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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

January 26, 2012

Rumours (2)

evelyn @ 2:26 pm

Still haven’t followed up the banned hymns rumour, but in the meantime another one has cropped up which can be squashed right away.

Here’s the rumour: A number of parish musicians, and even some parish priests, believe that Mass music created BY a parish composer FOR the parish cannot be used WITHIN the parish without permission from the National Liturgy Commission approval committee.

NOT TRUE. You can compose Mass music for your own parish, and it can be sung there quite legitimately (provided of course that priest and parish want to sing it!).

Nothing has been announced publicly and precisely about this, which is a pity, as lack of information just breeds rumours. However, the truth of this particular question is given by implication in the Guide for Composers on the Roman Missal Scotland website. On page 12, paragraph 36, we have:

    Many who compose music for the liturgy wish to pass on the fruits of their creation to others, beyond the particular community for which it was first created.

From this, one can take it that the approval system kicks in only when you want to spread your music outside its original community, usually your own parish. So within the original community there’s nothing to stop you writing and using your own Mass settings.

And again, same page, paragraph 39:

    The Concordat [they call it ‘imprimatur’ elsewhere on the website, but it just means the permission they hand out] will be required of any published liturgical settings. This means making the setting available to others, whether freely or for a fee. However the Concordat is not necessary to set the liturgical texts and it is recognised that musical settings invariably have to be tried in a local setting [I assume they mean environment, not musical!] before they are published. [emphases mine]

The people who wrote these guidelines seem to think that every liturgical composer is anxious to publish his or her music, the original parish being just a testing-ground. This of course need not be the case at all. Many composers are happy just creating Mass music for their own parishes and leaving it at that. Sadly, these are the ones who suffer most when the above rumour causes them, or their priests, to believe their music is not permitted at all.

In consequence, some might just give up composing altogether. Others, on the other hand, may well be inundating the approval committee with music never intended for publication.


  1. Thank you for this – I have just composed a new setting for the Sanctus and Mem Accl for use within our parish to go with the Agnes composed about some years ago,

    I like your St Michael’s Gloria and am looking forward to trying it out with our people, but it will be after Easter since Schutte’s Christ the Savior wil be used then, to tie in with our sister parish.

    Talking of Easter already?- where does the time go?


    Comment by Gill Hogarth — January 27, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  2. Thanks, Gill. Yes, Easter follows on much too soon – our practices start next week. For readers outside Scotland, maybe I should point out that my remarks are made in a Scottish context. While our Guidelines are practically identical to the English ones, I’m not sure about other countries. You can probably find out about them on their websites, some of which are linked to on our Mass page (I know the Irish link is broken, but I’ll fix that soon).

    Comment by evelyn — January 27, 2012 @ 11:38 am

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