I was accused this summer in a personal correspondence of having a "disdain" for contemporary music. In the course of attempting to defend myself, I did realize (and which was confirmed by a colleague/reader of the blog) that if you only know me through my blog-writing, you could easily think that the initial statement was true.
I will admit that I have a much greater love for Palestrina/Lassus than for Haugen/Haas, and I'm very fortunate as to be in a position where I can do the former on a weekly basis. But I don't think I've ever called for the wholesale exclusion of the latter (or added my name to a site like this, which I see as being counter-productive), though I'm not shy about criticizing the shortcomings of the evolution of this music in general, and various flaws in specific pieces.
I like to think of my outlook on Catholic liturgical music as somewhat centrist, an idealist tempered by realism. Though I wouldn't be sad if every parish in the world turned to Gregorian chant and polypony, I'm astute enough to realize that that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Nor do I think it would be to the greater benefit to the Church Militant in this particular age.
I grew up in a pretty nominal Catholic household. We went to Church on Sundays, prayed before meals, and many of my moral values (though not all) were formed by Christian ethics. But to say I was a devout Catholic in high school would be highly inaccurate.
The first time I went to mass in college was pivotal for my life, no question. I remember going in with the attitude, "Well, I'll give this a try." I don't remember much about that mass except that I was enthralled with the music. No, not Byrd, Josquin, chant . . . Haugen. Haas. Joncas (well, OK, not Joncas--I've never liked his music). I joined the choir right after mass. From there, I participated in the various choirs at the Church over the next four years, slowly building my knowledge of the Faith and my relationship with the Lord.
It would be accurate to say that my knowledge, even after graduating, was lacking, especially in areas of liturgy. As I studied more after college and read more writings on the liturgy, my sensibilities definitely shifted, and I am now more firmly entrenched in the world of CMAA as opposed to NPM (my music studies played a role in this shift as well). But I am quick to add that if that first mass had been done by the traditional choir at the church (which I now direct!), there's a good chance that my life would have turned out much differently.
I'm in charge of six ensembles in my current position, ministering to college students with various music styles ranging from Gregorian chant to contemporary Praise and Worship with all the different gradations in between. And honestly, if my pastor approached me tomorrow and asked that I shift all the music to chant/polyphony, I'd fight it wholeheartedly (I don't foresee this happening BTW).
I'm a firm believer in the following:
1) College is a very transitional period in the faith life of a person.
2) Liturgy is vital to helping students retain and build upon their Catholic faith.
3) College students need a musical "entry-point" into the Liturgy.
I'm in this profession because I believe that music is vital to the Holy Mass, and I'm in a college setting because I believe that this is the time that young Catholics are most fully-formed. People are formed not only by the Mass itself, but also by the liturgical environment that we provide for them, including music.
Ideally, if freshman come in and prefer to attend one of the weekend masses with music in a more contemporary vein, hopefully, through adequate liturgical formation (which I don't feel we do enough of currently), they will wind up at the "traditional" mass by the time they graduate. We have to get them in the pews first though.
The problems I struggle with when addressing this issue, though, usually relate to many deficiencies I and many others see in the current repertoire of contemporary "folk" music. I think even the most hardened heart could agree that a lot of this music is trite, syrupy, poorly crafted in general. Where I differ from many in the blogosphere, is that I would like to analyze each piece individually as opposed to throwing everything out just because it was written after 1960 and seems to work with piano accompaniment.
So here's the question: what piece or pieces currently in existence exemplify a "model" for this music? Is there any piece out there (let's think congregational at this point) that has a quality melody, quality text, and just happens to be in the "folk" style?
Thumbing through my Ritualsong hymnal (the only one near me), I find the following to be noteworthy (Disclaimer: By no means do I believe all of the following to be beyond reproach; also, I left out anything I didn't feel was in the "folk" style):
*53 Ps. 25 (To You, O Lord--Haugen)
66 Ps. 33 (Let your mercy be on us--Haugen)
*69 Ps. 34 (The Cry of the Poor--Foley)
*70 Ps. 34 (Taste and See--Haugen)
*127 Ps 95 (If Today--Haas)
135 Ps. 98 (All the Ends of the Earth--Haas/Haugen)
152 Ps. 116 (The Name of God--Haas)
158 Ps. 118 (This is the Day--Haugen)
322, 323, 324 Sanctus/Mem. Accl./Amen (Mass of Creation--Haugen)
330, 331 Kyrie/Gloria (Mass of Light--Haas)
*341, 352 Kyrie/Lamb of God (Mass of Remembrance--Haugen)
*495 My Soul in Stillness Waits (Haugen)
516 Carol at the Manger (Haugen)
541 Tree of Life (Haugen)
555 Return to God (Haugen)
612 Send Us Your Spirit (Haas)
638 Canticle of the Sun (Haugen)
*697 Glory and Praise to Our God (Schutte)
*723 We Walk By Faith (Haugen)
758 Eye Has Not Seen (Haugen)
One more I would add that is not in this hymnal, but I just thought of:
*All the Earth (Deiss)
*Asterisks denote pieces that I think are good models for future compositions in this style. What do they have in common? Sturdy texts, singable melodies, conducive to variety in accompaniment and instrumentation . . . and well, IMO, appropriate for the House of God.