Brief History of Catholic Music Periodicals
  • In the September-October, 1956, issue of the CAECILIA, McLaughlin & Reilly Co announces that they will no longer publish the magazine. Following this declaration is a brief history of catholic music periodicals in the United States which is reproduced below. This text might be a nice addition to the Journal section of the CMAA website.

    After 25 years of residence in Boston, CAECILIA returns to the environment out of which it rose, namely, the American Society of Saint Caecilia founded in 1873. For the church musician the story of its odyssey in retrospect is intimately linked to the whole church music movement in the United States. In February, 1874, CAECILIA Magazine, Volume I, No. 1 came into being as the society's official organ, printed in the German language, and published by J. Fischer & Bro., then of Dayton, Ohio. Two years prior to this there had appeared another magazine called THE ECHO which also was an official organ of the society. This periodical published in English by Frederick Pustet Co., New York, was discontinued in December of 1874. During its brief existence there appeared in its pages the aims of the Society of Saint Caecilia, the history of the parent German society of the same name as established by Fr. Witt in 1858, together with an indication of the placement of the association under the protectorate of a cardinal by direction of the Holy Father in 1870. With the demise of THE ECHO, CAECILIA alone continued to appear as a journal devoted exclusively to the interests of Catholic Church musicians. It is interesting to note here that until 1906, the CAECILIA was issued exclusively in German. From 1906 to December of 1925, it appeared as a bi-lingual publication. It was not until 1926, two years after John Singenberger's death, that it began to appear in English only, and has remained thus until today.

    Inasmuch as the re-establishment of the American society of Saint Caecilia is of particular significance to church musicians in this country, it might be well to review briefly the role played by this society in the restoration of church music during the late years of the 19th century. Its influence during those years as a vigorous champion of the cause of better church music cannot be underestimated. For example, the influence of the Society of St. Caecilia can be seen in the foundation of several church music schools, notably those established in Rome in 1880 and in Malines in 1881. The Sacred Congregation of Rites gave particular approbation to the Roman school. St. Caecilia societies were formed in the United States in 1873, in England in 1876, in Ireland in 1878, Vienna in 1879, Italy in 1880, and Bohemia, Moravia, Slavonia and Belgium in 1881. The Constitution and By-Laws of the American Society, affiliated with the General St. Caecilia Society of Germany, Austro-Hungary and Switzerland, were approved by a Papal Brief, February 6, 1876, and afforded the same privileges and indulgences as enjoyed by the parent organization through a Papal Brief of December 16, 1870. (General indulgence granted to all members of St. Caecilia societies annually on the feast of St. Caecilia under the usual conditions.)

    John Singenberger was honored by the Holy Father by being made a Knight of St. Gregory in 1882, specifically for his work in instituting and directing the American Society of St. Caecilia. Annual conventions of the organization were held in various large dioceses of the country until 1903, and the names of over 4000 members of the society were recorded in the annals of the society's early days. Testimonials of approval were received from practically all of the Bishops of the United States, and in 1891 a GUIDE TO CATHOLIC CHURCH MUSIC was published by the Society by order of the First Provincial Councils of Milwaukee and St. Paul.

    In 1905, another attempt was made by Singenberger to produce a magazine that would be accepted by English speaking musicians, the CAECILIA meanwhile continuing to appear in German. The new magazine was entitled REVIEW OF CHURCH MUSIC and it lived for only two years, whereupon CAECILIA became bi-lingual, English and German. In 1905, the American Ecclesiastical Review (Dolphin Press) presented a bi-monthly publication entitled CHURCH MUSIC. This lasted for four years and was discontinued for lack of support.

    Thereafter CAECILIA was the only American paper devoted to Catholic Church music until 1914 when THE CATHOLIC CHOIRMASTER appeared under the editorship of Nicola Montani. It was not until January of 1954 that the GREGORIAN REVIEW was established, bringing to a total of three the periodicals devoted to the interests of Catholic Church music in the U.S.A.

    The career of CAECILIA has been a continuous one. J. Fischer & Bro. printed it for three years, Pustet for nine years, and Singenberger from 1886 until his death in 1924. Otto Singenberger (John's son) then published it until 1931.

    In October 1931, McLaughlin & Reilly Co., finding that CAECILIA was to be discontinued for lack of funds and public support, took over the publication, and continued it under the editorship of Otto Singenberger until September 1936. Then Dom Gregory Hugle, O.S.B., of Conception Abbey, Missouri, was appointed Editor, and he served until November 1941, when failing health caused him to resign. Whereupon Dom Ermin Vitry, O.S.B., of O'Fallon, Missouri, became Editor.

    The number of issues were reduced from twelve to ten a year in 1941, and in 1948, to six issues a year. It has continued as a bi-monthly magazine up to the present time. From July, 1950, to January, 1951, a Board of Editors prepared the magazine, and since March, 1951, Mr. Theodore Marier has been Editor.

    In 1956, Father Francis Schmitt of Boys Town, Nebraska, representing the American Society of St. Caecilia, which has been recently reinstituted with ecclesiastical approval, presented to McLaughlin & Reilly Co. a plan whereby CAECILIA might be given a permanent home, with a guarantee of long life, devoid of any suspicions of publishers' subsidy or propaganda of a commercial character. Once again it would become the agency of the society of the same name, and would henceforth be published as a quarterly, without music pages. Sponsorship would be non-commercial and tax-free, and if need be, proceeds from a concert by the Boys Town Choir would more than pay the costs of publication, and printing work could be done by a non-commercial press. A Board of Editors under the chairmanship of Father Schmitt and independent contributors of the highest calibre available would be assembled to perpetuate the time honored tradition of CAECILIA. In turn, the CAECILIA would serve to accelerate and expedite the influence of the Society in reaching all parts of the country and thus enhance and give additional vitality to the ends for which CAECILIA was established and has been maintained for the past 82 years.

    Accordingly, beginning with the January issue of 1957, CAECILIA will appear under new sponsorship and new auspices. Mr. Marier will continue as a contributing editor as will several who have presented important articles in recent years. Announcement of the aims and objectives of the new staff will be more specifically set forth in succeeding issues. The transition will be gradual in justice to present subscribers, in the hope that they will join in our enthusiasm for the new function which CAECILIA will henceforth serve, and that they will want to continue their subscriptions during the forthcoming years when dramatic changes in liturgy and a collateral motion in contemporary church music styles will become increasingly manifest.

    We who have nurtured and guided CAECILIA these last twenty-five years give testimony to the integrity of our purposes, by transferring all right, title and proprietary interest in this magazine to a religious organization of unimpeachable integrity and selflessness, and one which has an assured prospect of continuity, devoid of dependence upon any one individual or commercial organization.

    A recent survey conducted by CAECILIA will be of assistance in guiding the policies to be set up by the new staff. We are grateful to those who assisted us over the years by contributing articles and news items for our columns, and to our subscribers who have been loyal in supporting this periodical. We pray that the new editors and publishers will experience joy and success in the years ahead.

    William Arthur Reilly, Publisher