Friday, July 10, 2009
"Charles, you ignorant _____ !"
The following dovetails from the previous post. Over at MSF, Ian W, posed the following: "There are many of us working very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." (quoting an excerpt of mine)
Is it a matter of restoration, or of working towards the ideal in our generation? That is, was there ever a time when it was normal to hear the ordinary and the propers sung in a parish church, outside of the magic circle of those places where professional musicians have gathered? I ask partly out of historical interest, and partly for practical reasons. There's a world of difference between saying: we should do this because it is the ideal; and we should recover the practice of our forebears.
Ian, though I try to parce my words so as to best reflect my ideas, I see your point. As to the matter of restoration, I can only say the following- at this moment of my 40 years as a practicing Catholic, "restoration" for me means seeking to redress the denigration of worship by a incipient and proliferating culture of egotism. This culture is manifested in many more ways than music- constant chattering, Masses as photo-ops, lay and clerical ministers unwilling to subsume themselves in how they conduct their offices at worship in order to lead and direct our attentions fully eastward, et cetera ad nauseum. From my view, not in the loft, the tension between anthropocentric and theocentric worship isn't really all that tense in American parish life; "Sing a newchurch into being" is a reality that compels many of us to work "very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." Historical interest is only useful in that it should inform us in this work in this moment. The ideals, we trust, have been conchorded and canonized over more than 2000 years of organic practice; even though we can compare and contrast the geneological branches of liturgical forms, the vine and trunk are founded in worshipping the Creator in whose presence we should be both ever humble and grateful, as He provided us alone with the greatest gift in the universe, His Son and the sacrificial offering of Himself for the final remission of human sinfulness.
I remember my Master's mentor professor exclaiming that the scholas of the renaissance were unequivocally superior artistically to any of our own era. I questioned the logic, not to mention hubris, of such a declaration. Now, 22 years later I don't see any value in even discussing that issue, even as an artistic concern. Whether or not the Brudieu Requiem was sung "better" 400 years ago than it was a few Saturdays ago is supremely irrelevant. That it was sung that all present could enfold their faith with those souls of the deceased CMAA members in the living act of the Supper of the Lamb (thank you, Dr. Hahn and Fr. Keyes) was the sole and exiquisitely sublime, humble raison d'etre.
Now contrast that with most of the modern funerals for which many of us provide music assistance- the line between praising and remembering the deceased soul and the anamnesis that enjoins us to pray and praise God for the promise of salvation is generally very blurred. Same with weddings, confirmations, first communions....you get the picture.
I've hit that moment where I realize my bluster has outlived its stay. But I'll conclude with this- I looked over the pamphlet for a prominent "Liturgical Conference" held annually on an island state of the U.S. yesterday. One of the two keynote speakers for this year's event is retired bishop, Abp. Remi DeRoo of Vancouver, a self-proclaimed evangelist for the Spirit of Vatican II. As a curiosity, I'd invite anyone to google the archbishop's name, read a link to an interview (2002) in (then-named) Modern Liturgy and take in his contentions about what exactly were the pre-eminent concerns of the council and how they've not been realized in liturgy. And if you buy all that, I'll give you my Tom Conry LP which features "Anthem."