Cultural Music
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 113
    The last thread I began has inspired this spin off:

    My first 10 years of work were in a small, aging, mostly white parish.
    I have now been at a very diverse parish for 2 years. It is common to see women in traditional, colorful African dress and headwrap in the communion line with women in saris, followed by mantilla wearing Burmese. There are quite a few African American Catholics and Vietnamese American catholics as well as other nationalities represented. I would guess 50% white of European descent, 50% mostly first and second generation Americans from other nations.

    The parish has a culture of singing for which I am grateful. (The church is alive during the Gloria!) However, there is a large immigrant portion of the parish that I do not see singing. In my two years here, I have stripped away what I saw as the worst of the music. I have approached the pastor about incorporating more chant, but he does not want that at this time. We have learned some classic repertoire for high feasts, but it is not something we can do regularly. This leaves us with the big 3 music companies and some smaller ones I scour for goodness, truth, and beauty for use in the liturgy for our 4 hymn sandwhich.

    The problem is, when I look out into the pews, I feel like I'm only reaching out to half of the congregations. If we were chanting official church music, I would not have any conflict because it would be ALL of OUR music, but I see a large population of faithful, devoted Catholics, whom I have no idea are receiving the music. I do not see a great deal of the immigrant population singing. I know many of the people have beautiful, traditional music from their own parts of the world. I really want to incorporate this music somehow. I am not sure how to reach out and do this.

    I would feel uncomfortable attempting to find music myself and sing it with our aging, white choir! It seems like this movement would need to be organic (after my initial push!) My motivation does not come from getting some cool or peppy music in our liturgy or being diverse for its own sake; it is genuine appreciation for the cultures from which our fellow Catholics come and a desire to bring a cohesiveness into our liturgy and generally larger parish community. Hope that makes sense. I appreciate any thoughts- critical or otherwise. It is something that has been nagging at me for over a year.
    Thanked by 2WGS JonathanLC
  • I do not see a great deal of the immigrant population singing. I know many of the people have beautiful, traditional music from their own parts of the world. I really want to incorporate this music somehow. I am not sure how to reach out and do this.


    Have you tried talking to them? Get their perspective and thoughts on the matter. Perhaps it's something they can help you with. If there are members who are particularly musically competent, they might be able to assist you with the execution of said music during Mass. The Church does make allowances for culturally significant music during Mass. Even in the EF in NZ you will get traditional Maori music or in Nigeria, they'll sing their traditional music outside of the chants, but at the same time incorporating sacred polyphony such as Palestrina.
  • This has been an area of interest of mine as I work towards presenting a concert program of all-Catholic music from around the world in the next twelve months.

    There seems to be a real dearth of legitimately enculturated world music that still appeals to Catholic sensibilities and is appropriate for liturgical use while utilizing local musical languages. Instead, there is either inauthentic music that bears no resemblance to local customs (cf. St. Louis Jesuits) or local "pop" music with no sacred form grafted onto the liturgy.
    Thanked by 2PolskaPiano eft94530
  • First: A young priest friend of mine is the chaplin of a Ivy level University. He was really struggling to find hymns that enough of his students knew as there was a huge cultural diversity among the students as many of them were international. A lot of students didn't know what we would consider the most basic Christmas hymns. He also only has these students for four years so by the time they learned the hymns, they were graduating. He needed universal sacred music!

    So what he ended up doing was switching to the propers and singing them using the St. Meirnad Psalm tones. A cantor sings the antiphon, the congregation responds with the "Glory Be" and then the cantor repeats the antiphon. They do sing a hymn at post communion and for a recessional. They also chanted all the responses and ordinaries.

    The students responded beautifully and even to this day hold it dear as "their universiy catholic music."

    So I guess what I'm saying is... maybe find a way to make the music universal at your church? Something that unites all the cultures

    Second: the Church that I work at, for Pentecost, we had representation for all the languages in our congregation. So the petitions were read in French, the sequence in Tagalong, a Gaelic offertory hymn, and latin ordinaries. It was really cool. The woman who read the sequence cried the entire time; she had never experienced it in her native tongue before.

    Not sure how helpful that was, but definately interesting experiences

  • Second: the Church that I work at, for Pentecost, we had representation for all the languages in our congregation. So the petitions were read in French, the sequence in Tagalong, a Gaelic offertory hymn, and latin ordinaries. It was really cool. The woman who read the sequence cried the entire time; she had never experienced it in her native tongue before.


    Honestly, I loathe attending Masses that have so many different languages. There's a reason why the Church has a universal language.
  • IdeK
    Posts: 47
    I sometimes go to Christmas night mass at the Mother House of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Brittany. As it is the Mother House, there are sisters from all over the world who assist in the management of the order.

    They have two beautiful customs to make the foreign sisters feel at home during Christmas time : before the Midnight Mass, the sisters in the choir sing carols from all the home countries of the sisters present. (The other custom has nothing to do with music : each sister is invited to set a Nativity scene "from her country" in some place of the House.)

    I love the vigil with carols from all around the world. It makes Christmas so universal...
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 113
    Pianist- Chant is universal and would be ideal. However, as I stated above, the pastor does not want to incorporate chant into the liturgy at that time. We use chant based psalms, chant the Kyrie, and during Lent chant the Agnus Dei. That's as much as he wishes right now.
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 113
    Sponsa- I have put out articles in the bulletin asking, and have gone up to people after mass to speak with them about it. I get no responses. Any other ideas?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I don't do "cultural" music, but use music appropriate for the mass in a U.S. congregation. That music is heavily traditional. If you like it, fine. If not, you should go elsewhere. What the parish does is known and is no surprise to anyone. You should know what you will be getting when you attend. Where did the idea come from that church music needs to pander to different tastes and cultures? Church music is not a politically correct request line.
  • Charles,

    Where did the idea come from that church music needs to pander to different tastes


    It's called pastoral accompaniment.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    It's ridiculous.
    Thanked by 2irishtenor dad29
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 276
    Something to be aware of: the people who are 2nd generation immigrants may have no more idea of the music traditions in their parents home countries than you do. Asking them just puts them in a difficult position.

    I'd suggest firstly looking outside the church: are people from these communities involved in general musical activities? Can you bring some of this into the church, in appropriate ways of course. That said It's been noted in a few places in Europe that the immigrants from Eastern Europe and Africa tend to be workers and entrepreneurs, rather than artists and musicians - the latter stayed in the home country. This is a trend, not an absolute, but I've seen it played out.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I have told the story before about our people from Cameroon. They are genuinely lovely people. One of our politically correct sixties children - you all have them, too - has to pander to everyone who is new or different. She asked the Cameroon folks, "what music do your people sing for Christmas?" The lady from Cameroon replied, "we sing 'O Come All Ye Faithful.' "
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 113
    Charles- you assume motives. I am not pandering. I have holes to fill in our repertoire as I remove some of the worst music, and I see a large minority that may have good, sacred music that would fit our parish well. It is reasonable and practical, not pandering. Seeing value in drawing from other cultures =/= politically correct here.
  • fcbfcb
    Posts: 265
    Also, one's cultural heritage is something different from one's personal taste.
    Thanked by 1JL