Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Particular Response to "The Proper Place of Mass Propers"

This is a reprint to a thread started in the Musica Sacra forum, and which co-relates to an article I've yet to read by Jeffrey Tucker in the current Summer 09 issue of "Sacred Music."

Those of us "here at CMAA" and many others obviously have crossed a perceptual threshold regarding the myriad issues of how liturgy is best conducted, performed and prayed. And we see some form of beatific vision that we believe we can enact both locally and universally. Around here, we seem to have agreed that such vision requires us to freely "care enough to FREELY SHARE our very best" with our musical gifts and talents. The issues that Jeffrey has so eloquently and repeatedly emphasized regarding IP and creative commons v. copyright restrictions is at the crux of the dilemma of the "proper place."
Discussions over the years with my pastors and vicars about these issues result, at best, with some sort of resignation to keep the status quo of the major publishers' newsprint worship aides. Why? IMO, simply because of our penchant and addiction for the convenient fix. Priests and musicians agree that this or that solution might be more "ideal," but the TPTB hold sway that (for example, currently) the Missal and Psalter texts will soon change, the English translations and chanted settings await promulgation, logistically in this economy we have neither the strategical or personnel resources to abandon the leaflet missals for weekly handouts, much less the stomach required that would demand more coherency of music selection on the part of disparate musical leaders, etc., yada, and so forth.
Now before countering with the absolutely perfect suggestion that the answer lies in the easy switch to a PBC or the Gregorian Missal, we have to look back to the other side of the threshold and see that modern American worship reflects modern American values that have held sway despite the parodies of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Madmen."
To me, interestingly the Liturgical Press Company offers two contrasting examples of how a fairly large business enterprise has tried to solve this problem of "proper place" with distinctively different approaches. BY FLOWING WATERS is generally acknowledged as one of noblest attempts to organically reintroduce many of the ideals of the "Mahrt" paradigm into parish worship, and was so salutated. And a couple of years ago the same company introduced PSALLITE, which as far as I'm aware didn't even make it up an eighth of the length of the proverbial flagpole. They (with no disrespect to Dr. Ford or the other editors) along with the Adoremus Society's first hymnal edition, the Collegeville Hymnal, and others basically operate in the "niche market" level of the worship aide economy.
So, where will the "proper place for propers" actually end up being? Hopefully, through some sort of near-miraculous collaboration of the USCCB/BCL, NPM, CMAA, other stakeholders with the "Industrial Liturgical Complex" of so villified recent memory. Gasp, "Do you suggest that BREAKING BREAD actually could continue to prosper with the inclusion of select settings of the Propers printed in their correct locations (ala Gregorian Missal) or as a sequential section, alongside the requisite hymns, songs, psalm settings and Ordinaries? Well, do you, Charles?" Ready now for the Bride to cold-cock me, I do. What's more, remembering that most of us do not work anywhere's remotely near the existential territory of St. John Cantius, I believe that because of our inherent preferential option for the convenient, the conventional wisdom still resides in Portland and Chicago; and that was why the USCCB walked away from the Pandora's Box a few November plenaries ago and deferred the "white list" of texts to those Sees. (Incidentally, having Francis Cardinal George preside at colloquium gave me much more hope in this regard. I can live with that.)
Whether or not, once the texts of the Missal and Psalter are released, each parish invests in a hardbound or newsprint missal/hymnal, TPTB that have more muscle and influence over tptb will have convinced those publishers to advance the works of the Ford's, Weber's, Kelly's, Ostrowski's, Rice's et al for inclusion within their main product offerings.
Then progress will be made real in the hands and sight of the celebrants and the faithful.
I know this vision falls short of the real paradigm, an optimally fuller return to the tradition of the chant and augmentation of same through the beauty of polyphony.
But I can't see any other macro-systematic way to further this process along.

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