Brother John-Bede Pauley has a great website called Music and the Anglican Patrimony. Though aimed at musicians, there’s a lot there for those who merely appreciate good music and it role in true worship.
English choral music was originally meant for worship and would be heard in a state of quiet meditation. Indeed, this music would have been performed (and often still is) by a choir divided in half — facing one another, rather than the congregation. In my own practice writing this sort of music, this is an important distinction: It is an observed private ritual. Nobody is meant to clap, and the music is not presented to an audience for approval; rather, it is meant to guide the mind out of the building into unseen heights and depths. It was not originally intended to happen at 7:30 at night for the pleasure of an audience coming from work, with just enough time for a rushed Chablis before the warning gong goes off, quickly checking ticket stubs and crawling over other patrons’ coats.
When I compose, I find myself returning to this tradition, particularly as it relates to creating musical drama without a Romantic sense of ebb and flow leading to a climactic moment. You can have a thrilling 90 seconds with roller-coaster harmonies focusing on two words only, followed by a single line of plainchant, followed by counterpoint outlining harmonies completely at variance with what we would understand to be the rules.
One of my favorite memories of the one time I traveled to England was attending Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford. I could hear the choir praying together before they came into the church. The music was sublime, but it was worship and not a performance.
An update on the news reported here last December concerning a gradual for the Divine Worship missal (DWM).
The gradual is in the proofreading stage. It follows the DWM outline of minor propers for the Sundays after Trinity. But it will include an index that cross-references the Graduale Romanum’s chants according to the Ordinary Time sequence.
The post contains some detailed notes from Clint Brand, one of the members of Anglicanae Traditiones.