Monday, September 04, 2017
Recent History: Catholic Liturgical Music
This is a good 'historical context' essay about Catholic liturgical music--which is a shipwreck today. Note well: these excerpts skip some essay-content which is helpful; you should read the whole thing. (By the way, the author inadvertently points to ONE of the reasons that the youth are flocking to the "Old Rite" Masses.)
...A century ago, Pope St. Pius X took on the reform of liturgical music in a big way. Late nineteenth-century liturgical music had largely pushed Gregorian chant aside, and the patrimony of the Roman Rite’s most distinctive musical form was in danger of fading away....The long-term project was to rediscover and reclaim the authentic root of chant, which had become covered in the overgrowth of centuries of adaptation and neglect. Thankfully, this pursuit was undertaken wholeheartedly by several key groups, and real progress was being made in allowing the Roman Rite to, once again, rely on its distinctive musical form in the twentieth-century liturgy.
However, this all-important step was really only tenuously connected to another all-important question related to liturgical music: How might the recovery of chant impact the existing state of congregational singing at Mass?...
Well, then: the author makes a VERY important discovery:
...To my surprise, I’ve only recently come to learn that the Roman Rite has had a bit of an on again/off again relationship with the whole notion of liturgical singing done by anyone other than the clergy (remember, pre-Vatican II “clergy” included those in minor orders) or established choirs of the day. The people in the pews were not at all central to the notion of “liturgical” music, any more than they were at all central to providing the liturgical responses at Low Mass or High Mass (“Sung” or “Solemn”).
Yet the twentieth-century Magisterium did come down in favor of giving formation to the faithful such that they could at least minimally learn and participate in the chant that was being rediscovered. Granted, congregational singing of vernacular hymns was happening, but this was seen as distinct from the ceremonial-liturgical music that existed exclusively in Latin, not the vernacular....
...recited Low Masses were much more prevalent in the average parishes, meaning that congregations were really focused not on the distinctive music of the Roman Rite, but really on hymns in the vernacular, if they did any singing at Mass at all. The patrimony of “real” liturgical music—that is, chant and polyphony in Latin—still rested largely in the hands and voices of the clergy, choirs, and servers....
Yup. Believe it or not, "hymn-singing" was more-or-less treated as one might treat a pet puppy. Nice to have, but not necessary by any means. But that was then, and this is now.
Then along came The Regulators (that is, Fr. Bugnini and his crowd) and The Publishers (there was a LOT of money in them-there-hills of parishes) and chaos emerged.
....the reform of the liturgy took a turn headlong in the direction of accessibility—despite the Council’s insistence, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, that “The use of Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (36), and that Gregorian Chant “should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (116).
If any single thing could essentially derail the century-long project of reclaiming the Roman Rite’s chant and finally getting it into the pews, the unrestrained plunge into the vernacular could, and did, in my view. It’s pretty simple. If priest and assembly are no longer bound by a requirement to learn and use Latin in liturgy, and if liberation from Latin takes the shape of a tsunami throughout the Church, from priest to pewsitter, access to the patrimony of Latin-text music—both chant and polyphony—becomes utterly short-circuited.
Furthermore, that huge, whooshing, sucking sound we all heard by the mid-1960s was the immense vacuum created by the absence of any music in the vernacular that could really fill the void created by severing the connection to both the Church’s universal language and its universal music. It was also, in my view, the death rattle for the ambitious decades-long effort to restore and reconnect not only clergy and choirs but congregations to Gregorian chant....
...Thus, the Church in the US was treated to the musical “M*A*S*H” unit that was first to arrive on the scene, offering not “meatball surgery” but offering “meatball liturgy.” And it wasn’t very life-saving—at all...
That was when Rembert Weakland's US Bishops' rump-committee on music authorized "meatball music" for the US Church. Surprise!
...Mass is not supposed to make me musically comfortable—it’s supposed to make me more holy....
The youts' know that, too, which tells you why they are voting with their feets.