Looking for good, doctrinally sound Gospel music...if such a thing exists
  • When I was practicing with my choir this week, they mentioned that they wanted to do more new, "uplifting" music, which basically means music in an upbeat Gospel style. Here is some context regarding the music program: first, the choir is comprised of well over 50% African-American individuals, so Gospel music is part of what they have done for a long time. Our current repertoire for a given week does not necessarily reflect this, instead including an almost equal proportion of hymnody and post-1960s songs, plus some psalm paraphrases mostly written in the '80s and '90s. I am not crazy about a lot of these songs, although the hymnody is typically decent and pretty much all of this music is well-received by the parishioners. I have tried to weed out the overused and theologically weak songs as much as possible and instead focus on the best music that we have in our OCP hymnal. I will also occasionally sing the communion chant from the Simple English Propers while the choir receives communion as a way to familiarize the congregation with the Propers, and eventually would like to do more of this. Additionally, I am making preparations to begin using Richard Clark's English setting of the Missa de Angelis, and I think the choir seemed a little overwhelmed with chant when I played the Gloria at practice - several mentioned that it took them back to not-so-good memories of their school days. The Gospel style is typically reserved for the closing song at the Masses in which the choir sings and is taken from a collection of 40-50 songs that the parish compiled years ago, long before my time. In my 2 years as music director, we have only done a handful of these, largely because they either do not seem to contain very sound doctrine or because they are not as "uplifting" as the choir would want. They keep reminding me that "Order My Steps" and "Our God Is an Awesome God" are great options - I have consistently avoided both of these.

    My question is this: does anyone know of any decent music in the Gospel style that are also solidly rooted in or at least not contrary to the teachings of the Catholic faith? I am trying to maintain the tradition in my parish of singing in this style and yet not have to revert to the mediocre songs that the parish has used in the past nor to the hit Christian pop tunes that tend to be just as bad or perhaps worse. My first preference would be settings that directly quote biblical texts or at least faithfully paraphrase them. As I am not sure if such a thing even exists (i.e., truly Catholic Gospel music), I extend my query to those who might know more than I.
  • In my experience, the stuff in LMGM is not theologically problematic, but perhaps a bit trite. I'm okay with that, considering the problematic things I've seen. I wouldn't make a steady diet of it, but I can live with it.

    My biggest problem is the inability to play it in an "authentic" style. My improvisation chops are weak, at best, and the people want more than just what written on the page.
  • Here's an idea, although it may sound as if it has been flown in from the middle of nowhere:

    Introduce the choir to some specific chants, especially some with long jubili, or which are especially rich in word painting:

    Improperium (from the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart)
    Missa Cum Jubilo
    Implete hydrias


    Thanked by 1bonniebede
  • When I was practicing with my choir this week, they mentioned that they wanted to do more new, "uplifting" music, which basically means music in an upbeat Gospel style. Here is some context regarding the music program: first, the choir is comprised of well over 50% African-American individuals, so Gospel music is part of what they have done for a long time.


    Those of us who have worked in churches with strong African-American attendance are faced with a challenge that was anticipated in Vatican II. How to welcome a people with a culture that is not Western European.

    If this is a "real issue" your pastor would do very well to send you on a road trip to visit other parishes that have successfully created a program of music that works.

    They are rare, but they exist. He will be aware of such parishes because he has faced exactly what you are facing.

    Awesome God is a pop song and I would avoid it, as you have. It is not African American.

    Link Fixed! Order My Steps I find no objection to. I'd sing it as communion reflection. You could sing it every Sunday and have a job forever.

    Note the serious attitude of the choir. Note the sincerity and the lack of "it's all about me." As far as improv skills, there are written accompaniments - note also that the accompaniment is like continuo - it's there but not featured.

    You may have a soloist that can sing but the strength of this is the choir. Not the accompaniment, so don't be worried about your abilities.


    I would also avoid singing:
    Improperium (from the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart)
    Missa Cum Jubilo
    Implete hydrias
    with a gospel beat.



    Do sing Precious Lord.

    Remember as you do this that traditional Black Gospel Spirituals are the Gregorian Chant of the African American church culture. Revered but being replaced in some churches.


    I also have to admit that this answer fails to respond to the need, which is music that is uplifting after Mass.

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Check out the full catalogue of the late, GREAT Leon Roberts. If you want a starter piece, try his "Canticle of Mary." Authentic and easy choral voicing, fully realized piano, and an ethos of enculturation that is honest.
    Lest anyone think it's sub-standard composition, think again after auditioning his MASS OF ST. AUGUSTINE.
    I also recommend the works of Uzee Brown Jr. and (selectively) Andre Thomas. Of course, if your choir has the chops, the late unsurpassed Moses Hogan.
  • I suppose I should have figured that Noel would misunderstand my point. (It's normally someone else's job, but ....)

    My point, since it wasn't obvious, is that those who want "spiritual" music can find it within the patrimony of the Church already. No, one wouldn't sing it as "Gospel" music, but then I wouldn't admit anything calling itself "African American" to the Mass in any event (please read to the end of the sentence) because Caesaro-Papism has no place in music planning: my little fiefdom doesn't make sense!
  • [admin note: joke deleted.]

    Writer: Not a joke...it was a serious question about this, which I really do not understand:

    No, one wouldn't sing it as "Gospel" music, but then I wouldn't admit anything calling itself "African American" to the Mass in any event (please read to the end of the sentence) because Caesaro-Papism has no place in music planning: my little fiefdom doesn't make sense!


    But I thank the Admin for having the sensitivity to remove it.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Has anyone ever visited a new general practicioner MD who didn't really read your history or chart, and then started listing all sorts of necessary regimes you need to add to your health care? "Oh, you need to see a gastro-enterologist, a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, urologist, proctologist...." You get the point. And you made an appointment to find out if you have stomach flu.
    We sometimes have that dilemma here on the forum. Someone will ask a genuinely simple question out of genuine need, and then there's a swarm of solutions that are ancillary to specified problem the poster queried. And tons of ancillary advice is often defended as being the most charitable thing we can offer because we know more and have more diplomas on the wall than the person with the problem.
    When someone asks for help for a specific problem, perhaps we could simply say what Christ thought expedient, not to mention honest: "Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    Problems? What problems? We don't have no stinkin' problems.
  • 2 songs come to mind - At the Name of Jesus by Christopher walker and Taste and See by Hurd. Both are Gospel, have satb parts available, and based on scripture. I am using At the Name of Jesus on a regular basis
  • CGM
    Posts: 525
    I'd highly recommend wonderful the 2-vols-in-1 American Negro Spirituals by poet James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosamond (who was a pianist), which contains 120 pieces.

    While they're scored as art-songs, that is, for single voice and piano accompaniment, they'll give you a very wide-ranging sense of texts and tunes. If you find some that suit your needs, you might (a) search for choral arrangements, or (b) arrange them yourself, for your particular vocal forces.

    This is as close to "going to the source" as I know for this repertory.
    Thanked by 2Gavin Spriggo
  • I believe Msgr. Charles Pope once wrote a paper attempting to justify using Gospel music at Mass (which he does employ at his parish in Washington D.C.). Jeffrey Tucker posted about this once upon a time.