Monday, March 25, 2013

Types of Catholic Music

by M. J. Joachim

Music is included in various parts of the Mass and is an important part of Catholic culture. Several days ago, I shared a general post discussing the importance of music in our Catholic Church and its culture. Today I’m sharing a list of different types of music people sing at Mass, along with some information on when these types of music might be sung.

  • A Cappella: Cantors sing specific portions of songs during the Mass. A cantor might lead the congregation in the Responsorial Psalm. Sometimes there will be a phrase for all to sing, while the cantor sings the verses of the Psalm.

  • Anthem:  Scriptural songs, biblical passages written to music
  • Marian Songs:  Songs sung to or about the Virgin Mary
  • Carols:  Celebratory songs sung on holidays like Christmas and Easter. Some carols are songs specific to particular feast days in the Church.
  • Chant:  Prayers and words sung in a singular pitch. Sometimes the priest will chant parts of the Mass or Eucharistic prayers. Responsorial Psalms also may be chanted.
  • Chorale:  Psalms set to music and sung as hymns.
  • Evensong:  Music for vespers service
  • Gregorian Chant:  Historical music for the Catholic Church, often used in Latin Masses.
  • High Mass:  Music is sung throughout the Mass, during both Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist parts of the Mass.
  • Hymn:  Religious song
  • Liturgy:  Formal Church worship. There are two parts to Liturgy in the Catholic 
  • Church: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. Music is incorporated into both.
  • Offertory:  Music sung during the collection taken to help the poor and support church needs.
  • Oratorio:  Highest Type of Sacred Chorale music
  • Passions:  Music setting based on the sufferings of Jesus
  • Psalm:  Music setting based on the Psalms
  • Psalmody:  Singing of Psalms and hymns
  • Recessional Hymn:  Song sung at conclusion of Mass, as the priest leaves the altar and the people depart from church
  • Requiem:  A Mass sung in remembrance of those who have died
  • Response:  A short hymn sung after a prayer
  • Spirituals:  Songs based on spiritual ideas

Music has a way of helping one’s soul. While silent prayer is necessary, music during Mass is very much appreciated and enjoyed. It should be noted that music selections and forms are often dependent on the type of Mass and the group attending. For example, a teen Mass will be much more upbeat with livelier, even (toned down) rock and roll music. A funeral Mass will play solemn music, while a wedding will play happy music.

Catholic music is also dependent upon culture and region. Congregations with a large elderly population are likely to sing more traditional hymns, while congregations influenced by specific peoples are likely to reflect the majority represented there. Music, like Catholicism, is universal and reflective of its active participants, wherever they may be.

Thank you for visiting Being Catholic.

M. J.

Photo credit:  Pontifical Mass, 15th Century, Project Gutenberg
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