CNP Feedback - Writing a Gloria
The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians.
From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.
Q. Dear CNP:
A friendly debate continues among the choir directors at our church regarding the musical form of the Gloria.
One camp believes the through-composed Gloria is the correct form: when it's spoken, it's said straight through so it should be sung that way.
The other camp believes the responsorial version is correct.
I've reviewed several compositions of the Gloria and am somewhat confused that there are two forms (through composed and responsorial) and the lyrics are often different from composition to composition.
I understand that changes to the Mass are approaching and I want to compose a Gloria for the choir I direct.
What will be the "correct" lyrics?
Is it okay to vary the Gloria text to suit the composition?
Also, what is the "correct" form of the Gloria: through composed or responsorial?
Gloria N.X. Shellsees
A. Dear Gloria:
Answers to some of your questions have a little flexibility.
Answers to others are firm and rock-solid.
The firm first.
It is WRONG, ERRONEOUS and an EGREGIOUS SIN against humility and obedience to change even one punctuation mark of the Mass text that has been given to us by Christ's Church.
While this has been done and published in the past, even that was wrong, and should never have occurred.
I hope by my uncharacteristic vehemence and use of dramatic bold CAPITAL LETTERS that I am being clear in this issue.
No one, not even a bishop (let alone a priest or composer) may change ANYTHING in the Mass, except where it is specifically allowed.
The rubric will then clearly say, "In these or similar words."
When you compose your Gloria setting, you MUST use the correct words and ONLY the correct words.
Neither you nor anyone else (not even popular composers or powerful publishing companies) may change any word of the Mass.
The new translation (which can only be used publicly once it's approved and promulgated) can be found on the
This is the new Gloria text:
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory, Lord God, heavenly King, O God,
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Composers are free to begin setting it to music.
While the Church is extremely clear and firm about forbidding text changes, there has never been a pronouncement about through-composed or responsorial Glorias.
Arguments must be made from logical inferences.
First, there is NO validity in saying that "responsorial" is the only correct form — it's not mentioned anywhere in documents or rubrics and has no historical precedent apart from the rather "loose" decades of the 80s and 90s, and then certainly not in any official way.
The through-composed format certainly has long precedent.
Since it occurs this way in the Roman Missal, one should compose a setting that respects its proper form.
That is, it's a hymn of praise, not a refrain with verses (as are the Responsorial Psalm and the Introit Proper and Communion Proper).
Bottom line: one can more easily make an argument that a through-composed setting is normative (and even that it is correct) than a responsorial format.
The only benefit of a responsorial Gloria is ease-of-learning for the congregation and a "starring role" for the cantor or choir.
Neither of these hold any rubrical weight.
"Pastoral" judgments can never obscure the true Liturgy of the Church (i.e. a priest could never justify omitting the Creed because people think it's too long).
A practical suggestion: You can make the Gloria easier for the congregation to sing by using the same music for the first part and the third part [see text above]. Further, these parts could be scored for the congregation and the middle section could be sung by a choir or cantor.
This is a legitimate option, since according to the rubrics, a choir may sing an entire Gloria setting ALONE (yep ... look it up!).
Hope this helps.