As Roman Catholics in the Ordinariate, we are heirs to a particularly rich and varied patrimony of sacred music.
The incomparable choral tradition of British cathedrals and principal parish churches is naturally the best known part of our tradition, followed closely in magnificence and mellifluence by the great flowering of English hymnody in the last 250 years. But alongside these are the chant books, liturgical choral settings, and editions of early English composers lovingly and painstakingly created by musicians and antiquarians working to establish a repertory of unmistakably Catholic music in ‘Prayer Book’ English. Chief among these were the founders of the Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society and its successors. Working at the same time as their most prominent colleagues who labored mightily in the nineteenth century to elevate the musicianship and repertory of cathedral and Oxbridge choirs, our Anglo-Catholic musician-forebears promoted not only improved performance standards, but also an ordering of church music toward plainsong (Gregorian chant) and Renaissance polyphony. Their first efforts at setting the English psalter to traditional plainsong tones may seem quaintly naïve in a world where all surviving medieval music can be brought up on a computer screen; however, this careful exploration of the properties of sung English texts initiated a veritable flood of increasingly weighty and revelatory editions—both practical and scholarly—that abated only in the 1940s. As much as rich ceremonial of the sanctuary, this musical tradition—exemplified by its final great practitioners, Healey Willan, Everett Titcomb, and George Oldroyd—was the aural definition of proto-Catholic practice in the Anglican world. With the creation of the Ordinariates in America, Britain, and Australia, this music has its most authentic and fitting context, a heritage in which new generations may be formed through singing and prayer.