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Max Tenney – Organist and Director of Sacred Music

The Basilica Choir sings for the 10:00 a.m. Solemn Mass each Sunday from the first weekend of September through the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi). The choir prepares anthems and motets in English and Latin which are performed at the offertory and during communion and provides for the program of sacred music envisioned by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

As a Basilica, Saint Mary has a duty to promote the heritage of liturgical music which is proper to the Roman Rite. As a parish, she must do this both in a way that is supportive of the spiritual good of parishioners, and also in a way that does not feel obtrusive to their past experience. What would be considered a decision based upon “taste” has no place in the questions of what is proper to be used in the Liturgy. The larger question is how is our parish representing the corpus of the Church’s music to members and visitors?

The Basilica Choir and organists also periodically provide for public concerts such as our annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols which is scheduled on the Third Sunday of Advent (Guadete). The Basilica Concert Series provides a series of shorter organ or choral concerts which are designed particularly for tourists and to fit with the schedule of tourism in our historic City of Natchez.

Saint Mary also hosts our annual Choral Festival during the summer where visiting parish choirs are able to engage in musical workshops over the course of a weekend to learn practical tips on choral singing, reading Gregorian notation, and understanding the mind of the Church for Sacred Music. This festival is hosted at the Basilica each summer.

Music Leaflets for Divine Services:
August 15, 2022; Solemn Mass (Solemnity of the Assumption)
August 14, 2022; Solemn Mass (Sunday XX)
August 7, 2022; Solemn Mass (Sunday XIX)
June 31, 2022; Solemn Mass (Sunday XVIII)
June 24 2022;, Solemn Mass (Sunday XVII)
June 17, 2022; Solemn Mass (Sunday XVI)

Church Teaching on Sacred Music

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Second Vatican Council, 1963):

112. The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.
113. Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine offices are celebrated solemnly in song.
116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
51b. Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

Musicam Sacram (Sacred Congregation for Rites, 1967):

7. Between the solemn, fuller form of liturgical celebration, in which everything that demands singing is in fact sung, and the simplest form, in which singing is not used, there can be various degrees according to the greater or lesser place allotted to singing. However, in selecting the parts which are to be sung, one should start with those that are by their nature of greater importance, and especially those which are to be sung by the priest or by the ministers, with the people replying, or those which are to be sung by the priest and people together. The other parts may be gradually added according as they are proper to the people alone or to the choir alone.
19a. There should be choirs, or Capellae, or scholae cantorum, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and religious houses of studies, and they should be carefully encouraged.
47d. Pastors of souls should take care that besides the vernacular "the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”[SC 33]
51. Pastors of souls, having taken into consideration pastoral usefulness and the character of their own language, should see whether parts of the heritage of sacred music, written in previous centuries for Latin texts, could also be conveniently used, not only in liturgical celebrations in Latin but also in those performed in the vernacular. There is nothing to prevent different parts in one and the same celebration being sung in different languages.

Domus Ecclesiæ (Congregation of Divine Worship: on Basilicas, 1989):

3. Since the celebration of the liturgy takes on a more noble form when it is carried out in song, care must be taken that gatherings of the Christian faithful be associated with the singing of the various parts of the Mass, especially those found in the Ordinary (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 54; Sacred Congregation for Rites, Instruction Musicam Sacram, March 5, 1967).

Sing to the Lord (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2007):

74. The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin. In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged.

Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2020):

It is all the more important, then, that hymnody selected for the liturgical life of the Church successfully draw out the beauty of the Christian mysteries themselves. This cannot be done if language is used that is out of keeping with the sensibility created by scriptural texts and universal liturgical usage.
Based on the text quoted above, we can derive two general guidelines for determining whether a hymn is doctrinally suitable for liturgical use:
1. Is the hymn in conformity with Catholic doctrine?
2. Is the hymn expressed in image and vocabulary appropriately reflective of the usage of Scripture and the public liturgical prayer of the Church?

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