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. 

13 Reasons Even a Member of a Mega-Church Could Never Buy Into P & W

And most of his reasons for eschewing so-called ‘contemporary’ worship give evidence of its equal unsuitability to our Catholic worship, the superficiality, the manipulation, commercialism, over-emphasis on the performer…
Jonathan Aigner, a Methodist musicians, writes at “Ponder Anew” on the Evangelical “channel” at Patheos, (a site I mostly avoid because something about it provokes intense dyspepsia in my computer, so be warned)
The common Catholic variation on his number three objection seems even more egregious, ISTM:

I never joined because it comes from the wrong sources. The best of the church’s hymnody was written by pastors and theologians. It was crafted by poets and scholars. The result are texts of high quality. But the industry in its quest to be marketable only has room for marketable people who write marketable songs. It entrusts sacred storytelling to many with dubious credentials as artists, poets, or theologians.

Some of the most widely published, shilled and used “Catholic” songs, (they are often not really hymns,) are the work of, not dubiously credentialed theologians, but OTHER-credentialed theologians, people who cannot possible create texts which reflect our Catholic beliefs because they do not share our Catholic beliefs.
Some of these at least have the integrity not to claim to be Catholic, but nominally Catholic or not, some seem to me to seek to change Catholic teaching by inserting their own “sung theology” into our liturgies.

Anyway, interesting piece.
(The combox has an insight into the whys and wherefores of judging an appropriate volume for the, uh…. band.)

“The Sacred Liturgy Exists to Glorify God, Not Man”

Monsignor Charles Pope looks at funerals, and the misguided approach that has so damaged the Faith, (actually I could say it has, “Damaged the Liturgy, Damaged the World,”) and with which I’m sure, many of us in sacred music have had to contend.

There are many problems, both sociological, and liturgical, that combine to create an environment that not only obscures Catholic teaching on death, but often outright contradicts it.

He identifies four major issues.
Confusion about the purpose of a funeral can, lead to such situations as

  people arriv[ing] at the parish to plan a funeral, presuming that the funeral should be all about “Uncle Joe,” [and since] Uncle Joe’s favorite song was My Way… we want a soloist to sing it at the funeral.

I’ll admit I have played and sung music at funerals and memorials of which I am not proud…. you?

Inquiry Regarding a Capital Idea

I noticed in the lovely Introit hymn Kathy Pluth provided for the new memorial of Pope St. John Paul, one line would be completely indecipherable…
And made His gifts in him increase
… and the whole rather confusing, were it not for her utilization of the venerable custom of capitalizing personal pronouns referring to the Godhead, members of the Trinity, the Church as Bride of Christ, etc.

Quick poll, do you use this method to render a bit of extra reverence to the Lord?
If so, in conversational writing, (bloggage, memos to your pastor,)  and/or more formal matters, (essays for publication, poetry, hymns.)
I had a third grade child once tell me how happy he was that I had gone through all copies of a psalm we were singing from The Dread Gather and “corrected” the psalm verses, because “it makes God important.”

I’m curious, does anyone know when and why this stopped being the general custom of the Church, at least in English?
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the Vatican website observes the tradition. Paul VI, or the Vatican on his behalf, does in Humanae Vitae, but not in at least one motu proprio, St John Paul not at all, I think, (please correct me if that’s wrong.)

I was going to check a few hymnals, and then I remembered that GIA tried to excise all male pronouns anyway….

Even That Free-Spirit, St Francis of Assisi Knew Liturgy Called For Splendor

On the eve of St Francis’ feast day, an interesting interview in the National Catholic Register with a professor of sacred music at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. He touches on music at the University, and music in the Franciscan tradition. (I don’t think I knew that Jacopone da Todi was Franciscan.)

Franciscan University has a vibrant musical life. There are two university choirs: the Schola Cantorum Franciscana and University Chorale. A small army of volunteer students leads and participates in bands and choirs, which provide musical leadership for multiple daily and Sunday Masses in the chapel. We have at least two student-led a capella, groups in addition to a string quartet; and, of course, it’s never hard to find a student playing a guitar outside on a sunny day. There are many forms of music here, for various times and places. “Diverse and healthy” is how I would describe it.
For liturgical music specifically, there are few places I’m aware of that have a similar program. If you walk into Christ the King Chapel here, you’re likely to hear one of two different types of song — chant-polyphony and classic English hymnody or guitar-led “praise and worship,” music with compositions that are both more recent and more Catholic. What’s conspicuously lacking is music from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, which is so common in American Catholic parishes.

 Not certain I get this – “praise and worship” music that is “more Catholic” than what? than the “chant-polyphony”? or than the stuff of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that he mentions in the next sentence?

Anyone familiar with and care to comment on the musical praxis at Steubenville?