Friday, April 21, 2006

the hard question to answer.....

How do folks out there answer the following situation:

1) You change something in the Mass (say, insisting on resp. Psalm texts from the Lectionary) from how it’s been done before.

2) Someone complains and says they don’t like it. (They miss Haugen Psalms.)

3) You explain your reasoning.

4) They say, “well, we’ve been doing it this way for all these years .... are you saying we’ve been doing it wrong all this time?” (And if, like me, you’re still fairly new to the parish, they follow up with, “who are you to come in and tell us we’ve been doing it wrong?”)

So....how do you dress up what essentially boils down to “yes”?

It’s really interesting to see the incredulity of folks in their 50s when you tell them, then even show them, the documents that outline how things are supposed to be. It’s understandable ... the more into the music at Mass they are, the more likely they are to take objection when change comes along. Kind of as if they spent their lives developing a technology that, in the span of a couple years, becomes obsolete when something new and snazzy comes out.

9 Comments:

At Monday, April 24, 2006 2:16:00 AM, Anonymous ScholarChanter said...

Well, one of my fellow choir directors at my campus ministry have the same issues. We use the OCP's Respond and Acclaim, which has decent psalm refrains, but rather lousy psalm tones. "It has the correct text, so why not" is the argument. Part of the problem is that our cantors are not well trained, so some of them have a lot of trouble with the psalm tone idea. Perhaps it is because it requires more thought, practice, and attention during mass. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to address the situation adequately. Part of the problem is that we don't have weekday practices (it hasn't been done in years, apparently), and no one really has time to lead it either - that needs to be addressed first, I think.

Please pray for the grace of obedience for us here at my campus ministry, and best wishes for cantor for answering the question.

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 9:00:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

OCP also has a Lectionary psalter by John Schiavone that might be worth looking into.

GIA’s Guimont psalter is probably the most widely used Lectionary psalter these days, maybe besides the old Grail/Gelineau book (which is a bit problematic now because the psalm texts don’t match the Lectionary, but I’ll confess I still use it). Guimont is more interesting than R&A; there are duds, but there are really nice ones, too.

WLP has a corresponding set; I can’t remember its title.

 
At Monday, April 24, 2006 2:29:00 PM, Blogger HilbertAstronaut said...

I don't understand exactly why Psalm tones are hard. It takes a little time to learn them, but once you do, it's a simple formula to take any text, mark the accents and match the ups and downs of the tone to the text.

Maybe those who don't "get" Psalm tones are the same people who don't know how to balance their checkbook...

;P

 
At Tuesday, April 25, 2006 1:35:00 PM, Anonymous brandon field said...

I think there are lots of varieties of "wrong". It's useful to distinguish between them. There is one type of "wrong" that crosses you over the line of Catholic, like using grape juice instead of wine for the general congregation. I doubt musical selection can ever be quite this wrong. But there are lesser degrees of wrong that would probably best be described as "not as perfect" as divine worship. Even "unsuitable" is a bit of a strong word, when you're dealing with years of established parish tradition. Remember, most people aren't able to distinguish between different degrees of "wrong", and so when youtell some people that certain things had been done "wrong", you might as well have been telling them that their hosts were all bread for the last 5 years because the consecration was invalidated by the musical selection. (I only slightly exaggerate; people's expression of religion is a very sensitive thing, perhaps more sensitive than anything else. Imagine that after 5 years your wife tells you that she doesn't really like the flowers that you've faithfully been bringing her home every Friday. That's what you're telling some of these people, exept about God).

 
At Tuesday, April 25, 2006 1:52:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

I was also exaggerating in my example. I haven’t told anyone here that not using the Lectionary psalm texts is *wrong*; I’ve been careful to take the approach of questioning, “is that approach as good as this one”. I’ve had a good deal of success, actually - the pastoral staff likes it, the people who recognize what’s going on like it, and those who did complain have at least conceded the liturgical prudence (if not necessity) of the practice.

Haugen “Shepherd Me, O God” is as popular in this parish as it probably is all over for funerals; it is my hope that that eventually gives way to some other setting that sets the unaltered words from the Lectionary, but for the time being, if a grieving family wants it, I certainly am not going to say, “that’s wrong.”

The analogy of bringing flowers to a wife doesn’t quite work. The people in parishes didn’t choose to bring “the wrong Psalms” (or whatever other iffy practice that they like) to God; they were given this practice by their pastors and music ministers. And even they are only with great caution to be blamed; I don’t think but a handful have actually done what they do as a conscious turn away from the laws of God.

 
At Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:43:00 AM, Anonymous brandon field said...

I think the flowers analogy does work. In whatever way the texts were chosen, these people for the last however long have been singing them with the belief that they were praising, worshiping, and demonstrating their love for God. They made the songs that were stuck on the hymn-board their own worship by participating in the singing, even if they had no part in selecting them. If not, then you moot your whole point: if the congregant doesn't make the songs his own worship, then why are you in such a tizzy about what songs are appropriate? They were handed objects of worship and they brought them to the altar as their own, just as Jacob handed his father the dinner that his mother prepared and usurped the blessing from his brother. When you tell them that the last guy who held your position didn't know liturgical guidelines from a Protestant hymnal, you in part undermine your own position there.

Blame is an entierly different matter, which I suggest that you don't even attempt to place. Everything done before has been done, the theological principle is that you can't change the past. Let it go and work with what you have now.

 
At Wednesday, April 26, 2006 2:57:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Brandon said:
I think the flowers analogy does work. In whatever way the texts were chosen, these people for the last however long have been singing them with the belief that they were praising, worshiping, and demonstrating their love for God. They made the songs that were stuck on the hymn-board their own worship by participating in the singing, even if they had no part in selecting them.

Maybe we need to tweak the analogy.....let’s say you bring your wife red roses for 5 years, then she points out that while there’s nothing wrong with the red roses, and she appreciates them as a token of love, she prefers white lilies. (Or, maybe yet better would be that you find out she prefers lilies from a friend.)

At this point, ISTM, it behooves you to bring her lilies, insofar as you’re able, and if you continue to bring her red roses even after finding a ready supply of lilies, then wouldn’t that be a bit strange?

If not, then you moot your whole point: if the congregant doesn't make the songs his own worship, then why are you in such a tizzy about what songs are appropriate?

I don’t understand what you’re saying here. The point I mean to make is that our liturgical tradition is based on the practice of crafting music around the text, not altering the text at all. This is why chant and polyphony are accorded “pride of place” in the Roman liturgy: these two styles of music are able to accomodate any liturgical text without modification, whereas, for example, the Haugen/Haas-ish practice of metered psalm paraphrases requires that there be texts that lend themselves well to that kind of music.

They were handed objects of worship and they brought them to the altar as their own, just as Jacob handed his father the dinner that his mother prepared and usurped the blessing from his brother. When you tell them that the last guy who held your position didn't know liturgical guidelines from a Protestant hymnal, you in part undermine your own position there.

Not if it’s true. (Which it isn’t anyway.)

The environment that gave birth to Haugen/Haas psalms was a lot looser, or “more Protestant”, if you will, about liturgy. The trend now, with the advent of Lectionary psalter and a new examination of Proper texts, is to reconcile the musical practices of the last 40 years with liturgical tradition since Trent and before, part of which includes perfect fidelity to the liturgical text. (Not that the texts were the same everywhere; early English polyphonic “Salve regina” settings usually include a trio of tropes.) Musicians’ jobs were for just that - music. The text of the liturgy was the responsibility of people whose training prepared them for that.

My predecessor’s practices were a product of that “loose” time. We are moving forward, as are many (most?) parishes.

 
At Wednesday, April 26, 2006 3:13:00 PM, Anonymous brandon field said...

Maybe we need to tweak the analogy.....
Yes, your tweaked analogy was what I am thinking of. Just make sure that you're telling your congregants that God appreciated the roses.

Not if it’s true. (Which it isn’t anyway.)
Yes, it does undermine you. Because you leave them thinking that maybe the whole thing is subject to whoever holds the position. I think it behooves you to make your case without criticizing the authority of your predecesor.

 
At Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:18:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

I do my best to let Church documents do the talking.....and have been very careful not to criticize my predecessor. Letting something that (at least ostensibly) carries canonical weight do the talking averts the risk of making these things seem arbitrarily decided.

In truth, the GIRM is ambiguous; it doesn’t specifically address paraphrases, but it does say the Psalm should be taken from the Lectionary. Liturgiam authenticam (60) mentions that paraphrases are not to be substituted with the intention of being more easily set to music - this seems to pertain more to the translation itself than to a liturgical practice, but the idea is the same.

 

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