Byzantine-style musical setting for the Revised English Mass

I really love the Byzantine-style music in Orthodox liturgies (for example, the Mass of St. John Chrysostom), especially as it is so often sung in parts. Does anyone know of any musical settings for the new English translation of the Mass that are similar? Thanks.


You have four general types of Orthodox liturgical music: 1. ancient Greek chant, 2. modern Greek polyphonic harmony, 3. Russian, and 4. Ukrainian. The last three are related.

Here is an Eastern Catholic consecration (from “The Lord be with you - Lift up your hearts” etc.) for reference:

That is a polyphonic (many voices) Greek/Byzantine style of choral writing. Is that the sort of music you mean? :slight_smile: On the other hand you have ancient, more oriental, melismatic, long-winded tones upon which the chant unwinds.

The Russians, Ukrainians, and related cultures, on the other hand, have developed their own typical melancholic slavic style: see Rachmaninov & Tchaikovsky.

Russian (typically dark, ‘sad’, and focuses on the human bass voice)

Ukrainian (typically lighter, and stays in higher registers of sound)

To answer your question, I am not aware of any settings of the Mass which conform to these four. The spirit with which the Novus Ordo Liturgy has been conducted in the last 40 years has not inspired composers to compose such long-winded settings. If you’ll notice, the music of the N.O. Mass tends to be shorter. Eastern-styles might fit the Latin Mass better. :slight_smile: If you want to be strict, though, and respect your own culture, you should stick to Gregorian chant for Latin, since that is the traditional music for the Western Rite. It’d be lovely to hear slavic music in the Mass, anyway!

I’m really not sure what you are asking here. Each particular Church of the Byzantine Rite celebrates the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, using chant patterns that are unique to their own tradition (albeit with common origins).

While there are some parallels and common responses in some instances, I’m not sure how the chant for the Divine Liturgy might be adapted for the Mass in entirety.

That said, it will be interesting to see how some of this hymnody is adapted for the Pontifical Mass to be celebrated next month during the Pope’s visit to Lebanon, but it appears that those common elements will become opportunities to use chant of the various traditions, as noted in the linked article.

While I don’t think there is such a thing as a full adaptation of Byzantine chant for the Latin Mass. I’d be happy to be proven wrong - could be interesting!

I would be happy, too. The only thing I see, right away, as a problem is, the fact one might need to revise a huge chunk of the hymns, or scrap them. I think they may need to revise the Roman Missal, too. The process may take a while, because of these mentioned items, and additional items, need time to be adapted, and refined. In terms of refinement, I’m thinking the following: adapting phrases to fit singing, and recitation.

Hello and thanks for your responses. Yes, the polyphonic Greek/Byzantine style, especially from the first youtube clip you linked to, is precisely what I was referring to. I don’t think it would be too difficult to come up with something like that for Latin-rite Mass responses. For instance, short responses like “Lord, Hear our prayer” or “Lord, have mercy” or even just “Amen” would sound really good in Byzantine-style polyphony. I don’t think it would necessarily run counter to the western tradition. At least, it would be no different than other kinds of things that have been sung in the past few decades! After searching some more, I found this: but it’s not exactly what I was looking for. Although it sounds quite nice, it’s probably too difficult and eccentric. What do you think?

Then there’s this one, the MIssa Oecumenica:

This is an interesting find, worthy of some study (meaning, I’ve just begun!).

Well, I’m done already. :smiley:

This is a setting comprised primarily of three major themes from Slavic chant and choral tradition, mostly from Russian Orthodox usage.

The Russian Greek Catholic Church uses this chant system, and the Ruthenian and Ukrainian Catholic Churches often “borrow” from it.

The choral works are used throughout the Byzantine-Slav world, Catholic and Orthodox.

While cantors & choir directors from the Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine-Slav heritage might have collaborated to a similar result, it would likely have been representative of the broader chant traditions of all the particular Churches without limitation to Russian usage.

Having grown up “bi-ritual” in some sense (my mom’s side are all faithful RCs), having attended Mass regularly throughout my life, but also being a student of chant by virtue of my vocation as a cantor, I do appreciate the integrity of this effort.

I was surprised to see that this setting seemed to have the approval of the USCCB-CDW. Did I misread that? Does that mean that this can in fact be used as a valid setting for the Roman Mass?

While not explicitly for the current OF missal texts, the OCA and GOA Western Rite liturgical music could easily be adapted to the OF missal texts.

It does, however, border strongly on Syncretism of Rites - which is explicitly forbidden within the Catholic Communion.

I would certainly agree if the rubrics were also subject to adaptation, yet what appears to have been offered here is a classic Roman Missal setting based on musical themes from Byzantine-Slav tradition. Some of the other settings presented from the source website (OCP) take a similar approach, even using themes from non-liturgical (although religiously oriented) music.

As I noted earlier, the Papal Mass in Lebanon will feature adaption of chant and music from the various Eastern Catholic congregations that are present in this country and region. It will be interesting to see and hear how this is accomplished, yet I doubt that His Holiness will be celebrating a Mass that deviates from the rubrics.

By the way, hbookbinder, here is the Consecration from an American Byzantine Catholic Church in which they use English.

This is very moving & beautiful. Roman Catholics should always sing the Eucharist. What happened to you guys? :smiley:

Given that much garbage has been tolerated for so long in the vernacular Roman Rite celebrations, this would be way better.

However, Gregorian Chant is the proper music for the Roman Rite so this should be preferred. It would sound awfully odd to have Gregorian Chant at a Byzantine Liturgy and it would be just as odd for Byzantine music in a Roman Mass.

It is indeed - eternal memory to Bishop Dudik!

This is the Byzantine Anaphora ascribed to St. John Chrysostom.

The Roman Canon, I believe, is more of Antiochene origin. The most noticable and noteworthy structural difference is that the Epiclesis precedes the Consecration in the Roman Rite.

Is it the use of vernacular language that has created the quandry? Sts. Cyril & Methodius introduced the use of vernacular language in the ninth century, successfully evangelizing the Slavic peoples in a language they understood.

Gregorian chant is one form of chant associated with the Roman Rite, and probably wouldn’t adapt readily to Byzantine usage, but more so due to custom than structure. Gregorian chant does have notable similarities to the chant families used by Churches of the Byzantine Rite. Adaptation would therefore be more successful than, say, some other polyphonic forms more commonly associated with the Roman Rite.

Again, it would be an odd experiment because of custom more so than “fit”.

Oh no, I don’t object to the vernacular itself. I refer more to the dumbed-down “popular” musical styles and watered-down lyrics in use in a typical English-speaking Roman parish these days. The Anglicans do a much better job of their vernacular hymnody.

Gregorian chant is one form of chant associated with the Roman Rite, and probably wouldn’t adapt readily to Byzantine usage, but more so due to custom than structure. Gregorian chant does have notable similarities to the chant families used by Churches of the Byzantine Rite. Adaptation would therefore be more successful than, say, some other polyphonic forms more commonly associated with the Roman Rite.

Again, it would be an odd experiment because of custom more so than “fit”.

Custom itself is sufficient. I would argue that custom precludes the use of Gregorian chant in a Byzantine Liturgy. I’m not saying it would be wrong; in fact I would rather hear a Byzantine or Slavic chant over a “Gather Us In”-type ditty at any time.

It’s just that the Roman Rite is struggling to reclaim its heritage and we should probably stick with Roman/Western customs such as Gregorian Chant and Western polyphony first.

If Protestant hymns are being used in the RC Church, why can’t they use Byzantine chants and hymns? Although it might feel out of place, I remember we had a guest RC priest one time and he was made to say some of the lines during Liturgy and he did them using Gregorian Chant. You can notice the difference. But given most RC parishes haven’t heard any form of chant, they wouldn’t know the difference. :wink:

All fair points, and I would agree in particular with the latter. The Church itself expresses great interest in preserving the dignity of the Churches in the Catholic Communion and their respective traditions, including their individually unique and distinctive forms of expression used in following the Rite of their Church.

Personally, I love Gregorian Chant and Western polyphony, but would only want to hear it in its proper setting - a Roman Catholic Church (or, these days, in an Anglican Use parish :)).

Depends on whether one is speaking of para-liturgical hymns (say, for processional or recessional use in the Roman Rite), or as a basis for responsorials during the Mass (liturgical hymns). Ironically, the OP question / premise highlights some of the tension that currently exists with respect to propriety of music for liturgical use in the Roman Rite, inserting accepted chant forms in the place of secularly derived music.

I think you and I discussed a particular translation at one time and I wouldn’t put Old Church Slavonic on the same level as English as far as Catholic worship is concerned. Or even Spanish or Italian where most of its speakers are Catholic.

As far as that video goes, it’s nice but without the added commentary, I had absolutely no idea as to what they were singing. Were they actually singing the consecration as the poster suggested? :confused::confused:

We may have indeed, but probably not in the same context for which it was mentioned here. I think we fairly concluded that the legacy of Sts Cyril & Methodius was significant as regards translation, and that the Slavic languages in general often provide opportunities to convey text more faithfully (I remember a round or two on Polish words relating to “birth”, in particular).

What Latin Catholics would recognize as the Consecration was very clearly heard and shown in the video, starting just after the 3 minute mark.

As +Bishop Dudik was microphoned, one could also hear the intermediary prayers of the Anaphora that the faithful usually did not hear in that era.

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