The State of Church Singing – Interesting (and Lengthy) Interview with Benedict Sheehan

I’m posting this link to the Orthodox Arts Journal, so that some of us can see what’s right and wrong in another “musical house.” Benedict Sheehan teaches at St. Tikhon’s Seminary in Pennsylvian and is a composer and director with impeccable credentials. A new recording of his original works, “Till Morn Eternal Breaks” has just been released. You’ll also find some interesting discussion about the use of practicing Orthodox and non-Orthodox singers on the CD – all were professional and it sounds wonderful. You can hear three tracks for free on Sound Cloud.

He also has forthcoming a new edition of the standard chants needed for Orthodox services that is mostly in two parts (remember it has to be a cappella) with additional parts easily added, but he recognizes the diminished singer resources of many parishes. Especially in light of the collapse of music literacy teaching in the schools, all struggle to find singers who can actually read music. That has been my experience with the average Roman Catholic parish choir as well.

One point that struck me is his observation that poor quality music has become “the new norm.” And I would say that this is the case is the majority of American Roman Catholic churches.  Here’s the link:

The State of Church Singing

While this might seem like things are bad all around, it might also be consoling to know that everyone has similar problems.

For further consolation (and pure enjoyment), a YouTube of Sheehan’s setting of the Cherubic Hymn:

2 Replies to “The State of Church Singing – Interesting (and Lengthy) Interview with Benedict Sheehan”

  1. Fr. Sergius, often likes to quote—an important prayer said before the ambo—that, “God will sanctify those who love the beauty of His house.” Love, as we know, is not just how you feel about a thing—it has to be acted on. Love is not a feeling but an action.

    A true money-quote, MJB, thank you for this article. Form may follow function, but beautiful form leads to the sublime. (Does that make sense?)

  2. Many Churches put the singers up front to give the illusion that the congregation is singing. Look back behind the first several rows and most folks have checked out. But the pastor and his team are happy! I was a cantor for 40 years. What a waste of my time. Ironically when we used chants (whether in English or in Latin) the congregation sang the best

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