Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dialogue 3

> The URLs you forwarded are all familiar. Adoremus - I
> respect what they
> do, but I don't like a lot of their arguments.

Such as? They always make sure to have documentation behind them so I'd be surprised to hear what arguments you take issue with. You don't find the arguments compelling or you don't LIKE them?

The things I recall reading in responses to Letters to the Editor of their bulletin always seemed to have an air of false musical authority. Kinda like people who don't *actually* know music but dismiss Haugen et al. at face-value. For example, Haugen "Let All the Earth" is pretty
harmonically adventuresome - definitely steps beyond Carey Landrey.

And I suppose I'd have to confess a bit more empathy with the "other side" than I had back in the day. It's hard to ignore the enthusiasm with which so many *do* take to "Be Not Afraid". It would seem there's a conflict of interest now regarding following liturgical norms versus pastoral

And, I think the problem is bigger than music. It's that the Church no longer has the element of profundity it seems to have had in generations past. I think that's why religion is a hard sell to so many 20-something Catholics. A big reason for this, yeah, is the cheapening of the music.
(I mean, geez, *I* pass as a church organist??) But it's the whole deal, I think. And we can't just *boom!* switch back because that's not the way to care for people who have grown accustomed to the "McDonald's liturgy". Even the idea of "switch back" wouldn't be wise because, while there was beauty and profundity in old-skool liturgies, the participation of the assembly just wasn't there (from what I hear), and that's a big thing we want.

When I compare scholarly writing from pre-WW2 and the modern day, I'm struck by how much more "poetic" and subjective the older scholarship is. Opinions of aesthetic quality and such are stated as fact, etc. People today, at least the ones who actively engage their world in thought,
are much more scrupulous and less inclined to believe something. The Church
is thus doubly at a disadvantage, having pushed aside a lot of its profundity and elegance for the sake of accessibility.


A quick comment on the Haugen "Let All the Earth": harmonically adventuresome; yes . . . easily singable for a congregation; eh. Heck, I have trouble personally singing that low A; and then having to ascend a 10th in the next couple of measures is just not easy for an untrained congregation who is also seated.

Well, ok - I'll give you that the range is awkward.

And that's the kid of irresponsible composing that drives me nuts about these guys. Look at "We Are Called": why in the name of all that's holy would Haas put that in the key of A?

Because he's a tenor, and he can sing it that way! The guy's a performer, not a liturgist.

Drop it down to G so people can actually sing it! The tessitura is too high for my congregation as well as those high E's in the beginning. Not to mention some of the rhythmic discrepancies between verses; I can't get my choir to agree on the rhythms, much less the congregation. I think Thomas Day was right on when he criticized these contemporary composers who insist on making these songs hard for the average joe.

The real sign of the times, I think, is Spirit & Song 2. Look at the advertisements: "all new songs!" ...... Great! Let me put it in our pews and watch no one sing it except the choir!

>>And I suppose I'd have to confess a bit more empathy
>>with the "other side"
>>than I had back in the day. It's hard to ignore the
>>enthusiasm with which
>>so many *do* take to "Be Not Afraid". It would seem
>>there's a conflict of
>>interest now regarding following liturgical norms
>>versus pastoral
You bet. It seems to me that we've been feeding these people candy for 35 years and when we want to give them some meat and potatoes, they don't want it. If you give your kid soda and chips all the time, they won't want the steak that you cooked for dinner; our congregations are the same way. We can say, "Look at how wonderful this hymn is! This chant just helps lift up your hearts in prayer like nothing else!" and they respond, "Why haven't we done 'On Eagle's Wings' this month yet?" They LOVE crap like that!!! Dang, "On Eagle's Wings" is harder to sing than most of the literature I sang in college and they would sing it every week if I planned it that way! (BTW, I don't plan it that way; I almost NEVER do that piece)

*Well*.....the refrain is easy enough to sing, the low A's notwithstanding. The verse is tricky, but that fits with the idea of soloist on the verse with a congregational response. Ps. 91, that one is; it actually gets used as a responsorial for funerals around here, I think.

I was thinking not long seems what we're both saying is that congregational music needs not to have a "life of its own" in the liturgy, that it should be neutral as far as style. I don't care to sing Spirit & Song, and Sally Q. Freckles might hate singing "All Creatures of Our God and King". It's hard, I think, to like or dislike chant musically because it's *so* different, and it's completely guided by text.

Now please don't get me wrong; I *do* enjoy some contemporary stuff. I really like the Haugen "Taste and See" (GC 47) and I like some Haas stuff as well . . . but if it all disappeared one day and was replaced by some good ol' protestant hymns and chant, I wouldn't be too sad to
see it go.

And.....I bet the ones who'd kick and scream the most are the ones who were our age when it came into vogue. (The ones who *didn't* leave the Church after V2.)


Added by Cantor: I also imagine now that there’s a segment of people who identified so strongly with the music they grew up singing (G&P) that they would also leave the Church if we jettisoned Schutte & Co. (And, thank God, “On Eagle’s Wings” is not sung as a resp. psalm at my parish!)


At Friday, March 31, 2006 12:27:00 PM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

I would love to see more good Catholic texts in English set to hymnody. Gradual texts (such as Bruckner Os Justi, etc.), "O Nata Lux" (most recently set by Morten Lauridsen, but is a text from Feast of Transfiguration), Te Deum, etc. Some of the hymnody based on folk songs (Kingsford, "Lord of the Dance", ..) seem to be well received even among those who grew up primarily with contemporary music.

At Friday, March 31, 2006 12:33:00 PM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

In the recent OCP editions of music, many songs have been lowered in pitch so that they are easier to sing for all, especially those of us choristers who have to sing many verses without a break.
Other examples:
Celtic Alleluia is now in G
Canticle of the Sun is in G
Amazing Grace can be found in both F and G
Come to the water can be found in F (in GIA books), and G (in OCP books)

At Tuesday, April 04, 2006 5:58:00 PM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

It turns out that "O Nata Lux" text is from the Lauds (morning prayer of Liturgy of the Hours) for the Feast of Transfiguration, not the mass. Thomas Tallis set only 2 verses of it in his setting, which are also used by Morten Lauridsen. Thanks to our Anglican and Episcopalian brethren who tends to preserve some of our Catholic liturgical tradition better, I found the complete text in English. The Latin text can be attributed to the 10th century. English version of the hymn can be found here:


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