How are US publishers responding to the early rollout of Mass settings?

Pray Tell asked the publishers how they’re responding to the recent change in policy by the USCCB allowing new Mass settings to be put into use already this September (with Bishop’s approval). Below are those we heard from. More than one person in the industry said that a bit more advance notice might have been helpful. Maybe gradual implementation could have begun this Advent, with a grace period of a year or so until settings with old texts are superseded.

Here’s what we heard.

Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson at WLP:

WLP managers met this morning to consider the implications of some dioceses beginning to use musical settings as early as September. Our free downloads of assembly card materials will be helpful to many parishes, and all our print editions are available. Our worship resources will not contain the new settings as the fall issues are already at press. Accompaniment supplements with the new Mass settings will be mailed to subscribers in September as usual. If our customers call with a need for materials earlier than they would normally receive them, we will make sure they have what they need without additional cost.

Trish Vanni at LitPress:

Our new music resources for the implementation of The Roman Missal: Third Edition will be in customers’ hands in July. This includes pew books and accompaniments for the Lift Up Your Hearts collection of ten new Mass settings, and At The Table of The Lord: the Psallite Mass. We expect to offer The Chants of the Roman Missal: Study Edition by mid-September. Pew cards of the Order of Mass and other participation guides are also available this summer. New and revised settings will appear in seasonal publications beginning in Advent.

Alec Harris at GIA:

While the announcement of a potentially accelerated timeline comes as a surprise, all of us at GIA are simply redoubling our efforts to bring our new hymnals and ancillary editions of our Mass settings into print as soon as possible. The Pew Edition without Readings of our hymnal Gather, Third Edition, will be in print in time for the National Pastoral Musicians conference in mid-July. We are working hard to release Worship, Fourth Edition; Lead Me, Guide Me, Second Edition, and Oramos Cantando as quickly as we possibly can without sacrificing quality. We are very proud to have published a wide range of new and revised Mass settings, and will be bringing the remaining ancillary editions into print in the near future. This past year we have conducted more than 50 And With Your Spirit workshops around the U.S. to feature our new Mass settings and hymnals. Our Web site contains the latest information and pricing, and we will continue to work hard to create awareness of these wonderful new publications during this unique period in the life of the Church.


19 responses to “How are US publishers responding to the early rollout of Mass settings?”

  1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

    As I have come to expect, WLP is the most on top of things, while GIA …. still living in the hard-bound hymnal and minimal online/ download resourcing world claims that this “comes as a surprise”. No word from OCP, but with their extensive online PDF printable library I would think they could very quickly adapt with little problem.

    There had been rumors about this for quite a while, but given the reactions it seems that this really did come out of left field.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      GIA’s reaction leaves a striking impression of impending dinosaur-hood.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        That is a rather unfair comment. GIA is a publisher whose major impact is in hymnals, not in missalettes. It takes a lot more effort to produce a decent, substantial hymnal than a considerably smaller disposable annual softback production.

        Yes, the announcement is a surprise. They could have let the publishers know privately a few weeks before going public, but their hands were forced. Everyone knew that the previous “Thou shalt not sing these settings (even though they were on the market over a year ago) until the 1st Sunday of Advent” policy was unrealistic and unworkable, and indeed other forums report that significant numbers of parishes already introduced new settings once Easter was out of the way.

    2. Gregg Smith Avatar
      Gregg Smith

      Mr. Herbert: Why so hateful?

  2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    One of the potential obstacles about beginning in September is that choirs often do not practice during the summer, resuming the last week of August or first week of September.

    This could work to the advantage of the people if the new PEOPLE’s parts are gradually implemented, one at time, not waiting for the choir to rehearse a whole Mass. If the choir spends its first practice doing a new “Hosanna” it should be possible to begin that with the people in a week or two, etc.

    Pastors and their staffs need to consider making singing by the PEOPLE the top priority during September through November, i.e. choosing hymns that the people know and like etc, and not doing music (e.g. four part pieces) that show off the choir but often loose the people. Having music practice sessions before Mass, etc.

    If the people have too many new things to learn, the tendency will be to just listen to the choir, and if choirs come with a lot of new things well practiced, the people may just continue to listen rather than sing.

    On the other hand, emphasizing the people singing gives the people an important active part in this whole implimentation, we don’t have to just sit back and be bored by general cathechesis or how great some people think the new Missal is (or even worse be bored by presentations of all the politics that went into this).

  3. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    Why do you need all these publishers when there is so much fine sacred music available for free online?
    I also do not understand this constant harping I hear in so many Catholic circles for people to sing. If people want to listen to sacred music well done and this inspires them greatly in their faith, then that is perfect participation in the liturgical music for them. It is even what helped bring St Augustine to the Catholic faith.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      “I also do not understand this constant harping I hear in so many Catholic circles for people to sing.”

      Sure. Never mind what the last ecumenical council taught. Or the last 8 or 10 popes.


  4. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    But it is not an either-or thing. The popes like the council document called for is that people have their time to sing if they so wish, the priest has his, and the choir has theirs. What I keep hearing so often is that the people must sing everything, or you are almost considered a heretic. So instead of listening to inspiring sacred music we have a hymn for the entrance; then another for the offertory; then another still for the after the communion, a time better spent in silence perhaps, but with a wonderful choir to listen to, that would also be so good to love Jesus in one’s heart.
    So that is why I asked the question, why to we need all these publishers with their hymns?

    1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky


      I have a huge collection of liturgical music (Latin, Eastern, Anglican, Contemporary) which I use as background to my personal praying of the Divine Office. So I very much appreciate a contemplative prayer approach to music. There was a time, just a few years ago, when about the only place one could have that contemplative experience was to go to a church service or a concert. But now it is readily available 24/7 to people of modest incomes through CDs and increasingly the internet.

      When I go to church I want to sing even though I have only an average voice, and can’t sight read music. Over the internet I listen to Saint Thomas Church in NY which has Anglican Vespers on many nights because of their choral school. If I was in NY I might drop in once to hear them in person. However if they were around the corner I would rarely go. The simple reason is that they do not let the congregation sing much. I understand why (they are a school) but it is a performance more than a church service. They, like CDs, may aid my prayer at home, but we are not a community.

      Because I want to sing a lot with my average voice, I also want people with better voices to have an opportunity to use their better talents to praise God, so I am very willing to allow them many opportunities as long as they do not become a performance, i.e. they sing more for others than for God. I do not sing in my parish choir largely because half their time is devoted to preparation for a couple of annual concerts. I have no desire to perform.

      I am very happy if some of the people around me do not sing because they would rather listen. If they demand a professional performance rather than my amateur’s voice, they need to listen to a CD. I would be happy if they brought headphones to listen to recordings. I don’t think everyone needs to be doing the same thing at Mass.

    2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Ahem: the popes and ecumenical council did not say that people have their time to sing if they so wish – that’s not the way Mother Church talks about the nature of the liturgy, especially its principal aspects.

      I haven’t heard anyone in at least 30 years say that the people must sing everything. Every Catholic liturgical composer I know, without exception, has written pieces with refrains, verses for cantor or choir – to cite just one genre. You say you “keep hearing so often”? I don’t believe you.

      We’re talking about Mass settings. I didn’t hear you ask about “hymns” until now. That’s a different topic.

      You’re swinging widely and carelessly.


  5. Julia Smucker Avatar
    Julia Smucker

    Why sing??? Because we are the gathered community proclaiming TOGETHER our allegiance to the only one to whom the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory belongs!

    I’ll be honest: it’s the Mennonite in me who doesn’t feel like church has really happened until the congregation has sung something. So there’s my bias for the world to see. Personally, I prefer to mitigate as much as possible my Catholic culture shock of feeling like I’m singing a solo from the pew, but there are also more profound ecclesiological reasons for encouraging the assembly to chime in (the same reasons for my opinion that the worst part of this whole Roman Missal Crisis is hands-down the singularization of the creed).

  6. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    Anthony Ruff:
    Of course that is not the way Mother Church talks. It is the way I am talking. I am sure the Church does not force everyone to sing their parts under the pain of excommunication. If it does not force them, then people have a choice. Otherwise the Church would be quite unwelcoming.
    The churches I have visited in the past 5 years had either choirs or cantors, and these sang hymns along with the congregation. I rarely heard a choir/cantor singing the verses of a hymn, and the people the refrain. Hymns have become necessary in the Mass despite the long tradition of the Latin Church. Everyone is supposed to sing those hymns refrain and all, and the choir/cantor is used to simply lead the congregational singing. That has been my experience.
    Which brings me back to the settings. The settings are/will be eventually tacked on to the hymnals, pretty well assuring that the hymns will also be sung. That is why I bring up the matter of hymns. I do not think the publishers above would survive without hymnals just selling settings.
    All this relates to my most beautiful moments at Mass. These have been at the old Latin High Mass curiously. Praying or meditating with beautiful sacred music sung in the background is so awesome. That is why I can sympathize with St Augustine, and why I think that the Church is mistaken in emphasizing everyone singing hymns so much rather than having choirs sing beautiful sacred music to God. The people can always sing the settings if they so wish.

    1. Kevin Keil Avatar
      Kevin Keil

      It has always interested me that some people feel singing their assigned parts at mass is optional, while reciting the same parts is not. For example, if the Lord’s prayer is recited, I can’t imagine any Catholic at mass not joining in. But if it’s sung, even with a very familiar tune, such as the Snow chant adaptation, some will refrain from singing because “they don’t have a good voice”. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy it states the participation is a right and DUTY by virtue of baptism (my paraphrase and emphasis). Most faithful assembly members either don’t understand or don’t know about the duty thing.

      1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
        Jack Rakosky

        In post industrial societies, self expressive values have replaced the importance attached to duty in industrial and agrarian societies (pray, pay and obey). So appealing to duty is going to fall on deaf ears, and/or generate hostility. Some suggestions:

        1. Reintroduce the sung Mass in which the priest sings his part of the dialogue along with the people. If people hear priests, and their fellow congregants, especially those with just average voices singing simple music, this would demonstrate a type of singing that does not require talent to be self expressive. Turn the mike off on the choir so they are not models. Better yet have only the men of the choir sing loudly and deeply. Many men don’t sing because there are no men around them in the pews as models of deeper voices. The people in the pews not the choir have to become the model of self expressiveness.

        2. Try singing the Confiteor, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer in a simple invariant way. Again these are simple faith prayers that everyone can identify with, and everyone could learn. They also give the message that music does not require a choir or a choir voice.

        3. The Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei all have to be easily to sing, and only a few settings, 3 or 4, preferably sung at the same seasons each year. If anything in these suggests the need of a choir quality voice, people are going to say to themselves that they are not choir members and feel they do not need to sing.

        4. When it come to hymns they all have to be well know (like Christmas carols) of with refrains that can be learned by the third time around (or preferably two repetitions before Mass). We should not expect people to sing an unfamiliar hymn while passing the collection basket or going to communion.

        Most of the time people are being asked to sing like a choir member with having the opportunity to practice. You need musical talent and a good voice to do that. We should not have to learn music while we are praying.

  7. Ron Jones Avatar
    Ron Jones

    “Thus vacillate I between dangerous pleasure and tried soundness; being inclined rather (though I pronounce no irrevocable opinion upon the subject) to approve of the use of singing in the church, that so by the delights of the ear the weaker minds may be stimulated to a devotional frame. Yet when it happens to me to be more moved by the singing than by what is sung, I confess myself to have sinned criminally, and then I would rather not have heard the singing.”

    – St. Augustine, Confessions, Book X, Chapter 33, paragraph 50.

  8. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

    Greg at 6/17 at 8:13….

    What did I say that was in any way “hateful”? WLP has done the great job that I generally expect them to. GIA has gotten trapped again by the nature of its publishing model which is not conceived to be fast reacting. OCP hasn’t chimed in yet, but should be okay as they are accustomed to distributing products online. If that’s “hateful” then I would have to say that you either misunderstood what I said, or you have a very low threshold regarding what constitutes something hateful.

    Why so concerned about my comment?

  9. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    Quantum flevi in hymnis et canticis tuis, suave sonantis ecclesiae tuae vocibus commotus acriter! Voces illae influebant auribus meis, et eliquabatur veritas in cor meum, et exaestuabat inde affectus pietatis, et currebant lacrimae, et bene mihi erat cum eis.

    “How did I weep, in Thy Hymns and Canticles, touched to the quick by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the Truth distilled into my heart, whence the affections of my devotion overflowed, and tears ran down, and happy was I therein.

    St Augustine 9.6.14

  10. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
    Fr. Christopher Costigan

    Some publishers have released resources for free to be used from now until Advent, when their free use would no longer be licensed and normal rates would apply. Now that permission may be given in some dioceses to begin earlier, have any publishers changed their policies regarding the free materials?

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      I haven’t heard anything to this effect, but it would come off looking pretty crass to do so.

      On that broader topic, the digital genie has been let out of the bag, and music publishers, like “record companies” of some years ago and the recently defunct “video stores” like Blockbuster, will spend the next number of years fighting a hopeless battle to keep their music off of the internet. While I am all for respecting artists rights, it is a hopeless battle in many respects. In the midst of this also comes publications like Adam Bartletts Simple English Propers, available in a beautiful bound edition for those who desire such a thing, but also free to download in PDF versions for everybody’s use… no strings attached, just free.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: