Can We Talk? With OCP?

About a week ago, there was a brief lull in my work day when I was reconfiguring an old laptop to serve as a supplementary computer in my school office. I needed something to do that wasn’t a real project as I needed to monitor the computer processes. So I decided to look at the upcoming issue of OCP’s “Today’s Liturgy” periodical. Normally the amount that we receive is parsed out to music leaders with about half remaining unused and round-filed. So I opened it up, skimmed through the pages looking for any title that might be interesting (self-fulfilled prophecy: none) and then noticed, “Oh, the annual survey is in this issue.” Over the years I’ve done due diligence and not only checked off boxes thoroughly, including my assumptions about what other leaders under my management are likely still using, but I’ve often exceeded the survey by attaching reams of attached notes of why do you cut this out and let this in, or what is the real process you use to create the next Frankenstein’s creature known as “Breaking Bread” or “Music Issue?”

In reaction to my excessive responses, OCP has always kindly sent a letter stating their appreciation for my “sharing” and will take them under consideration. Most of us who’ve had a job (outside of ecclesial) know that “appreciation” is 99% code for the exact opposite, though courteously mannered, reaction, i.e. the round file.

Personally, I don’t believe that OCP (the “Hidden Hand”) of the Liturgical Industrial Complex will soon disappear from the landscape of pew racks in any foreseeable future. If the books do, then the images from them will be projected upon walls and screens. Feh and meh, so what? Over decades I’ve dreamed of various schemes to get their attention, or someone else’s attention that they really need to pay attention and serious heed to the evolving reform of liturgical paradigms, particularly as regards musical responsibilities and repertoires of the Roman Rite. Those would include my grandest idea: the boutique hymnal, designed by local See’s and their music gurus, specified and forwarded to Portland, and mocked-up by the mainframe servers on East Hassalo Avenue within a day, printed and shipped like Amazon for arrival next Tuesday. This idea is premised upon the obvious “anything Bartlett/Ostrowski/Rice” can do, we can do bigger, faster, better!” I don’t want to debate that little bon mot.

So what am I now proposing that is of interest to a chant-inclined readership? How does the lamb expect to approach, much less to lie down with the Lion whose leash bears the inscription: Supply, meet demand?

Well, the readership of the Café, MSForum, NLMovement, CCWatershed and other like minded sites, though maybe no more than 10-15% of the demographic size of NPM, comparing Colloquium to convention, is still a very powerful and influential voice in the RCC sacred music community. And as is often mentioned, demonstrably growing in both clerical and lay constituencies. So, how do we flex muscle and influence to the seeming hard-hearted mercenaries (joke, people, joke!) of Big Three editorial boards?

Up close and personal is the answer. And nicely, by the way, not “in your face, talk to the hand” style.

What I propose is this- if your parish subscribes to any pulp hymnal product (save the new Missal I saw in Indy which Noel Jones first brought to my attention), consider allotting some time for a thorough auditing of its entire hymn/song/chant/ordinary/Psalter contents. Select at least 10 and perhaps no more than 25 titles that you know in your heart of hearts, mind of minds that fail the most basic criteria for appropriateness of use at worship. Then list them, each having just a minimum number of sentence descriptions of those failures. Use clinical and direct but polite rhetoric. Then, complete your list.

Compose a brief letter of introduction of yourself as an authentic, endorsed staff member in charge of music for your parish/cathedral, and what music resource of the publisher from which the list was culled. Then copy and paste in your list to the letter. Perhaps you might want to preface the letter after the introduction with some “happy talk” expressing your own appreciation for what the publisher does, and the dedication we all expend together in helping the Faithful, etc.

Then before summarizing, here’s the kicker- make sure you then suggest what specific items you would find most beneficial that would replace those 10-25 pages of “system-fail” pieces with items from resources already in the catalogue of the publisher. For example using OCP, if I were to list every song from Carey Landry or Tom Conry as defunct, I would offer that the space allotted those would be filled by the Entrance and Communion Propers by Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB already typeset in modern notation and, more importantly, in their mainframe servers! Or, the entire contents of “Laus Tibi,” OCP’s little pamphlet of round note chant greatest hits. If you are a little more daring, you could mention that so much chant (in Latin, English and increasingly Spanish) is now freely available in the Commons 3, that if they were so inclined, the editors could contact the author/composers for reprint permission that is already gratis.
Now, you put that into both an email and snail mail forms and forward it to the publisher first, in OCP’s case, John Limb, and then every other editorial board member and others (such as Bari Columbari) and even influential folks like Randy DeBruyn or Chris Walker with a heartfelt salutation, prayers and hope for fruitful consideration.
That’s it, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ve already done this. Perhaps some of you also have done something like it as well. But imagine if the entire readership of just the CMAA blogs were to send such “Dear John” letters…. The publishers would ignore them at their own peril I like to think.
If you’re pessimistic about all this, that’s okay by me. But I ask you before moving on and away from this proposal, try to imagine all around OCPLand parishes, when the musical Powers That Be open the next year’s “Breaking Bread” and find all sorts of chants mixed in among all the option four stuff that remains, IMAGINE the message that will subliminally be injected into their sensibilities. Can it possibly hurt? Do harm? I think not.

4 Replies to “Can We Talk? With OCP?”

  1. OCP is a part of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Most Rev. Robert Sample has taken over as Archbishop of that diocese. The real question is, what has happened to OCP since Abp. Sample's installation?

  2. That is a compelling question, HVO.
    However, unless one is a direct stakeholder in the equation, either an active, communicating Catholic of the archdiocese or a client of a "subsidiary agency of relation" to the archdiocese, namely OCP, the point of my post is that concerned stakeholders should be asking these powers that be such questions directly, personally.
    The conversations we sling about on the interwebs have little to no effect upon realpolitick and the "economy" of the major publishers.

  3. What Psalter? The Big 3 all produces works that are deficient of all the Psalms needed for Mass. Most of them don't have enough Psalms to complete all of them! And the ones that they included as Psalms, a lot of them are difficult to sing without full accompaniment, or have gender-neutral pronouns dilly-dally, or are missing verses, or have made up verses, etc. 40+ years and they are still doing the same thing. This is no longer "confused about Vatican II" or "don't know what's going on" (incompetence doesn't excuse them, esp. they are making money out of all of this), but this is a clear bait-and-switch scam. And should be treated as such. No more funding. And no more support. With their level of revenue, if they are really listening and following to what the church is teaching on an Sacred Music, then they'll find their way back in no time. But in the meantime, we should spend our time, money, and energy on the authentic Sacred Music solutions.

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