The despotism of Gregorian chant

In advance of our wedding, my wife and I agreed that I would be responsible for making decisions about the liturgy. I reached for the Roman Gradual and started selecting chants. We hired a church musician to put together a choir (he wept for joy when we told him what we wanted) and who helped us with choosing some polyphony.

I was discussing it over the telephone with the priest who was to be chief celebrant. I said that the point is that there are different chants for pretty much every Mass in the Church's year and ritual life (one offs like weddings and so on)*. The effect is almost "it's the introit 'In voluntate tua', it must be the 27th Sunday per annum".  My idea was simply that we "plug in" to that. As I spelled this out, our minds tumbled to the same point. Since as a matter of fact this is not the liturgy of our parish, and not particularly the liturgy of the Church where we were getting married – in fact despite all the laws to the contrary it is very rare anywhere in the Church – this appeal to Catholicity was not completely firm.

*(This is not quite true, in fact there is a fair amount of repetition but not according to a pattern on a smaller scale than a year.)

In the end of course we stuck with what I had planned. You have to pick something and it might as well be good. And for another thing I liked the idea of showing what was possible.

What is not always acknowledged is that there is something rather foolish about simply adding a Gregorian element to a musical pick 'n' mix.  If you have an Introit, then it does not make much sense not to have a Graduale, an Offertorium, and a Communio as well. Gregorian chant is imperial in its tendencies. Newman would call it – not intending a rebuke – despotic.

Per Jeffrey Tucker at the Chant Café:
But you might say: people have been ignoring Mass propers for years. That is true enough. It is astonishing that you can flip through even the most recent editions of the all the mainline music resources from mainline publishers and find next to nothing that obeys the strictures inherent in the rite. That is a tragedy. But that’s just the point. The approach these people are using is unstable and based on demonstrably false premises.
And again at Crisis Magazine:
And how to decide between the hundreds of such songs in the mainstream pew resources? The answer, we are told, is to look at the theme of the week, which is given by the readings. Flip through the book and find a song that seems to match in some way. Check out the theme index. Then consider and anticipate the congregation’s reactions to the pieces of your choosing and give it your best shot. Sadly, nearly everything about this is wrong. In this model, the musicians are being charged with making the liturgy happen on a week-to-week basis. The Church struggles to provide liturgical books with deep roots in history, but the musicians show up and put five minutes of thought into making decisions about styles and texts that have a gigantic effect on the overall liturgical ethos. It is too much responsibility to put on their shoulders, and no one is competent to pull it off.
The trouble is that hardly anyone does understand this. Most everyone today think that Gregorian chant is a style or a genre, one marked by a monkish solemnity. They figure that, given that, it is enough to sing Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday, or sprinkle in a bit of Latin during Lent. Surely that is enough. But this characterization completely misses the point. Gregorian chant’s distinct contribution is that it is the most complete and robust body of music for the ritual of the Roman Rite that elevates and ennobles the word of God in the liturgy itself. The point is not to sing chant but to sing the liturgy itself, meaning the text that is assigned to be sung at the place in the Mass where this particular text is intended to be sung. The notes are important but secondary to the word, which is the word of God.
(My emphasis). And now comes the pitch:
But thanks mostly to the efforts of the Church Music Association of America, we now have the beginnings of a growing repertoire of music that is both accessible to parishes and seeks to do what the Church intends with regard to the liturgy, which is to say that these new resources set the liturgical word to music. There are new books of sung propers appearing every few months, books such as the Simple English Propers (2011) and the Parish Book of Psalms. 

Start with it in English and get people away from the hymn sandwich. Then you can move to the Gradual.