Firstly, I am happy to confirm Jeffrey’s report that the Simple English Propers collection has been finally submitted for publication, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. This project has been on my desk for nearly nine months, so I suppose that the “birth” analogy is appropriate here. I feel like I have birthed a child… well, not literally, but my exhaustion and joy at the end of this process have to be at least a ‘sacramental’ representation of this. We have all waited with expectant joy, and now we can rejoice in the arrival of the completed project. Thanks be to God.
Secondly, I would like to apologize for my radio silence on the Chant Café, and elsewhere online. The completion of SEP has only been a part of my load in recent months. I’ve also been directing and guiding a young parish sacred music program, in addition to crystallizing plans for what I have called the ‘Sacred Music Project’, which is soon to be transformed and given new purpose.
For me, the Simple English Propers project is a beginning, not an end. I have learned so much in the process, and have had the opportunity, like many other followers of this blog, to already have used these chants settings in liturgy for five months or more. In my experience of working on the ground level of American Catholic liturgical culture I have begun to see the great things that lie ahead. The SEP project, for me, has laid a foundation on which to build. It will be wonderful to see this come to completion, but it really is not an ending point. It is a beginning point. What lies ahead in the distance is a musical treasure of inestimable value, and, I think, a vast expanse for further development in our own day. The difference here is that we’re not talking about more additions to the realm of ‘alius cantus aptus’, but contributions in the form of musical settings of the liturgical texts themselves.
Just today I read a very lengthy review of a forthcoming hymnal from a recently prominent Catholic publisher. The contents of this book are so contrary to the nature and spirit of the liturgy as I see and understand it that it is nearly appalling. What this book communicates is a clinging to an ethos that is no longer viable, not a looking to the future or a response to the needs of today. What lies ahead for us is a liturgical renewal that is founded solidly on the liturgical texts and rites themselves. The abandonment and neglect of these in the past decades has left a vast expanse for our generation to explore and understand. The propers have been ignored to such an extent that there is virtually a blank slate in front of us for further authentic development. The Gregorian ideal is still always there and needs to be utilized more and more, but still there is an incredible amount of room for filling the gap between the chants in the liturgical books and the common practice of the past 50 years.
It is an exciting time to be a church musician I think. The only place to go is up, and the future is looking very bright. I’m excited!
Please, again, accept my apologies for being largely absent in the Chant Café conversation. I will be back more now. I have accumulated quite the blogging to-do list, and hope to tackle this in the coming weeks. So please enjoy a round of virtual espressos on me and I’ll look forward to catching you all soon.