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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"Crisis and Response... Reflections and Suggestions"

Why isn't Catholic liturgical music music better?
  • Except in some ethnic Catholic cultures, there is a general resistance to the acceptance of singing as an integral part of worship. This is usually attributed to the Irish heritage.
  • In an effort to overcome this resistance, parish “music ministers” feel pressured to “give the people what they like”, although their judgement on this matter is usually based on their own tastes rather than any authentic or objective research.
  • Parish pastors are often untrained, unskilled and/or ignorant in liturgical music and song, and so delegate the choice of music used in the liturgy to lay coordinators (who often may be capable musicians but may not be much better trained or prepared in the liturgical and theological principles).
  • Due to a shortage of trained musicians and to the new technology now available, cantors and musicians are being replaced by vocal recordings. Since many worshippers are conditioned by our entertainment society, they have learned to listen to these recordings rather than join in the singing themselves, with the result that recorded song tends to discourage congregational participation rather than encourage it.
  • At the same time, no published print resource of Catholic liturgical music and song which has been authorised by ecclesiastical authority currently exists for purchase in Australia today.
  • This leaves a vacuum which is being filled by other enterprises, usually driven by commercial interests of composers and publishers rather than by the interests of the Church and of what is most appropriate to the liturgy of the Roman Rite.
  • Nevertheless, new material is being produced and introduced into our parishes and schools at a vast rate by private enterprise, with the result that Australian Catholics have no shared repertoire of song among themselves, let alone with other English speaking Catholic Churches, nor any lasting personal appropriation of the Church’s song, nor any consolidated patrimony to pass on to new generations.
  • On the contrary, a “cult of the new” is being fostered by publishers and composers to the detriment of the Church’s patrimony in music and song.
  • The music of this new material is often too difficult or unsuitable for congregational singing, having been written and designed for solo performance by the song writer at concerts.
  • The new music often has little connection with the tradition of the music for the Roman Rite.
  • Many of the texts of the new material suffer from a number of drawbacks, primarily theologically, such as in the naming of God, the use of the voice of God, meaningless or trite phrases, or doctrine simply contrary to the Catholic faith.
  • Many new texts are also deficient linguistically (they contrast markedly to the language of the new translation of the missal) and poetically.
  • Many of the new texts display a lack of comprehension of the purpose of liturgical music and song, not only in ritual terms, but also in terms of the theological function of liturgical praise and adoration.
Same old same old?

Not really.

This is an article from the blog of one David Schütz about the crisis in Catholic liturgical music, fascinating to me, for offering the perspective of a convert, a former Lutheran minister, and of an Australian, for a change, and how like unto our Yanks' it is! (Though his remedies are by me, too hymn0centric.)

I'm just intrigued by, despite the differing background, (ministerial, Lutheran, Australian,) how similarly one might hear the problem explained by those in this hemisphere.

(I'm certainly delighted to have found the blog, and shall continue reading it.)

It's a good, long article, go read the rest, (you probably already have, it's a month old,) and also the comboxes.
Is it a form of schadenfreude to note with relief that his bishops have failed to address this as neglectfully as ours?

1 comment:

Schütz said...

Hi, Scelata, glad you found my post on this subject.

I think these problems are universal in the English speaking world, and the impending introduction of the new translation of the liturgy is bringing it to a crisis point.

I plead "guilty as charged" with regard to being "hymnocentric". I believe that hymnody can be a very powerful communicator of the faith. I know that it has not generally had an integral place in the Roman Rite, but it is a part of our culture as English speaking Christians, and deserves to be utilised if it will serve the good of the Church and her faith.

That being said, I am no exponent of the four-hymn-sandwich and do believe that singing the mass itself must be our first priority.

I work in interfaith dialogue for our Archdiocese, and at a recent interfaith conference over three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) the three faiths (Muslim, Jewish and Catholic-Protestant) all conducted their traditional prayers at which those of the other traditions were invited to be present. We Cathoics did the full Ordinary form of the Roman Rite on Saturday night (the Proddies had their Eucharist the next day) with a Gregorian Chant setting and the Roman Canon, but also with a hymn before (Be thou my vision) and after (Praise to the Lord the Almighty) the mass itself. Our aim was to conduct the mass in an authentic manner for those who had never experienced it before, and I think it was a powerful experience for them - and us, of course!