Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Example of the Press' Clueless Writing on Liturgical Music

Noted by New Liturgical Movement, Man With a Black Hat, and others as simply obnoxious, here's the Diocesan newspaper (Arlington, VA) allowing pure drivel.

The blessings of Church music ministry lie in its differences.

For the same Sunday liturgy celebrating the feast of St. John the Baptist last weekend, parishes in three different sections of the Arlington Diocese sang three completely different entrance hymns: in Purcellville, the contemporary classic “Here I Am Lord;” in Fairfax, the solid hymn “All You Saints Still Striving;” and in Arlington, the non-traditional “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” straight out of the 1973 musical “Godspell.”

No choice was more “correct” than the other; rather, each strove in its own way to fulfill the goal of music ministry, which is to lead the congregation to God, according to Diocesan Music Coordinator Rick Gibala. [He's running for Confused Bureaucrat of the Decade, and might win. The manifestation of Beauty in the art of liturgical music is what 'leads one to God.' Other 'manifestations' most likely won't.]

During Mass, church choirs are called “to help the assembly in their sung prayer,” Gibala said. Coupled together, the text and tune help accomplish that goal, while the music serves as the “handmaid to the liturgy,” taking no focus from the eucharistic table. [Actually, the phrase in the authoritative document is "[music] an integral part of the Liturgy," which isn't the same as "handmaid." And while we're at it, that's an ALTAR, not a "table."]

Whether feet are pumping organ pedals or thumb and finger are firmly grasping guitar picks, most music ministers agree that their task is to enhance the liturgy and to involve the congregation in song. “Good celebrations foster and nourish faith,” says the USCCB Committee on the Liturgy’s statement on Music in Catholic Worship, a mission statement of sorts for Catholic music ministers. [Wrong. Music for worship should "glorify God, edify the faithful, and raise the minds and hearts of the Faithful to God.] “Styles of music, choices of instruments, forms of celebration — all converge in a single purpose: that men and women of faith may proclaim and share that faith in prayer and Christ may grow among us all.” [N.B.--that "statement", Music in Catholic Worship, has no actual authority, and was written largely by a well-known Rebel.]

Music in the liturgy offers a time for escape, release and prayer, said Sylvia Mulherin, director of music at St. Leo the Great Parish in Fairfax. ["Escape"? "Release"? Ah--it's the Sociology of Music we deal with, right? Hint: liquor is quicker!!]

“Our services without music would not be the same,” she said. Notes and lyrics excite emotion and enable participants to “express things in music that you can’t in any other way.” [True. But as Plato and Aristotle warned, there are 'expressions' which are good--and those which are NOT good. The educated musician knows the difference.]

Music also leads choirs and the congregation more deeply into prayer, said J. Michael McMahon, president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians and part-time director of music at St. Agnes Parish in Arlington. “We’re not only focusing on the notes but the significance of the text that we’re singing,” he said. [Prioritization: the text happens to be primary...]

McMahon, who previously served as director of music at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Alexandria and St. Mark Parish in Vienna, said he first and foremost considered the “participation of the people” — enabling and encouraging them to sing by choosing familiar songs and Mass settings. This familiarity may be up in the air when the Vatican releases a new English translation of the Missale Romanum, currently in committee in Rome. [How about considering that the 'first and foremost' part of your job is FORMATION of the people in the True, Good, and Beautiful, J. Michael?]

Until then, Catholics remained challenged by the Second Vatican Council to participate fully in sung prayer, said Gibala. “A lot of people come to church and they don’t want to sing,” Gibala said. “But the Faith is to participate fully in sung prayer.” [They were only "challenged" by Vat 2 if they had NOT READ any of Pius X's documents on liturgy--or Pius XII's--or dozens of others which predated VatII. This is the 'hermeneutic of disruption' in play.]

This doesn’t exclude traditional chants or polyphony, which date back to the Middle Ages. [Halfway through this article, they mention Chant--which in the Council's document is required to be given pride of place, and is the very model of good liturgical music. And then the implication is that 'Chant dates to the Middle Ages.' Wrong. Chant is derived from Temple-worship--it's at least partly pre-Christian. Good of them to mention it, anyway.]

“In the Catholic Church we do have to preserve our tradition,” Gibala said. “The organ and the music of our tradition cannot be ignored.”

“There is a need to use all the music that’s part of our tradition,” agreed Mulherin, whose adult choir at St. Leo the Great does just that. “We have 2,000 years of music that had a meaning at some time or another.” [Actually, a great deal of that music has meaning at ALL times. That's what makes it 'good stuff,' as opposed to...oh, the Barbra Streisand stuff, the Mr. Rogers stuff, the Chet Atkins stuff, the bar-tunes vamping know, 'of the world' stuff.]

At the Fairfax parish, as in many parishes, different groups provide different styles of music for different Masses. All the groups at St. Leo the Great, however, “know at least a certain common repertoire,” Mulherin said. “You can’t just center on one type because then you eliminate all types of styles and traditions that are valuable.” [Or you could do what the Council recommended--see above.]

According to David Mathers, director of sacred music at St. Mary Church in Fredericksburg, and formerly at All Saints in Manassas, all music ministry should work toward “building up the worship and the liturgy of the Church. “The liturgical documents of the Church are very insistent that the people participate in the Mass,” he said. “Church as liturgy is essentially a corporate action. It’s not a group of individuals praying that just happen to be in the same place at the same time. It’s a body — the body of Christ.”

Monica Perz-Waddington, director of music at the 11:15 a.m. Sunday Mass at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church and the 6 p.m. Sunday liturgy at St. Charles Church, both in Arlington, said that she tries to foster participation and prayer within the gathered body of Christ by “making the music beautiful and the prayer irresistible.” [Vapidity Award, 2007.]

To do this, she incorporates all different styles of music, whether it’s a song from a 1970s musical, a traditional Creole tune or a re-working of “Amazing Grace.” [Which musical? Cats? Hair? AAaaaaaarerrrrrrrgggghhhhh! By the way, what the Hell does "traditional Creole" have to do with the worship of God?]

“Different things touch different people, so if there’s a variety in the song, then I think there’s a greater probability that you’re going to touch somebody,” Perz-Waddington said. “I like to think that bringing in songs from the other cultures kind of makes us more Catholic and universal.” [Whereas the Church has always thought that evangelization is the ideal, Ms. P-W likes 'reverse evangelization'--improving the Church by importing Broadway, or something.]

With 43 years of music ministry tucked under his belt, Tom Schafer, director of music at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield for the past 15 years, said it’s not the end of the world if everyone in the congregation doesn’t sing along during Mass.

“The real question is: how do we improve their prayer?” he said. “It’s important that they pray.”

According to Schafer, that takes team focus among the celebrant and the liturgical participants to make a worthwhile liturgical celebration where the congregation feels at one with Christ.

“I believe when people arrive in the doors of the church, they should be able to feel the presence of God,” he said. Music is one way to get there — a “form of prayer that goes directly to the heart.” [I wish he had mentioned the 'mind' as well as the 'heart.' Sorta completes the human being, you know...]

All styles of this melodic form of prayer are finding a “happy home” in liturgies, the Committee on the Liturgy wrote. “To chant and polyphony we have effectively added the chorale hymn, restored responsorial singing to some extent, and employed many styles of contemporary composition,” the statement on music says. “Music in folk idiom is finding acceptance in eucharistic celebrations. We must judge value within each style.” [Uh huh. Nothing like a little Woody Guthrie to accompany the Sacrifice for All Time.]

This is especially true in Arlington’s diverse and polyglot-rich diocese.“Music should unite, not divide,” Gibala said. “This is not about the music. It’s about praising God. There’s room for all of it in our Church.”

Note to Abp. Dolan. There are a lot of folks who do not need consideration for Milwaukee's Liturgical Music offices. See all of the above.

I do not think it is a co-incidence that this article was printed during the Church Music Ass'n of America's recent colloquium held in DC--nor that it anticipates the issuance of the Motu Proprio. The Bishop of Arlington knows what he is doing.

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