David’s psalms were modern once
  • I appreciate the passion you all have for chant and traditional hymns, but hearts and spirits are moved by a variety of musical styles. The psalms are full of lutes, lyres, trumpets, and timbrels. So what is so awful about piano, guitar, and modern hymns? What kind of music moves your congregation? Some of the hymns you dislike may be the ones that affect your congregants the deepest.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,280
    A lot of people think that differing ideas about church music are just matters of personal taste, but the Church has teaching on the subject and presents models for us to follow. The expressions of that teaching reached their highest level in the 20th century, with a series of documents from the Popes and from Vatican II. While I wouldn't try to summarize it all in the format of a forum comment, those teachings give us some principles that guide us. CMAA is all about following the ideals of sacred music according to the Church's teaching.

    One principle about sacred music is that it should be recognizably sacred in form. Music that adopts the styles of entertainment music -- whether that be 19th century opera or 20th century theater or contemporary commercial evangelical pop music -- is falling short: it's following a secular style. One of the key words of the holy Mass is: "lift up your hearts": it reminds us that the Mass is not a continuation of our ordinary secular lives: instead it is our encounter with a timeless event, the Passion of Christ, which reaches across history and becomes present. Music that shouts secularity and emphasizes the ticking beat of measured time does not do its part to help us get out of our everyday mindset and lift up our hearts to that encounter. On the other hand, the Gregorian chants which the Church gives us as her official music for the Mass are all unmetered music and easily recognized as sacred music.
  • Thanks, Chonak, for the thoughtful response. I need to do some reading and educate myself. I just can’t imagine a church with nothing but chant, which doesn’t “lift up my heart.”
    Thanked by 2Kathy PaxMelodious
  • Quite frankly, it's not about what we personally prefer.

    Do I like every bit of the Gregorian repertoire? Of course not. There are some sections that grind on my nerves a bit, as there probably are for everyone. That doesn't make it any less the music of the Church, by which all others must be judged.

    On the flip side, I'm a great fan of Bruckner's F Minor Mass, Moses Hogan spirituals, and Rossini overtures - but including any of those in the Mass would, for various reasons, be inappropriate.

    Ultimately, what moves your congregants is irrelevant. In fact, the emotionally manipulative sacro-pop of the post-V2 era is inappropriate precisely because of that fact - it puts the focus on merely human emotions and worldly passions.

    Saying that "chant isn't to your liking" or that you don't think it fits with the Church means that you are rejecting an aspect of the Church that is as closely welded to it as any other aspect of the ritual. So should we take out the Old Testament reading in the NO purely because it may not move your congregants who feel the OT is just "fire and brimstone"?
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 909
    1) Well said, Richard.

    2) Banjoyist:

    While some musicians may advocate for an exclusively chanted liturgy, with no other music of any kind, I am certain that that is a minority view, and would not be present in many locations, if anywhere at all.

    Take heart!

    While I speak for myself, I think I can safely say that most of us, especially those of us who work in a (primarily or exclusively) Novus Ordo context, advocate for a beautifully balanced program of sacred music that contains varying amounts of the following:

    --Gregorian chant in Latin (or Greek)
    --Modern chant in the vernacular (e.g. those by Bartlett, Kelly, Weber, etc.)
    --Metrical settings of proper texts (e.g. Andy Motyka's Communion antiphons, or Richard Rice's Simple Choral Gradual)
    --Sturdy hymnody, accompanied by the organ, with quality, orthodox texts, focused on worship of God, rather than on the assembly of the people, or some-such (e.g. Holy God, We Praise Thy Name instead of Companions on the Journey)
    --Choral motets in Latin (e.g. Palestrina's Sicut Cervus, Tomas Luis de Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium, or even the simpler works of the 19th and early 20th Centuries found in the collections of Fr. Carlo Rossini)
    --Choral anthems in the vernacular (e.g. Tallis' If Ye Love Me or Vaughan Williams' O How Amiable)
    --Organ repertoire (e.g. from simpler works like those of John Stanley or Rossini's Liturgical Organist series to more challenging works like the fugues of J.S. Bach and everything in between)
    --Organ improvisation

    I say, if you check out some of those things mentioned above, and imagine a music program where those things (and the like) are done well (e.g. the BNSIC, Ss. Peter and Paul Naperville, Ss. Simon and Jude Phoenix, St. John Cantius Chicago, the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, etc.) you might imagine a place where you can truly glimpse a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy.
  • "which doesn’t “lift up my heart.”"

    The ZOLOFT Mass is available to everyone, just follow the hippies with the guitar cases. They've been leading music at the Mass since the 1960's but have never arrived.

    Locked into a time warp of warm fuzzies.

    Sandals optional, but no Crocs.

  • Banjoyist,

    If one asks the wrong question, it's not surprising that he comes up with the wrong answer. In fairness, asking the wrong question is easy to do, so you're in plentiful company.

    You ask the question "What moves your congregation?" . It's not a bad question, but it's the wrong question to ask when deciding what music to use at Mass, because the purpose of Mass isn't to move the congregation. There are four purposes to the Mass, and not one of them, in fact, is to move the congregation.

    The Mass has "proper" texts, where "proper" means "belonging to it". Choosing a hymn to replace any of these texts represents an aberration in liturgical practice (even if it is so common now that my making the claim makes me seem out of place). Once we agree that these texts will be said (or sung, or both) then there's more than one way to sing them.

    Once we have completed the required texts, there may still be time where other music is permitted, but always in keeping with the tenor of the occasion (which is the time-meets-eternity august celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass).

  • Parts of the chant should express joy, the melisma in a gregorian Alleluia is called a jubilus.
    Unfortunately, collective a capella singing by a congregation of untrained voices is never likely to be lively. Whether it is heart lifting depends on how well you are embeded in the ethos, the more you use it the more enjoyable it becomes. Note the comments attached to this chant, (which is not gregorian).
    So, I find this heart lifting, though I think it could be more lively. Perhaps not enhanced like this performance, but I suspect that a thousand years ago performance at a coronation might have been more like that.
    I may arose the wrath of others here, but my view from the pew is that while I do not want guitar or banjo accompaniment to chant during worship, I can imagine it being useful while rehearsing with the choir. There are several videos available by Patrick Torsell, such as this one about directing chant, which I would commend. Though note that there are other schools of thought, and performance.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • "What moves your congregation?"

    Misinterpretation of Vatican II...and they have never come back.

    Next question, please.

  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,528
    Some of the most joyous congregational singing I’ve heard was the Windsor Latin Mass community taking a Latin Credo at a refreshingly brisk speed. By memory.

    Full, conscious, active participation, and I doubt any of the young families there were engaging the kids on the ride home with monastic recordings of Gregorian chant.

    Church is church, entertainment is entertainment. Let each take its proper place, form, and sound.
  • Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness. Then all these things [active participation, emotional attachment, liturgical savvy] shall be added unto you.

    As I quoted C.S. Lewis in another thread - don't aim to be original. (don't even aim to 'move people'!) Be truthful.

    The hymns which most move the congregations I've sung with have always taken me by surprise. I can't mention how many times people have come up and thanked me for singing stuff like "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" or "Ave Maris Stella". This is stuff everyone knows and our choirs are at the point where we hardly give a second thought to rehearsing them since we know them backwards and forwards. But they still 'move' people, and paradoxically, it's not because they were framed specifically to 'move'. They were framed to explain the honest truth about Catholicism and thank God because it is so.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,419
    Thanked by 1Continuousbass
  • (off topic, started separate thread)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,159
    I'm with Liam.
    But y'all knew that.


    But OTOH, if Banjoyist can do a great Bela Fleck and pluck out some Bach inventions at Offertory or Postlude, I'd accommodate.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • A banjo, playing 'not banjo music', could almost pass for a koto or a shamisen.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • jcr
    Posts: 14
    The discussion about what music is suitable for worship an what music is not has gone the way of logical discourse in contemporary society. Unfortunately, it seems almost impossible to have a reasonable discussion with anyone about anything. In dealing with this question we have to be careful of the trap often put in front of us whereby we descend into a discussion of whether what I like is better than what you like. This usually develops when someone involved in the discussion claims that good or bad music is only a matter of personal taste and therefore no more definitive answer to the question can be had. I have replied to this by simply saying that if all musical tastes are equal and that, therefore, no objective criteria are possible, then my tastes are equally as good as theirs and that, on the basis that no better criteria than that are possible, we will sing what I say. This usually leads to one of a couple of predictable results, one of which is that we can now settle down to a serious discussion of what the criteria for beauty and propriety in music might be. (We'll forget about what the other consequences of my suggestion might be.)

    Some of the criteria for quality judgments could be presented as follows.
    Motivation
    Craftsmanship
    Historical perspective
    The work should be the product of an artist (defined by Robert Shaw, who gave this outline to us, as someone who has not only the ability to order his experience, but also the ability to have an experience worth ordering.).

    There are other criteria or other ways to address these things, but we must remember that judgments in art are quality judgments, not quantitative judgments. In music these require more than just a little exposure and training in the discipline. Let us not be intimidated into accepting the relativistic foolishness that has taken over the thinking of our time and refuse to give in to the idea that all things are equal.

    If you can find a copy of "God in the Dock", a collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, read the one called "Bulverism". Here you will learn why "refutation is no necessary part of argument."
  • the CMAA (based on direction from the Popes) has expressed very succinctly the criteria for music suitable for worship:
    Sacred
    Beautiful
    Universal
    Thanked by 1bhcordova
  • At root in this matter is the age-old tension between 'feeling' versus a holy silence and the tranquil operations of the Holy Spirit, which we may receive not through deliberation and effortful prayer, but purely and solely by grace. The anonymous XIVth century English author of The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counselling is far from alone in teaching us that God is not known or 'experienced' by or through the bodily senses. He stresses this insistently throughout his profound work. No 'sensational' or 'sensual' experience is nor can be an encounter with the Divine, who is beyond the physical and sensuous, created, universe, yet is close to us and loves us, as the Cloud's author puts it, personally and merrily, as a doting father.

    Therefore, music which makes one 'feel good' but is devoid of objective artistic and spiritual value can only be said to be leading its hearers astray - insofar as its hearers believe this music to be of great spiritual value because it makes them 'feel good'. I have even heard some persons go so far as to assert that certain 'hymns' or songs by several of their number are 'anointed'. They are, of course, free to be entertained by these songs, even 'feel good' upon hearing them, but that does not make them 'anointed' - not in any rational sense of the word.

    Further, such sensational experience, in itself, does nothing to make these songs appropriate for Divine Worship - the Mass or other rites of the Church, rites whose sole focus is God, the Most Holy Trinity, creator and redeemer of all, who is beyond the created realms of the universe, not on us and our 'feelings' and 'experiences'. Indeed, we are preposterously presumptuous if we go to mass expecting an 'experience' and to be entertained by a certain song that we may like when God may or may not, depending on our attitude (and his ineffable will), have something for us that surpasses anything that we can have thought of or wished for. And, if we (seem to) get 'nothing', that in itself is 'something' and we should give thanks for it.
    ________________________________________________

    ...find a copy...
    I will second this suggestion.
    It is a highly astute 'read' - as one would expect Lewis to be.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Davids' hymns were modern once
    I suspect that real modern music is NOT what the OP has in mind. A succinct rebuttal of the shaky foundation of this thread's theme is, simply, and so, we also praise God with the psalms and other sacred texts with music that is, indeed, modern. It's just that guitar ensembles, rock bands, jazz combos, and the like are NOT modern. Their music in form and musical vocabulary is amusingly dated, of no musical or literary substance, and not modern at all. It is facetious at best to insinuate that 'modern' church music is anything other than Stravinsky, or Poulenc, or Vaughan Williams, or Britten, and the scores of their colleagues who have penned music that really is modern and will be sung as long as there are people who sing music that is truly sacred music. The English cathedral choirs regularly commission or have dedicated to them modern anthems of astounding beauty by the greatest church composers of our day.
  • M. Jackson Osborn wrote: “It is facetious at best to insinuate that 'modern' church music is anything other than Stravinsky, or Poulenc, or Vaughan Williams, or Britten, and the scores of their colleagues who have penned music that will be sung as long as there are people who sing music that is truly sacred music.”


    What a travesty it would be to perform Stravinsky in a Catholic church!

    I know he was trying to be avant-garde at the time he lived, but I'm not convinced that counts for much when it comes to Catholic music.

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,280
    I should mention Susan Benofy's very helpful set of essays that describe the topic of Catholic church music in the 20th century: starting from the teaching of Pope St. Pius X in 1903 that set forth principles for sacred music; through the developments of the mid-century, including Vatican II and afterward, and the varying responses with which those instructions met:

    https://adoremus.org/2001/03/15/Buried-Treasure-Part-I/
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Alas! If only we had a few Richard Runciman Terrys in a few key spots. The travesty is that we have descended from leaders such as he to the level of those religious entertainers who inhabit the pages of a GIA catalogue.
  • "If you can find a copy of God in the Dock."
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Stravinsky's Mass is actually quite brilliant and the organ transcription is very good indeed. I would have no issue using it in a liturgy.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Richard Mix
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,823
    I post this YouTube recording of Stravinsky's Mass, with score, and would welcome a performance in a Catholic church. His a cappella writing is inspired.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRi_MDy_ks0
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 3,823
    And, since I have performed it (as fifth flute & piccolo), I post a YouTube performance of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms. Not quite apt for liturgical performance, but it could (and should, on occasion,?) be performed in a Catholic church concert.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LaUBcBTq3k

    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Love Stravinsky’s Mass!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • jefe
    Posts: 157
    Stravinsky re affirmed himself back into the Orthodox Church around 1922 and began writing church themed music again after that. I've played every Stravinsky piece that included bass trombone and have come to adore his Mass and Symphony of Psalms, both sublime and transcending works and I have stories about each one. Lesser known are some of his a cappella choral works which we've done over and over again at Compline. Here are a couple arranged for men down a few steps from the SATB versions.
  • Thanks to Chuck for posting this. I haven't listened to it in a while, but shall listen to it more often. It is a profound work. There are several curious features of the mass. Half tongue-in-cheek - If it were to be performed at mass, and to be strictly correct, the celebrant would have to be a (very talented) counter-tenor in order to sing the incipit to Gloria; though an 'ordinary' priest could well do the incipit to Credo. Why, one wonders, did he do this. I thought it delightful that pleni sunt coeli... brought to mind XIII century polyphony such as that of Machaut. This entire work is a masterpiece of potent understatement.

    I have long been entranced by the Symphonie des psaumes and Persephone. Like Brahms, everything Stravinsky wrote is good - at least what has survived!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen