"Why aren't there more Catholic composers who write serious music for Mass?"
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "Why aren't there more Catholic composers who write serious music for Mass?"

    This is something I hear quite often.

    One possible answer (and a mighty good one) is HERE.

    As a bonus, the VIDEO includes "what I won't tell you . . ." (wink wink)
  • Why aren't there more Catholic parishes using serious music in Mass?
    If you don't have a demand, there won't be a supply.
    Thanked by 1PolskaPiano
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,943
    Hmmmm, I'm not sure that the video actually answers the question raised by the title of this thread. At least I hope it isn't the case that the we should conclude that Kevin Allen's excellent works are, in fact, so good that the rest of us should just throw in the towel ... or maybe that others of us in the trenches don't compose music for Mass that is serious?

    Of course, I'm pulling Jeff's leg a bit here, trying to get a discussion started.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    As a Catholic composer, I can tell you what I think: the fear is nobody will listen to it, nobody will perform it, and most importantly nobody will buy it. Since I teach at a Catholic school, I don't have to worry too much about people purchasing my work: I can create it for its own sake and then distribute it to whomever is interested, free of charge. I actually enjoy doing that: I'd rather see the music performed than make a buck off of it. However, I did to a setting of the Mass for Ferias in Advent and Lent, using the chant melodies, but I haven't had the opportunity to have it performed yet.
  • JQ's retort would seem, on the surface at least, to offer some explanation or excuse. But, when one thinks about it: there was in the post-Vatican II period no demand for the music that invaded our churches. No one would have thought of it or asked for it. It's purveyors simply walked in and took over and the priest stood there being of no help whatever, even when he sheepishly said he didn't think it was appropriate.

    There is no demand amongst teen-agers who are singing chant and good part music, but are suddenly confronted with a chic purveyor of 'contemporary' stuff who tells them that the music they are singing is all wrong for them and manages to spoil what their erstwhile director has been teaching them.

    There wasn't and still isn't any demand for junk until certain people manage to create it by convincing everyone that anything better is elitist and over their heads.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    The topic question is bogus. Who besides the Almighty determines what effect lies beyond "serious intent." As Kathy quips, "Oh, honestly(?)"
  • ZacPB189ZacPB189
    Posts: 70
    First, I've had no real compositional training, I've been mostly on my own (my college's music department doesn't have anyone willing to teach composition on staff at the moment). Second, because I'm a trumpet player, and not a vocalist, I have little to no experience writing vocal music, but a small amount in orchestral and trumpet+organ (but not band, that's a really hard medium), which is the OPPOSITE of what a composer of Church music should be. Third, I know next to nothing about business, publishing, et cetera. Finally, it's exactly like Clerget said (or rather: typed), there's a huge fear that nobody will listen to it.
  • Clerget -
    You may be underestimating yourself. There may be many who would perform and appreciate your music. There is certainly much being published and performed which should be an embarassment to composer, publisher, performer, and victim. Why not gather some encouragement about yourself and send your music to a publisher. Perhaps you could share it with us here?

    If you could get your music published by a good publishing house that publishes sacred choral music (this ipso facto means a not Catholic one) you might find a place for your music with people of taste and discernment. If you really wanted to be bold, you could send your work to Oxford, Cambridge, or Novello, or Boosey & Hawkes. If you think you're not quite ready for them there are many decent publishers of sacred music which would give you a start. But stay away from big names in Catholic publishing: they will just give you a bad reputation.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    There is no demand amongst teen-agers who are singing chant and good part music, but are suddenly confronted with a chic purveyor of 'contemporary' stuff who tells them that the music they are singing is all wrong for them and manages to spoil what their erstwhile director has been teaching them.


    This is quite true. Among the middle school aged students that I have, there are some who enjoy a few of those songs to which we are referring "Gather Us In," etc., however, I think that's more because they grew up with it in the church under their parents' generation, and for some their grandparents! I usually get no direct requests from them for any of the hymns in the hymnal (we use RS at that church). We do have people trying to push the 'contemporary' stuff, and I think that MJO put it in the best way possible. These students are largely unfamiliar with what is out there until someone comes along and shows them. If they are taught chant and motets, they will sing chant and motets. If they are taught the 'contemporary' stuff, they will sing the 'contemporary' stuff. In this current generation of students, I see a great opportunity to restore the beautiful repertoire of chant and motets, as they are not requesting the stuff from the 70s and 80s: they aren't requesting much of anything where I teach.
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Seconded.

    This generation offers a unique opportunity to give angsty teens the chance to be rebellious by... embracing truth, beauty, and goodness.

    I think a lot of kids are tired of the circus and aare ready to run away and join the schola.
  • Adam -
    I think that you are right about them being tired of the circus, after all, as someone was recently thought to have said.... 'the carnival is over'.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    evidence based music choices- maybe someone could write a thesis on this. Exhibit a - most of our kids are exposed to the 'lets celebrate ourselves celebrating' type music , and nearly all of them leave at twelve and don't come back.
    What can we deduce from this?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    What can we deduce from this?

    Clearly, we didn't do enough of that music, or play it loud enough.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,934
    I believe sacred music composition is for the most part a 'lost' art/skill. A lot of what I have heard is monophonic in the last 50 years. True polyphonic compositional writing is rare. The average church choir doesn't have the resources and the time committment to sing polyphony on a regular basis. Can this trend change? Yes. Make it so.

    How many living composers of sacred music polyphony can we name here? A list would be a good resource to help promote new works. Does one exist somewhere that highlights this genre?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen eft94530
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    Actually, Charles, the quote is "Oh, honestly." For example, questioning whether there is serious and non-serious music is the kind of thing that makes me say, "Oh, honestly."
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Thank you, may I have another, please?
    Regarding the topic, "Why aren't there more Catholic composers who write serious music for Mass?", I merely observed that this question is beyond rhetorical. In all likelihood, it seems more like an exasperated plea.....but for what exactly? How does one parce this question from among any number of perspectives, subjectively or objectively?
    Francis' solution, at least, promotes a helpful, positive measure with a definable outcome, and I'd put his name high on that list. Chuck Giffen and Adam Wood are working on creating a data-base library to further access to serious sacred music composition. This forum, Cafe, intensives and colloquia are "vehicles" by which "serious music for Mass" has been distilled and "tested" by actual service to liturgies.
    So, to wrap up, I don't exactly know the benefit of speculative debate here or elsewhere bemoaning a straw man question. I believe we all know we have 15 centuries plus of repertoire that is still evolving, Deo gratias, into fit and beautiful practice as a handmaid to our rites.
    Thanked by 2DougS SamuelDorlaque
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    It's simple. Catholics won't pay for it.

    Episcopalians will. Episcopalians will permit litugical texts of earlier times to be sung, Catholics won't.

    Compose something that will be discarded in one's lifetime because of changing translations?

    Most composers see that some episcopalians will spend the money on good, new music and that the Catholic church is a dung heap in comparison.
    Thanked by 1ZacPB189
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,934
    FNJ

    Solution: only compose new music in Latin.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,943
    Or hymns.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    or RECTO TONO
    Thanked by 3Heath Gavin eft94530
  • There are many wonderful composers writing very fine music for the liturgy today. We just need to start learning about them and programming their works. I've found that the most genuinely Catholic music will be found in the catalogues of Oxford, Novello, E.C. Schirmer, etc. In short, peruse the catalogues that other serious musicians (yes, maybe even those who work outside the Church) study- you will find more really fine serious contemporary choral works than any one choir could learn. In the USA look also at some of the regional publishers. I've found great offerings at Santa Barbara MP, Morningstar in Saint Louis, etc. The composers and the music are there, we just need to do a little more searching. Then, when you find something you think is interesting, share it!!!
  • SD is spot on!
    There is more modern sacred music in Latin and English being written in Britain than the English cathedral choirs can perform in a lifetime. Plus not a little by American composers. Outstanding Catholic music is being written by non-Catholic musicians. Seek in those publisher catalogues that Samuel suggested and ye shall find. He neglected to mention Concordia, which has a lot of really good literature, old and new. The next time you get the GIA catalogue file it where I do, and seek out publishers who are serious.

    This is for Adam, who likes recto tono! The king of France insisted of Josquin des Prez that he compose a piece in which he could sing a part. Knowing that HM was tone deaf, Josquin wrote a piece for a certain number of voices, with one voice (HM's) having only one note sustained throughout. Sorry, I can't remember just now what the piece was, but HM the king was said to have been pleased.
    Thanked by 2Heath SamuelDorlaque
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    Perhaps HM was an alto, and the note was the D above middle C.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    Morningstar and others do not seek the Imprimatur and the average and below average Catholic church musician is rarely trained to evaluate the text to see if it is something that should be sung at Mass.

    Oxford can be trusted to some extent due to the predominance of liturgical churches that are their customers. Schirmer would publish anything that would make a buck.

    For the average parish musician, especially if they have been exposed to the Catholic publishing houses..who are others they can trust aside from http://www.canticanova.com and http://www.romancatholicsacredmusic.com/?
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    evidence based music choices- maybe someone could write a thesis on this. Exhibit a - most of our kids are exposed to the 'lets celebrate ourselves celebrating' type music , and nearly all of them leave at twelve and don't come back.
    What can we deduce from this?


    There are two basic schools of piano teaching - one based on classics and the other using chords and popular music. There must be a study that tracks children using one or the other and showing the results.

    Any professional piano teachers here who have access to trade publications that might give us some insight as far as how these students fare later in life?

    It's got to be about the same as Catholic kids who are subjected to dreck and decent music, wouldn't you think?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    The king of France insisted of Josquin des Prez that he compose a piece in which he could sing a part. Knowing that HM was tone deaf, Josquin wrote a piece for a certain number of voices, with one voice (HM's) having only one note sustained throughout.

    Darn, Josquin has bested me from beyond the grave. I just finished setting Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba" (which actually has two notes, rats!) to the Gloria text! I suppose I'll just round file Missa Sing of the Lord's Goodness and commence to the next project: Missa Awesome God.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Charles, is your Gloria for Monotonus majestatus & Counter-tenor? Voicing please.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Samuel, doesn't Fr. Keyes share my secrets?
    I always write for Sprechstimme Basso Buffo!
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • Ah, bellissima, Charles, it sounds like you wrote it just for me! Low chiavette please!
  • Unda_Maris
    Posts: 53
    I find this an interesting topic. The "dumbing down of America" has seeped into the arena of liturgical music as well. McLaughlin & Reilly and J. Fischer were the publishers of serious music by serious composers. To be truthful, some composers then were better than others, but all in all, their hearts, minds and talents were all in the right place. One fine composer of the 1950s is the late (Rev.) Russell Woollen. Ordained a Catholic priest in 1947, he was a key figure in establishing the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at Catholic University in 1950, and was head of the school of liturgical music there until he left the university and the priesthood in 1962. Fr. Woollen was also contributor to "Caecelia Magazine" in the 1950s. Woollen had studied piano and organ; Gregorian Chant at Solemes, and composition with Nicholas Nabikov, Walter Piston at Harvard, and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Most of his compositions of the 1950s were published by McLaughlin & Reilly, and a few by World Library. When M&R closed in 1969, all of Woollen's music died with the publisher. However, those of you who have a copy of "Hymns, Psalms & Spiritual Canticles" hymnal will find his Sanctus and Agnus Dei from "Mass in the Major Modes". One of his finer Mass settings of the 1950s. In later years, Woollen was the principal pianist, organist and harpsichordist for the National Symphony, Wash. DC, and several of his works for orchestra were commissioned by the Symphony. Over the years, he had given organ recitals at The National Shrine in Washington. He died in 1994. One can find more detailed info about Russell Woollen on "Google".

    To my knowledge, he was the only Catholic priest in the past 65 yrs. who spent his life in music and music for the church. Today's composers for OCP, GIA and World Library would pale in comparison to his compositional skills and knowledge of music in and for the Liturgy. A true loss to the church as a priest and solid church musician.

  • redsox1
    Posts: 202
    I was exposed to Russell Woollen's music during my time at the Shrine. We sang one of his Masses for Easter. I think it was "Mass for a Great Space" or something to that effect. It was something else! We also did his setting of the Easter sequence with chorus, sop. soloist? and orchestra. Speaking of the Shrine, there are many of us out there who wish Leo Nestor would publish more liturgical music!
    Thanked by 1SamuelDorlaque
  • For some really good music by Leo Nestor, check the E.C. Schirmer & Morningstar Music
    catalogues as well. He wrote some wonderful music for Bl. John Paul II's visit to Saint Louis in 1999.
  • There is some nice choral music composed by Baltic choral composers in the "holy minimalism" style. Some of it may be a little too modern sounding for Mass, but some would be appropriate. Composers Rihards Dubra, Vaclovas Augustinas, Vytuatas Miskinis come to mind. I know Dubra is a practicing Catholic and his Our Father is sung at Latvian parishes.

    A Missa Simplex by Dubra

    Oculos non vidit Dubra

    Kyrie Missa Sine Nomine by Dubra

    O Sacrum Convivium by Miskinis

    They're no Palestrina/Josquin/Tallis, but I would consider them "serious" composers.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Just finished a setting of "Panis Angelicus."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I think those serious Catholic composers are alive, well, and composing. Unfortunately, many of them don't have big publishing companies with large advertising budgets pushing their works.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Unfortunately
    Fortunately, many of them don't have big publishing companies with large dubiously motivated advertising budgets deparments pushing composers to dumb down their works.


    fixed
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    Here on the forum, we are a somewhat inward-looking little club. How much of this actually gets out to the parish musicians in the field? A publisher with deeper pockets, influenced by the good work of CMAA, could be a powerful force for promoting the better composers and their works. Granted, that doesn't exist at this time, but we can hope. Just think, if the resources used to promote inferior music could be spent on promoting better music, the results could be astonishing.

    What I am getting at, is that the talent is here, the marketing not so much. A good example, Adam. Your Ascension hymn to Thaxted was an overwhelming success at our masses last Sunday. How many musicians in how many parishes will ever see it?
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    CDub, the contrarian in me demands that I declare "we" aren't at all an insular little club. Just the three of us "Charles'" have over a century's worth of tenure at our gigs and we're a heckuva lot better off now than twenty years ago, dah-nya-beet (dagnabit.) Thaxted wasn't even on the radar. So, now it's a staple of many an amateur choir, for better or worse. Do we thank GIA and Proulx, OCP for licensing it. Take a look at the ordos posted at CAForum and now it's clear that M.D. Ridge's marvelous text "Three days," set to Thaxted, is being programmed in lotsa places and it's only been in the OCP products for maybe seven years.
    And what I find absolutely stunning is that WE, however many of WE there are, literally breathed life into Adam's setting less than a week after a number of you helped him hone his text, and everyone has reported great responses from congregants. And this is only one of hundreds of uniquely "delivered manna from cyber heaven" that we share here. We have Heath Morber, JMO, CHG, Royce Nickel, Frank LaRocca, Jeffrey Quick et al, test driving their stuff and then sending it out like ripples in a pond to us! Guys like Leo Nestor, Tom Savoy and Howard Hughes aren't likely to join in at this point.
    And I don't subscribe to the maxim you "get what you PAY for." Were that the case, I wouldn't bother having written my little catalog, of which I'm thankful and proud to have been inspired to realize.
    In the infamously correct words of that old folkie, Paul Quinlan, "It's a brand new day, everything is fine."
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • There's actually an enormous amount to top-quality church music (all of it useable in the OF and much in the EF) being composed in Britain. I don't know the religious affiliations of the composers, although much of the music is initially presented in Anglican contexts. Taking place right now is the annual London Festival of Contemporary Church Music (http://www.lfccm.com/). Don't let the word 'contemporary' fool you: all of this is excellent, serious music.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I wasn't aware of the Anglican group. Need to look into that.

    Melo, I agree with much of what you say. However, we are still few in number, compared to all the parishes that have never heard of us. They all know about NPM.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    NPM isn't a publisher, they are a professional association.
    CMAA isn't a publisher, they are a professional association.

    CMAA happens to publish some resources, books, pamphlets, etc- but that's ancillary to their primary mission of being a professional association.

    I don't really understand why this conversation comes up over and over.

    CC Watershed is a publishing company. Illuminare is a publishing company. CanticaNova is a publishing company. Frog Music Press is a publishing company. These all have friendly relationships with CMAA- their owners/operators/editors/whoevers are members, or contribute at the blog, or teach at colloquium, or participate on the forum. Heck- Fr. C has a relationship of some sort with GIA and Fr. Ruff has a relationship with LitPress, and both of them are as much participants on this forum as anyone else.

    If you think something ought to get done- go do it. Stop waiting for other people to do it on your behalf.
    Thanked by 1elaine60
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    It's not that. I am trying to get some kind of handle on how many out there have never heard of us, or some of those small publishers you mentioned. My objective is getting the word out about the good music composed by our CMAA composers and making it more widely available and known. For now, that has to be in my area, where most have not heard of us.

    For example, not that you would object Adam, I will keep your Ascension hymn. Next year, I can send copies to DMs in the area a few weeks before Ascension and say, "I liked this and thought it might be something you could use. It's free." I didn't think of it in time for this year.
  • Earlier, I suggested that if we find something interesting we share it. I love perusing the discount bins of publishers and distributors. I recently received copies of "Sequentia: Veni Sancte Spiritus" by Noel Goemanne (1926-2010), a fine Belgian-American church-
    musician & composer who worked for a number of years in Dallas. It was published by
    Theodore Presser Company in 1985. It is SATB, uses the sequence chant throughout,
    embellished with ison, organum, modern harmonies. It is quite accessible. I received it too late to use this year, but I might use it next year as the Pentecost sequence after the Alleluia. Check it out
    Thanked by 2Gavin CharlesW
  • arele
    Posts: 1
    As far as Oregon Catholic Press goes, we have a new Archbishop here in Western Oregon, which oversees OCP. Archbishop Sample is a traditional liturgical music loyalist, and just managed to change the music standards in Marquette, Michigan before he left. As Archbishop of Portland he is now the head of the board of directors for OCP. From what I have heard, he has already put a hold on all new OCP music at this time. He is an answer to a prayer of mine, and I'm hoping he makes some big changes - for the better - in our music quality!

    http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2013/02/13/bishop-samples-pastoral-letter-on-sacred-music-in-divine-worship/
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    Seeking a solution need for publicity for music and materials CMAA music has been the subject of discussion among a number of us that publish, but a solution has not been forthcoming.

    CharlesW is right, we are preaching to the choir at this point. It will take an attitude of thoughtfulness among publishers and a willingness to share the expense of getting this done. It's actually a simple thing, one person with time and energy undertakes writing new releases and submitting them with a slant that would make them interesting, finding friendly editors who are looking for things to put into print, and then getting paid for the work.

    I've had a couple of people interested, but it could be a demanding job to hold while still making a living or going to school. None of the people I have talked with have been able to commit to this, and I appreciate their interest and efforts. It would make best sense to the publishers if sales due to the efforts were tracked and a percentage paid to the worker....it would make sense to the worker to get paid a salary for his/her efforts....possibly a split funding right there in the middle between the two would work.

    The difficulty is that none of us have any idea how much money we are going to make this year, this month or even this week...so committing to a salary could be difficult...
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • jj_catholicjj_catholic
    Posts: 10
    hi,
    this thread is really interesting to read.
    ive been a liturgical music composer for quite sometime now and yes, its very rewarding but its a lonely job too. a lot of the time people would ask me WHY or HOW COME i only compose liturgical music. and its very hard to explain to people who dsnt even now what is liturgical music. so for most of the time when people ask me what i do, i just say im a typist.
    anyway,
  • jj_catholicjj_catholic
    Posts: 10
    check this one choir in germany in rehearsals...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp_I7IgAwCQ
    Thanked by 2chonak ZacPB189