Praise                         Schola
   Collect               Opening prayer        Celebrant
   Epistle               Scripture lesson      Celebrant or deacon
   Gradual               Psalm response        Schola / cantores
   Alleluia or Tract (Lent)   Invoke Gospel    Schola / cantores
   Gospel                Scripture lesson      Celebrant
         Credo         Proclamation of faith   Schola
   Offertory             Procession of gifts   Schola
   Preface               Praise                Celebrant
         Sanctus         "Holy, holy, holy"    Schola
         Eucharistic prayer                    [Priest–spoken quietly]
         Pater Noster    "Our Father"          Celebrant
         Agnus Dei       Supplication          Schola
   Communion            Distribution of the    Schola
         Ite Missa Est   Dismissal             Celebrant / Schola
   There is a Greek version from the fifth century; the oldest Latin text dates from the seventh. The Credo, a relatively late addition to the ordinary, was composed by Patriarch Paulinus of Aquileia (d. 802) after the proclamation of the Council of Nicea (325). The Sanctus quotes both Old and New Testaments (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). The Agnus Dei derives from John the Baptist’s salutation to Christ (John 1:29) and is also thought to have originated in a litany. Finally, the Ite Missa Est ("Go, you are sent"), from which the word "mass" comes, is a simple exhortation to the people at the point of dismissal.
   In the Gregorian tradition of the late Middle Ages, performance of the chants depended upon the particular part of the mass in question and its function. Those executed by the celebrant, brief prayers for the occasion, and the readings from Scripture were chanted on a single pitch (recto tono) or on simple lectionary formulas. (The Ite Missa Est could be more ornate; its response came from the schola.) Everything else was sung by the schola of trained singers and could therefore be quite elaborate, though in varying degrees. The chants on the short ordinary prayers Kyrie and Agnus Dei had threefold in-vocations on "Kyrie eleison," "Christe eleison," and "Agnus Dei" and so encouraged repetition of the melodies. The other ordinary prayers were generally more through-composed, although melodic formulas could recur, especially when cued by a verbal repetition such as "Osanna" in the Sanctus/Benedictus pair. Most difficult of all were the Graduals, Tracts, Alleluias, Offertories, and Communions. These propers have short texts extended melodically by very elaborate melismas of great subtlety. In the other cases, there were processions to accompany, and the Sanctus/Benedictus could be longer than its text warranted because the celebrant could begin the Eucharistic prayer as the schola continued to chant. The canonical texts were often troped with additional words and sometimes music, particularly the repetitive Kyrie and Agnus Dei and the highly melismatic Alleluia. In the late Middle Ages, an additional piece called a sequence was often inserted. By the 15th century, so many compositions, texts, and local saints’ propers had accrued to the mass, often displacing the traditional prayers and Scripture readings, that the Council of Trent (1545–1563) issued two decrees that reformed the liturgy, chiefly by pruning the accretions of recent centuries. The reformed missal appeared in 1570, and printing made possible a dissemination throughout the Catholic world that ensured a unity of liturgical practice previously unknown. Only places where distinctive traditions could be traced back 200 years were permitted to continue them.
   The next dramatic reform was authorized by the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy promotes the continued preeminence of Gregorian chant, classical polyphony, and the Latin language, but also allows the vernacular and other appropriate music and emphasizes congregational singing. Nevertheless, the revised Ordo cantus missae and Graduale romanum (1974) provide the traditional chants, along with new rubrics for the celebrant to chant the prayer over the gifts and the entire Eucharistic prayer. These publications have not seen widespread use, perhaps because the chants traditionally assigned to the schola were too difficult for congregations, and because of the quick adoption of vernacular languages after 1965.
   The mass dominates the early history of music because it was the object of so much early polyphony, the distinguishing feature of the western tradition. Polyphonic mass propers and ordinaries come from the earliest sources (Musica enchiriadis, c. 900; the Winchester Troper, 11th century; St. Martial and Codex Calixtinus, 12th century; Magnus Liber Organi, c. 1170) and are featured in every stage of the development of polyphonic technique. Often the texts are troped and the chants melismatic, suggesting that polyphony was reserved for high feasts. In 14th-century France, manuscripts began to collect polyphonic settings of the ordinary prayers all together to be sung as a unified liturgy. From this point, polyphonic composition of propers declines abruptly, presumably because such works may be heard only on certain feasts of the year whereas ordinaries may be sung at every mass. The first so-called "mass cycle" to be composed by a single composer as a liturgical (not musical) unity was La Messe de Nostre Dame of Guillaume de Machaut, about 1350. Composers in the next two centuries discovered various musical means of uniting the separate movements of a mass cycle. The earliest was the cantus firmus mass, in which a repeating tenor melody sung to relatively long note durations recurred in all the movements. The melody was usually taken from a traditional chant proper that might relate to a particular performance occasion. The earliest surviving cantus firmus masses, dating from the early 15th century are the Missa Rex Secolorum attributed to John Dunstable and the {}Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater attributed to Lionel Power. Two masses by Guillaume Du Fay of about 1450, Missa Se La Face Ay {}Pale and Missa L’Homme Armé, take as cantus firmus popular tunes rather than traditional propers and in the following generations such secular borrowings become common. Du Fay and his contemporaries tightened the unity of their masses by quoting a "head motive" at the beginning of each movement.
   The idea of linking a new composition with a traditional melody through the cantus firmus was logically extended by the thoroughgoing imitative technique of Josquin Desprez and the generation around the turn of the 16th century. With all four voices imitating one another, the borrowed chant is heard throughout the choir and in every movement. Josquin’s Missa Pange Lingua (c. 1515?) is a sublime textbook example of this "paraphrase mass."
   Borrowing a melody from an imitative motet for a mass using the same technique meant borrowing essentially the whole texture. Thus Josquin’s Missa Mater Patris is based on a three-voice motet of Antoine Brumel, Mater Patris. The "parody mass" was the logical conclusion of the premise of taking preexisting material as a means to unify the mass cycle. As composers more frequently took as their models erotic madrigals and secular tunes, the Council of Trent banned "seductive and impure" melodies in polyphonic masses, and insisted on the clarity of words in imitative texture. Giovanni da Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli is a legendary albeit chronologically dubious response to this reform, and an example of a mass without any borrowing, not at all uncommon in the 16th century; often such masses are called Missa Sine Nomine.
   The invention of opera at the turn of the 17th century forced a bifurcation in sacred music composition. Palestrina’s disciples around Rome canonized his style and made it a kind of classical language, the stile antico, which embodied an intrinsic sacred semantic distinguished from the new secular music. At the same time, in other localities new mass compositions began to absorb, slowly, the dramatic ideals and textures of opera: solo singers, contrasting textures, instruments. All of these can be heard in the cori spezzati repertory associated with Venice. The remainder of the century witnessed a bewildering variety and mixture of styles in mass composition, from the strictest stile antico to the most operatic cantata mass in the "Neapolitan" style. This type segmented the mass texts, especially the longer ordinaries of the Gloria and Credo, into separate movements for chorus or soloists. The greatest exemplar is the Mass in B minor (1733–1749) of Johann Sebastian Bach.
   The huge dimensions of Bach’s masterpiece ignore the practicalities of liturgy, and the works of his successors, while mostly composed for actual liturgical occasions, are rarely heard in liturgies today. Instead, they are favorites of choral societies singing in concert halls, accompanied by full orchestras. Some of the more famous of these "symphonic masses" are:
   Mozart, "Coronation Mass," K.317 (1780)
   Mass in C minor, K. 427 (1783, incomplete)
   Haydn, Missa in Tempore Belli, (1796)
   Heiligmesse, (1797)
   Nelson Mass, (1798)
   Theresienmesse, (1799)
   Schöpfungsmesse, (1800)
   Harmoniemesse, (1801)
   Beethoven, Mass in C (1807)
   Missa Solemnis in D (1823)
   Schubert, Masses in G (1815) and A-flat (1823)
   Rossini, Petite Messe Solennelle (1864)
   Bruckner, Masses in D minor (1864) and F minor (1868)
   Janacek, Glagolitic Mass (1927)
   Duruflé, Messe "Cum Jubilo"(1966)
   The tradition of composing masses branched radically in the 20th century. Some composers have written with deliberate anachronism in order to evoke the stile antico with its ascetic sacred semantic: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor (1921), Edmund Rubbra’s {}Missa Cantuariensis (1945) and Missa in Honorem Sancti dominici (1949), and Benjamin Britten’s Missa Brevis for boys’ voices and organ (1959) are examples. So, to a lesser extent, is Igor Stravinsky’s Mass for chorus, soloists, and 10 winds (1948). Others experimented with artificial musical languages in vogue: Anton Heiller’s Missa Super Modos Duodecimales (1960) is a serial work. Still others tried to incorporate popular idioms, with the intent of either inviting the congregation to be part of the performance, such as Jean Langlais’s Messe SolennelleSalve Regina" (1947) for chorus, brass, organ, and congregation, or of simply making the music more appealing to all classes of churchgoers, such as Ariel Ramirez’s Misa Criolla, based on Argentine folk idioms. The Second Vatican Council’s allowance for local idioms in exceptional circumstances has been widely interpreted as a mandate to make liturgical music as simple as possible so that amateurs can compose and perform it. When parishes adopt such a policy, the result is often indistinguishable from the commercial musical language of television and radio.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.


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