Friday, 13 July 2012

Time to change the Credo?

Change? Change? A word that can produce apoplexy in traditional circles (but not magic ones).

Of course, I am not proposing any change to the wording of the Credo, that is beyond my remit somewhat, light years beyond, in fact.

But, having travelled the country attending Sung EF Masses rather a lot over the last 12 months, I observe that the choir and the people are not as one.

It is, as you know, the practice for choir to commence the Credo with the congregation taking over for the second tranche and it alternates from then on.

Choir = good  
Choir + Congregation + alternate = bad
Choir + Congregation + unison = good

Even pre the Second Reformation, the congregation was not good at getting it right; there was always a bit of a fudge at the handover point, rather like a relay runner passing the stick on to a colleague who is not too sure when to grab it.

The result is a shade dirgey, a small tower of babble that picks up again when the choir re-asserts its authority.

So - I have a suggestion to make.

Let us all sing the Credo together, choir, people and priests. It is a most wonderful piece that calls us all to attention and points out precisely what we should be concerned with and then...and then....we come to the resounding "et unam sanctam Catholicam....." bit. This should be belted out with chests out and heads held high - unison. The rafters of the church should shake and set Satan quaking in his boots.


  1. Richard!
    I am mystified. Perhaps yourself or any of your learned friends could illuminate me.
    Having been born in the 1950's ( okay! 1950 itself) And having spent that time up until the 70's in the same parish which had a school attached run by the St John of God nuns. We were taught the responses for Mass in Latin. Accompanying my family also on Sunday without fail, always to High / Sung Mass, my memory was we sang everything. Gloria, Credo, (all the way through), Pater Nosta, ( I remember the tune and words to this day.) To have remembered Introibo et altare Dei...... We must have been saying it together.
    Do you think there is the "Religious" way and the "Laity" way of conduct during Mass with the Religious being more "pernickety over details?

    My question is; how did I learn and take part as a child if it was not like that.
    I have to admit when I attended a Latin Mass Society Mass in our Deanery 15 years or so ago I couldn't believe how little we were allowed to take part in it.
    Any answers gratefully received.

    1. Momoangelica,
      Maybe your Parish celebrated what was called The Dialogue Mass; where the Congregation made the responses alongside with the Altar Server-this was introduced into some Parishes in the late 50's or early 60's-I hope this of help!



    2. That makes it very clear. Thank you Y.O.J.S.

      I hear what you say about hearing and not saying Mass but it did/does give me a deeper feeling of belonging.
      But, I bow in obedience to the method that works the best.
      My priest, who celebrates at St Saviours Bristol, requested me to encourage responses and sunging at mass as the congregation are not used to using their voices - even for hymns. I can be a little loud so he thinks it will give them confidence to have a go too.
      I thought that was very nice of him. ( the truth is, women are not allowed to be in the choir unless it is an all ladies/nuns choir.

      What would he think of me playing guitar for my old parish last week. Promise you won't tell Richard?

  2. Richard, I certainly like your suggestion and will tell our PP you approve of what our parish has been doing for years :) My own thinking is that if the people want to sing the Creed, let them; after all it is a profession of faith rather than a musical performance.

  3. Aaaaaaaa-aaaaa-a-aaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaa, aaaaaaa-aa-a-aaaaa-aaaaaaaaaaa, aaaaaa-aaa-aa-aaaaa-aaaaaaa-aaa-men to that!

    I used to feel deprived when singing alternate bits of the Gloria. I loved singing ALL of the Creed.

  4. As Sherlock Holmes once told Dr Watson. "A well-played violin is a treat for the gods; a badly played one..."

    I am of two minds about the people joining in with the Choir. Living in the USA yet having had the good fortune to travel somewhat widely I have seen it done both ways. Generally, what I experience attending a Mass where the people join in is sort of like "Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Church". In other words the vocal talent doesn't match up with the enthusiasm (and often the loudest singers are the ones with the lousiest voices).

    Having said that I would not agree that allowing the choir to do its job without sub-standard "accompaniment" is in any way not participating at Mass. I participate quite well without singing, thank you. There are, after all, many ways of participating without opening our mouths.

    In my view, if congregational participation in the singing is going to be done it should be very limited. I agree that the Credo would be a good place for that limited contribution (hoping, of course, that there are at least one or two people in the pews who have some kind of voice and not having a laity merely sounding like an orchestra of scorched cats).

    The "dialog Mass" was, I'm afraid, one of the first baby steps in the Liturgical Revolution. And in any case, it always seemed rather silly to me. If the people are going to recite the responses what do we need altar servers for? A dialog Mass does diminish the importance of the acolytes thereby damaging the apprentice-like atmosphere that needs to be there if we are to nurture new vocations.

    Interestingly, the great Belloc and those of his generation always used the term "I heard Mass today, etc." Not "sang" Mass, or "spoke" Mass, but "heard" Mass, the point being that everyone in that building had their parts to play: the Priest, the servers, the choir and the people.

  5. "It is, as you know, the practice for choir to commence the Credo with the congregation taking over for the second tranche and it alternates from then on." Really? I don't think I have ever heard that. I don't get to assist at High Mass or Missa Cantata as frequently as I should like, but I have done so rather often in several dioceses - and served a few, too, for several priests. Perhaps I have forgotten some past occasion, but it's certainly not common practice where I go.

  6. Simon - it is certainly the normal way for the Credo to be sung, alternating 'twixt choir and congregation.
    Trouble is, it ends up like a dialogue Mass, a babble of sound.

  7. Richard - no, it is certainly not "the normal way". That's my point. It might be the normal way where you are. But it is not the normal way where I am - or anywhere I have been, for that matter, so far as I can remember. Let us not - either of us - fall into the trap of thinking that what we are used to is the way thing always are or should be.

  8. Simon - I am not falling into any traps, this is the way the Credo is (used to be) sung throughout most of the Catholic world.
    A fortnight's holiday in the Pyongyang Hilton on me if I am at fault.