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Question:

Will you kindly give the latest rulings of the Holy See on the following points connected with church music? 

  1. Is there a white list of Masses and other liturgical compositions from which the choir director is free to select according to his taste? 
  2. Must the female singers be separated from the male by a distinct barrier, in the choir gallery? 
  3. Is it de rigueur that the celebrant should not be kept waiting before the Preface and the Pater Noster? 
  4. Is the organist allowed to accompany the celebrant in the singing of the Preface? 
  5. Are non-Catholics ever allowed to sing at High Mass or any other liturgical service? 
  6. Are Catholics who, without permission of their confessor, sing regularly in a Protestant church, allowed to sing occasionally in a Catholic choir? 
  7. Is an orchestra allowed on solemn occasions? 
  8. What kind of instrumental music is allowed, besides the organ? Is an instrumental solo ever allowed, e.g. cornet? 
  9. Are vocal solos permissible? 

Answer:

  1. There is no general official list of "White Masses". There are, however, local lists in some dioceses, and there are reliable unofficial recommendations in such publications as Schirmer's Bulletin of Catholic Church Music, published quarterly at No. 3 East Forty-third Street, New York City. 
  2. There is no mention of such a prescription in any of the decrees that we have seen. The Motu Proprio of 22 November, 1903, restricts the singing of the liturgical parts of the office to male voices on the ground that women are not allowed to take part in the liturgical office (Motu proprio, No. 13). Decrees of a later date (4210 and 4231) simply prescribe that the men and women be separated. 
  3. The principle is clearly enunciated in the Motu proprio (No. 22). However, it is not an unreasonable delay if the celebrant is obliged to wait a minute or two. In fact, the Holy Father reminds the celebrant that he, too, have some consideration for the choir (ibid.). 
  4. The Motu proprio expressly ordains (No. 12) that the celebrant at the altar and the ministers should sing the melodies assigned to them "in Gregorian Chant, and without the accompaniment of the organ". 
  5. There is no decree against non-Catholics singing in the liturgical services. There is, however, a prescription of the Motu proprio (No. 14) according to which only persons of known piety and probity be admitted to the office of singer in the services of the Church. 
  6. Since singing in a Protestant Church is not malum in se, it is allowed, in certain circumstances. If it is done in disobedience to the confessor's advice (there must be a good reason for the advice in question), the singer may be excluded from the Catholic choir under the ruling mentioned in the answer to No. 5. 
  7. The orchestra is not forbidden. The church organ is, however, the ordinary and the legitimate instrument for accompanying the voices of the choir. Other instruments may be allowed, "with the special permission of the bishop," under the proviso that they be made subordinate to the vocal music (Motu proprio, No. 15). 
  8. This is a matter of taste. "Noisy" instruments and "light" instruments are expressly forbidden : under this prohibition come the piano, the drum, cymbals, "and such like". In any case, instrumental solos are not allowed. 
  9. Choral music is the rule; the only soloist is the celebrant. At the same time, the Motu proprio recognizes that the solo may be used, so long as it does not predominate (No. 12).