Roman Catholic Composers of Sacred Music Unite
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi all:

    I am putting out feelers to see if composers of sacred music would like to gather UNITE (initially online), and discuss the role of composers for NEW AUTHENTIC SACRED MUSIC, specifically for the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Here are some questions to get the discussion going. How does our role as contemporary composers dovetail with the existing treasure of sacred music in Gregorian Chant? What kind of music SHOULD we be composing now? What is the role of the composer in today's mixed up 'experimental musical' attitide which is quickly falling to the wayside. (We should not be experimenting with the liturgy!)

    This is intended to be a brainstorming session at first. At various points in my 'career' as a composer, there was pressure to 'join' the Weakland contingent, (Haugen and Haas and company), the NPM, and other associations of this sort. I have saved all of the rejection letters from the large publishers who said my music was either TOO Catholic or not marketable. Authentic liturgical music has nothing to do with marketability, and it should be 100% Catholic, so I wrote off the 'publishers' long ago. At points I even sent letters to my Archbishop and to Marty Haugen about questionable texts that were introduced into various publications. I became a branded outcast on that account for sure. Well, the tables are turning.

    In 2005 I discovered CMAA. Where have you been all my life! I could finally come out of the cave. I suspect many will come out of the woodwork once a movement of authentic Catholic Composers exists. Let me know what you are thinking, and do send me an email.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    Francis, I am not a composer, but I wish you well in your endeavor.
    Do you know about Canticanova?
    I think the freely given work at is a terrific model.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi G:

    Canticanova offered to publish my musics years ago, but I don't want to loose ownership of my comps and have constraints put on their distribution. With the tool of the internet, I can offer my music for FREE and be widely distributed.

    More importantly, I am also able to respond quickly to those who would want altered keys, revisions to notes and/or passages, various arrangements, other languages (ie, Latin where there is presently English, and vice/verrsa, etc.) It is also the start of an organic roots movement of Catholic Composers establishing a guild or a forum where we can exchange ideas, musics, etc., much like CMAA is established to support those devoted to Gregorian Chant in the liturgy. I think composers need to dovetail with the historical music of the church, and find the best way to support that effort and at the same time compose the music of the Ecclesia orans. I also think we need to compose religious music for reflection. This is almost non existent now. I compose orchestral works which meditate on the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, The Passion, etc. Where is this music today? We are all watching Star Wars instead! Let's get on with the business of supporting true sacred art in music.

    Composers must UNITE!
  • How very generous of you to offer your compositions so freely... thanks!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Janet:

    This is the way of the Church. It should never require copyrights, constraints, etc. This is all tied up in the desire for money, power and control, and has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God and His Church. This is why iconographers never signed their work. It belonged to God from the moment it was conceived. So it should be with those who are responsible for composing sacred music. The ways of the world have superimposed their ideas of ownership on the things of God, and with that they control and limit the things that should go to the people of God. Copyright laws are a new phenomenom and do not belong to the Church.

    I would even go further and say that the music of THE Church should not be FOR SALE or for use outside of the Liturgy of the RCC. That is throwing pearls before swine.
  • Hello Francis,

    Yes, sacred music is for God first but composers need to live like anyone else. Composing sacred music for a "church" that is no longer sacred leaves one struggling for a few sales- especially as this new "church" is diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church. Why would a bunch of people who don't believe in God want to sing music that has to do with God? This is why we are in difficulties and, presumably, why you started this forum.

    I don't agree with you about restrictions to Catholic music in the way you describe. It was tried with Allegri's Miserere for a while but I, for one, am glad Mozart made a copy of the music. Whoever wants to perform my music can do so as long as he buys copies of the sheet music. I would even sell music to Benedict XVI if he were prepared to pay me for it.

    The only money I make out of music is on the sheet music people buy and from selling my CD. There are practically no royalties for broadcasts because there are practically no broadcasts.

    Can you imagine how cluttered Our Lady's house would have been if St Joseph had only been permitted to make furniture for holy people?

    Nicholas Wilton.
  • "What kind of music SHOULD we be composing now? "

    Well, if you have the average Catholic parish in mind - Compose music that is accessible, yet solemn and reverent. Look to Gregorian Chant for your inspiration. Steer WELL CLEAR of operatic styles. Maybe composers need to look at writing music that can satisfy several requirements at once: 1. Ease of participation by the congregation (without resorting to either "rock/pop" idioms or even "gestures" or banality 2. Optional choir parts that truly "add" something, while not destroying the congregation's part. 3. Interesting accompaniments, written for the organ with organ technique in mind.

    Music specifically for trained choirs is a different field altogether. Here I think composers have more freedom to write "complex" music, including very rich polyphony. I would be so happy to see a composer continue (without imitation) the traditional left by Durufle - that is, "pick up where he left off." Poulenc's beautiful "Salve Regina" is another example that I would love to see more contemporary composers follow.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Nicholas:

    I am so glad you could join us.

    You have a very interesting point of view. I especially like the part about the furniture!

    I totally understand your plight as we are in the same boat together. Let me further elaborate on the points you have made.

    Yes, sacred music is for God first but composers need to live like anyone else. Composing sacred music for a "church" that is no longer sacred leaves one struggling for a few sales- especially as this new "church" is diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church.

    I imagine you are referring to the RC church since VII? I will assume that is what you mean. Correct me if I am wrong. I totally agree with you. We are literally fish out of water. For centuries we enjoyed a sacred culture overall (not without it's corruptions here and there), but now the Church has gone wholesale into modernism. This is what spurred the Sede Vacanists to reject the modernized Church and hold on to the past. This is why the CMAA went underground for so many years. This is why I don't have a post as an organist. They keep throwing me out on the street when I even attempt to turn on the power switch to the bellows (if it's a real organ). This is a time of great suffering for the church, a time it is disfigured, scourged, spat upon, and given to derision. This is OUR time to do what must be done for the Church, however best we can.

    Why would a bunch of people who don't believe in God want to sing music that has to do with God? This is why we are in difficulties and, presumably, why you started this forum.

    The great music of our Church is performed and sung just about everywhere EXCEPT in our church this day and age. People have separated sacred music from the very culture where it is intended to be performed. There is a kind of bastardization that has occured with the sacred. I think the music becomes an idol at that point. We strip God and religion and the liturgy out of the equation, and the music then becomes the object of MY ENJOYMENT instead of the sacrifice due to God. When money becomes the end of the means, then are we not just becoming like prostitutes with the sacred things of God? I don't believe it was ever the Church's intent to have Gregorian chant sung on a stage. I think St. Gregory and our predecessors would think it is sacreligious to do so.

    I don't agree with you about restrictions to Catholic music in the way you describe. It was tried with Allegri's Miserere for a while but I, for one, am glad Mozart made a copy of the music. Whoever wants to perform my music can do so as long as he buys copies of the sheet music. I would even sell music to Benedict XVI if he were prepared to pay me for it.

    By the tone of this portion it seems Benedict is one of the last people you would sell music to. Please correct me if I am wrong!

    The only money I make out of music is on the sheet music people buy and from selling my CD. There are practically no royalties for broadcasts because there are practically no broadcasts.

    I feel that composers and musicians of our day have a great temptation before them and the phenomenon of the media is at the source of this temptation. That temptation is to fame, vainglory, fortune, recognition, status, etc. It's all worthless. In my thinking, we face the same temptation as Judas.

    I have never made money from composing music of value. In fact, it is the other way around. I have to spend my precious time and resources to create it. If I am creating a masterwork, I have to forgoe sleep throughout the night. Money is not the driving force. God is. The media tempts us away from this calling by holding out other industrial enterprises that misguide those efforts of the musicians who should be composing sacred music (and I am specifically speaking of liturgical music.) We are tempted to the movie industry, concert halls, private parties, public places, etc. But our effort and our calling is to the liturgy. (If we are truly called to be composers of liturgical music).

    Can you imagine how cluttered Our Lady's house would have been if St Joseph had only been permitted to make furniture for holy people?

    I like this analogy. Reminds me of the humorous jilt about the Holy Family. Whenever something 'went down' at Jesus' house, Joseph was always at a sore disadvantage living with the only two perfect human beings who ever lived!

    Truth is, liturgical music is for the Mass of the RC Church. I compose and perform music all over Baltimore regularly. But it is not the music of the liturgy. If the most beautiful, sacred and mysterious music on earth ONLY remained in the liturgy where it belonged, I believe people would think twice about where God truly resides!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709

    I agree with you 100% on each and every point! Perhaps we can collaborate.
  • Several artists are posting Responsorial Psalms here:

    There is an example from the Vatican's organist (Aurelio Porfiri, a modern church composer) here:
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Francis and Palestrina, your project sounds great. Go for it.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709

    Are you a composer, organist, or CD? Background? Situation? I am also getting emails from others to collaborate too. I will try to push them to this board.
  • Francis, I was just thinking about this - You actually have a brilliant opportunity - right now! With the new translations of the Roman Missal coming out very soon, you could be a "first mover", composing new music for the new texts, which could be used to replace some of the... "interesting"... settings that we hear in Parishes today!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Palestrina:

    I am very excited about this moment in time. In 1988 I started a corporation called Cecilia Project, Inc. which is dedicated to promoting the understanding of excellent liturgical music through the music itself. My catchphrase is 'music serving the church'. This was in opposition to 'publishers directing the church'.

    Now that a ground swell is occurring, I feel we need to pick up the gauntlet and move this in the right direction while the opportunity presents itself. Those heavily involved in chant are doing this with workshops, performances, education, etc., but the composers need to be united with that same effort and find their proper place that respects the tradition yet at the same time 'reveals' the true music of the present church. That is why I would like to gather the minds of those who would help steer the Ecclesia Orans (of new musics) that dovetails correctly and properly within the church's own guides and directives.

    I utilize Sibelius software. With this tool, I am able to compose music on one day and it is publish ready on the following day. The internet is an incredible mechanism to promote and distribute. For example, on another post here on this board, a choir director picked up a lenten piece that I had composed a few weeks ago. They posted a message that they preferred it in Latin. Five hours later I had posted a 'Latin' version of the same piece.

    Thanks again for your interest and your dedication to understanding and promoting true sacred music.

    Would you be one of our collaborators?
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 757

    Do you expect Architects to give away their church plans, gratis?


  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Ian:

    Are you an architect or a composer of sacred music?

    In my humble opinion, it is up to the individual architect (or composer) or any craftsman, for that matter, and their individual conscience to do what God is calling them to do. I make money doing other things. I compose music for the church for love of God and His Church. I do accept commissions and gifts, however, if you are interested in making a donation. Let me know, I will give you my paypal account info. But money is not the motivation for excellence in art/music. Patrons would be, but they are impossible to find. I have contacted many potential patrons and they are almost always interested in tax write-offs... and not necessarily interested in supporting excellence in art and music.

    I have a lot of music that I give away for free. It does no good sitting on my computer. It does better in the mind, heart and soul of the church.

    At the moment I have the interest of a major orchestra for a symphonic work and another movie score on the burners. If either of those converts to a definite commission, it could work out to be 25 - 50k per work. If I had a music post which supports excellent liturgical music (which is also very difficult to find), I would have financial support to direct choirs, etc. But composing sacred music never seems to figure into a position like that.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 757

    In your response to Nicholas, you say that in your humble opinion, it is up to the individual architect (or composer) or any craftsman, for that matter, and their individual conscience to do what God is calling them to do. I make money doing other things. I compose music for the church for love of God and His Church.

    If you'll forgive me, that could be interpreted as being a touch weaselish, with perhaps a hint of the McCawber about it. You seem to be saying that the commercials are a matter for the artist and God, but you know the right thing to do. I'm sure that's not your position, but care needs to be taken with the way we generalise from our own experience and circumstance.

    We need to rid ourselves of the myth of the romantic artist, starving in a garret (or labouring at a computer keyboard) in order to produce works of significance. Far better to think in terms of the artist-craftsman, whose skills we're willing to recognise in a number of ways, including decent remuneration where ability, reputation and demand make this possible. We take this for granted with ecclesiastical architects. Why not other artist-crafsmen who labour in the service of the church?

    I don't say that anyone who considers themselves an artist has the right to payment for their work; rather, that we should recognise the best in an appropriate way. Nor do I suggest that giving art away is a bad thing. Far from it - this can be a useful way of having art heard or seen where the artist isn't in a position to sell it. But it is unwise to give the impression that we take the moral high ground in divorcing ecclesiastical art from payment. That way lies the cult of the dilettante.


  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Ian:

    Forgive me my weaselish comments or if I have offended you. It is not my intent.

    I think you are confused. I was not responding to Nicholas, I was responding to you.

    (BTW, you still have not told me if you are a composer or an architect and what 'your' particular view is on this subject as it relates to yourself. Please clue me in!)

    I don't expect anyone to give away anything gratis unless God is moving them to do so. Nicholas was challenging me in my approach to money and music and expressed his thoughts. I totally respect Nicholas' decisions to do what he must do to make a living. I know monks who compose full time and don't make a cent from it, but it does not deter their calling or undertaking as a composer. Being a composer of sacred music for the church is definitely a cross to bear in our time - Nicholas feels it, I feel it.

    As for money, I will take money from you for composing music, sacred or secular, just as fast as Nicholas will. If you give me money for composing sacred music, then God is giving me the money through your hands. My issues aren't with a composer receiving money for sacred OR secular; it's with the holders or 'owners' of copyright APART from the author who make a business out of what is supposed to be sacred. It's one thing to have a sound publisher the likes of CanticaNova. But what about when a publisher 'sells out' and is in mutiny from the truth. Once that form is signed, it's the whim of the business owner to do with that work whatever s/he wants. It is unfortunate, but even the most solid publishers can go awry. We have seen this in our own time.

    I believe this is where the church has gotten itself into hot and muddied waters with regards to its mission and its purpose, especially with regards to the liturgy. The Mass is literally the pearl of the church - Jesus himself. I feel this is one of the insidious reasons that we have what we have now as a poor excuse for liturgical music. It is one of the reasons that ANYMUSIC, INC. can and will continue to usurp the treasure of music which is the chant and authentic ecclesia orans.

    Once the church agreed to operate on this level, to make 'church' a business, then the church gave away its power and authority to give shepherd over the influx of heretical, schismatic and even pagan content through 'secular hymnals' that are rampant in our pews. This is why the church is now trying to back pedal and redefine WHAT can be in our hymnals. (BTW... Beyond that thinking, is the WHO! A bad tree cannot yield good fruit.) This is why chant lost its place of honor. This is why every Tom, Dick, Marty and David can make bundles of money which is taken directly from the coffers of the RC church and then turn around and use that money to support even more of the same.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 757

    Sorry I named the wrong part of a complicated thread - my comment was in response to your answer to a question that I posed, in response to your reply to Nicholas; whose comment in turn was addressed to points you made in response to Janet (phew - got there).

    My concern was that your seemed to be on the verge of suggesting that composers of liturgical music should not make money from it. Janet wrote: "How very generous of you to offer your compositions so freely". In reply, you said: "This is the way of the Church. It should never require copyrights, constraints, etc. This is all tied up in the desire for money, power and control, and has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God and His Church." It was this statement that Nicholas seemed to be responding to, in defence of the copyright on his CD of liturgical music.

    However, in your response to my last posting you clarify your position, saying that "My issues aren't with a composer receiving money for sacred OR secular; it's with the holders or 'owners' of copyright APART from the author who make a business out of what is supposed to be sacred." I have no problem with business-like publishers of sacred music. They can be a great help to composers in a position to sell their work. And if the composer isn't happy with their ethos, he or she doesn't have to strike a deal with them. And it's probably not true to say that if the publisher "sells out", they can do what they like with the music - it's unlikely that the composer will have given away all rights.

    You then went on to suggest a different problem: that church has made " 'church' a business", by getting involved with copyright. This can be true of text: I understand some composers have had problems with ICEL. I'm not sure of the extent to which it's true of music, unless perhaps you believe that the Bishops need to distance themselves from publishing operations. This is an interesting area of discussion.

    I can't agree with your contention that the Church should look carefully at who has written the contents our hymnals. Such an approach is likely to become moralistic, judgemental and divisive. We should stick to assessing the worth of text and music.

    Finally, I wish you good luck with your proposal. I'll watch it with interest.

    Best wishes,

  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Any idea how much major songwriters for the likes of OCP and GIA actually make? Or the publishers? I am often critical that OCP operates in a way that suggests it is interested in making money (disposable songbooks, promoting songs they hold copyrights for, etc.), but are there any figures that support this? I was unable to find an IRS 990 for OCP, because they are exempt. I find this shocking since OCP is a publisher and not a religious institution.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Wow, you guys... this is really getting off track. Can we keep to the subject? I am VERY interested in the subject of copyrights and publishers, so I am going to start another thread. I really want to gather composers here and discuss the focus put out at the head.

    New thread will be: Should Publishers or the Church Dictate the Music in the Pew?

    Ian, I am posting a response to your last post there.
  • Francis, why don't you tell us about some music that you are thinking about composing at the moment, and maybe everyone on this forum can discuss your ideas?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Yes. I want to regroup this post so that we have focus. I will write something that will do that and post asap. Thanks for the push, Palestrina.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    OK... here is where I have arrived.

    Please help me to think through things and to arrive at a conclusion.

    It seems vain to compose music for the English texts. They are transient, far from well composed, and they are constantly being updated, turning our efforts into 'throw away' music or what seems to be a novelty. More and more I am thinking the church will eventually return to its roots, the Mass in Latin. There are no copyright issues with the Latin. Also, to dovetail our present efforts to the store of the wonderful treasure of the chant, it would seem best to compose polyphony utilizing those melodies to reinforce their centrality. As for entirely new music, polyphony utilizing the age old prayers, propers, ordinaries all in latin would be best.

    The NO seems to be an anomaly of our time. It does not bespeak the Universal Roman Catholic Church, and limits the utilization of new music to the local venacular presence.

    This has become more and more my way of thinking in terms of what I perceive as truly 'sacred music', but I only see composing music for the RC Church to be utilized within her own liturgies. Not music that could possibly be utilized by other denominations such as the publishers promote. This avoids the homogenization of Christianity and especially the dumbing down of the faith that so often occurs in those efforts.

    I have hundreds of compostions, mostly in English, but they have never been published. I can easily turn all the texts to the latin and present them in a form that would remain unchanged long into the future, especially for the Ordinary.
  • Dear Francis,
    I've been somewhat reluctant to enter this discussion, but your last post elicits a few observations. FYI, I compose RC music, have for nearly 4 decades, both English and Latin.
    As much time in as a parish and cathedral DM.
    Just bullet point observations and comments-
    *The vanity of setting English texts would only apply if and when the GIRM prescriptions for the Introit, Offertorio and Communio are amended and eliminate the (presumed) lower heirarchical fourth option of the alius cantus. As tendentious as this action would prove, I'm not at all comfortable with the philosophical notion that the extent body of valid Catholic hymns (and I mean the texts) is forever set in stone. The various commentaries of prevailing documents, themselves, suggest that the evolution of the sacred arts (including prose and poetry) is to be fostered, as long as they meet their licit criteria. Practically speaking, I really don't see an "either/or" future, but a "both/and" regarding propers and hymns.
    *It is certainly not impossible to compose "new" polyphony as we understand its Roman, classical rubrics. But, we need to face some artistic realities. Namely, the corpus of the various schools of Catholic polyphony from the Ars Nova through the early Baroque, even into the Romantic eras (ie. Bruckner, Vaughan-Williams, etc.) should still be considered "active mines" in which new generations of directors and choirs should continue to plumb. Otherwise, one has to choose to reinvent a wheel that is substantially already perfected in its form. Or, one can superimpose newer or personal compositional traits within the classic polyphonic structures such as the more exquisite harmonies of a William Hawley, the clustered and nebulous harmonic compounds of others mentioned here like Lauridsen, Whitacre, Part, Tavaner et al.
    *Which brings us to- how can contemporary, orthodox RC composers best serve the Church in all places She lives: the small, impoverished parishes in both rural and urban areas? The choirs of only two voices (S/B) etc.? Parishes that are engaged in singing, though that is primarily via homophonic, strophic, metered music that is augmented by choral harmony support?
    *The OF is an anomaly if you subscribe wholly to a Professor Dobszay-like creed regarding its organic authenticity, which I won't argue here. But your attached contention that it therefore is limited to the vernacular is completely, utterly non-factual. If I recall, you've attended CMAA colloquiums in the past? Then you would have heard its president state that an OF liturgy, properly (pun intended) executed, and mindful of the paradigm of beauty is effective in the vernacular, but even moreso in Latin. It, again is a "both/and" circumstance as I see it.
    *I'm sorry, but I cannot also agree with you regarding the abolition of all musical forms not native to the Roman Rite, namely plainsong and polyphony, as necessarily abrogating or homogenizing our pre-eminent Christian mission. One needs to remember that the well-spring of our musical tradition was appropriated from the four corners of the Christian world and incorporated into one body we call Gregorian. This sort of enculturated melting pot has been brewing for 15 centuries; the Church's music subsumes "exotic" elements that compliment its native culture, and rejects those that are truly foreign and alien. To whit:
    *Apropos of another thread, I would hate to see a Berlin Wall formally codified that would confine the treasury of Orthodox sacred music to the Eastern Churches, and vice-versa.

    That's about all I have for now- got a rehearsal to run tonight. Along with Padre Martini's DEXTERA DOMINE, gotta go over Faure's CANTIQUE D. JEAN RACINE, M. Haydn's TRISTIS EST ANIMA MEA, Pierluigi's O CRUX AVE as well as some other chestnuts that we must keep roasting, lest we forget.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Thank you, very much, Charles for your insights. I am so glad you decided to contribute and overcome your hesitancy to this discussion. It is not an easy one, and it takes some courage to post candidly. Ian and I have been round and round, and I admire his courage also. I am really digging deep. I grew up singing from the St. Gregory hymnal in a Boys choir, and then Vatican II came quickly in upon us. My faith waned for many years as a result of the changes in the liturgy. It has been a difficult road back. When I arrived at CMAA a couple of years ago, things seemed to become crystalized for myself, especially as a composer of sacred music. I have come full circle after 40 years wandering in the dessert, so to speak.

    I will certainly take all this into my thinking, and would also like to hear how others perceive your reflections too. I will try to come back with thoughts and perhaps questions to gain clarity on my part if needed.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Hi Charles:

    Thanks again for your input! I read your comments thoroughly a number of times. I am more convinced that composers and all Catholic Church musicians need to continue to have this discussion so we can best serve the Church with the good fruit of our efforts, however small and diverse they may be.

    My thinking on your points in order posted are as follows:

    1. I also have been selecting (and composing) music utilized in liturgies for approximately 35 years according to the alius cantus aptus. In doing so I found that the "choosing" of music resulted almost exclusively in the four-hymn-sandwich at best and at worst, a liturgical dance to some evangelical crooner on a boom box perched on the ambo. I was subtly pressured to this by priests, liturgy committees, cantors, choir members, 'liturgists' and parish members, most of whom did not even know there was a hierarchy of preference in music for the liturgy, and if they did, they outrightly denied the mandates and pleaded the fourth amendment ...I mean aptus. For them the 'GIRM' was nothing more than a sickness to be avoided. It was the Art and the Environment that tickled their fancies. Money nor means was not the object in parishes where I was employed. It was simply personal preference and 'freedom of creative expression' that towed their barge.

    Not only myself, but my colleagues as well suffered under this pretense. In fact, I hadn't heard a single Gregorian Chant Proper at a liturgy for three decades or more and certainly no newly composed Propers. Worse, I witnessed Rock-n-Roll 'masses' that turned the altar into a stage, and priest into prop.

    Personally, I have composed many pieces in English to date, (you can find a few on this board [e.g., 1 Corinthians 13]--so you see I am speaking from a theoretical position at the moment, not a pragmatic one -- at least not yet.) [NOTE: I also composed the prose for that work which is an adaptation of the scriptural text.] My stance isn't about 'to compose or not to compose' new music or text, it is simply that it should definitely not eclipse the entire historical repertoire of Catholic liturgical music that should be given due regard; especially the mandated texts.

    Perhaps what I am truly driving toward, is the need to come back to balance in respecting and giving a rightful place to the 'eldest brother' while nurturing the 'new ones' along... (and wouldn't it be obvious that the new ones have a slight resemblance to their mother and father?)

    Here is one article that I recently read that clearly outlines some thinking about this subject which really got me thinking the way I do now.

    2. At first I thought you meant land mines... lol. I definitely utilize all the 'active mines' when it comes to 'going for the gold.' (At the moment studying the full scores of Stravinsky, Torke, Messiaen, etc. as I am readying to compose a full orchestral work). My own style is an amalgamation of many of the composers that I have studied over the years (sacred and secular) including the sacred minimalists you also mentioned. 21st century music is my forte, but it has roots in the other 20 centuries as well.

    3. First off, I must clarify my objective as a composer at this point in time. I have been without a post for a while now, which has given me time to think theoretically and from an objective point of view since I am not presently in the trenches getting a choir to sing SAB (or SATB if enough men show up for rehearsal.) Therefore, I am simply trying to formulate a tactical approach in composing music that could possibly help direct or redirect the musical eyes of the church back to their roots. (That is the only reason I am even having any of these discussions on this forum. But I am beginning to have a 'sinking' feeling that I stand alone.)

    Once I have a frame of reference, I am also hoping to 'mine' the best gold I can dig up. One thing I have been doing along the lines you mention (for the Ordinary), is to compose Masses that give the congregation an 'active' part that is embellished with the SATB choir and organ. That, to me, seems to be where some of the unfound nuggets are hiding just below the surface.

    4. Regarding the OF/EF scenario. OK... yes, there is also the OF, (latin flavor) but the real crux of the issue isn't latin or english, but the general attitude that everything exists in a "throw away" state: texts, hymnals and even the music documents themselves (the American ones anyway). We went from an Environment, to music in Catholic Worship, and now we are moving on to the SttL. In my view it is erroneous to think that one 'document' can now super-cede another. And it certainly does not work for serious minded composers. The text of the EF is unchanging. It's been around for centuries, and like the EverReady Rabbit it keeps on going and going...

    5. Clarification. I am not proposing the abolition of ANY musical form (except of those that are profane--and this hasn't happened yet--but I think it is soon coming) but am simply trying to 'mine the purest gold' I can find that brings balance to ALL the forms (musical), especially the forms we have neglected in the past 40 years which happen to be polyphony and the chant that already embody a full set of proper text for the Mass of the day.

    6. I compose jazz and I certainly love to play Gershwin and listen to Rhoda Scott. (Old "YES" is the only rock music that I have any interest to hear.) But no one has yet convinced me to compose a "Blues Kyrie", or a Requiem in the style of 'Close To The Edge' (although I don't for a minute doubt it has not already been done.) I understand the theoretical notion that when it comes to music style/culture, all things can and will be considered. But the question begs; should they? Isn't this how we wound up with pantheistic, narcissistic and "freedom focused" hymns peppered throughout the glossy hardbound hymnals that adorn the pews in the Catholic church? The dangerous homogenization is not in the musical styles--its far worse. That kind of drivel has infested the very faith. The music was simply the Trojan horse in which it came.

    7. You can look at a wall from the outside or from the inside. What is good for the in-dwellers is bad for the outsiders and vice-versa. To some, the theological, liturgical and musical 'Berlin Wall' was torn down about forty years ago. (The ones that wanted out should have used the door and went far away! The ones that wanted in used Trojan horses.)

    As one of the in-dwellers, I perceived the wall to be one as a centuries old armoured defense against the onslaught of our enemies--the world, the flesh and the devil. Anything and everything has broken through; the altars have been sacked, the organs have been dismantled, the stain glass and statuary removed, the priests spun on their heels (literally turned around), their rites rewritten, and the Holy Sacrifice and the chant was confined in the chains of an Indult. What was worse, we were all invited to participate in the work of the 'reform' (didn't Luther try this the first time?) ourselves all hyped up in the democratic semantic of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". (Eagles Wings?)

    Unfortunately, you and I have born the fruit of this episode in the history of our Dear Mother Church. So as I stand in the middle of the battlefield and shuffle through the debris looking for something worth keeping, you can only imagine what it is I have found and am now clutching to my breast!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    Just found this online at Stanford University website. The similarity to the Church's plight is simply stunning.


    The Trojan Horse

    Still seeking to gain entrance into Troy, clever Odysseus (some say with the aid of Athena) ordered a large wooden horse to be built. Its insides were to be hollow so that soldiers could hide within it.

    Once the statue had been built by the artist Epeius, a number of the Greek warriors, along with Odysseus, climbed inside. The rest of the Greek fleet sailed away, so as to deceive the Trojans.

    One man, Sinon, was left behind. When the Trojans came to marvel at the huge creation, Sinon pretended to be angry with the Greeks, stating that they had deserted him. He assured the Trojans that the wooden horse was safe and would bring luck to the Trojans.

    Only two people, Laocoon and Cassandra, spoke out against the horse, but they were ignored. The Trojans celebrated what they thought was their victory, and dragged the wooden horse into Troy.

    That night, after most of Troy was asleep or in a drunken stupor, Sinon let the Greek warriors out from the horse, and they slaughtered the Trojans. Priam was killed as he huddled by Zeus' altar and Cassandra was pulled from the statue of Athena and raped.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709

    We are coming to the end of lent. I have prayed and fasted about how I should proceed to promote 'composers unite'. I have developed a new model for publishing Roman Catholic Sacred Music in the Latin Tradition as you have seen here. The new model will favor (and help to fund) the livleyhood of the composer, not the publisher. I am building the website now and will erect it in a week or two.

    It will need a domain name.

    Here are a few domain names I thought of getting, but truly want your input on a good domain name. What do you suggest?


  • Jevoro
    Posts: 108
    Do you know a good Mac-compatible program to write gregorianik in four lines?
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    I use Sibelius. I have been told you can purchase the meinrad font and create authentic scores with that, but I am not positive.
  • I like romancatholicsacredmusic -- just my two cents' worth... Janet.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    thanks janet... i imagine the name is probably not all that important... it's the music and the mission that will make it what it is... i tend to think the shorter the better (easy to type) but for search engines, romancatholicsacredmusic would do very well because it covers all the bases.
  • Hi all, I compose music for my church. Including mass settings. Is there anyone out there that would be interested in doing piano arrangements for these pieces? If so please email me at
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,473
    Hello Francis, I would be happy to join and assist in any way in your project.
    Many of my scores are found on Sheet Music plus.

  • francis
    Posts: 10,709

    This is an old post before numerous websites and efforts emerged along the lines of this and similar ideas.

    What I had interest in forming (back then) was a guild of sorts in which composers of authentic sacred music (chant, polyphony and organ) would possibly meet, share ideas and comps.

    Since then (as many of you are aware) I have disavowed myself from composing music in English. Why? Because I do not want to lend support or gravity to the continuance of 'sacralizing the NO'. I decided that I only wanted to directly serve the cause of the TLM in composing timeless and universal works.

    Another beef I have is that the vernacular translations of the NO are in constant flux which when abrogated then render musical efforts the same.

    Another obvious downside in composing in the vernacular is that the music does not support a universal timeless church mentality, but one of multi-cultural expression which today lends itself to devisive attitudes and can foster spiritual ghettos and give credence to novelty.

    On the other hand, there are those composers who are trying to replace the dreck with better alternatives that have worth and I acknowledge those efforts. Nonetheless, I still believe that philosophy helps to prolong confusion in our aim to RETURN to the timeless liturgy and the true treasure of sacred music.

    That said, I erected a website which remained for a few years that pointed to resources helping to promote our cause of musica sacra. I had published a small booklet "What Should We Be Singing Now?", which was an educational aid for the church when the MR3 was being propagated. I had links to the resources found on the web including websites like ccwatershed, pdf files on, and other content.

    Because of my present "narrow minded" philosophy of only composing in Latin, I am not partnering with those who compose music in the vernacular at this time.

    If you are a composer looking for distribution you might contact ccwatershed or similar organizations.

    I welcome your comments and feedback below.

    In JMJ


    Thanked by 1eft94530