It's worth watching to see his message to the end.
  • I apologize if some are not able to view this.

    https://www.facebook.com/RodneyBoyden/videos/10206331263467282/

    I was invited to attend a conference in LA about the preservation of African American Church Music. One of the speakers said that two important forms of music were dying out and could be lost, the African American Spirituals and Gregorian Chant.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,653
    To paraphrase St. Pius the Tenth, "Gimme that old time religion!"
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Interesting. We're doing a "cantata" of spirituals in concert next Sunday.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Hopefully, Gregorian is not dead yet. The issue I have with African American church music is that it is not, nor ever was, Catholic. Even if you go back to - non-PC term coming so hide your sensitive eyes - negro spirituals, they were not Catholic, either. It is a bit of a mistake to think they were always church music even in Protestant churches. Some of this type was used in black churches, but much of it was sung in the fields or other work. In essence, they were little different from sea shanties. They were work songs which often had religious themes. There were hidden meanings in many of those songs that were not spiritual or religious, some even being political. But again, they were not Catholic in doctrine or origin. Using this type of music in a Catholic church is little more than entertainment.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    There were hidden meanings in many of those songs that were not spiritual or religious

    Like the Pelican found in "Godhead here in hiding"?
    CW, was the decidedly un-musicological opinion fired off the cuff?
    Besides, I tend to believe a concert of spirituals has more place in any Christian church than a hanging statue of Mary Poppins, eh?
    It is correct to observe that spirituals aren't Catholic, but even as you describe them, there is ample evidence they were, in essence, "catholic." The particular nomenclature and symbiology is shared between diverse peoples, not unlike the Sacred Harp/Shape Note tradition.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    You will note, if you have read that thread, I suggested hanging the chancellor from the ceiling rather than Mary Poppins. LOL. I rather liked dear old Mary Poppins.

    ...shared between diverse peoples...


    I will have to disagree with you, esteemed sage. My predecessor did spirituals. Like choral conductors everywhere, she loved the harmonies, textures, blends and all else that was satisfying in conducting choirs singing spirituals. One of the first things I was told when I took the job was, "kill the spirituals. They have no place here." I had to agree with that. The congregation hated them anyway. As much as I like Sacred Harp, it doesn't belong at mass, either. Both are fine for concerts, but concerts are not the public worship of the Church, nor were they ever intended to be. In the days before the hierarchy lost its collective mind, it wouldn't have been necessary to even discuss that.

    From dear old St. Wiki and also found in music textbooks when I was in college - yes, I remember that far back. LOL

    Some scholarship claims that songs such as "Wade in the Water" contained explicit instructions to fugitive slaves on how to avoid capture, and on which routes to take to successfully make their way to freedom.[19] "Wade in the Water" allegedly recommends leaving dry land and taking to the water as a strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one's trail.[20] "The Gospel Train", "Song of the Free", and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" are likewise supposed to contain veiled references to the Underground Railroad, and many sources assert that "Follow the Drinking Gourd" contained a coded map to the Underground Railroad.[21]
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    "Using this type of music in a Catholic church is little more than entertainment."

    No.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I certainly don't find it entertaining, so in that sense you may be right. The only spiritual I have ever used, and would like to rip out of the book and destroy, is "Were You There?" No, I wasn't, and neither was anyone else present. I have left it alone for once a year use rather than antagonize some of my singers, but I hate it.

    As a dear, and very black, elderly friend has said, "There is nothing more pathetic than a bunch of old white people singing spirituals." Funny, but she is probably right.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 273
    So Catholicism isn't catholic? Isn't it part of the genius of Catholicism to be able to absorb whatever is good--whether secular or religious--and use it to glorify the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit? Of course, if you think that Spirituals aren't musically worthy that is another matter. But having a non-Catholic origin has never, in itself, disqualified an art form or philosophical outlook from being appropriated by Catholics.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JL
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    The Church has historically adapted the best of given cultures and used it. But keep in mind, it is culturally specific. Taking it out of one culture and dropping it into another doesn't always fit. At a personal level, bringing spirituals or even Eskimo music, if such exists, into a conservative congregation of European descent may create chaos and even outright hostility. Our problem today is that everything is considered appropriate and anything goes.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 273
    But the chaos and hostility might, just might, be due to the narrow-mindedness of the congregation, n'est ce pas? Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas were accused of creating chaos and hostility at the University of Paris by dropping Aristotle into the theology classes. Sometimes a moment of seeming chaos and even the engendering of hostility is the risk we run in pressing the Church toward ever-greater catholicity.

    Pastorally speaking, however, I'm opposed to breaking bruised reeds or smothering smoldering wicks, so I don't think I would choose to introduce spirituals into a congregation devoted to Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony. But that is something quite different from saying that spirituals are inherently unsuited to Catholic liturgy because they come from a non-Catholic source.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,064
    I think we should distinguish between Mass, the Offices, other Eucharistic worship, popular devotions, and other para-liturgies. Spirituals are culturally inappropriate here in the middle of the Irish Sea. But Taize might well suit a Holy Hour, and so might some of the local west-gallery tunes.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    Charles’s point is more about what they were not as non-Catholic music.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    But the chaos and hostility might, just might, be due to the narrow-mindedness of the congregation, n'est ce pas? Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas were accused of creating chaos and hostility at the University of Paris by dropping Aristotle into the theology classes


    Aristotle was likely more educated than either of the other two, and perhaps they realized they could learn from him. Could one say the ancient Greeks were more culturally advanced than Paris at the time?

    Sometimes a moment of seeming chaos and even the engendering of hostility is the risk we run in pressing the Church toward ever-greater catholicity.


    Catholicity is good, but I do remember when you could go anywhere in the world and find familiar liturgy in the Roman Rite. Now, we have a politically correct mish-mash of whatever is popular, warm and fuzzy, and feels good. What's wrong with this picture?

    I think we should distinguish between Mass, the Offices, other Eucharistic worship, popular devotions, and other para-liturgies.


    Exactly, and those distinctions seem to get lost. What is appropriate for one is not necessarily right for the others.
    Thanked by 1dad29
  • Msgr. Francis Schmitt's article in "Crisis in Church Music?" mentions his approach to spirituals, that he willingly put them into Boy's Town's Masses on occasion, because of their artistry and merit, not as a form of cultural pandering. At least that is close, I believe, to the way he put it. (He enjoyed the converse observation of an older student of color getting a kick out of the Ascendit Deus of Gallus; the exact quote was, "We doin' that for graduation again? Good. That I dig.")

    On my part, I think many of the spirituals speak a very simple, forthright, universal language. Others have thought so, as well (Dvorak). I would use them or not as appropriate, not as "culturally" appropriate in the sense being discussed here.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    As a dear, and very black, elderly friend has said, "There is nothing more pathetic than a bunch of old white people singing spirituals." Funny, but she is probably right.

    I loves ya, CDubya, but all I have in common with your friend and you on this matter is....well.....an opinion. If music is to be defined solely by anthropological ownership, then count me out. This anecdotal defense is easily dismissed by decades of scholarship, real praxis (explain to me how Brigham Young U.'s concert choir delivered as much an authentic performance of this genre as did the Moses Hogan Chorale in Reno 1991 ACDA? Don't try to answer, it's rhetorical and pointless.) And pardon me, but having 2/3rd of my life invested in Oakland CA, I know from pathetic white burden and envy. But that only informs how not to do stuff, it doesn't inform how to bring honest performance of any style. Your examples of code do not explain stalwarts such as "I want Jesus to walk with me.....Jesus walked this lonesome valley....Great Day.....Free at last....Ev'ry time I feel the spirit....." and hundreds of other titles.
    I'm not lobbying for use at Mass, but I can't endorse musical myopia when it's unwarranted.
    PS. Do you likewise dismiss the last two decades of St. Olaf's "authenticity" because of Dr. Armstrong's ethnicity? Or do you defend it because he's a St. Olaf's alumnus through and through. In any case, even considering the subject of that is a lose/lose.
    Thanked by 1MBW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    The one thing missing from your list of choirs is the word, "Catholic." It isn't there. Those institutions are either Protestant, or in the case of Brigham Young, some would say not even Christian. I agree those non-Catholics sing well, but they are still what they are. After all the work CMAA and others have done to try and return Catholic music to Catholic worship, I don't see the inclusion of other forms as helpful.

    BTW, my complaints were about using spirituals at Mass. Concerts can include anything and frequently do.
  • davido
    Posts: 291
    Spirituals approach God in a very different way than Catholic music, or even most of the music of the first few centuries of Protestantism. Spirituals usually invoke a personal story, a claim of what Jesus did for ME! rather than a communal understanding of the works of God as found in the Catholic liturgy. While it is also true that the personal relationship with God does appear in numerous Catholic and Protestant texts, they are still often paired to music that recognizes the transcendent majesty of God. The God that dwells in unapproachable light is not the God of spirituals. Certain church musical capture both the human and the divine. I find spirituals - and the responsorial psalm from breaking bread to which Jesus and I were subjected yesterday evening - to only reflect humanity.
    Thanked by 2a_f_hawkins CharlesW
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,064
    Yes, there is very very little scope, or reason, for personal testament in true Catholic worship. The only one I know of at Mass is the reception of a catechumen, where the enquirer is asked why they have come. And this actually occurs at the entrance procession, before the Mass has started. The design of the Mass is that only the celebrant prays, except where the people pray collectively (the deacon does not pray except with the congregation). Badly structured utterances at the prayer of the faithful often give the impression that the speaker us praying on behalf of the congregation, and this is a great evil.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,224
    The bidding prayers are poorly scripted and tend to be hyper-didactic, much more so than the collects, and they also tend to be a way to prod people into doing X or Y or promoting a particular vision of something. I get a robust sense of the sense of the church and community held by others based on the prayers of the faithful.

    In the traditional liturgy, the priest had to double “Requiescant in pace” and “Benedicamus Domino” as the deacon sang the prayer. I do not think he does in the 1962 missal.

    I am with CharlesW on the question of spirituals.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • The one thing missing from your list of choirs is the word, "Catholic." It isn't there.


    Boy's Town Choir. Msgr. Schmitt having been a huge part of CMAA's initial work....
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 273
    there is very very little scope, or reason, for personal testament in true Catholic worship.


    Credo in unum Deum?
    Domine, non sum dignus?

    Aristotle was likely more educated than either of the other two, and perhaps they realized they could learn from him. Could one say the ancient Greeks were more culturally advanced than Paris at the time?


    I would put 13th century Paris up against 4th century BC Athens any day. But of course they thought they could learn from him. But that was because of the quality of his arguments, not because he came from a superior or more advanced culture.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,064
    Domine, non sum dignus?
    Yes, true, I was thinking of solo witness. I have no theological problem with spirituals (there may be exceptions) if the community choir I am in is asked to perform them at a concert in a Methodist church, as we have. It's a feeling that
    Spirituals usually invoke a personal story, a claim of what Jesus did for ME! rather than a communal understanding of the works of God as found in the Catholic liturgy.
    as above. But it may just be a cultural thing, as I am neither American nor of African heritage. There are plenty of worse things, "Jesus loves ME" is true, "I am the bread of life" is not, neither was the communion antiphon for Lent2 "This is MY beloved Son ...".
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    But that was because of the quality of his arguments, not because he came from a superior or more advanced culture.


    The quality of his arguments was good, as you say. They still are. However, Paris at the time was a smelly, plague-ridden place. Later came civil wars, foreign occupation and other such highlights of culture. Paris was the largest city in the west, but that isn't saying so much, since western civilization had been in decline and decay since the fall of Rome. In fact, it wasn't even the principal residence of the kings until Louis VI and Louis VII in the 12th century. Fourth century Athens might have been a better place to be.

  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 273
    western civilization had been in decline and decay since the fall of Rome.


    Historians generally no longer accept this view. There are many ways in which medieval european civilization was far in advance of Rome. Since Pierre Duhem in the late 19th century it has been widely accepted among historians of science that most of the discoveries of Galileo, Newton et al. were building upon medieval thinkers like Buridan, Bacon etc.

    But this has taken us far afield from Spirituals and Catholic worship. I wonder what Albert the Great would have thought of Spirituals?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550

    Historians generally no longer accept this view


    It is difficult to speak generally about historians since they tend to be as crazy as musicians. LOL. For any position taken there will be intense disputation. Let's not even mention archaeology. It is worse.

    Albert the Great. Don't know. One can look at his writings, but it is difficult to know what he would have personally thought. Given his time and culture, spirituals would have seemed pretty strange to him.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Framing this discussion as objective (chant and Ren. polyphony) vs Subjective (spirituals or other music perceived as "Jesus and Me"), I wonder to what extent this forum feels the need to acknowledge the contributions of psychology and learning science to our understanding of how people take in and process what they experience.

    If we give any credence to the science, and we want to enrich the spiritual lives of our listeners, we would have to consider that there will be a wide variety of reactions in a listener to whatever music we present. Individuals learn and process information, including musical information, differently. The same work might evoke a singular personal reaction in one person, and have an affect of primarily intellectual uplift for another.

    Further, if we are to decry the personal, individual experience, what happens when a person develops a deep personal (subjective) connection to an objective piece? If I love Sicut cervus of Palestrina and come to feel a profound emotional reaction to it formed, not by the austere beauty of an appropriate text, beautifully clothed, but by my own personal extra-liturgical associations with the music, is that wrong? Does it become "not Catholic" because it is no longer solely objective to ME! Do I cover my ears when the piece is programmed. Absurd. None of us are completely objective or completely subjective.

    In short, I have no problems with spirituals per se in the Mass. For me, they are best when presented as artfully arranged choral pieces or, a couple of times a year, as congregational "hymns".


  • dad29
    Posts: 1,909
    Re: "personal":

    To participate, as the word itself says (pars + capere), means "to take part". Now, several important consequences come from the way in which we read this word. Unfortunately, in recent times much emphasis has been placed on “the one who takes part,” rather than “take part in what.” This slipping of the subject has also caused a slipping in value, as if the guests invited to a birthday celebration were more important than the one being celebrated. Actually, as we all know, the one being celebrated is certainly more important, and all the efforts of the guests at the “celebration” (another term widely used and abused in recent decades) are directed to the one celebrated.


    See: http://uk.paix-liturgique.org/aff_lettre.asp?LET_N_ID=2463

    Otherwise, as mentioned above, why a discussion of 'spirituals' when the real question is 'propers'? Propers are like Arby's: they have the meat!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I have nothing at all against Propers and use them to the extent I am allowed to. I can't get away from entrance hymns, so unless I can use the introit as a prelude, I don't have other options. At times, I do sing them as preludes. Offertory, now called Presentation has too much going on so that one gets dropped. Communion I have been able to sing every Sunday. With time, I may be able to get that offertory back.

    You won't be hearing spirituals at my place. Ain'-A That Good News? ;-)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Speaking of re-framing the discussion...I went back and reviewed the video FNJ offered, along with his observation that spirituals and chant are "endangered species." In the clip, Mr. Boyden makes the conclusion "Don't get so deep into the contemporary that you forget that on the inside, most people are traditional." I'm not convinced the tenor of this discussion has acknowledged that Noel's concern and Boyden's observations don't necessarily place Gregorian Chant and Negro Spirituals in opposition, or somehow advocates in favor of inclusion of either into disparate worship environments. That there seems a disordered inclination to trump one or the other as intrinsically unfit for artistic consideration actually helps diminish the appreciation of both. There can be separate without conjuring whether they're equal or not.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I would say they represent music of two different churches and two different traditions. I would also say each works within its own context, but may not be appropriate in the worship of the other. As for artistic consideration, yes both are fine for concerts.

    By the way, Happy Pi Day Melo.
    Thanked by 2melofluent CHGiffen
  • "Don't get so deep into the contemporary that you forget that on the inside, most people are traditional." I'm not convinced the tenor of this discussion has acknowledged that Noel's concern and Boyden's observations don't necessarily place Gregorian Chant and Negro Spirituals in opposition, or somehow advocates in favor of inclusion of either into disparate worship environments


    Thank you, Melo. Glad you got the point.

    The Black church in the USA has the same problem that the Catholic church does when it comes to music today. The historic, traditional music that was built by and part of the church, is being abandoned for popular styles that people enjoy.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    being abandoned for popular styles that people enjoy.


    Or which people think other non-specified people who weren't consulted would enjoy.

    Or which is easier to accomplish.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    An interesting, I think, note about black churches. A couple of years ago, a black friend died. A lovely lady many of us still miss. Parts of her family were not Catholic but members of an independent Baptist body. I had a chance before the funeral to talk with relatives I hadn't met and the music director from the Protestant church they attended. The subject of spirituals came up and they all said, "we don't sing those slave songs." I had never heard them called that before. They had their own hymnal with newer, but fairly decent material. It wasn't the praise and worship type one would assume. Although contemporary for the most part, it sounded more like standard Protestant hymn writing.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    "we don't sing those slave songs."


    I have been told that there is something of a "class divide" between Black Protestants who feel this way (and who traditionally sang what we might call traditional hymnody, and who tended toward denominations like Anglican/Episcopal and AME) and those who feel, basically, the opposite (and who traditionally sang spirituals and Gospels, and who tend toward denominations like Baptist).

    (So, as a side note, I was interested that you heard it from Baptists.)

    Like all things, I'm sure there is wide variety of opinions and histories.

    Which may not argue against enculturation in general, but certainly argues against any of the easy or superficial approaches to enculturation promoted by a some publishers and the workshops/conferences they underwrite.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    These folks were Independent Baptists belonging to some national organization and I have forgotten which one. They were not Southern Baptists. They were highly educated, cultured and sophisticated. I thought they were first class people.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    To move from one topic digression to another, to whit:
    It is a bit of a mistake to think they were always church music even in Protestant churches. Some of this type was used in black churches, but much of it was sung in the fields or other work. In essence, they were little different from sea shanties. They were work songs which often had religious themes.

    I have no contest with Charles' assessment. I do think that it presented the inference of a lesser Christian pedigree as regards its proponents. In parallel to Charles' assertion that performance practice is, in fact, somewhat subject to its ethnological origins, let's accept (for argument's sake) that the texts under review reflect a different his-story than does other sacred music.
    "Come ye sinners poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and sore. God is calling, will you listen? Will you come to be restored?" ("My yoke is easy, my burden light.")
    "I want Jesus to walk with me." ("If anyone would follow me, let him take up his cross.")
    "I have decided to follow Jesus." ("I tell you this day you will be with Me in paradise.")
    "Give me Jesus." ("Where is this living water, Lord, that I may drink of it?")
    "Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain." ("...then I am but a gong...")
    "He is Lord of Lords." "Let us break bread together on our knees." ("So that at the Name of Jesus, every head shall bow and every knee shall bend, and all shall say....")
    "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun (ad orientem?), O Lord have mercy on me." Kyrie eleison.
    "Don't you know? Jesus climbed, yes He climbed the hill of sorrow for me."
    "He never said a mumblin' word." ("Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachtani!")

    Which are the more impoverished, the above examples or "Yeah, Your grace is enough for me?"

    Again, I am not advocating the use of these or other spiritual texts for use at the Divine Liturgy. But concomitantly I would hope no one dismisses them out of hand as unworthy of Christian regard.
    Over/out.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • Baptists may not be what you think of as a denomination.

    All Baptist churches are independent, self-ruled and many belong to organizations of Baptist churches, which makes it interesting that they are independent and self-ruled...and they can be kicked out of organizations if they do not stay in line. It's a sort of Mobius Loop with a kink in it.

    Baptist churches, in management, are very similar to Catholic parishes when it comes to decision making.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Baptists have one important advantage. The local congregation hires and fires the pastor and also owns the land and buildings. They have no equivalents to bishops.
  • Planning on joining?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Nah, theological differences. Too many ex-Catholics belong. If everyone does it, it isn't worth doing.