Monday, June 12, 2006

trends in liturgical music for the new century?

I’ve been thinking lately, if we were to outline what the progress these days in American liturgical music is, how would it look?

What I would say is status quo in most American parishes today is:

  • Entrance/Offertory/Communion/Recessional all drawn from the same pool of songs/hymns

  • Responsorial psalms and Alleluias sung either “song style” (i.e. Haugen “Shepherd Me, O God”) or with text fidelity (Gelineau, Guimont, Schiavone, etc.)

  • Ordinary settings generally stick to the text, perhaps with minor alterations

  • The only (short) acclamations sung are the Mystery of Faith and the Great Amen

  • Very little singing outside what is listed above

If you think this is inaccurate, please do comment.

Movements that signal a shift in the way many of us are thinking about all this:

  • A move toward Lectionary texts for the responsorial Psalm and Alleluia/VbtG, which usually takes the form of psalm tone chanting of verses with metered responses

  • Tietze’s “Introit Hymns for the Church Year” and Biery’s settings of Communion antiphons for Advent and Lent (as well as Proper settings and paraphrases from CanticaNova and other publishers) testify to a renewed interest in the idea of texts that are matched specifically to a particular Mass.

  • I believe very few (in terms of percentage)young adults who are regular churchgoers have much problem with Latin. The antagonism to it seems to be concentrated in the people who were young adults 40 years ago.

If you’ve spent much time reading this blog, you know that I, at least, am fully in favor of all of the above changes. :)

I would also like to believe we are moving on past the “Spirit & Song” mentality that publishes so much music that is darn near impossible for a congregation to sing well. (A bassoonist friend of mine - a very fine musician - used to attend Mass with his Catholic girlfriend, and he commented to me one time how strangely difficult the “congregational” music was.) But, this I haven’t seen; parishes still sing Haugen “Now In This Banquet”, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever”, and other such tunes. And of course, the one that baffles everyone in “On Eagle’s Wings” - how people sing this one, no one knows, but they do sing it.

I think we will not see Renaissance polyphony and the Gregorian repertory assuming its vaunted position as given in the Church documents. Instead, the “spirit” of these styles - faithful adherence to the liturgical text - will again become the accepted practice among musicians. In short, the change will not be toward universal acceptance of a historical musical style, but it will re-embrace the textual fidelity that characterizes great historical liturgical music. Musicians will be just that, and “liturgists’” roles in music will be confined to text.

Yes/no? Where do you see church music going?


At Monday, June 12, 2006 8:34:00 PM, Blogger Todd said...

Maybe not.

I would see the music situation in the Church as being an impossibly long procession from nothing and the pre-conciliar 4-hymn sandwich to great attentiveness to quality and style.

Given that OCP is probably the preeminent distributor of missalettes, I'd say the metered refrain/chanted verse is fairly standard. It's also easier than metered responsorial settings, so I think it's here to stay.

I think hymnody and contemporary songs are here to stay in most parishes.

I'm curious about the Latin statement, as many 70's young adults sing (and program) the music of Taize. If chant and Latin hadn't been the standards borne by the hermeneutic of resistance folks, I think we'd see more of them today. As it is I think the temperature on the liturgy wars is going to have to cool down a bit before Latin would take hold again.

At Monday, June 12, 2006 9:02:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

I should point out that there is some of the pop stuff that I think is very singable for congregations. “Lead Me, Lord” does well for this, as does “Christ, Be Our Light”. This is also the stuff that I could see adapted to just about any instrumentation - the same music at the “organ Mass” as at the Life Teen Mass, perhaps?

In my opinion, too often Latin implies chant or non-congregational music. What about some modern congregational music that sets the Latin text? I haven’t seen anything like this, but I have a hard time believing I’m the first one to think of it.

At Tuesday, June 13, 2006 10:17:00 AM, Anonymous moconnor said...

I say "Amen" to the suggestions. I'm not so pessimistic as other commentors about the possibility of change. There will always be a vocal minority resisting a change to what their generation did to church music, but I've found that most people just want to be told what to sing and will quite happy not to have to sing high D or negotiate sixteenth-rests (that don't even occur on every verse!).

Cantor is exactly right about the Gregorian and polyphonic repertories too. Most congregations will never master this, so a new simpler chant and hymns that are dignified and tuneful are the way to go. Trust me, most people will go for this. The Baby Boomers will throw tantrums, but the change is most necessary.


At Thursday, June 15, 2006 12:09:00 AM, Blogger ScholarChanter said...

Have you seen much use of the Introit hymns? I haven't seen this done anywhere so far, personally.

At Thursday, June 15, 2006 7:52:00 AM, Blogger Cantor said...

SC: No, I don’t know of anyplace that’s using the introit hymns. But, I wouldn’t; I haven’t had much chance to get out, even in my own diocese.

At Friday, June 16, 2006 12:24:00 AM, Anonymous Father Klingele said...

Cantor's original description of liturgical music as practiced today is very correct. It is sad that the 'recessional hymn' is untouchable and that people are still audaciously changing the text of the Mass with their music.

I would suggest that the communion antiphon and psalm be used during Holy Communion. People could sing the chanted text which is repeated without carrying a book with them to Communion, which few do. It would also do away with the ambiguous-at-best-but-really-heretical songs that are used. How many times do I have to repeat, "I have never eaten bread at Holy Mass (unless a priest, unbeknown to me, was saying an invalid Mass when I was a layman) and I have never drunk wine at Holy Mass (unless I was exercising the new GIRM option of using wine and water for the post-Communion purifications or celebrating Holy Mass according to the Missal of 1962)."

It is sad that the current state of liturgical music is really the opposite of the hierarchy of sung parts of the Mass called for by the Church. The priest-assembly dialogue, ordinaries, etc. should be sung first. Sing the Preface - which connects well to the Sanctus - the prayer over the oblations leading to the Preface, the postcommunion prayer followed immediately by the sung dialogue, blessing, and dismissal (w/o interrupting announcements unless necessary), the Sign of the Cross flowing from the introit/entrance hymn and the Kyrie/Collect sandwiching the Gloria. Then, go for the Lord's Prayer with preceding monition and following Libera nos. And maybe if we chanted the "Quia Tuum est regnum..." in Latin, people would stop raising their joined hands above their heads. (Sorry, off the subject on that last one)

At Monday, June 19, 2006 6:53:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

I want to go to Fr Klingele's Mass.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home