For the last few years, Sacred Heart musicians and the parish have really embraced chant at Mass. Each year, we have included more chant in English, Spanish and Latin at our weekend Masses. To date, we currently chant the propers every Sunday in English and we chant the propers at the Mass in Spanish on the odd weekends. In addition to the propers, we also sing several chant Masses; like the Roman Missal Mass, Mass XVIII, Missa Simplex by Richard Proulx, Missa de Angelis, Mass of the Angels by Richard Clark, and Mass for the Third Edition by Christopher Mueller.
What we haven’t tackled yet is polyphony. Polyphony is the handmaid of chant for Catholic music in the Mass. Throughout history, the Catholic Church has developed and encouraged chant and polyphony as the basic music for Mass. Polyphony is the combination of several voices and melodies in separate, independent melodies that blend together in beautiful harmonies. Whereas chant unites all into one, polyphony divides the singers into independent parts that weave in and out and counter each other.
These differences between chant and polyphony highlight the unique challenges in singing polyphony. Polyphony requires each singer/part to be able to sing independently from the other parts. This involves differences in rhythm, intervals, text and volume. Therefore, the singers need good pitch and confident counting.
As it turns out, Christopher Mueller, the composer of the “Mass for the Third Edition” which we sing, has begun a Foundation for Polyphony. The goal of his foundation is to encourage the singing of polyphony in all parishes. He is compiling polyphonic selections for amateur choirs so that polyphony is accessible to all. Check out his website. The images are spectacular. The audio clips will definitely inspire you to bring polyphony to your parish ASAP.
May God bless Christopher’s work!