Do we deserve better Choral Music in the Vatican?
  • Simon
    Posts: 136
    We just hosted - here in Amsterdam - the Lay Clerks from St. Mary's Cathedral from Sydney, Australia. They sang (full choir with the boys) the Whitsun/Pentecost mass last Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican together with the Sistine Chapel Choir. The general very reserved conclusion: The Church deserves much better choral music in its home.

    The choral music in the Vatican is - in other (and my) words - rather awful. And I've heard similar views from other visiting choirs - and many mass listeners - as well. And I have heard it live on Christmas eves in years past. I have stopped listening to services from St. Peter's Basilica. Every musical listening experience is a new low in the home of the Catholic Church.

    And, it's not because they are underpaid. Did you know that the Cappella Giulia singers are paid almost 3x more than the lay clerks in Westminster Abbey (the best paid in the UK)?

    What can be done? Can anything be done? Must we endure this for the coming generations?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,374
    Get a different basilica. The volume of San Pietro is several times that of the Abbey.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,598
    The volume of the room size has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the choral singing.

    Hiring is the problem. Politics is the problem. Disdain for what the rest of the world thinks is the problem.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,806
    Perhaps we should blame the liturgical culture of the Novus Ordo. I have never heard the Julian choir, so I can't make a judgment of their technique, but perhaps the problem is that they simply do what most Catholic cathedral choirs seem to do: banal "parish liturgy" but with brass quintet.

    My guess is that most basilican choirs today do a four-hymn sandwich, plus responsorial psalm by Italy's answer to Lucien Deiss.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,806
    Also, better liturgical music goes hand-in-hand with better liturgical praxis. And considering the hideous "people's altar" recently installed in one venerable church, I very much doubt that Roman liturgical praxis in the Novus Ordo is very good: when the ars celebrandi is poor, high quality liturgical music seems forced, inorganic, and truly does turn the Mass into a concert.

    In short, "Good morning, how are ya?" Liturgy does not work with Missa Papae Marcelli.

    "And havernice day".
  • Now, now - don't blame it on the Novus Ordo. The Sistine Chapel choir's tradition is to be bad, They have upheld this tradition for far longer that the time since the Novus Ordo appeared. Noel said it well: 'disdain for what the rest of the world thinks'. And, I suspect that being Italian has something to do with it.
    Thanked by 1igneus
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,806
    I didn't blame the Novus Ordo in se, but the "Novus Ordo liturgical culture", which is based not on the Missa Solemnis, but the Missa Lecta with four songs, a responsorial psalm, and a Sanctus.
    Thanked by 2francis eft94530
  • Well, the Novus Ordo badly and cheaply done is reprehensible - but, so is it with the Extraordinary Form (both before and after VII). As long as we are talking about liturgy that does not achieve its true and intended heights, let us be fair and recall that the Ef boasted and boasts its fair share of poor praxis. The problem is not the rite, nor the fallacy that this rite invites badness more than that other rite, but what's in the heads of those who are celebrating it.

    In other words, if one is talking about badly performed liturgy, there is plenty to talk about relative to both EF and OF.
    And, if one is talking about beaurtifully performed liturgy, there is plenty to talk about relative to both EF and OF.
  • Settefrati93
    Posts: 194
    Is anyone going to say that the Sistine Chapel choir, in recent years, under the direction of Msgr. Palombella has taken a turn for the better and has GREATLY improved? I guess I will.

    Why do we think they are “bad” ?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,806
    Oh, I completely agree, praxis can be 'exceeding bad' in both forms, but I think that the Novus Ordo has not only welcomed it, but canonized it, in a way over the past 50 years with "in these or similar words". I know that most instances of this rubric were removed from the third typical edition, and those translations based on it, but most priests still act as if it is there, ad libbing their way through most of the introductory rites, etc. And don't mention the Prayers of the Faithful.

    I know that the O.F. can support good liturgy, I do it every day. But the reality is that the Bromptons of the world are few and far between.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,336
    This has been going on for many, many, many years. And just think, If Pope Benedict, with his love for music, and his brother (one of the most renowned choirmasters in Germany) could not change anything, what can be done?

    On top of this, shall we mention again the addition of the simlcrum organ IN THE BASILICA? Just unbelievable.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    I have doubts whether this post is a great idea, for a lot of reasons. Two questions immediately arise: Would anyone want their own program discussed like this? Were the opinions quoted in the post intended for publication?

    Etc etc
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,374
    "The volume of the room size has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the choral singing."

    It does if the style of singing was adopted in a misguided idea about how to penetrate the space best.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,598
    I wonder if Frescobaldi had any comments about the difficulty of singing there?

    I mean, when you remove modern amplification of sound, it would be a different sounding room and with the overall loudness of spoken sound pressure reduced to a human voice production level, it would be quite a different room, designed as it and all cathedrals are to amplify sound naturally.

    Thanked by 1francis
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,578
    Yes. This is the place and the time for this subject. If WE the musicians of the church (who understand the dynamics of acoustics, how it enhances or detracts from the production of beautiful music), the vast departure from sacred music in the NO [and the sacred in general], even excellent English polyphony which is a small branch and diversion from the RADIX and tradition of chant, the mother tongue and the essence of its spiritual vitality and inherent mystique and how it is utterly Roman Catholic to the core, then there is no one left and no platform to defend our most venerable tradition. This cannot be said too many times or with too much force or veracity.
  • Ken of Sarum
    Posts: 405
    Those of you that have been under the hand of solidly good and even great conductors, one might take a closer look at the conducting style of the present choirmaster of the Sistine Choir. I, for one, with all due respect to him, would have a difficult time following him. I saw a lengthy interview with him and he is certainly very knowledgeable. However, I know from first hand experiences that most church musicians are first and foremost, organists and not expert choral trainers or directors. This is especially true in regards to the training of boys and girls voices.

    Choristers these days are not trained to develop a singing BEL CANTO vocal technic based on the foundation of a relaxed yawning jaw and lowered Adam's apple. Choirmasters on the European continent and in the USA would do well, in general, to apprentice themselves to some of the finer choral director of men and boys choir; especially in England and Wales. The men and boys choir and its music director at St. Mary Cathedral in Sydney, Australia are world class first rate! The Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne is pretty darn good too! Its a sad thing that Sir George Guest, Dr. Boris Ord and Robert Shaw are no longer with us!

    Finally, in watching and observing many church choirs, especially men and boys and the choir at the Vatican specifically, their discipline needs some work in things like keeping their focus totally on the director at all times instead of looking around, squirming and proper bodily stance for singing - no collapsed chests please! However, in my opinion, I think its a great and wonderful thing that some of the great choirs of the world are singing at the Vatican alongside the Sistine choir in their tours and visits! I applaud that whole heartedly. In some areas, I have noticed an improvement in the Sistine Choir.
  • KofS -
    Amen and amen!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,713
    And yet I think there is a general consensus that the music in the Vatican is considerably improved in comparison to where it was 25 years ago.

    Hear, for example, the 1992 Christmas Mass: https://youtu.be/E6oG8EyqOC0?t=2m7s

    And the 2016 Christmas Mass: https://youtu.be/_1NbTs8EKAU?t=14m44s
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,154
    And yet I think there is a general consensus that the music in the Vatican is considerably improved in comparison to where it was 25 years ago.


    I think some of that improvement is due to the criticism they have received, from many talented musicians... At least one of the ideas behind the Westminster Cathedral music programme over the last 100 years has been to provide an ideal of what Catholic Liturgical music should be.

    [...] other words, if one is talking about badly performed liturgy, there is plenty to talk about relative to both EF and OF.
    And, if one is talking about beaurtifully performed liturgy, there is plenty to talk about relative to both EF and OF.


    @MJO I am sure you will agree that the Ordinariate use was designed to be celebrated with quality music. At least that is my understanding from Mgr Burnham et al.

    I am sure that we can also agree that the E.F. in all its various forms over 1500 years, has fostered the creation of the finest music ever written, but also caused the creation and development of the science that allows us to write and understand music.

    As for the O.F. we would not be unkind to suggest that at least some of the originators of this form had awful music in mind as they went about their process of manufacture. This is part of the reason why so much poor quality music has been written and performed at this form over the last 50 years. It is also not much of an excuse to suggest that as some of the music written and performed for the E.F. we should not be less critical of O.F. practice.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,336
    I am heartened to hear that things are improving and that there is new leadership.
  • JonLaird
    Posts: 219
    I break out in a cold sweat when anyone starts talking about what I "deserve."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    Lately, I am sure we don't deserve the Vatican.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,578
    JohnLaird

    I am missing the reference to "what we deserve". Can you clarify?

    UPDATE: ahhh.... found it in title. NM.

    As far as what we deserve, hell would probably be apropos. But when it comes to liturgy God deserves the best we can offer on every count.

    And the irony in the way I see it is that the NO seems to be all about us while the EF is all about God.
    Thanked by 1CatherineS
  • the title might read, "Do We Deserve Better _______________ in the Vatican?"

    Yes.
  • Settefrati93
    Posts: 194
    @tomjaw let’s not pretend that the EF is all perfect. Maybe now it is. When it was the only form of the mass it was prone to craziness just as the OF is today. It seems that now the only people celebrating the EF are people who (pleased god) do it properly. Once upon a time this was not the case
  • One might add that the precepts of Vatican II as regards participation by the faithful in the mass are not even thought of as applying to the EF - though I wonder why it should be immune to them. Could it be that those who champion the EF imagine (erroneously) that the EF is a way of avoiding these very precepts? Far from it. It is hardly far fetched to aver that what VII had to say about the people actively participating in those parts of the mass that pertain to them applies to every form of the Roman rite. Nowhere is it writ or implied that they apply only to the NO.
  • Settefrati,

    On one hand, I'm inclined to agree with you, since human nature doesn't change.

    On the other hand, I can't agree with you, since the training for celebrating Mass taught the priests that to intentionally violate a rubric was a mortal sin, whereas the Ordo of Paul VI in its official "conservative" form -- to the extent that it encourages adhering to the rubrics by that very fact encourages diversity and free-lancing.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I echo the sentiments of Settifrate and Kathy.
    That said, I still fail to determine any benefit to the now typically-hijacked thread. Though I understand and am extremely sympathetic towards the halcyon-laced dreams of a TLM-only future, continued kvetching and harping about same only tends to further isolate the "us" of it from reality. I'm happy I only have to drive 20 miles for a Cantius-version NO. I fought the good fight at my own parish for a quarter century, and it's hardly likely the situation there will ever approach the reverential, ad orientem NO in the next town. But if tilting at windmills is still one's thing, tilt on.
  • I must associate myself with Settefrati93. The choir now is excellent. The adults sang at CUA and I went to Fr Palombella’s lecture/demonstration. (The boys only sing when the original music calls for it and they did not travel.)

    He made the most interesting point. He has dug up a lot of the manuscripts and read Palestrina’s notes. One ran:”Today was a good day. We sang in tune.” He made the point emphatically . This music was not made by angels. It was made by “normal people doing normal things.”

    Two other points: he has switched the Chant entirely to using the semiology. Those partial to the Ward method (“Old Solesmes” ) may dissent as to that decision, but the performance according to that decision is fine.

    The other point Fr. Palombella made is that they have an audience of one. Most of the music was written to be and is always sung within a few feet of the Holy Father.

    There is a problem in that the recording seems to be done from a room mic, and that leads to lousy recordings. Certainly little attention is being paid to mic-‘ing it properly.

    Kenneth
  • And I heartily associate myself with Jackson’s comments about participation. See the notes of the young Joseph Ratzinger at the Council on that very point.

    Kenneth
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Do we deserve better music at the Vatican?

    Perhaps the only way to answer this question is multifacetedly.

    a) Given what is happening in the Catholic world right now, with majorities voting to remove protections for the unborn from the Constitution in Ireland, and alarming numbers of people who don't see any difference separating real marriage from its various counterfeits, and the number who apparently prefer (both among clerics and laymen) the life of the mind promoted by the Missal of Paul VI...... if we get what we deserve, the current music at the Vatican is quite generous.

    b) If Cathedrals are supposed to be examples of music for the diocese -- ie., how things ought to be done, and if the Holy Father's Cathedral should represent the best of the best of the Cathedrals, then we should expect excellence from St. John Lateran, not necessarily from the Sistine Chapel.

    c) If what takes place within the Vatican precincts (musically speaking) is (rather than should be) the pinnacle of implementation of the reforms of the late Council,....... I find myself biting hard so as not to say something I might regret.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    c) If what takes place within the Vatican precincts (musically speaking) is (rather than should be) the pinnacle of implementation of the reforms of the late Council,....... I find myself biting hard so as not to say something I might regret.


    Sure, I wish it were better. But nostalgia is often inaccurate and those memories not actually as remembered. Vatican music was never that good.


    a) Given what is happening in the Catholic world right now, with majorities voting to remove protections for the unborn from the Constitution in Ireland, and alarming numbers of people who don't see any difference separating real marriage from its various counterfeits, and the number who apparently prefer (both among clerics and laymen) the life of the mind promoted by the Missal of Paul VI...... if we get what we deserve, the current music at the Vatican is quite generous.


    And they want to canonize Paul VI, probably a saintly man but an inept pope. He may have caused/aided/promoted a loss of faith greater than Luther.

    It's a crazy time we live in. I can only hope it gets better but I am not encouraged by what I see and hear.

  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,154
    let’s not pretend that the EF is all perfect. Maybe now it is. When it was the only form of the mass it was prone to craziness just as the OF is today. It seems that now the only people celebrating the EF are people who (pleased god) do it properly. Once upon a time this was not the case


    @Settefrati93 The quality of the music in the Vatican has very little to do with the E.F. The major influence will be the amount of music written for the E.F. that is now used during the O.F. in the Vatican.

    As for craziness do you have any references to back up this claim, can you cite any examples of balloon, puppet, clown, country and western etc. influenced liturgy being used at the E.F. Any examples of satanic derived music being used? Can you really say that the worst of the music written for the EF is comparable to the average music we hear from say the Cathedral of Los Angelis, or Orange county?

    Anyway going back to the topic, I believe I have heard Colin Mawby comment on the improvement, on his visits. I agree with Chris above that all in all they have better music than they deserve, and that even with the improvement the music is not the best example for Catholic musicians to follow.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,779
    Lately, I am sure we don't deserve the Vatican.

    Oh yes we do. In spades. Ask St. John Eudes.
    Or maybe we don't deserve it because what we DO deserve is far worse.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    Oh yes we do. In spades. Ask St. John Eudes.
    Or maybe we don't deserve it because what we DO deserve is far worse.


    I don't know, the east has done fine without it for a thousand years.
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 154
    "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine - but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." Hilaire Belloc
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,676
    I don't know, the east has done fine without it for a thousand years.


    What about Caesaro-Papism, eh? You know, where the church is ruled by that guy who played the Joker on the Batman TV show?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,676
    I agree with tomjaw about Westminster Cathedral. If only we had more Cathedrals celebrating Sung Mass and Vespers every day. It's not like it would be impossible in the OF, either. Jubilate Deo or Missa Simplex for the Mass and it's not like the LOTH is super long or hard to recto tono anyways.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,374
    And leave loudness to the Methodists while you're at it, right?
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,676
    Hey, that's my line!
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,374
    Ignorance and Blindness - a fine papal motto. There will be a cup in the blazon, of course.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,779
    the east has done fine without it for a thousand years.

    For values of "fine" that include being ruled by Godless Communists for 70 years.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 988
    As opposed to the godless capitalists we are ruled by today?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    For values of "fine" that include being ruled by Godless Communists for 70 years.


    Only in Russian territories by communists. Other places, Muslims, Catholics, and/or godless capitalists, as mentioned above, along with just the purely godless.