“Novus Quodlibet: The New Whatever Liturgy”

A most interesting piece by the great Anthony Esolen, in Crisis Magazine .
This kind of discussion of music and the Catholic liturgy from someone whose main area of expertise is NOT music thrills me, the way the more “inside baseball” of the CMAA sometimes fails to, (the literal “preaching to the choir.”)
It reminds me of when another noted Catholic writer, blogger Amy Welborn, “discovered” the existence of the Propers.
Heck, it remind me of when I “discovered” the propers, the GIRM, the actual Church legislation on music, what VCII actually said about liturgy; as an adult, I’d always, to my shame, thought it was simply a matter of Taste/No Taste, Good Music/Bad Music, that was all that needed to be imparted to TPTB.
And of course that’s not it at all.
And this is crazy important. That other voices, not just those who are also raised in liturgical song, be added to the movement, that we find allies who realize the crisis in the Church is a crisis in the Liturgy, and the crisis in the Liturgy is a crisis most clearly demonstrated in the way most Catholics think about music in the Liturgy.

Then comes the hymn.
Here I am three and four times cursed.
I have read and taught poetry all my adult life. This is one curse. I know English grammar. That is a second curse. My family and I are versed in the long tradition of Christian hymnody; we collect hymnals from all traditions, and we have sung one or two thousand of them, sometimes in languages other than English. This is a third and most terrible curse. And we know our Scripture. Cursed a fourth time, cursed and damned to writhe in eternal pain. Well, not eternal. The pain is transient but real—pain mingled with frustration and disappointment, that well-meaning people should give their talents and energies to stuff that is so worthless, and sometimes worse than worthless. For sometimes it is flat-out heresy.
Well, I won’t sing heresy, and I won’t sing chloroform for the brain, and this means that I hardly ever sing at such Masses…What strikes me, though, is the general liturgical lassitude. I don’t mean that there is not often a lot of energy, with drums, verses projected on the wall, and sometimes applause. I mean that there’s no plan to it, no aim. You are as likely to sing the peculiarly awful “Gather Us In”—well, that’s an onion, sorry—during Advent as in the middle of the summer, and if the choristers, or the lady at the piano, or the tenor at the organ likes it, you may be singing it twenty times a year. The hymns are chosen by the musicians for the same reason as the cartoon-like banners on the wall. Somebody who has wangled his way into the works likes them.
If you go to Mass every Sunday and every holy day during the year, and if four hymns are sung at each Mass, this gives you the opportunity to sing over two hundred different hymns. Need I say that, outside of the Christmas carols and three or four old Easter hymns, the typical Novus Quodlibet church boasts a repertoire of eight or nine? The same, the same, the same, like the drip, drip, drip of cold rain, without meaning, without artistic coherence, and without any feint toward the whole of the liturgical year and the history of salvation.
Many of them are narcissistic, rather like “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. “Let us build the City of God,” really? I cannot build the City of God. I can be made, by God, into a stone for the building of that spiritual city, but the action is his, not mine. “We have been sung throughout all of history”? I haven’t been sung even once in my whole life

Somebody, get him to Philly for the Colloquium next year.

Sacred Music at Dunwoodie

If this has already been posted I apologize,  but the summer sacred music courses at Dunwoodie sound too good to miss.
The principles of Sacred Music program would be of benefit to virtually anyone in parochial music, including, (shh… don’t tell anyone I said this,) Praise & Worship or  liturgical “folk” musicians

Almost  indubitably anyone reading this already knows of Jenny Donelson, oops, sorry, Dr. Jennifer Donelson, but if you don’t I can’t recommend her highly enough as a teacher, (a break-out session she gave at a CMAA Colloquium about liturgical Sequences is one of my highlights of over a decade of Colloquia.)
An interesting facet of one offering is the online/on campus components, and omigosh you underpaid Church musicians! Just LOOK at the inexpensive room and board, (I don’t suppose they have enough room for the colloquium ever?)

New FSSP Recording

This is from the Catholic News Agency.

Tucked away in the low, rolling hills of eastern Nebraska is Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary, the international school for English-speaking seminarians of the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), a Roman Catholic group of priests dedicated to celebrating the traditional Latin Mass….
For their first album, the priests and seminarians chose to record the chants of the Requiem Mass, Latin for ‘rest’ – the funeral Mass in the Latin rite.The album Requiem, produced in collaboration with De Montfort Music and Sony Classical, will be available May 12 on Amazon. De Monfort Music specializes in chant, polyphony and all areas of sacred music with a concentration on singing orders and communities well trained in this repertoire.

I’m not certain this –

Although most people know the Requiem via the celebrated version by Mozart, the composer was himself inspired by Gregorian chant, explained Fr. Zachary Akers, music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, in a press release.

 is accurate.
(Woeful numbers of people hear Sarah Brightman in their heads at the mere mention of the word, requiem.)

Fr. Garrick Huang, co-music director of The Fraternity and a singer on Requiem, noted that Gregorian chant is thought to have roots both in the ancient Western and Eastern cultures, creating a sounds that is a cross-section of many cultures….
While the music, and the black vestments of the priests during a Requiem Mass, inspire natural feelings of sadness and mourning, there is also present an element of hope.
“It’s not a morbid sadness because we have hope that God is merciful and that he will bring this soul to heaven,” Fr. Akers said. “The calmness of the chant reveals a spirit of rest or repose, which is what the very word requiem means.”

Pope Francis on Liturgical Music in Recent Decades:Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed

…if we can call things of the past fifty years recent, which, on the scale of the Church’s existence, they are.

A conference,  entitled “Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram” was
organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“The encounter with modernity and the introduction of [vernacular] tongues into the Liturgy stirred up many problems: of musical languages, forms and genres….We need to promote proper musical education, especially for those who are preparing to become priests – in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas, and with an ecumenical attitude.”

(From his mouth to God’s ear, and the ears of bishops and rectors of seminaries.) 

A common topic of discussion in the most progressive* liturgical music circles is how greater emphasis on an “ecumenical” use of hymnody could have spared, at least those of us in the English-speaking world, from much ugliness and banality inflicted in the name of “getting the people to sing,” no?

(Side note: this is the first time I’ve ever read the phrase “liturgical animators” except as a quotation from older, past-their-sell-by-date sources.)

* I mean, of course, the authentically progressive.

An Auricular Fast

A very interesting idea over at Ninevah90, (about which I have no opinion, and little knowledge, but i think the title tells it all) regarding a musical and aesthetic “palate cleansing,” the better to approach discernment, in matters musical, yes, but without reading more on the site yet, I believe in all things pertaining to the life of Faith.

even most dedicated Christians have lives that are too noisy, too suffused in music and media, and lacking in aesthetic discernment. Aesthetic discernment is important because it allows us to develop gates and strongholds to our inner lives, the very gates and strongholds that are antithetical to modern approaches to “entertainment.” In short, we want to grow up spiritually in regards to music and media as well.

Anyone know Mark Nowakowski?

Music for this Blessed Christmastide

I know he has been mentioned before, if not here, then on the MusicaSacra fora, and if you’re anything like I, items that should be of interest don’t always register if they are not immediately useful for whatever pressing need one feels as a musician, but….

Oh, my, Phillip Stopford!!!!!

As it happens, having no duties, or responsibility, or work as a musician, m musical needs are rather limited right now.
It being that time of year, some Crusaders for Life sang Phillip Stopford’s heartbreakingly appropriate lullaby for the Holy Innocents at the state capitol building in Illinois.
And it being that time of year, (I don’t know about you, but my creche and tree have another week to go….) it remains appropriate. It was a joy to discover this composer, like receiving one last Christmass present, because…

Oh, my, Phillip Stopford!!!!!

“What is a Hymn and What’s it For?

Missed this from early November, (hmm…. what is it that could have had me distracted? can’t remember,) by Father Dwight Longenecker, blogging at Patheos.
He is, because of his background, perhaps a little hymnocentric, but he makes some good points. (And he gets to the right place eventually, though not, perhaps, for the right reason.)

Since moving here ten years ago I’m still having some problems with music. Part of it is my problem. I spent fifteen years in the Anglican Church with the New English Hymnal–which is probably the finest hymnbook ever published in the English language. Musically and liturgically it was the best that traditional Anglicanism had to offer.
…My problem is that I am actually unfamiliar with most of the music in American Catholic Churches because I have lived abroad for so long.
However, what I do experience is not encouraging. Who on earth is writing these hymns, publishing these hymns and choosing to buy, prepare and perform these hymns? Doesn’t anybody know what a hymn is for?
Surely a hymn is first, and foremost part of our worship. That means the words are words that we use to address our praise, adoration and worship of God. So much of the stuff I come across isn’t that at all. Instead it is sentimental language in which God talks to us to reassure us, make us feel better and comfort or inspire us. So…”Be not afraid…for I am always with you…Come follow me.. etc” This may be a pleasant enough devotional song to remind us of God’s promises, and there may be times when it is appropriate to sing such songs, but Mass is not one of those times. We’re not really at Mass to sing God’s comforting words to ourselves. We’re there to worship Him….the Mass is meant to take us to the threshold of heaven; if it is meant to be a glimpse of glory and a participation in the worship of the spheres of heaven itself, why then the sentimental, sweet and comforting songs just won’t do. They wont’ do not because they are bad or untrue, but because they are not good and true enough. Worship that takes us to the threshold of glory needs to be, well…glorious….not all parishes can manage to have a grand organ, a paid organist and a fine choir. True, and that’s why the church recommends Gregorian Chant.