What is your favourite musical setting for the Mass?

Mine is Haydn’s Nelson Mass, which moved me so much it played a role in my conversion:


It’s very difficult to pick just one, but these days I have been listening to Duruflé’s Messe Cum Jubilo :

I’m normally a Baroque fanatic, but I do have a great fondness for Duruflé.


So many, many that are impractical in parishes without the musicianship for sure!

For those that are doable at St Anyone Parish, I have a fondness for John Michael Talbot’s “Mass of Rebirth”: (Begins at track 10 on this album)

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Anything without guitars (and that with no offense to guitars, or guitarists. My own sister plays, and plays well).

It’s just that I prefer either a chant Mass (voices only), or one with voice and organ.

Again, this is MY favorite, I’m not saying that any other settings are bad, wrong, dreck, etc. etc. By giving my opinion for what I ‘like best’, I’m not saying anything else is ‘less good’. And for the ‘without guitars’, it is only that in the past 50 some years most every Mass I have heard has had guitars, and especially in the last 3 months, nearly every time I have turned on the TV, mostly for my mom to watch something, I have been inundated with people playing guitars, writing songs during the pandemic and sharing them, etc. I’ve been strung along too long LOL


I’ll admit to the same preference (organist here).

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Amazing to think that before Vatican Two, and even for some years after, it was quite common for parishes to have choirs with amateur orchestras. Unfortunately this was considered elitist and a barrier to Active Participation of the Laity.

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Durufle is my number one favorite. I love his Requiem, and his Four Motets are a wonderful choral work- especially Tota Pulchra Es.


Oh yes - the Four Gregorian Motets are wonderful!

And his organ works as well. My parish has the perfect organ for them and we had the Prélude, Adagio et Choral varié sur le Veni Creator at Pentecost. It was a delight !


The Sixties produced a couple of spectacular flowerings: the Misa Criolla and the Missa Luba.

However there are some which really are bad wrong etc: the “nursery rhyme” versions. Here in francophone Luxembourg we have a particularly rotten setting of the Gloria in which the tail has wagged thei dog: the words have been rewritten to fit the ghastly tune.

I love Renaissance and Baroque music but prefer Renaissance settings for the Mass. It’s a close call between Byrd and Tallis but I would probably opt for Byrd as I particularly like his keyboard music which I’ve been overdosing on during lockdown.

Byrd Mass for Four Voices:

Although I’m Anglican it’s incredible to think that these settings were composed late in Elizabeth’s reign after the issue of Regnans in Excelsis which made it a very dangerous time for Catholics. Such settings were sung in Recusant households were celebrations of the Mass were often performed with considerable pomp despite the dangers.

I also like Merbeckes setting for the Book of Common Prayer which we use at my CofE church and is now favoured by several Ordinariate groups in England. It is overall a somewhat melancholy setting but I rather like it because of that.

Merbecke Sanctus:


I couldn’t get through thirty seconds of that…


Yeah me too and I’m francophone.

I guess my favourite Mass setting at the moment, since we are in Ordinary Time, is Mass XI (Orbis Factor) with whatever propers are appropriate for the specific Sunday as given in the Graduale Romanum. Mass XIV is pretty interesting too. Spare me Mass VIII (de Angelis). I’ve heard, and sung it, far too often. And it’s Neo-Gregorian, not Gregorian.


I really love the EWTN mass. If I lived near their I would go every day.

I ,also, love the Immaculate Conception Shrine in Washington D.C… I used to travel to D.C. to visit relatives. The first thing I did was get on the subway and ride to the shrine and attend mass in the crypt. Sunday mass was amazing as well. It awakens your spirit. The spiritual light of the shrine and way they conduct the mass is beautiful.

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My favorites are all the old settings from the late 60s and early 70s that I grew up singing along with my parents and now will never hear again because they changed all the prayer wording and threw the old settings out.

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I know this will probably cause some posters’ heads to explode but I’m going to agree with you on this, ‘Tis. There were some wonderful hymns and settings that either got changed completely or tossed, usually because there were too many references to ‘men’ or they weren’t inclusive enough. Instead we had to get swoop stuff, syncopation, lots of dropped ‘g’s, and painful attempts to fit the melody to the syllables (almost never quite succeeding) in the settings, or getting the syllables to fit the melody (there is a slight, but distinct, difference between the two). Also usually not a successful ‘mix’.

And I’d even listen to some of those good old settings with guitar.

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Thanks but I was asking about music only. Otherwise you will derail the topic and we will have nothing but comments on people’s favourite churches.

Missa Papæ Marcelli



Well, I play piano and organ for Masses at several parishes, and I have done so since my conversion to Catholicism (from Evangelical Protestantism) in 2004.

And…I don’t really like any of the musical settings. They’re all really random, with melodies forced to fit the text, melodies that seem to meander around, and a range that is everywhere except in a normal singing range! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


I think my “favorite” is the Mass of Angels and Saints, but only because the parish that uses it has dozens of beautiful statues of angels and saints–so the Mass setting makes sense and enhances the physical environment of the nave and sanctuary, even as the physical environment enhances the musical setting.

Several years ago, my husband and I were in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and we attended Mass at a beautiful old parish. The musical setting of the Mass was written by the parish’s music minister, and it was gorgeous! The melodies were strong and easy to sing, with a comfortable range that didn’t drop into the rumbly bass or waft into the soprano stratosphere! The text and melodies were in synch with each other–so often, the Mass setting melodies seemed to be forced into fitting the text of the liturgy (e.g., Mass of Creation, new version).

The Mass setting was neither an attempt to sound like ancient chant nor an attempt to be “contemporary.” It was just a lovely, timeless composition that will still be pleasant to hear a hundred years from now–kind of like the melody “Greensleeves” or the “Londonderry Air”–both beautiful melodies that are constantly sung to this day!

I have no idea if the composer has written lots of good Catholic stuff, or if this was his/her first and only attempt, but it was really good! I should have saved the bulletin and written the music minister asking for a copy.

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It’s surely not too late!

Can we know the name of the parish? Was a setting for the English or the Latin?

By the way excuse my ignorance but what is a “music minister?”

I feel sad that we (most Catholics) do not get to know our musical heritage at Mass. I wouldn’t know one chant Mass setting from another (from unfamiliarity), but I feel that it is sad that few (or no) Catholics get to hear chant Mass settings at all.

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