Monday, April 30, 2012

Some things I might have offered June in SLC

Unfortunately, my bride and I will not be able to attend the Colloquium that we could actually drive to this June. Arlene, Jeffrey T. and the CMAA braintrust were too kind (or truly magnanimous and perhaps foolhardy) to invite me to present at a breakout session regarding the "care and feeding" of choirs in a comprehensive parish music program. But with the likes of Kathy Pluth and Matthew Meloche and other long term friends expanding the colloquium format with very practical offerings, my POV will still be represented.
However, it occured to me that as I was asked to prepare a brief (seven minute or so) presentation on the "future" of parish music ministry in a four parish conglomerate that has been on a learning curve for about four years, what I've been personally involved in lobbying for and advocating the reformations of certain aspects of a modern comprehensive parish, some of these thoughts might be of general interest.
So without further comment, here is the draft of my crystal ball gazing for us locally out in Central California that I'll offer to staff and clerics tomorrow morning. My hope for its "reception" is the same as I've hoped for every collaborative effort with both lay and clerical liturgical personnel: an unvarnished and receptive consideration that extends beyond the convenience of personal tasted or modern conventional wisdom. Here is my vision for the immediate future of our parishes' improvement and ongoing progress:

These are the items I would propose as future priorities:

*The eventual phasing out of pulp or subscription hymnals/missals in all parishes.

+             It has become apparent on many levels that this economic expenditure, namely repurchasing the virtually identical repertoire (with only minor additions and some major deletions) every year is wasteful and irresponsible in many ways beyond the budgetary concerns. No matter what major supplier is chosen, none show any inclination towards adjusting and improving their content to be more aligned to what is clearly mandated by the many ecclesial documents governing the function of sacred/liturgical music at Mass.

+             The issue of manifesting a clearly identifiable “Catholic” ethos and identity in all the liturgical arts, most severely obvious in music, is clearly apparently emerging from both the upper, hierarchical leadership of the Church, but also from the younger demographic of teens and young adults who are availing themselves of the information about our traditions via the internet and elsewhere that speak of a spiritual and mystical “fruition” that is sometimes found wanting or even lacking in the contemporary Mass experience. It is not only about issues of music such as chant, or postures or translations, it seems based upon having and experience that stimulates the worshipping soul at a more deep level than emotion or mundane obligation. This, I believe, must be discussed by the pastoral council, the clergy and liturgical interests in our parish in a systematic, serious and progressive way, and very soon. These concerns cross demographic and social delineations as well.

  • The mitigation of these above concerns- how can music ministry remain diverse yet become more cohesive? How can, in the processes of changes, the objectives of full, active, conscious participation coalesce with a clearly principled architecture of what liturgy is and how it is performed?

+             The third typical edition of the Roman Missal in the English translation will not be abrogated in the near future, despite many concerns about its process and effect. Happily, celebrants at our parishes have fully embraced the collects and prayers with enthusiasm and competence, and the faithful are responding in dutiful reverence and zeal for the most part. Therefore, I would propose that a coordinated campaign be studied, decided upon and implemented where parishioners would be shown it would be in their best interests, both as worshippers and as stewards, to obtain the Sunday Missal in their own family editions, in any of our vernaculars. On savings of overhead dollars from the general fund alone, they should be “sold” upon this one time expenditure.

+             The parish institutes another committee study to determine how best to consolidate the musical needs of the parish (in all languages including the increasing volume of Latin) into a solid delivery form. Though I personally consider certain commercial hymnals to be superior to others in content, I fully realize that none of them would address both the concerns of those folks to whom the repertoire of the last two generations has great merit (and which is licit) and the very real need to embrace the larger goals of the Second Vatican Council regarding the essential musical nature of “singing the Mass” rather than “singing at Mass.” This means the informed discretion of examining all our roles, some official, some out of necessity, and how to align them according to the preferred optional priorities established by legislation.

+             There are a number of “delivery” media to consider in this reorganization of resources. Besides the aforementioned commercial hymn (hardbound) book, a compilation specific to the expressed needs of our parish or even our diocese could materialize as a commercially available option with today’s on demand printing readily available.

 Of course, the use of projection technology has already had its “baptism” at our newest parish and can only improve with time and experience in that suitable environment.

The weekly use of “Orders of Worship Music” is one that appeals to many, not the least of which is our pastor. But that option would have to be preceded by agreement upon the scale of such a weekly project, and the acknowledgement that final decisions on repertoire selection would have a “buck stops here” political reality that everyone would have to buy into.

                A very innovative, and not improbable alternative would involve creating and linking music resources to the parish website, made available through at least three or more free or inexpensive sources (such as our current yearly license with OCP, OneLicensing.org) or music sanctioned under the free use Creative Commons v.3, or basic public domain hymns, Masses, and a gigantic plethora of liturgical musics, that could be hosted by the various directors under the Music Director’s aegis, and then promulgated to the faithful in the pews by “application” links (either free iTunes or Android platforms) to specific Masses, specific times and specific parishes onto tablet , pad or even cell phone hosting. Should anyone not think there is a real future in this “mode” of delivery, I would point out that we are already using it here in this parish, and others have created vast databases of whole hymnals, missals and accompaniment volumes from the current era to those of antiquity that are in use across the globe. When Android platform tablets are currently selling below the $100 price point, and likely to cross the $50 mid point this year, it is not unreasonable to poll parishioners whether there might be many benefits, such as preparing for Sunday liturgies’ music and potentially other information prior to the weekend, besides that of throwing money away on newsprint subscription materials that deface and clutter our church pews and buildings.

+             The implementation of the MR3 translation has afforded enlightened parish ministries to re-engage in the evolution of how all constituents, ie. The People of God (everybody), must regard and prepare the performance of ritual activities and actions not only for the English speaking faithful, but for all catholics. Finally many are coming to the core of the questions whether inculturation among diverse ethnic and linguistic clienteles is best addressed by the “Polyglot Model” (diverse vernaculars used in a single Mass), the unity envisioned by St. Pius X with the faithful’s FACP in the sung Gregorian Latin modality, or even whether Latin Roman rites remain viable (chant, for example) using the new lingua franca of the USA and many other countries, namely English.

+             Lastly, it is the Music Director’s long-considered conclusion that we enhance the already generous and successful aspects of our multi-spectral approach to worship music styles and performance modes (organ, ensemble, cantor, choir, schola, etc.) by  reviewing the criteria and standards by which the fairly autonomous directors have used thus far over two decades, and undertook to review what are literally ELEMENTAL and INTEGRAL  aspects that must be part and parcel of the decision process that determines the musical repertoire choices that determine what as many as twenty congregations may sing in English, Spanish, LaHu or even Latin in the near future. As mentioned, the Church documents clearly mandate a hierarchical priority of texts that form the foundation for “singing the Mass” rather than “singing at Mass.” These options are clearly not set in tablets of stones, but are none the less ideals which deserve much more than lip service in our deliberations. This means, at the least, the lifting up of the two primary and related principles: the use of Proper texts as well as optional (four) texts which have direct allusions to the festal, seasonal or scriptural content of each Mass. The era of choosing music based primarily, or solely upon popularity or personal preference of either/or the congregation’s likelihood of singing or the music ministry’s personal preference is soon to be relegated to the history books as a flawed, failed though noble portion of our liturgical history.