Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Music for Worship--Insights Worth Knowing

Sure, this guy posts what informed Church musicians know.

(Note carefully the words "informed" and "musicians," which restrict the universe to a small number, as opposed to the Folk Singers, Head-Bangers, and banner-makers so often hired because they played an instrument in their yout' and took "Liturgy Studies 101" at some college...or even acquired a degree in "Liturgy".)

In Sacramentum Caritatis (2007) he [Pope Benedict] states clearly:

"Consequently everything -- texts, music, execution -- ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons." (SC)

The implications of this passage can be easily glossed over, but a careful look demonstrates a very clear vision of the three structural elements of music in the liturgy – text, music, execution. It is also quite specific in noting that these three distinct elements – the text, the musical style and the actual “sound” (execution) ought to “correspond”, or be related to, the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the specific liturgical season.

About 25 years ago, I attended a brief Choral Directing workshop led by Roger Wagner. There were about 100 church choir directors in attendance. At one point during the exercise, Wagner asked the assembled folks 'how many of them had sung Bach's B Minor Mass?' A few hands were raised. He then asked how many had sung 'Beethoven's Missa Solemnis?' A few hands went up. 'Any Bach Passion'? A few hands went up.

Roger, never known for his tact, then asked those choir directors 'how they could possibly have that function (choir director) if they did NOT know such literature...'

That's to help you, dear reader, understand the difference between the Liturgeists (referred to above) and actual musicians.

But it gets worse.

If one wished to really, really embarass the "choir directors" or "liturgy directors" in this Archdiocese, one could ask "How many of you have sung an Introit from the Graduale? A Communio?"

Hell, I wonder how many of them could simply pronounce the Latin, never mind sing the piece...

End digression.

So what's the upshot of the linked post?

Apparently, the Bishops meeting in Baltimore in November of 2006 did not make the connection between the concept of specified texts and liturgical tradition, and so did not submit a list of specified texts, but rather a set of guidelines to be used by Bishops in whose Diocese music is published to evaluate the suitability of songs written and published for use in the Mass. This was clearly not the intention of Liturgiam Authenticam, and is most likely the reason that the “Directory for Music in the Liturgy” will not receive approval from the Holy See.


...the question of the musical style to be used comes to the forefront. Here there is historic precedent in force. The primary criticism of much “contemporary liturgical music” in use today is it’s reliance on stylisms and idiomatic conventions of popular, theatrical and Broadway music.
...the incursion of such theatrical stylings into the music of the liturgy has brought about a disconnect between the music and the rest of the liturgy, effectively destroying the organic structure of the liturgy itself, and relegating music to its current exterior role in worship.

Which relegation is specifically wrong by virtue of the Vatican II document on the Liturgy, which states that 'music is an integral part of the Liturgy.

OH, yeah, there's a lot of work to be done...


Al said...

Be glad you are in Wisc. Our Liturgy Director (he of the son-in-law bass player in shorts who was a part of last Sunday's entertainment at 8:30 am Concert (Oops, I ment Mass) was at a meeting in Des Moines for music directors.


I know that if Liturgiam Authenticam was even mentioned it was probably with the suggestion to ignore it.

& even if a directory is approved by Rome, what's to force them to follow it? Re: Question 10 the other day.

Anonymous said...

Our pastor once actually said to me as follows: "When things come from Rome, we just close our eyes". Our choir directors are anything but serious musicians, which is why I (classically trained pianist, self-taught organist) am retiring this year. I've been obliged to play more trash than anyone could imagine for too many years, and much as I want to continue expressing my gratitude to God for the gift of music, I just don't want to be a party to the shenanigans of these airheads any more. It's getting more and more irritating, and the non-stop chatter in the choir loft is absolutely ridiculous, not to mention they both CHEW GUM while directing, even during Mass, and maybe receive Communion with gum in their mouths. Yuk! Enough, enough, enough!

Chironomo said...

To begin... thank you Dad29 for considering my blog to be worthy of mention... at least I think you were being complimentary! It is important to remember that not all music at Mass prior to 1966 was of the highest quality either... if it were then Pius X would have had no reason to issue "Tra Le Solicitudini". What we do have now is the institutionalization of mediocrity in our music. This is really what is needing to be addressed. - Chironomo

Dad29 said...

Chiro--it was due to admiration that I excerpted and posted your remarks. Your stuff is good.

And I have no delusions about "pre-Vat" music, nor do I think we should return to 1955 and pull the hole in after us...

Keep up the wonderful work!

Chironomo said...

Thanks... I will be posting a new essay on "The 3 R's" of Benedict... Reform, Restoration and Revision in the next day or two... I'm still working on it while trying to finish up the sacramental season at Church (first communions, May Crownings, Confirmations, School Graduation Masses, etc...). Once Summer comes , and hopefully the Motu Propro with it, I'll have more time to devote to writing.