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Saturday, 9 February 2008

The Matter of Personal Preferences


A fellow on the CMAA fora, earnest, intelligent, (if sometimes wearingly verbose.... he reminds me of the daughter's plea to her playwright father in Stoppard's The Real Thing: Say it, Fa, don't write it!, ) has a sorry tale of liturgical music.

Prayerfully prepared, well executed, appropriately selected music for a diocesan wide priests' convocation. Greek and Latin ordinaries, Spanish and English chanted propers.

And one crank priest d'un certain age, (is that idiom ever used of men? ca ne fait rien...,) had the egocentricity to complain that it didn't "uplift" him. “I don’t understand. I know your work. I would hire you any day to be my director. Why would you choose all this chant. IT DOESN’T UPLIFT ME AT ALL.

A kindly Bishop suggested sticking by his choice of the "propers.... you know, the Kyrie and Sanctus."

There are the two halves of the problem, in a nutshell.

TPTB, by and large, 1.) don't know anything about liturgical music and haven't a clue about the criteria for selecting music for Liturgy and 2.) they therefore assume the musician doing the programming is just indulging his personal preferences, since that is what THEY would do if they could. And then the thought hits them -- hey, I'M in charge here! (at this parish or diocese,) we WILL program according to my personal preferences.

It makes it very hard on the orthoprax (yeah, I made that word up, so what?) scrupulous,
conscientious PTwillB, when he comes in and tries to correct things, because it looks as if he too is merely enforcing his personal preferences. (e.g., my "preference" for In paradisum as the recessional at funeral Masses, over Eagle's Wings....)


Gavin said...

I guess in that case the question is just how bad is it to curse at a monsignor, especially if he's as bad as that guy :P

I actually wasn't bothered but happy with the bishop's comments that Charles mentioned. YES he misused the term "propers" but I wouldn't expect even Bp. Burke to know that word!

As for preferences, that's the aid we have in the propers. You may have a preference towards In Paradisum, but that's also what the CHURCH wants. I talked about this with my cantors yesterday in regards to the Communion for funerals: the Church asks that it be done, I say we try to follow what the Church wants. I received no objections.

Anonymous said...

"You may have a preference towards In Paradisum, but that's also what the CHURCH wants."

That was my point -- it actually ISN'T my "preference." It is what I do because it is what the Church asks for.
(My preference would be a big splashy triumphant sounding organ postlude.)
My preferences, despite what the woman on the LitCom who challenges my every move thinks, hardly enter into my programming at all.
I program things I dislike all the time, or I program music of similar merit and aptness that are parish "favorites" rather than my, or the pastor's favorites.

You really think Burke would not use the expressions proper and ordinary correctly?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Gavin said...

I think all bishops everywhere after Gregory the Great are idiots when it comes to music. That's my stand, and it's based more on prejudice than fact. I can live with that. Burke is my favorite bishop anywhere. The man should be pope. But I wouldn't trust his opinion on music. And speaking of the pope, the current one is the ONLY bishop who knows anything about music, but that's because he's German.

I suppose I go overboard in asserting that I don't decide on my preferences. I remember one chorister lashed out at me for the traditional music and I pointed out "well there's this hymn, Stainless the Maiden. I hate it. It's a trashy Polish hymn that grates on the ears and no one has liked it for 200 years. But it fits the theology of the feast (I forget which) perfectly, so we're going to use it, no matter how horrible I think it is." And meanwhile the chorister who's most supportive of my work is acting like I ripped out her heart by trashing her favorite hymn :P

I say next time you have to deal with such people, say "here's the guy you need to contact to get the music for church changed" and hand the offender a piece of paper that says "God - Throne, Heaven"