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Monday, 20 April 2009

Hymns and Disappointment

Wasn't THAT disappointing?
The latest issue of GIA Quarterly, (no, I don't pay for it....,) holds promise, via a caption on the cover, of a discussion of the value of chant: Square Notes, Loosed Tongues.

Alas, whoever did the cover layout, or the proof-reader, or the copy editor, does not know the difference between square note, and shape note.

Or perhaps it was deceptive advertising, hoping rad-trad musicians would be lured into reading what many of them think of as the Opposing Team's Playbook.

But Melissa Nussbaum's article on Sacred Harp is worth reading.
It is a great tradition, and one that Catholic in this country ought to be made better acquainted with, as it is as close to authentic folk sacred music as Americans can get.

(I'm remembering my thrill of triumph when I found a spotless copy of the most recent Sacred Harp at one of my favorite used book stores, for a few bucks. This was before I had a job where I could be fairly reimbursed for such a purchase, and, although I am the tightest of tightwads at the best of times, that wasn't one of the best of times, at that point it was genuine penury.)

There's also an article by the always readable Fr Ruff on SthL, more from Gerald Custer (fine composer,) on choral conducting.... it is not, if you tear out the pages with recommendations for mostly tacky hymns to replace Propers, the editor's ramblings, and the column by a regular who needs his musical priorities re-ordered; a bad magazine, on balance.

It's the all-hymns-all-the-time sensibilities that inform it that needs fixing.

Please, don't anyone take this amiss.

I love hymns.
I adore hymns.
I couldn't live without hymns.

But until this publishing concern starts realizing that no, the Famous Fourth (option, that is,) does NOT make hymnody in the Mass other than a "stepchild"; and that every effort, penny and moment spent on a hymn, by Catholic musicians who haven't already realized the ideal in liturgical music in their bailiwick, is an effort, penny and moment stolen, it will continue along the road to what I pray is its ultimate irrelevancy.

And now I think I'll go work on that arrangement combining Wayfaring Stranger and Prospect.


KDM Schola Cantorum said...

Can you tell me what the four options are for music during a mass?

Scelata said...

Thanks for stopping by, KDM S C.

The "4 option" referred to the fact that for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion, the GIRM with its American adaptations, (among other documents,) prescribes, in this order,
(1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting;
(2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual;
(3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the diocesan bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms;
(4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.
In practice of course, the vast majority of US parishes take the easy way out, #4, and sing a hymn, (sometimes fairly randomly chosen,) although so far a I know, neither the conference nor any individual bishop has explicitly "approved" any such song or collection of songs.

(Save the Liturgy, save the World)