Protecting the congregation from Music Directors
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,998
    In seminary, we were told that the Book of Common Prayer exists, in many ways, to protect the laity from the clergy. It provides the Church with a distinctive and agreed upon core. The hymnal functions in much the same way. The report states, “While among clergy and music directors, a plurality favor hymnal revision, sentiment among congregation members runs 2-to-1 against revision and there is no demographic category that is in favor.”

    More here and here.

  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    The results of that survey are truly meaningless, and it is only God's own grace that helped it align with the strong need for the current Commission to NOT UNDERTAKE A HYMNAL REVISION at this time.

    I know many good Episcopal musicians who don't like the current hymnal, and who wish it was better. Not a one of them is in favor of an official revision, because they all know it would be even worse than the last official revision.

    They would be better off encouraging market competition among publishers, but that would threaten Church Publishing's monopoly, and their revenue helps fund the clergy pension.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,703
    What I find interesting is that I can't imagine a survey by Catholic bishops even considering some of the layers of contrapuntal issues involved. The fact that the survey results aren't clearly dispositive is an indication that it's closer to reality than fiction, I suspect. Officialdom tends to be, well, officious, particularly when it comes to inventorying problems: inventorying of problems makes ministers feel as if they were ministering. It's an impulse of modernity (and I mean modernity going back a few centuries, btw; even the Council of Trent had this thing going on).
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    You shouldn't ask "the people" if they want change. They will always say no, no matter how much it is needed. You shouldn't ask "experts" if change is needed, they will always say "yes," whether it is or not.

    Also - I took the survey two or three years ago when they sent it out to Episcopal parishes. It was clear from the language of the questions that they really didn't have any idea what they were talking about. Vague generalizations, imprecise language, wildly inaccurate genre groupings.

    For all the derision leveled against the American Catholic "marketplace" approach, I can assure you that nobody here would actually want a group of Bishops or a commission of the USCCB mandating the use of a specific hymnal or music program.

    The free-market approach of Catholic music publishing allows natural growth and development, and - when all is said and done - the good, the beautiful, and the true are irresistibly attractive. Crappy folk songs gave way to better folk songs. Better folk songs gave way to mostly-good contemporary music. That is starting to give way to real tradition and beauty.

    Are there stragglers? Of course. But some people will ALWAYS do whatever they feel like, whatever lame and crappy thing they are comfortable with. Central planning CANNOT 'fix' those people. It can only enshrine their goofiness and boredom.

    The single best thing the Episcopal church could do for music would be to simply tell everybody they are totally allowed to use other hymnals.

  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,105
    The Hymnal Revision Feasibility Study - Report to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music:

    To assert that the results of that survey are truly meaningless is, to my senses (as a Catholic coming from the Anglican tradition, as a musician, and as a mathematician with considerable experience in the statistical method of the survey), a very narrow viewpoint. Yes, it is fortunate for you (and me, as well as perhaps the great majority of us at this forum) that the results of that survey indeed strongly suggest that a Hymnal revision for the Episcopal Church is not advisable, not supported and not feasible at this time.

    Yet, while the thoroughness and detailed statistical analysis of the survey in question (and my own take, as a seasoned mathematician with experience in MANOVA, modelling, and other statistical methods) ... together with the degree to which the analysts went to explore the myriads of possible contributing and correlating factors that might mitigate against the final conclusion ... make the survey far from meaningless. Indeed, the survey was very well crafted, conducted, analyzed, and reported. To dismiss it as meaningless is absurd, for it carries weight far greater than any amount of personal predisposition and anecdotal experience. And the weight it carries is not that is was a formal study, but that the that was conducted is pretty much a paradigm for what such a study should be, especially from a mathematical/statistical viewpoint.

    Adam, dear friend, the anecdotal evidence of your second paragraph is nice to know, and it agrees with the same anecdotal evidence encountered in my own experience ... but anecdotal is what it is, nothing more. Taken in isolation, it means little (as does mine). It doesn't seem appropriate to me that you express a begrudging gratefulness that the report's conclusion happens to agree with yours.

    I find your third paragraph troubling, too, that you suggest they would be better off encouraging market competition amongst publishers, leaving aside that the current situation benefits the church's pension fund. It was 42 years from the Hymnal 1940 to the Hymnal 1982, and it is likely that, even started now (had the report strongly suggested the viability of a revision was excellent), a new revision would be likely to appear about ten years from now, roughly 42 years since 1982. Now, look where market competition amongst publishers has done to the Catholic church in the United States. At first we had revisions of hymnals from the big publishers appearing at intervals significantly less than 42 years (think 10-15) ... and then these same publishers latched on and held fast to the disposable missalettes and annual music books (that had to be destroyed annually) ... Why? because they turnaround time simply generated revenue for the publishers at an ever increasing pace. And how many dimes (okay, in these times of inflation, Ben Franklins) make into anything even remotely as charitable as church pension fund? Furthermore, what is the cost to the individual parishes and their congregations? Although it doesn't fit our Catholic model, the Episcopal model is not something to be taken lightly nor so readily dismissed.

    The report takes significant note that Episcopalians greatly value their music - and Hymnal - as part of the identity and heritage. As Catholics, we should wish to be so fortunate.
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  • This discussion reminds me of the attempt to produce a Catholic national hymnal for the United States in the 1970's:
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,105
    Note: I noticed this thread first thing in the morning, and read the report in the Kathy's first-listed link (yes, I actually read it, since it piqued both my several interests and my professional experience as a mathematician). Then I decided to comment on it and discovered Adam's first post, at which point I wrote my own comments above.

    Obviously, the viewpoint I expressed is at variance with Adam's even though I am very happy that the report does not support a revision of the Hymnal 1982 at this time. I just feel that Adam was taking a very narrow viewpoint and not really addressing the larger picture. My apologies if I am mistaken.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,105
    Addendum: Adam's experience as a taker of the survey 2 or 3 years ago is, again, anecdotal. But troubling to me are his disparaging comments about the questions that were asked ... which is a frequent bias expressed by survey participants that have no idea at all what questions, seemingly relevant as well as irrelevant for control purposes, make up a good statistical survey. One really should read the report in full, not just in excerpts or sound-bytes, to gauge its thoroughness.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    I just feel that Adam was taking a very narrow viewpoint and not really addressing the larger picture.

    This is how I feel about the survey and its conclusions.

    I think the results are meaningless because I think the basic question is wrong. Or rather, the many different questions are compounded into one single question.

    The many different questions might be:
    1. Should it be expected and desired that every single parish in the Episcopal Church use the same hymnal?
    2. Does the 1982 need to be replaced?
    3. What should it be replaced with?
    4. What, exactly, is the purpose of a denomination hymnal?
    5. How does a denominational hymnal respect and preserve the tradition while at the same time responding to current needs?
    6. Is 'habitual' the same as 'traditional'?
    7. What do we HONESTLY think would be the actual effect of our actions, regardless of our intentions?
    8. What's the whole point of liturgy and music in the first place?

    I don't think bureaucrats are very good at answering any of these questions.

    And I think that the much-vaunted love of tradition and high-quality music and liturgy oft-attributed to Episcopalians (in opposition to those goofy Catholic folksingers) is mis-applied. For every amazing parish with amazing choirs and organs, there's dozens of bored, aging congregations with out-of-tune organs and warbling choirs and completely insane weekly hymn selections.

    Liturgical quality is largely a congregational issue, and it is my belief that nationalized actions tend only to do more harm than good. That's a philosophical position, so it's hard to "prove," but it's how I see things.
    Thanked by 2barreltone CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,949
    Let's just rejoice and give thanks that we DON'T have a national Catholic hymnal. Given that such things tend to rise to their own level of mediocrity, be glad, be very glad.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    But troubling to me are his disparaging comments about the questions that were asked ... which is a frequent bias expressed by survey participants that have no idea at all what questions, seemingly relevant as well as irrelevant for control purposes, make up a good statistical survey.

    The survey did not feel or seem like something related to good statistical practices.

    There was a series of questions related to "what music do you program at your parish" which did not ask for any specific information about particular pieces or composers but rather asked for a percentage breakdown of your programming by "genre." The genre labels were incoherent and completely undefined. (What the heck is a "Praise Chorus"?).

    There were a small handful of other "what music do you use" type questions, and a few questions related to whether you think the Commission should embark on creating a new hymnal.

    Additionally, I read published meeting notes from the Commission, in the months leading up to the beginning of the feasibility study, and they seemed to be at about the level of sophistication as a parochial vestry. One tidbit I particularly remember was a "report" from one of the members that they were completely unable to find even one single example of contemporary "Praise and Worship" music that was even remotely sound and fit for liturgy.

    To me -
    there's a parallel here to the "Propers and Media" thread:
    A small group of people, no matter how well-informed or well-intentioned, simply CANNOT make good decisions about these matters on this scale.

    I would hazard a guess that at least a large portion of the "youth vote" (overwhelmingly opposed to a revision) is reflective not of an attachment to the 1982 hymnal, but of a realization that leadership should stop wasting time and money on things that won't help.

    Obviously: these are all only my opinions. Nothing I say on this topic matters to anybody at all, nor will it make any difference in the actions of anyone in leadership in any ecclesiastical body. I can't even get the parish that pays me to care about my opinions.
    Thanked by 2barreltone CHGiffen
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,592
    Back when I lived in Canada, it was my experience that most Catholic Parishes that had the national hymnal (either CBWII or CBWIII) would also have another hymnal in their pews. Of the 4 Churches that I worked at when I left Canada, they had:
    Church 1: CBWIII, G&P Blue
    Church 2: CBWII, Gather Aqua
    Church 3: CBWII, CBWIII, G&B Blue
    Church 4: Ritual Song, SSPX Hymnal

    Church 3 was quasi-forced to buy CBWIII, but I talked them into also keeping CBWII in the pews... Some of the hymn texts of CBWIII rendered hymns unusable in my estimation, so I knew it was in my best interest to keep the older book there alongside the newer book.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    This discussion reminds me of the attempt to produce a Catholic national hymnal for the United States in the 1970's:

    Fr. Jim, didya ever meet Fr. E. Donald Osuna from Diocese of Oakland CA, St. Francis Cathedral DMM? I remember having that discussion in the early 70's wherein he presaged (wisely) "There will NEVER be a national Catholic hymnal."
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  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,998

    Is the long-standing (centuries-long) practice of singing metrical paraphrases of liturgical hymns like the Gloria continued in the new Gotteslob?

    I have a copy from before the change.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,998
    My strongest takeaway from the survey is the style that appeals to young people, which they are in no hurry to change--particularly the younger clergy.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • ZacPB189ZacPB189
    Posts: 70
    Yes and no. It includes a few Latin Gloria chants as well as a few "official translation" settings, but it also has "Allein Gott in der Höh sei ehr" and some other paraphrases, some which are more tasteful than others (all of which are more tasteful than English ones, it seems). It also has a chant version in German.
    Thanked by 1Kathy
  • Fr. Jim, didya ever meet Fr. E. Donald Osuna from Diocese of Oakland CA, St. Francis Cathedral DMM?
    Charles (Melo),

    Unfortunately, I never met Don Osuna, but thanks for asking. I remember hearing about his notable work at the Oakland Cathedral, and it would be nice if our paths would cross some day. I always appreciate meeting other priest-musicians, especially those who have worked in cathedral or diocesan positions. I'm sure that his book would make for an interesting read:
    Thanked by 1melofluent