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Schubert's Deutsche Messe


Franz Schubert’s Deutsche Messe, written in 1827, is the most popular and enduring of the Austrian-German ‘low masses’, masses in which the congregation sang German hymns while the priest intoned the Latin mass. The singing of German hymns during the mass started in Austria in the twelfth century, and by 1260 there was a complete set of German hymns corresponding to the sung parts of the mass. The ‘low mass’ movement flowered during the reign of Kaiser Joseph II, who outlawed the performance of orchestral Latin masses. The Catholic Church did NOT approve of low masses (or of Kaiser Joseph II!).


Johann Phillipp Neumann wrote the texts of the 9 movements of the Deutsche Messe and commissioned Schubert to write the music. The mass in its original form is still frequently performed, if one can judge by the large number of Youtube videos of such performances.


In 1979, Richard Proulx adapted the mass for modern congregational use. The lengthy, flowery, romantic Neumann poems were replaced with the modern English church-approved words of the mass, and the movements reduced to the Kyrie, Gloria, Lord’s Prayer, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. This adaptation improved 4 of the 5 movements, but the Gloria, which was (ahem) not one of Schubert’s best compositions in the original, became longer and more boring in the adaptation. The Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei are included as additional service music in the ELW hymnal; the Gloria is not. We will follow the practice of many other congregations in substituting an alternate Hymn of Praise for the Gloria (ELW #627, O Day Full of Grace)


We will sing the Schubert/Proulx liturgical setting during the 6 weeks of Epiphany, after which the Music and Worship committee will solicit feedback on whether this setting should be used in the future.


Check out the following Youtube link if you want to hear the music.


Barbara Leighton

Music Minister, Shepherd of the Hills

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