Saturday, September 29, 2012

Why the children at Fatima? Who else would get it?

Yeah, I guess suicide's not so attractive a read, unless we're talking that of Western Civilization. Everyone has an opinion on that one.
But, everyone (even Kierkegaard) had at some point ask themselves "Why I am still on this planet?" Or this plane, this dimension, this veil of tears. Whatever.
Well, just look in the eyes of the nearest bunch of children, especially any that you have even the slightest influence over their maturation.
I have that privilege. Maybe that's what's kept me hopeful and definitely not disconsolate. We did the last formal rosary before our parochial celebration of Our Lady of Fatima tomorrow. Most of the music we will use at the Fatima Mass was arranged by me, Portuguese folk songs and hymns that I've somewhat fiddled with or actually amplified their qualities towards perceived or confected choral legitmacy. (What's that?)
But from our Kindergartners to the Eighth Bell Choir, such unaffected love and joy eminates. Yes, towards me, but they know I serve the Bigger Mr. C, Christ the Lord. God help me, I pray they eventually stay with the faith to know that as big as Mr. C was, Christ is Lord, King, Savior, who emptied Himself by reminding us to suffer these little ones, to call them to us, to be one of them always.
It is important.
That is to know that God our Father, through our BVM, with whom every woman who's ever breathed air has shared a unique burden and joy, gave us Baby Jesus, who was shortly recalled as a precocious gadabout lecturing rabbini in the Temple, only then to be rightly scolded by Mom (and maybe daddy J as well!)
We're all subs. Models. Exemplars. And we are children still while grown. We want joy and peace. Why? Because that is Eden, nature as intended. We are not automatons of past intelligentia posing as prophets of politics over peace.
That's what I was thinking of during the decades of tonight's Fatima Rosary. The One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church. There is no other. Christ is Alpha, gaudete! Christ is Omega, laetare.
How can you keep from singing:
A treze de Maio....

Friday, September 28, 2012

What awaits in the desert

Another day in the valley (of the shadow…). Our little French bulldog just over a year goes “under the knife” for a likely ingested tennis ball fragment. My grandsons’ great-grandmother passed away last night and the boys came to school and school Mass was “perfect.” But their other grandmother, not my wife, is still dealing with the effects of major surgery and chemotherapy for her own battle with cancer. We celebrate “Our Lady of Fatima” formally this weekend. I doubt that one percent of anyone connected with the “celebration” have any clue how serious the apparitions she made still remain. But I pray that all the prep and good will (thousands are fed freely) will not only benefit our school fiscally, but somehow touch souls desperately in need of some sign of hope that, indeed, all will be well. Or, in the interim, this, too, shall pass. Between the school Mass this morning, a true occasion of God’s grace and power through our children, and going back to the school for the final Rosary “pilgrimage” rehearsal, I happened to tune into Fox News’ ‘Studio B with Shepard Smith” broadcast. -Some people think Smith is some sort of faux or pod person “antebellum” talking head. I don’t share that view. He’s pretty much like me, though younger. He’s simply interested in reporting what comes across his media “desk.” And he freely admits to having certain “Jone’s” of news preferences; like the hijacking and car chase that occurred in downtown Phoenix today. I would imagine Shepard was somewhat of age when, on the occasion of our 25th anniversary Wendy and I managed to enjoy and celebrate that milestone whilst the infamous O.J. Simpson chase was broadcast live. Just one surreal day after another, apparently since then. But the fascination with car chases that is as unavoidable as rubber-necking any traffic mishap has taken on great magnification since O.J. But this is about a car chase. This is about the tragedy of yet another soul whose name won’t even register as much Q as Trayvon Martin or the name of the Aurora theatre shooter. Do you remember his name? It was in the news cycle briefly today. Holmes. And another “guy” just shot up five people in the Twin Cities less than 24 ago. No one will even “get” his name, save the surviving families, because the body count is now, “low.” Back to our car-jacking guy. He maxes out on the 10, unhindered apparently by AHP, and goes off the grid save for the helo’s and ends up on dirt roads, non-threatening surface roads, until finally he ends up on some desert (think also about deserted) road. Probably out of gas like Shepard predicted. He get out of the “low class” Dodge Calibre he jacked, does a little duck and roll, cover and rebound and then runs, as if on script, to some coverlet of brush, back to the helo cameras, and puts one squarely above his right ear. There’s an interminable interval of time, you can’t even fake it like in movies, until his body reacts and falls forward into the grit of the desert. “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani?” was likely not on his mind. Did the presence of mind leave his being some time ago? No one will ever know for sure. I can say that with absolute assurance. My dad chose that path. So have other dads of friends I hold dear. I’m not part of any “survivors” group with a name. I’m part of that ignominious club that has some interest in trying to get people like Judas Iscariot. I don’t think that, when it comes to suicide, it’s a matter of how “they” got so disconsolate, but when their disconsolation was fired into despair beyond despair. There’s no indictment over survivors’ failure to interdict, intervene. People choose their paths. And the kindest thought I can muster is that sometimes they choose paths that, whether they can foresee or not, possible outcomes, they then choose not to act, but simply react. So, this is the elegy for the young punk whose fifteen Warhol minutes ended up in Sheperd yelling “Cut, cut, cut away….” Sheperd has a heart that is true and on course. But none of us can delay what we cannot foresee. And now we have cell phones and chase helo’s and drones/satellites that can nail us before we’re even aware that we’re conscious. That’s why this kid’s soul and all those of the faithful departed need the “Dies irae” prayed over them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pro-Choice in Worship Music, Part the Second

More or less in response to Jeffrey Tucker's reprint of a Cafe article in this week's "Crisis" online magazine article....

What Jeffrey Tucker passionately pleads for is undeniably truthful and would, in an ideal world stuff the plethora and panopoly of post-conciliar problems back into the Pandora's box. But, as I've reminded him elsewhere, more light and truth need to be shared with both the professionals and the pew people who root for his vision to prevail. The whole truth and nothing but this truth is that the endgame always remains the Latin Graduale Romanum. So far, so good. However, as has been correctly pointed out in these comments already, the Church has been down this rocky road at least twice in its liturgical history- Trent and "Tra le sollecitudini." And the "ideal" solution wafts away soon like incense, save for some remarkably beautiful, exceptional adherents in alpine monasteries, small parishes in Palo Alto, San Diego, Auburn et al, and in small colleges where folks like Dr. Ed Schaefer and others have chosen and been providentially endowed the privilege of implementing the ideal. But back in real, unwashed catholicland, there is a sort of renaissance that approaches the ideal and endgame with the burgeoning catalogue of "chant-based" book resources, the most notable examples in the U.S. including the forerunner "By flowing waters" (1999, Dr. Paul Ford), The American Gradual (Pr. Bruce E. Ford), The Simple English Propers (2011, Mr. Adam Bartlett), The Vatican II Hymnal (2011, Mr. Jeffrey Ostrowski), The Lumen Christi Missal (2012, Bartlett), as well as many other similar "solutions" over the years by Frs. Weber and Kelly, Dr. Tietze etc. The dilemma remains: are these bridges or terminal destination resources for people that must negotiate vastly different worship cultures armed only with the meager knowledge that the popular culture has ensnared upon them? And what's more, we've been here before. What little liturgical reform resulted from Trent was soon forgotten upon the fraternal twin horns of baroque opera forms and an opposite extreme, the singmesse. After 1903 resources such as the Rossini Propers and the Palmer Burgess Gradual hardly made pervasive dents in the now well-ensconsed "hymn sandwich" mentality. We in the church music biz ARE STILL COMPELLED to have to CHOOSE what elixar product will be the parish remedy or poison? You can't still "make this stuff up." For most of us this "wonderful variety" of choice remains a sort of potential "Russian roulette" revolver wherein each chamber is loaded with one of those "silver bullet" solutions I listed above. We can get the pastor's permission to pull the trigger and still not know if we will survive or thrive afterwards. The Latin Mass, OF and EF, and the Gradua Romanum (or Gregorian Missal) remain the only "true" path in intellectual honesty here. We're always going to be in it for the long haul.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

To be "Pro Choice" in liturgical music? Yes, but how?

The Church has given us the music we need and it is found in the GRADUALE ROMANUM. Every piece is scripted for each part of Mass for the full liturgical year. Plus, we have new resources that enable people to sing this music in English, in much easier settings. This is what we ought to be shooting for.
Two years ago, I would have been certain that this book (LUMEN CHRISTI MISSAL) would have been far too cutting edge for American parishes. Today, maybe not. Regardless, we finally have a clear and achievable standard.

If the Psalm between readings at Mass makes your ears hurt, here is the ticket to peace: The PARISH BOOK OF PSALMS by Arlene Oost-Zinner. This one book has beautiful Psalms in the Gregorian style written for solo cantor or group, with full notated verses, for the entire liturgical year. Get a copy for every member of the choir. The Psalm is the oldest and most revered sung part of the Mass, and it deserves the right musical treatment in every parish
For years I’ve heard the lamentations. Why can’t Catholics seem to put together a decent hymnal? Our own schola in my parish does without. We now plan liturgy without any recourse to the hymnal. This has saved us endless hours of frustration over crazy music, bad theology in texts, terrible arrangements, goofy Psalms, pathetic Mass settings, and more. We are free, and now the Roman Rite speaks for itself.
I’ve not had much luck in persuading pastors of this opinion. Taking the hymn-free option does indeed require some degree of musical expertise. You have to be pretty savvy to know how to pull it off. Not everyone can do this. New pastors who don’t entirely trust their music staff still need a hymnal just to work as a filtering device, and many pastors believe that the people do indeed need something to look at during Mass.
In this case, I’m happy to report that after half a century, there is now a viable alternative. The book is the VATICAN II HYMNAL. It is published by Corpus (Christi) Watershed. This is not a big publisher. It is actually one person, and his name is Jeffrey Ostrowski. It offers an excellent selection of poetically and theologically robust hymns. And refreshingly, unlike most post conciliar hymnals, there are no self-referential pop-song imitations. The rest of the hymnal is filled out with a diversity of highly useful material.

The SIMPLE ENGLISH PROPERS provides music for the full liturgical action of these processions (Introit/Offertorio/Communio) for singers who have not previously sung Mass propers. They are designed to be used without accompaniment. They are flexible enough to be sung by a cantor alone or by a large choir that can sing in unison in two octaves or be divided into high and low voices. The people are free to join in but this is not necessary, for the propers of the Mass belong primarily to the choir.
All of these "mini" reviews were authored by the managing editor of the journal "SACRED MUSIC," Jeffrey Tucker, culled from reviews at MusicSacra Forum, the Chant Cafe and the introduction to one particular volume, the SIMPLE ENGLISH PROPERS.

The above five reviews represent the notion often mentioned (including from this author) that this era amounts to a watermark, better yet watershed(!) period in the history of our Church’s liturgical evolution. The most common expression amounts to something like “What a great time to be Catholic.” Why yes, thank you, it is.” But the difficult reality to grasp is that the five resources above, not to mention the amazing list of royalty-free resources (by and large) found at the Musica Sacra Home Page “Chant Books” section, presents the interested, then dedicated church musician with more than a plethora of options with which to fashion a new liturgical landscape, both ecology and economy, within the “normative” parish practices that can be, at the least, presumed to be antithetical at worst and apathetic often at best to yet another set of circumstances and personnel that “leadership” is convinced with result in “full, active and conscious participation” by the faithful. Long story short, pastors and parish administrators have a crew-cut vision of what all that means: it means they can hear the folks singing, period.

But those among us who’ve been “at this” for a long while know that such an assessment can be an indicator of both true and deceptively false perceptions of success.

Besides, there are finally analysis and conversations that, due to the instantaneous marvel of the internet, are laid before our eyes, ears and intellects that challenge us to reconcile the dissonance deeply embedded in our practices, i.e. “The hymn sandwich” (which doesn’t, ironically actually require the use of any formal hymns at all) and the use or abuse of the roles of the choir and cantor in modern, authentic worship music.

I won’t, in this post, elaborate further on the dilemma of choice represented by both these newer contenders for pastoral implementation in parishes above, much less those market driven and feature laden volumes that have dominated the American pew pockets for decades. But, it is important to note, in light of a very interesting chronology of liturgies directed by the eminent American scholar, Benedictine monk Fr. Anthony Ruff, currently at a conference in Europe, that the notion of unity of practice that appears to waft and have the same appealing fragrances of our ceremonial incense, may be a veritable mirage, both now, in the past and likely into the future. As I’m now in the twilight of a four decade vocation in worship music, I pray and work for coherence and consistency in the local fields with even more ardor than perhaps two decades ago, when I thought it expeditious to just cover the waterfront through eclecticism. But what I see is that the four or five decade long tenured Director of Music as exemplified by John Dunn, the late Msgr. Schuler, Roger Wagner and Paul Salamunovich, and most notably Professor William Mahrt, rare as their careers have already proven, represent a soon forgotten species. So I suppose what I’m saying is that the wisdom necessary to navigate through the above choices, their unique offerings as well as redundancies, will require not only intuitive young directors whom we have in abundance in CMAA, but those who will remain at their posts long enough to mentor generations of future, professed and learned musicians at service to the Church.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sorry, Sister, you're a bit late for the party....

I came across a link from Fr. Zed's place that he touted as a must read. So I poured through Rebuilding Catholic Culture: Church Music and the Fad of ‘Folk’ Style by Sr. Joan L. Roccasalvo, C.S.J.

I was immediately struck, stunned even, at how melodramatic her article began and that in light of the fact that she seemed to be in a time warp, somewhat like the Dude in the film "The Big Lebowski" who "just dropped by to see what condition my condition was in." I think many musicians had their Chicken Little revelation moment quite some years ago, and yet another trad screed wasn't really going add anything new to the conversation. Well, anyways I've done what I do, parced and fisked it, and you can choose to take it or leave it. Some excerpts.

I will never forget that moment! Flinging off his eyeglasses, he glared at me, “Sister, what have you done to our music!” I froze. It was my first year at NYU as a graduate student of musicology, and I was enrolled in Professor Gustave Reese’s course, Medieval and Renaissance Music. He was the world’s leading authority on these two musical periods. An American Jew, a Renaissance Man, he loved the sacred music of the pre-conciliar Church. In a sense, he was its custodian.

No, in no sense was Professor Gustave a custodian of the pre-conciliar musical traditions and treasury of the Church. As we will see, the tautology of a “golden age” or a quantifiable “treasury” of sacred music as “kept intact” before the Second Vatican Council will be reinforced by the obvious dissonance between enjoyers of the aesthetic properties of those traditions, and the enjoiners or practicioners of that tradition in an era that only existed in the theoretical realm by the time the council convened. In fact, that two musicologists would cite St. Pius X’s motu proprio, Tra le sollectiduni, as evidence of musical integration in favor of the pre-conciliar art forms is nonsense.

On the day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963, Beethoven’s second movement of the “Eroica” Symphony accompanied the cortege on its way to Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral. Beethoven had dedicated the symphony “to the memory of a fallen hero.”

And this, again, is a detrimental, faulty example that somehow links the majesty of the symphonic art form to the mystical power of elevating the human spirit towards the ethereal. Well the Beethoven might have done that somber day, but my memory more recalls the Mozart Requiem in Boston that served as a more “authentic” prayer for the repose of the soul of a dead president.

According to Sing to the Lord, the musical judgment of sacred music requires musical competence, (and) only artistically sound music will be effective and endure over time. To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, trite, or the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.

Here is another misunderstanding that is constructed as a smart missle aimed at late 20th century sacropop, that unfortunately could be retroactively applied to art forms that sister and the professor would endorse as fundamental and sound. I’ll even overlook the presumption that “musical competence” to her is confined to composition (rather than including performance!) That said, were the collected melodies of R.V.Williams, Gustav Holst, C. V. Stanford (in the U.K. only) among all the romantic era symphonic collectors, not legitimizing what theretofore was relegated to the public houses and bawdy crowd? Was “KINGSFOLD” or “HYFRYDOL” some noble and ancient tunes that lofted up proud and majestic prose. Or might such hymn texts of the equally great writers Wesley, Vaughn, Hopkins et al have been successfully wedded to the now formalized “cheap musical clichés” of which some serve as even National Anthems for major countries of the world? Yes, failure is quite possible and is to be excoriated, such as the recent, unfortunate redux of misappropriating so-called Celtic tunes such as LONDONDERRY and SKYE BOAT SONG in order to impose a faux impressionism of mysticism upon a newly minted and sellable product..

Below is a sampling of songs from the OCP:1) Trite music to accompany texts with little or no theological import: #332, Let Us Break Bread Together; #449, How Can I Keep from Singing; #376, Here I Am, Lord; #616, They’ll Know We Are Christians.2) Romanticized, saccharine melodies: #476, You Are Mine; #331, Taste and See; #359, I Receive the Living God; #438, Be Not Afraid; #442, On Eagle’s Wings; #522, Earthen Vessels.3) Songs with jerky, heavy, frenzied rhythms, or dance rhythms found in popular culture: #302, Gather Us In; #374, City of God; #447, Though the Mountains May Fall; #452, Blest Be the Lord; #495, Let There Be Peace on Earth, the perfect song for Bette Midler; #548, Sing to the Mountains, Sing to the Sea; #578, Sing a New Song Unto the Lord; #548 and #578 are cast in the style of a brindisi, a drinking song similar to that sung in Verdi’s La Traviata.

Sister is to be commended for actually disclosing clearly titled examples of songs that contribute to the perceived malaise, most critics actually just lump all the stuff as if into a compacter bin and press “crush.” However, this should be the one area where her expertise as a musicologist should wipe any patina off the fresh faces of any of these malefactor songs, and she actually makes a few blunders (IMO, of course) with her one liner disses. The lack of theological import in “Let us break bread together” is no small matter, she should have questioned its inclusion to great lengths. And if were one inclined to easily find the remarks made by the cardinal archbishop of New York at Fordham University this last week, I’m sure she’d feel a bit of Irish rebuke for her crankiness over “How can I keep from singing.” (Not to mention from hymnologist Alice Parker, DMA.) “I received the living God” is hardly a saccharine hymn, its roots are in the French "utilitarian/peoples'" tradition of Deiss, Berthier and Gouzes, not at all to be included in the usual suspects she otherwise mentions in that category. The use of “jerky…frenzied rhythms….” as disqualifiers for the last lot is almost comical to me; bringing up images of old black and white Merrie Melodies portraying cartoon Sambas in celluloid jungle settings, really? And the sea chantey discourse was pretty much hammered over by Tom Day two decades ago. Her list of popular rhythms is woefully out of date. Maybe she should google Fr. Stan Fortuna. But whatever, do not take her to a GaGa or Nicki Minage, or JayZee/Kanye West concert if she wants to know what’s truly popular in rhythms this era.

The ‘folk’ style used in the liturgy is written for guitar or non-organ accompaniment, and free style, off-the cuff improvisation is to be expected. The guitar needs to be defended. It is a serious instrument, not to be trivialized. Belonging to the lute family, the guitar is first and foremost a solitary, gentle, soft-spoken plucked instrument with limited sonority.

This will be the last of my fisking the commentary sister advances. If sister had really done her homework, around 1976-78, at the advent of the St. Louis Jesuits, songwriters such as John Foley S.J. (it would be inaccurate to deem them composers at that point of their careers, none were studied in the art and rubrics) very clearly articulated in their book collections the very opposite instructions or implications. They made it clear that their melodies were to be accompanied by guitarists who would adhere to an emerging pedagogy similar to both basso continuo or figured bass of the baroque tradition, and the lead sheet chordal nomenclature used in jazz. Now, that is not to say there isn’t a ring of truth to what sister says in that a vast majority of guitar “strummers” who had command of a grand total of about six chords in their lifetime chose to ignore that new pedagogy of complex chords, assigned bass note movement that was meant to “go somewhere” or what we call “voice leading.” But that eventually became a standard to which successive generations of contemporary composers adopted and specified. But to wholesale declare that no one for decades exacted a method beyond struma diddy strum strum and “They’ll know we are Christians” is an extremely impoverished or lazy account. And she does get it quite right in her last statement. The guitar can be used very seriously in this era, as its forebears were used in Venice during Monteverdi’s time. To sum up, despite the endorsement of this article, I would admonish the readers to reach far beyond these summations to those of a more eminent musicologist and, and, and, practicioner, Professor William Mahrt of Stanford University, present president of the Church Music Association of America. His recently debuted book, “THE MUSICAL SHAPE OF THE LITURGY” is truly, what I believe, critics of the perceived decay of our musical treasury should use a criteria for evaluation. And for some measure of balance, but much weightier tome, I’d recommend Fr. Anthony Ruff’s “SACRED MUSIC AND THE LITURGICAL REFORM” which argues from more varied perspectives the paths we can choose to take to improve our dire straights.

The Style Wars at our Schools-What to do?

This thread came up at Musica Sacra Forum the other day. A poster wrote:
The teachers at my school are complaining a bit about the music at Mass---too hard to sing, students aren't singing it, Kindergarteners can't read the hymnal, etc---and I've written a letter to my principal about the principles that motivate me. Teachers at a meeting today were suggesting Exalt, whatever that is, and other praise-chorus type stuff.The priest is (sic) no foolishness and backs me 100%, but I want to minimize grumbling among the staff. I want to make sure I make the case well for sacred music. To which another poster replied: "At my job I play for school Masses and the teachers take turns "planning" the liturgy. I get the list of songs each week that I am to play, and they are such classics as "This Little Light of Mine," "Shine Jesus, Shine" and "Table of Plenty." I pick my battles and this isn't one that I've bothered to fight yet."
If there’s one thing you can get liturgical conservatives to agree upon instantly, it’s that progressive improvement, or “brick by brick,” is best applied when towards the children and young people. As much as I, the choral director, take greatest pleasure in the ability to sing Palestrina or Tallis at a moment’s notice, the most important aspect of my “job” is to prepare our parochial kids, the RE kids (as much as I only interact with them directly one or two times per year) and the children attending Sunday Masses to become “singing Catholics.” However, in keeping with my “fail to plan” maxim, a school music teacher, assuming we’re talking primarily general music (singing/music reading) and choral classes, should be mindful of creating a very deliberate scaffolding of goals and strategies that accommodate the grade level learning skills of a K-8 school AND which also reinforce not just the attributes of “how to read, how to sing,” but also “what kind of music is worthy to be sung” and knowing the ritual moments which those music’s accompany. Happily I took advantage three curricular years ago to thoroughly examine and teach the elementary level kids (roughly 3rd-6th) the musical attributes of the three primary forms of music the church uses: chant, hymn and song. I don’t need to ruminate further upon that other than to say that they systematically had to identify those types when learning new material to be used at weekly Mass. So, when the third edition of the English Missal was coming, I was provided a platform to teach them Gloria XV in chant, which has paid dividends for the last three years every red day or Holy Day Mass. For Ordinary settings, I have chosen one unified setting specifically arranged for that broad grade level, with some aspects of easy acquisition for novice readers, and even Greek/Latin in non-chanted settings so they can make connections later on to Latin terms and chants in upper grades. For example, I took a Natalie Sleeth ecumenical Mass and “catholicized” it, using a very sweet descending 5-1 motif with “Agnus Dei, Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata mundi, Lamb of God, Lamb of God, have mercy on us.” From the 8th grade Bell choir to the kindergarten wee ones, full participation was not only possible, but achieved consistently. Make the Mass Ordinary, in whatever style you choose, geared towards beauty and worthiness as well as the didactic music skills you’re trying to reinforce in real practice. Don’t place so much worry about the style wars. But, if you’re under pressure to be inclusive towards music you would otherwise shun, take some time to find melodies and texts that have true merit. “Table of Plenty” isn’t the most banal of songs that has entered our repertoire, truth be told. Neither is it a truly beautiful work such as Whitaker’s “In every age.” But compared to the pedantic early works of the Baltimore and NALR composers (not the SLJ’s) it was much worse back in the 70’s, take my word. But, if one scours, literally combs through the OCP Breaking Bread and (I suppose) Gather hymnals one can find chant emulative songs like Barbara Bridge’s “We Walk by Faith/In Times of Trouble,” or Hurd’s “Ubi caritas,” you can find songs that systematically teach concepts like syncopation like the Manibusan/Hart “Give us your peace,” or the plaintive, repetitive motive found in Tom Booth’s “Sacred Silence.” And identifying a clear body of “decent” modern songs (including texts that pass theological muster) shows to the general faculty and administration, as well as pastors, that you aren’t mired in someone else’s concept of blending orthopraxis with music curriculum that needs to be taught and learned by the kids systematically. And, of course, whether you use Ward Method, your method or Words with Wings method, be very creative and enthusiastic in your strategies that will bring the kids a sense of spirit, of more precisely “inspiration” as they learn the subtleties of chanting our sacred texts.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Mediocre

Music is there to support the liturgy, not to overshadow it. I have found that too many youth masses in particular have turned into some sort of pseudo christian concert for those who either wouldn't or couldn't make it as a musician anywhere else.

Another one rides that bus, and it thus bites the dust!
The above quotation serves, as yet again, to illustrate the pervasive myopia of the self-righteous templars of "That which is known to all as SACRED MUSIC." I mean to say I could name the error of the reasoning above in two notes: "Mister Caruso." What part of "Why Catholics Can't Sing" did this commentor miss regarding the "grand stage of the high drama of the Mass and its, ahem, captive audience"? Now, at our parishes, we don't indulge with LifeTeen, but we have three ensembles of musicians and singers whose repertoire is culled basically with SLJ to the present stuff, primarily from OCP (including one group that uses "Spirit and Song" to augment what isn't in BB.) I have seen three young high school players (one soprano sax, two guitarists) who have since gone onto conservatories and colleges, received degrees in instrumental performance and one in composition at the Thornton School of USC under Morton Lauridsen, from our little pseudo musician poseurs out here in California's dust bowl. Maybe that doesn't happen down under elsewhere. But what likely happens elsewhere is the persistent and predictable reality that Mr./Ms. Caruso will make a grand appearance somewhere during the Divine Liturgy, particularly if the Bishop of Rome is presiding or in choir. And there is much rejoicing, cooing, fawning and laudatory accolades about how "This is real Catholic music! This is how it's supposed to be done!"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Well, I am 61 and who gives a rip. Comment away!

When I first entered blogdom, I had no clue about how nefarious bad actors (that should read: each and every one of us, original sin an' all) could make things go south if one had nothing but good intentions and presumed everyone else did as well. Well, as soon as the first Far East porn spammer linked to my personal blog and, by extension, to the parish website, well...a little carpet time with the pastor spurred by a letter from an, ahem, unsympathetic parishioner presuming I endorsed any and all things that leeched into "my" cyberspace and thereby sullied the parish got my attention in a serious way. (Like, uh, this is my job! I'm really a good person, but "bad company" can be photo-shopped and ruin ANYONE, I mean existentially, RUIN ANYONE in a nano-second.) But, blogs are becoming passe. Yay! So, if anyone really gives a rip about my musings here and wants to stay on topic, I figure that this message will serve to let them know: If it's on topic, it's in. If it contains spurious crap, that being whatever I deem it to be, I'll yank it. If'n it's spam, spam, spam, spam.....then that robo-engine has an idiot for a client. I mean, who reads this blog that would possibly be interested in your ponzi scheme, zombie remedy, hooking up with whatever, or any hate group product line? We return to our normal programming.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fail to plan, plan to fail. Bad Music as SIN!

One particularly heinous song has the congregation proclaiming, “We are the light of the world,” even though this biblical description applies to Christ. The lyrics of “We Are Called” are liberally peppered with self-congratulatory references to the people in the pews. In my book, bad church music is a sin. It can annoy people and make them angry, which is never a good thing. It also drives some people to avoid Sunday services altogether.
In continuation of some reactions to recent posts in the liturgical music blogworld, yet another post features what amounts to no more than a haranguing bloviation about taste. I was amused, however, by the complaintent's choice of songs to excoriate; they were'nt among the ususal suspects, those being of the Vox Dei or We Sing Praise to Ourselves in order to Bring a New World Order Church Into Being. Nope. The first song, not knowing if its setting was Greif's or Hayakawa's (doesn't matter, really) is purloined as proof that the clear biblical intention from Matthew 5:14 to identify Christ as the Light of the world, and there is no mitigating extension allowing his followers to self-apply that assignation to themselves. But even a randomly selected commentary on the passage yields what should have been obvious to the irate writer:
from Clarke's Commentary on the Bible Ye are the light of the world - That is, the instruments which God chooses to make use of to illuminate the minds of men; as he uses the sun (to which probably he pointed) to enlighten the world. Light of the world, נר עולם ner olam, was a title applied to the most eminent rabbins. Christ transfers the title from these, and gives it to his own disciples, who, by the doctrines that he taught them, were to be the means of diffusing the light of life throughout the universe. Regarding the latter mentioned song, of all of the David Haas catalogue, I actually find this lyric quite compelling personally. It's never sung at any Masses that employ primarily traditional chant and hymnody at our parishes, but is often found at the ensemble Masses, including the one a week I direct. And I only use it after the dismissal, where its appropriateness in unquestionably purposeful. It's about the missio, Ms. "I hate bad church music." It's not about contorting ourselves into our own redemption. But the larger point of this followup addresses the much larger issue, namely, if we continue to use propaganda-like vitriol such as the absurd accusation that bad music compels back-sliding grinches from worshipping Lumen Christi, and being present to the salvivic grace of confession and Communion, we do nothing but place ourselves in our own little corner and appear to many as mere doubters and pouters. There have been a number of moments and missed opportunities to engage divergent opinions which might further some consensus as the evolution of understanding, not the music itself, but the understanding of its role at worship, could have proceded well. David Haas gave it the old college try, but any stridency of his voice was met by the big guns of rhetorical shock and awe. So he basically said, "Forget it. These folks have ears that are mere props. I'm outta here." Who could blame him? And, of course, more REACTION thus ensued. "We prevailed, the foe is vanquished, our righteousness and zeal won the day and will win the war." Bad music? Define that for me please. Bad music, a sin? "Hell yeah, because it burdens my ability to pray at service!" No it doesn't. It's your cross, show up and bear it. Lay it before the altar and pray for relief. Stay home because of "bad music," you're choosing to stay home rather than to encounter the Living God. Don't lay that on the music or the musician.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Just follow the directions, call me in the morning.

Yet another synchronous revival of concern over what "truly" constitutes the various aspects of sung worship at our catholic rites at both the Chant Cafe and the MusicaSacra Forum. Apart from citing the prevelent documents' legislative recommendations (the key word being "recommendations") the push remains fixed upon the resurgence of ritual chant to its principled place, that would be "first place," as the quick yet eternal fix for all yer troubles-musicale at St. Malaise the Mediocre and such parishes ever'where. What mystifies me is that all shareholders to the unique call of "church musician" old enough to have lived and worked the evolutionary curve from Wagner/Schuler/Salamunovich to Hurd/Haugen/Haas aren't being systematically asked about how they've survived, nee even prospered for over four decades as they've lovingly accepted the burdens placed upon them by people, pastors and peddlers, kept the home fires stoked and burning every Sunday for every congregation, and have come to realize that, indeed, noble simplicity is the achievable goal. On the other hand, it seems that the push to inculcate the chant (which leads to polyphony which leads to Schubert which leads to Messaien which leads to.....Stockhausen? or Carey Landrey?) is cried so freqently and urgently as if by a muezzim from a minaret! Even Fr. Zed posted yesterday that no one individual or group can hector their way to convincing a pastor and people to "just do it" with putting a TLM and its attributes into a weekly parish Mass schedule. But in Jeff Tucker's recent post at the Cafe he reiterates "There is a way out." The tenor of the title of the post is yet another reminder that chant proponents are united in the perception that "church music" everywhere amounts to the USS Poseidon (or the Titanic, your choice) already keel upside down, and we chant proponents are so cockswain sure, just like Gene Hackman's hip but stern preacher/messiah character in the original film, and if we don't move in single file through the serpentine problems that confound us, we will drown, the ship will sink, and humankind will throw petals on the water and move further away towards other abysses. Jeff states with certainty:
There are objective conditions that rule our discussions of liturgical music. There is tradition but that tradition is not arbitrary. It is bound by a ritual purpose and structure. This, and not individual taste, is what serves as our guiding light. The music is not there simply to please people. It is there as a servant of the liturgy.
All of that somewhat terse assessment is true in a sort of didactic way; not unlike the placards in airplane seat pockets that are then repeated verbally by flight attendants to a cross-section of disinterested to extremely interested passengers in said plane. "In the event of...."  if you're really becoming interested in what's happening in Mass, please follow the instructions." My young colleague, Adam Wood, inserted a clip from the great slapstick movie "Airplane" about the singing nun ministering to the gravely ill child on the plane, who in the process of singing her happy clappy nun song rips the IV from the child's arm with the headpiece of her omnipresent guitar. Well, the other appropriate clip from "Airplane" concerning following liturgical principles would be the one where the lead attendant orders passengers to assume the correct emergency position for a crash landing, and they all scramble into an absurd melange of idiocy and chaos! The problem with think-tank processes, surveys, making more and more legal documents (think of Pelosi begging congress to pass Obamacare just so everyone could then have a reason to what was in the law after the fact!) and aesthetes calling all the shots is that it doesn't account for the purpose of liturgy, to save the people first! Serving the liturgy is an ideal that cannot merely imply serving the people well and in good fashion and taste. Churches have been often dubbed hospitals for sinners. Well, how's our health care system doing lately? Better than the Church? About equal maybe? Well, by my reckoning we're seemingly in a state of perpetual triage. Standing at the nexus of nave and sanctuary crying out "Chant you people, chant now, chant well!" is analogous to young Kevin Bacon's ROTC character in "Animal House" facing the riotous stampeding Faber townspeople raging towards him, and his pathetic cries "All is well, all is well!" If all is well in Catholic Church Music Land, how come I know of more than a handful of top drawer musical leaders who are struggling to either keep the legacy of their work going under intolderable circumstances, or who are seeking a shrinking scenario of professional possibilities in an extremely tenuous civic economy which redowns upon a church economy a hundredfold worse? I'm going to mull this whole enchilada over for a while, after a brief interlude. But has it occured to anyone that there are a spectrum of factors that have influenced the three or four living generations of pre and post concilior catholic culture besides the ritual purity and moral rightness undergirding the Church's Thought on these liturgical matters? What if Great-granny Mildred's most cherished musical memory from "church" wasn't singing the Dies Irae in her schools choir in a loft 75 years ago, but a constant re-hearing of hymns such as "Nearer my God, to Thee," "In the Garden," or or this great classic, So, if you're fortunate enough to consult with a cogent Millie prior to her passing, are YOU going to have much success recreating Fr. Pasley's eloquent exegesis of the Dies Irae at the Salt Lake colloquium to her and her attendant family in order to persuade its singing as the Offertory at her "celebration of life" Mass? And good luck telling Mildred's daughter and grand-daughter that OEW sucks and you won't play it when they keel over either. The liturgy cannot be merely dealt with in the abstract. There are persons involved-both people and divine creatures, not the least of which is the Creator of all. And, of course, like Hallmark, when we want to send our greetings to Him, we want to send the very best. But that "very best" may not always be summarized tidily in elegant simplicity or ornate adornment. It may be a fingerprint of a cross in the dirt and clay, or scrawled on a napkin in a hurry, or in the inconvenient clank of coins into a collection basked amidst the bills and checks. Now, in the interim, don't a one of ye who lurk here think I've touched the third rail and fried my connection to the eternal, sacral language of our Roman Catholic chant. I'm just sayin..... To be continued.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And Frederick Faber wept.....

Fluttering about I ran into THIS ARTICLE "Crisis Magazine" by Anthony Esolen. I come to one of those screeching Roadrunner v. Wile E. Coyote dead stops with a title including such a hook "Paint by numbers hymns." Now, what I want to know is what the heck hymnal did he dredge the titles and verses out of? Please tell me it's not WORSHIP 4! Even I would have doubt that GIA would stretch their credibility, or what's left of it, out that far like some deranged bubblegum fanatic. Are the hymns Esolen mentions even real?

To Richard Rice, Cobalt in intensity and beauty

Schola got off the summer wagon and back on the rehearsal bus last night. Boarding was bumpy, jostling among no parking, a large RCIA class, and a larger contingent of RE volunteers in the very small downstairs of the old convent. But even without basses, we had a good first night turnout. We went through a lovely little anthem of John Leavitt, "Come, follow me" which will be perfect for Sunday's gospel. We read through the new SATB version of Jeff Ostrowski's "Glory to God" from the ST. RALPH SHERWIN MASS (CCWatershed). That was of breathtaking elegance. We read some lovely Charles Giffen Christmas Carols including a snappy Czech piece I'll have to ask Chuck for phonetics help. But the capper was our first encounter with this Sunday's Communio, Qui vult veni (Whoever wishes to follow...) from Richard Rice's new CHORAL COMMUNIO collection. When I first encountered Richard in 2006, his Latin COMMUNIO resource collection was my first serious introduction to propers. And I only had glances of him personally. Then he issued the famed SIMPLE CHORAL GRADUALS under CMAA license, and the quasi-orthodox homophony was an instant hit with my group who sight reads pretty well for all amateurs. Over the intervening years, we wouldn't rehearse the SCG until right before Mass. But they still maintained an edifying presence for all. Now, we have in the CHORAL COMMUNIO's a collection that will demand serious attention on rehearsal night, and amounts to a virtual motet as the celebrant receives and then distributes to the deacons, acolytes and EMHC's. If you've met Richard, you'll smile if I say he has such a quirky and enigmatic personality. I think his immediate visage to the uninitiated my smack of one who doesn't suffer foolishness gladly. But I think his sense of humor and affection for family and friends have deep waters. How could he write with prolifically but yet so sensitively and with variety, freshness, poignancy if he wasn't truly inspired. Do invest in knowing the music of Richard Rice.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Set my Quarterback Free!

This is not my oddest post here or elsewhere. I'm awakening from a long weekend, watching CBS's main football anchor, James Brown, give the Week One run down on the NFL's brightest moments. The subject of the Washington Redskins (irony) convincing win against the Saints in NOLA came up first, and it was so predictable-the subtle fawning over the new Moses of DC and the league, Robert Griffen III. He's "the kind of character you want to build your team around....He's so articulate and intelligent....he's magnetic.....he knows how to command the stage....."- on and on were the superlatives. His smile now adorns more newspapers and periodicals this morning than were ever seen exposing the Cheshire Cat's in ALICE.
But this is racism, folks. Albeit the well-meaning sort, but still insidious to my sensibilities. This rant is not meant to detract from the realities of the superlatives and the abilities and character of Griffen. But Brown was clear, for every Griffen III, there's five JaMarcus Russell's.
The culture is so flawed. It think it really started to go sideways when poor Rodney King was thrust into the glare of the news cycle not when he was savagely beaten after committing a misdemeanor driving act, and then his broken psyche was likely pushed before the media gauntlet to be the "other King, not MLK,Jr." and plead "Can't we all just get along?" And now both Kings are gone and largely footnoted to history. And once the Zimmerman trial is done, Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman will also await that fate as well.
Back to the NFL, the culture and the African-American Quarterback myth. I have a question for Mr. Brown and all who keep reminding us that the man and the system still keep the black quarterback down: who is Warren Moon, who is James Harris, who is Donovan McNabb, who is Michael Vick (there's a story!), who is Jason Campbell, who is Charlie Batch, Cam Newton, Doug Williams, Vince Evans, Steve McNair (RIP), Randall is tempted just to go on and on.
This sort of subtle, back-handed racial profiling got plenty of people in trouble in the past, ask Jimmy the Greek. But the Greek (RIP) was largely a jerk when viewed by the emerging PC culture at the time. But that big James and perky Noral O'Donnell who played Ed McMahon to the praising of Griffen would still perpetuate that "the black quarterback" was still some sort of social lab experiment is a huge slap in the post Obama era. Yeah, we're mired in racism and bigotry still. (I make a distinction, as learned by Malcom X's wisdom.) But it ain't at the quarterback position.
You want to find new pickings? Start praising Chinese-American point guards in the NBA, or the rise of erstwhile "white" superstars in world basketball. "Wow, that Dirk Nowitski is one gifted white boy forward, he's the second coming of Larry Bird. ('Course, he's from Germany, and those guys are really smart!)"

Oh, I forgot....this blog is about Roman Catholic Sacred Music. Hmmm.
How 'bout that Kevin Allen? Can he write some seriously great polyphony? And he's a Trad Catholic and Black, too? Wow! I'm telling you folks, he's a game changer!

Have a nice week, James.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

My "Reagan" moment

So, we retire to the den towards the end of Bill's summation (it's not a speech, it's a seduction, he's Bill for gosh sakes) to watch the most Christian show on television, "So You Think You Can Dance." And all's going very well; for cryin' out land it's the final four of both genders! I'm so exhausted I want to sleep but this is the only display of truly Christian charity, not dogmatically, but in terms of establishing bonds and covenant relationships that you'll ever encounter on broadcast, cable or pay per view. Period.
But after a few featured segments an advert comes on. The track is easy; a mildly reverbed I pedal point with 5-6-b7 and backwards riff  on a Strat. The very heart of rock, that which Jagger and Richards lauched themselves into immortality with a fuzz boxed "Satisfaction" in '64.
I'm sitting there listening to the advert. I know the VOICE, I know the riff, I know the era, I know everything about the world inwhich that tune lived at the height of its popularity.
I can't, even now as I've struggled to solve this so inconsequential question, remember the group's name, the song's title.....I can't "place it."
For an analyst, AKA, anal retentive organizer, this is no small collapse; it's monumental. No herbal nor medicinal regimin will alter the course with any assurance that decline can be delayed.
I suppose this is that moment I've anticipated nearly all my life: when my wits fail me. Wits, don't fail me now!
Sorry, guy. Spit happens. (Spit is at least somewhat arbitrary, the other is required.)
I'm thinking: was that Freddie Mercury? Some great American rock tenor I can't place. I don't know. I can't place it.
This is the old reality/new reality of me.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

What "Cantors" Should Know? Don't be a cantor.

End of story.
There is a fairly new poster (I base that soley upon the appearance of a new moniker, for all I know the person could be God, or his loyal servant Professor Mahrt) who posted the question, IIRC, asks what solo vocal repertoire should an auditioning, aspiring "Cantor" should have mastered for a gig interview?
Based upon the divertimento demography of the MSF forum, the ever obtuse and loveable Noel Jones of Knoxville TENNESSEE!) responded much more directly than I, there is no such animal as "solo vocal repertoire" for a Roman Catholic "cantor" as the poster conceived, namely a bel canto voice that can negotiate Schubert and Franck warhorses that enthrall all but the jaded or informed voices in attendance, none of whom would likely sport a Roman collar.
Heck, I'm even aware there's a fairly substantial body of Jewish singers floating about the countryside, even with membership cards in their version of NPM, who self-ascribe themselves as "Cantors" who couldn't sing a conservative or orthodox sacred service off the page to save their lives. So, what are we to make of the legions of RCC "cantors" who are the proxy for both "choirs" and "congregations" in tens of thousands of parishes world-wide?

It was inevitable. One responder had to add, beyond the obviously ridiculous answers of the Schubert/Bach/Gounod "AM" or the Franck "Panis Angelicus" the moldiest oldiest of all time "Our Father" of Mssr. Malotte. You know what happens when we trot out these chestnuts, either at papal Masses or in forum postings? We become the religious cultural equivilent of "Beetle Bailey." We become not only a cartoon, which in Da Vinci's time was just a necessary, viable step in the frescoe process, but in our era always visually emphasized the "butt" of the comedic incompetence, or the political idiocy, or all of the above (which I mannerly decided not to illucidate.)
I allow as how the ever-inquisitive newbie poster at MSF seems aware of some distinct differences between a real "cantor" and a "song leader." (Don't bother looking in the GIRM or any other document for that role, it is merely a convenient description for the minions who would erroneously self-assign themselves the "Cantor" designation for public programs and such.) But, OTOH, the ability to bel canto one's way through the Malotte comprises the least attractive asset by which I'd assess a true cantor's ability.
To make a long story short, Bach was a Kantor. Bach was in charge. IN CHARGE!  Of the whole freaking universe under his soles, above his head, beyond his hands, away from his sight, and within reach of his paddle if a boy soprano exhibited "attitude," delay, recalcitrance, or basically anything that P'd Bach off at the moment. That's a Kantor!
A "Cantor" should be able, minimally to sight read anything that requires a solo voice put in his or her hands, whether enscribed on four or five lines, square or oval notes, by calligraphic hand, chicken scratches like an M.D. or by an obscure font that is visible. A "cantor" needs be familiar with every nuance of Gregorian Latin (forget the nationalistic twists, that's exorbitant), the vernaculars of the parish that are used regularly, and the modicum of Greek and other languages that occur periodically in normative usage.
I don't give a rip if a so-called "cantor" can sound like Kathleen Battle or Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau when they saunter to the podium to render "Bist du bei mir" or "Where e're you walk" to the captive audience (err, congregation.) That's an indulgence, and not the kind that gets the performer less time in purgatory, tho' maybe a few of the congregation!
Can a cantor chant the melismatic verses of a gradual, alleluia, tract or sequence with a basic surety of exposition? Can s/he place by sheer brilliance of will and concentrated effort the notion that the sound of the voice is merely the wings upon which the Word of God soars through the mind to the heart? Can the cantor, at a moment's notice, take a verse of a sacropop song that a singing ensemble would muddle or mangle, but which has a seed of powerful truth in its allusionary message?
Other than that, the western catholic liturgy doesn't call for the seriously studied and ever-so-earnest-'ministry' of "The Cantor."
And if Jim Hansen ever corners you at an NPM and asks you- "Who is this smart-*ss from California who denounces our rightful place at the microphone?"- you never met me, got it?

Monday, September 03, 2012


Helen, always the voice of reason.
My good friend, Jeffrey Tucker, has again posted his reasoned rationale internationale
that posits the obvious and elegant solution to the perceived dilemma of choosing "repertoire" by which congregations (everyone present at liturgy) can aptly, if not ideally, "sing THE Mass." His article, "The Madness of the Method," reminded me of the dramatic school of thought called the "Method," and often associated with actors such as Marlon Brando, whom many people regarded as mad, in many senses of the word. But is the method by which musicians ply their trade in service to liturgy really all that "mad," no matter how one would characterize it? Not all actors subscribe to one method. Not all painters or sculpters rigorously adhere to any particular dialectic or systematic process of "arriving" at their chosen methodology. Someone as naturally gifted and pedagogically studied as Brando can merit the highest achievement in his art (and even perpetuate his own legend by refusing to recognizing that officially) while another soul, such as Jennifer Hudson, without a whit of stage or camera experience, can reach that same level preter-naturally. One size never fits all. Let's fisk the article.
(Experts) stand in front of parish musicians and repeatedly tell them that the most important job is to engage the congregation to the point that people feel like singing, and that means catchy tunes and simple words. And how to decide between the hundreds of such songs in the mainstream pew resources? The answer is to look at the theme of the week, which is given by the readings. Flip through the book and find a song that seems to match in some way. Check out the theme index. Then consider and anticipate the congregation’s reactions the pieces of your choosing and give it your best shot.
For an unititated reader of all things Tucker, the above excerpt is a clear example of how Jeffrey "seeds the cloud" in order that the rainfall will come down hard on the side of his argument. Depending on one's point of view, everyone in the Church since St. Pius X has been telling us that the congregation is, in fact, supposed to sing the parts of the Mass proper to their "office." This is clearly the objective of that and subsequent pope's motu proprios, encyclicals and other exhortations, in addition to ecclesial legislation as well. But how JT coins it, the experts "harp" on the musicians to persuade the people to "feel like singing.." via the experts "catchy tunes and simple words." That's a sword thrust. But a sword has... (wait for it) two sides by which one's argument may live or die. Whether by the implicit banality of sacropop and unvetted theological correctness of these "experts," or by the implicit "flat earth" approach he ascribes to the thematic approach, he shed lights only on those aspects when they don't suit a successful outcome. Jeffrey fails to mention that such experts not only "do" the same thing at all CMAA events, albeit more aligned (I admit and appreciate) to the vision of said pope and others, but also proffer the same sorts of "carrots on a stick" not only with stepping stone solutions in the brick by brick philosophy of reforming the reform, but also in the "alien" formats of thematic content, whether by textual allusions of propers by Dr. Christopher Tietze or "Hymn of the Day" thematic constructs that Kathleen Pluth is (happily to this writer) initiating. Therefore, the real question remains a very old one: who's Oldsmobile of song has a more legitimate place on the freeway of ideas? Corpus Christi Watershed's redone classic Delta 88, Matt Maher's Chevy Volt, or an all original black sedan from the Thirties of the Graduale, restored in mint condition from the auto museum? And for what's it's worth, I don't really believe that anyone who takes the time to sit and contemplate the recommendations of experts just takes their samples and then gives those "their best shot" on Sunday morning. They're trying to chauffer their best as they have a carful of back seat drivers, or worse, some automaton GPS voice barking directions at them before, during and after each Mass.
The liturgy itself is being held hostage to a few people’s on-the-spot views of what the message should be and what should take place. A major aspect of the Mass, one that can make or break the entire point of the ritual, is being put in the hands of people who have little or no substantive guidance or basis for their decision making.
Such hyperbole not only is unwarranted, but an injustice and detrimental to maintaining dialogue with thousands of musicians who have not been evangelized by the "correct" experts. What's more, it adds another hectoring voice to many I mention above, not the least of which is likely the pastor of their parish! Who, exactly, is really holding the liturgy hostage if we want to stress the vertical aspects and heirarchies of our ecclesiology and liturgics? Jeffrey seems to think it a simple matter to bone up on one's chant skills to a minimum (SEP/PBC) or maximum (GM/GR) level and boom, Just Do It! Really? That simple, huh? Just like Nike's victory, just personally invoke and infuse what is obviously the "mind of the Church" on any given Sunday. Just for a second, imagine what would result if the Lifeteen Music Director just walked in one Sunday night and told his Praise Band/Worship Team Singers to just "sit this one out" as she renders the Introit by herself in a church full of people because no one else has access to the right book nor the competency to chant that. Besides, chanting the proper processionals is the provenance of the schola, choir or cantor (in their stead, right?) Okay, everybody back in the pool at the Kyrie/Glory to God! The point is, things are not just that simple, and though the process, or sausage-making, maybe ugly and maddening, it is not solely up to the musician to inflict their will upon the gathered Faithful. And word up, I can count on one hand the number of priest celebrants locally whom I know to possess more than a cursory knowledge, and what's worse, interest in practical (much less philosophical) liturgical theology and practice. So, decision making on the part of the musician is not given license merely by the principle that mother nature abhors a vacuum, I CAN FILL IT! And you vill zing und like it. In fact, Jeffrey clearly advances the notion that one person is, in point of fact, responsible for what culminates in the execution of each Mass:
To be sure, it is flattering for the musicians to hear that they have this power. When the workshop leader comes and tell them this, their egos get a boost. Most aren’t paid and most are(n't) sic really trained, so this kind of responsibility can be welcome in lieu of material reward. It is to be accept a job that is almost priestly but without the trouble of six years of training and ordination. But the truth is that no actor in the liturgical world should have this level of power and discretion, and it is wrong to expect this of anyone.
But, I don't think this sort of out of hand dismissal of the efforts if not the abilities of the "great unwashed" proletariat of amateurs is the best parfumé by which to attract bees into the CMAA hive. And then spray them with this:
In other words, it is not our job to discern themes of the day and take over the job from the Church of pushing texts that we find appropriate. The texts for singing at Mass are already given to us. There is an entrance text, a Psalm text, an offertory text, and a communion text. These are in the liturgical books. The counsel to pick and choose whatever you want amounts to a counsel to ignore the liturgy of the Church and substitute something of your own making.
Except that we all know that the Church, whether one thinks it bane or blessing, also prescribed a system of options, for whatever Her reasons known or unknown, that are oxymoronic in their precise inarticulation. (At this point, I'd like to remind any reader that no one will feel all the better by shooting the messenger.) And what's more and again, that same system allows for the interregnum of surrogates (whether in Latin or vernacular) that will persist until....? The end of the path of worship in this world is, I readily admit and embrace, is the Latin Rite last revised largely under John XXIII, with the adjustments of certain prayers, collects, etc. So, there is a qualfiable and quantifable amount of disengenuity if one admits exception or suspension of the rules for a smaller, nobler remnant, but only excoriation for those trapped in a system they did not devise, nor are provided any means of remediation other than self-impetus and resolve to educate themselves and then evangelize others. And, truth be told, this oxymoronic situation has persisted from the day of Palestrina and St. Philip Neri to this very day, it is not solely the Bugnini Frankenstein pastische fabrication that has enslaved the liturgy alone. The only thing we all seem to agree upon is something needs to give, 'cause by and large what we've got is nothing to celebrate as catholic. But we trip over our own argument's logic all the time with the Liturgy War strategems. For example:
Most everyone today think that Gregorian chant is a style or a genre, one marked by a monkish solemnity... Gregorian chant’s distinct contribution is that it is the most complete and robust body of music for the ritual of the Roman Rite that elevates and ennobles the word of God in the liturgy itself. The point is not to sing chant but to sing the liturgy itself, meaning the text that is assigned to be sung at the place in the Mass where this particular text is intended to be sung. The notes are important but secondary to the WORD .(my emphasis)
Not one ounce of that sentiment would be anything with which I'd contend. But, there is a bit of "have your cake and eat it too" wishful thinking underneath the nobility. If adherence to the Word is primary, then why remains there disdain for a Ricky Manalo setting of Pange lingua, or a Bob Hurd setting of Ubi caritas? What's lamentable about this almost ridiculous stalemate where the advocates of the status quo about the "liturgical industrial complex" (which is the basis for the Tucker indictment in his post) and those who earnestly know that authenticity and re-solemnization of the musical servitude at Mass is sorely lacking, is that we've periodically had this same argument crop up since the beginning. There were little island parishes where NEW scholas were formed in the early seventies chanting propers. One of the progenitor musicians of the folk music movement in Baltimore, Ray Repp, re-voiced a concern with a vinyl LP collection called "Benedicamus" that no one, NO ONE, paid any attention to in the late seventies because of the vast enthrallment with the Jesuits, the Dameans and the subsequent superstars from Minnesota, California and England. And even when the now graybearded Bob Hurd introduced his Missa Ubi Caritas collection in the 80's, OCP didn't really get behind it save for the fourth option tune which is its namesake. And, like Repp's effort, it was ignored by the majority and villified by the disdainful charge of dilletantism by the traditional minority. So, with this first post in a long while on my lonely little blog I speak for myself in assessing these really not so incendiary skirmishes or advert campaigns for instant relief. We can't even agree on what constitutes an "alius cantus aptus" in our conservative circles; we've yet to see a fulfillment of the Graduale Parvum, which would be a huge step forward if legitimately completed and endorsed by the USCCB/BCL and the Vatican. So, let's stop the pretense in the meanwhile, and just tell the folks the truth. This is what we like and think is right, and that over there isn't. Simple.