“What Has Happened to Sacred Catholic Music?”

An article in the Catholic Stand, (a new-to-me website, but I’m always the last to know….) which includes an interview with our Kathy Reinheimer. (Many of the Chant Cafe’s readers will know her from Colloquia.)

Go read it all, but this struck me, what with all the conversation of late about church musicians abruptly fired/forced out.

[Kathy:] “I am seeing bright spots of scholae popping up all over the country.”

HL: “It still depends on the local bishop.”

Kathy: “My choir… operates at the pleasure of the bishop even though we are an independent 501c3, all he would have to do is send out a notice to all the parishes that Regina Pacis is no longer welcome and we would be done, just like that.  Bless his heart he has chosen to not do that, but there are other places that have not been as fortunate.

We must remember to count our blessings, making our prayers of thanksgiving not just petition, (I am speaking to myself here…)

8 Replies to ““What Has Happened to Sacred Catholic Music?””

  1. You could insert "the parish priest" and that comment would also be accurate.

  2. Instead of "bishop" or instead of "church musician"? ;o)
    I ask because, yes, pastors in a parish situation may fire the MD unilaterally, but there have also been some well-known, (and well-loved,) priests in the Catholic blogosphere trying to do right by God's Liturgy, who received their walking papers from their bishop or provincial.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  3. A schola which is dedicated to singing Gregorian Chant (the music uniquely proper to the Roman liturgy, see SC) does not operate at the 'pleasure of the local bishop'. Its function is essentially ex opere operato and no bishop has the authority to gainsay it. My experience (in England) is that there are more priests wanting to celebrate the sung EF than there are singers (and servers) to accommodate it, and that still leaves the larger question of reintroducing chant, including English chant, to the OF (it should have been addressed in 1965 but wasn't, hence the dire situation regarding parish music in the UK and North America).

    There are no bishops in England and Wales at present who would dictate a particular form of music in their dioceses, although the Diocese of Lancaster in 2011 strongly encouraged the use of the missal chants. This of course works both ways since it means they tolerate a lot of dire stuff; but those of us who promote a more authentic style are not going to be impeded by the hierarchy. Resistance is usually at grassroots level by middle-aged and middle-class parishioners who even if they are themselves musical, leave their critical faculties in the church porch. They sing what they have been used to singing over the past 40 years. In the more modern hymns they sing along without even knowing or caring what the words mean (and quite often they mean nothing at all).

    Ironic, since the whole idea of introducing the vernacular was to make liturgical texts more readily understandable.

  4. Pope Paul VI's seemingly contradictory approach to doctrine and worship can be cause for "sadness and perhaps even for bewilderment". His various statements make him seem both satisfied and dissatisfied with the exact same developments, developments which, apparently, he both enacted and deplored. God bless him, but it's no wonder we're all confused about everything in the Church. Two sincere and well-informed Catholics can read the official texts of his day but come to opposing conclusions. It's all just very puzzling.

  5. As for "church musicians abruptly fired/forced out", I wonder if it would be helpful for new pastors to receive training to work with people who have an "artistic temperament". I know that this personality trait is often involved in conflicts between the pastor and choir masters/mistresses, so that whatever gains could be made in parish music quickly get bogged down in conflicting personalities. I know this subject is a touchy one, but I also know of several cases where the "artistic personality" was a determining factor in the firing or dismissal. In each case, musical style was the surface issue, but dialogue just became impossible due to the personality issue.

  6. In the 1960s and 1970s there were indeed music directors who were forced out and choirs disbanded because they wished to preserve the Church's musical heritage. This was particularly unfortunate in England since the Established Church, while it embraced modern liturgical styles, had no intention of ditching its choral tradition and even extended it to embracing Catholic music (in Latin). The minority Catholic Church gleefully threw away most of what it had.

    Paul VI in 1969 seemed willing to sacrifice even Gregorian Chant to achieve something he insisted the Council wanted. A few years later he appeared to be backtracking but it was far too late. His long pontificate brought the Church to the brink of destruction (which he himself seems to have recognized, which arouses our compassion but does not exculpate him). For those of us who lived through these times, Pope Francis's inconsistencies and maverick utterances are but small beer.

  7. In the 60s there were attempts at English Gregorian chant; they received little encouragement and did not last. It is difficult to understand why. I know that the CMAA was against them. And yet, probably the greatest obstacle was the juggernaut of the four-hymn sandwich, which obviated the need for any proper chants at all.

  8. Yes, indeed. It's easy for a priest who opposes the Roman liturgical tradition to suppress its elements, but it's hard for a priest who supports this tradition to promote its elements, at least in most USA parishes.

Comments are closed.