Let Us Sing – Pastoral musicians from three New Jersey dioceses gathered for a workshop in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville, where they reviewed and practiced newly composed Mass settings. Christina Leslie photo
Let Us Sing – Pastoral musicians from three New Jersey dioceses gathered for a workshop in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville, where they reviewed and practiced newly composed Mass settings. Christina Leslie photo

Musicians from throughout New Jersey assembled in St. Ann Church, Lawrenceville, for a premiere presentation of musical Mass settings adapted for the upcoming changes in the Roman Rite.

More than 300 choir members, cantors and directors of parish music ministry from the Dioceses of Trenton, Metuchen and Camden attended the “And With Your Spirit” workshop jointly sponsored by the Trenton Chapter of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and the Trenton Diocese Office of Worship.

The musicians were among the first in the country to see and sing the newly-released musical updates penned in response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship’s adaptations of the Roman Missal due to be instituted during Advent 2011.

Presenter Bob Strusinski from GIA Publications, Inc., a liturgical publishing company, led the group in a fast-paced sight-singing exercise.

Accompanied on piano, organ, flutes and guitar by musicians from host St. Ann Parish, and Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing, the music ministers sang new settings of the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, and Memorial Acclamations in different musical styles and languages.

Strusinski advised attendees that it was not too early to look at the new settings and contemplate which will work in their parishes in about 18 months. “These settings will form new images in our hearts, in our traditions. They will sing well,” he promised.

The workshop closed with an entreaty from Msgr. Sam Sirianni, director of the Diocese of Trenton’s Office of Worship, to consider the changes in the prayers and responses at Mass with an open mind and heart. “This is the first step on a very long journey.

This step calls us to learn a new skill, it takes prayer, reflection and a sense of humor,” he said.

“We are initiating a new translation; we should not just focus on the changes.”

He reminded the musicians of the adaptations to the Mass instituted after the Second Vatican Council of the early 1960s and traced the new adaptations’ origins back further to the Council of Trent held during the late 1500s.

“Please know this is NOT a move back to the Latin Mass. This is a connection with the traditions of our Church.”

Msgr. Sirianni reminded the assembly that the season of Advent, 2011 is the projected institution of the changes in wording, but the date is subject to change. “But just because it is not official does not mean we do not learn,” he cautioned. “The world is changing, we need to be ready to move.”

According to Msgr. Sirianni, the diocese will assemble a committee of musicians to examine the newly-published Mass settings and will provide resources to help choirs and congregations understand the changes.

Msgr. Sirianni pointed to the rationale for the changes, reminding the musicians that many people were leaving the Catholic faith for evangelical churches because they feel Catholicism is no longer Scripture-based. “We are not Congregationalists, we are Roman Catholics!” he declared fervently. “We need to reclaim these people. We are people of the Book; we need to live it.”

At the conclusion of the workshop, Ann Diese, cantor at Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, and member of the Diocesan Festival Choir, expressed an interest in staying updated. She exclaimed, “I love to be a Catholic!”

Joanne Miller of the evening’s host parish, also expressed her eagerness to learn the new music. “I am very excited and am ready to practice these [new Mass settings] with my choir,” the St. Ann Parish soprano exclaimed.