Sing the right text, then the music will follow

Via the Chant Café, here is part two of the interview with Jeffrey Tucker published on the blog of the Sacred Music Programme at the University of Notre Dame. (Part one is here).

Tucker explains the origin of the Simple English Propers, an adaptation of traditional melodies of the Propers (chants which change with every Mass) to sing the English texts.

So then, I took the next question: “well if we’re going to sing them English, what’s the resource we should use?” Now up until that point in history, I was cutting and pasting things: I was using a little bit from the Anglican use gradual, there was some book published in 1965 that has some introits, and I found some scrappy little pieces here and there for communion. I was able to piece it together with a great deal of trouble and effort. Suddenly though, I found myself in the position of saying something along the lines of what I just said to you, to a group of 200 musicians, most of whom are volunteers, and I couldn’t just rattle off a bunch of internet links. Suddenly I felt discredited, I felt like everything I had said for the last hour had no action item at all. I stood there with my mouth open, staring at this person in silence for what seemed like ten minutes (it was probably 15 seconds). I turned white, and I said to the person: “you know, I’m going to get to work on that.” I left the room and I immediately called up my friend Adam Bartlett with whom I had been feuding with for two years over some idiotic, irrelevant problem concerning the rhythm of chant or something like that. I said Adam: “you and I have been at each others throats over this idiotic issue that, turns out, nobody cares about, why don’t we work together and finally do a book of English propers”, and he was happy to bury the hatchet and get to work on it. That was October and by March the book was in print. 

In Tucker's view the big hurdle is getting people to sing the Propers at all.

I want to mention one more thing before I close: I think it’s really urgent that we stop thinking about the problems of the music in the Mass as a war between styles. It’s not that styles don’t matter, but if that’s all you’re thinking about you’re really missing the point. To my mind, if you’re able to accomplish the propers of the Mass with a guitar then that’s a gigantic improvement. Even if it’s using pop styles, it’s a huge improvement. I don’t think that we’re on the right track if all we’re doing is arguing about why type of music needs to be played in Mass. What we need to be talking about is the texts and that’s where it has to begin.