Can you say "theology"?
  • Is there are way to reach our clergy and liturgy planners and friend music directors who are imbued with an aversion to chant and its proper place in the Liturgy? Talk about neumes and latin raises a red flag. Is there another door that we may open, a different level to speak with them on...
  • The slow issue is an interesting one. We had a new pastor who said to us very frankly that he does not like chant because it is generally too slow. We took note and changed. We also do hymns with uncommon speed. We changed. He now takes credit for what he sees as an improvement. Fine by us!
  • Is there no higher reason to sing chant?
  • You know, Arlene and I some years ago worked toward examining this in a long reflection on JP2's letter to artists. It is here.
  • Everyone, before responding to this thread, you MUST read this article...thank you, Arlene and Jeffrey, for all you have done for us and the Church.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Is there are way to reach our clergy and liturgy planners and friend music directors who are imbued with an aversion to chant and its proper place in the Liturgy?

    The approach depends on the person. For a musician, I like to take the approach of showing them how easy chant is. ONLY tell them the basics, and GET THEM SINGING immediately! DO NOT mention the name of a single neum. DO NOT use a single word in Latin to describe the chant. Only tell them what they need to know to get singing - C is where the C is, everything works like our notation, sing the bottom note first when they're on top of each other. Say anymore and you will frighten people off. Get them seeing how easy it is and they'll enjoy it and want to learn more.

    Priests and liturgists? Don't bother. A lot of these people are just too closed-minded to change. They've built up a career on ignoring the Church, they're not going to change now. It strikes me that if the state of the Church's music improves dramatically, as we are all working at, some people and even whole parishes will be left behind. I'd say quote the documents. If they will not listen to the documents, point out the trends that we see everywhere. If they still will not change, knock the dust from your sandals and leave.
  • “Gregorian chant is not music . . . it is a way of praying and a way of proclamation.” (related by Dr. Franz Karl Praßl)

    I have been able to sell chant in Latin and in the vernacular at my seminary when I emphasize that the texts of the chants and the melodies arising from these texts put us in contact with the spiritual experience of our ancestors in the faith. Unlike fossils in which living tissue is replaced by minerals and is therefore dead, in just a minute we can sing anew texts and tunes that our fellow Catholics sang in the first millennium of the Christian experience. Chant is musical lectio divina, a spiritual exercise/discipline that enables us to taste the word of God, to savor it, to chew it over, to digest it and to allow it to transform us.

  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    To the OP, exhibit maximum flexibility and diversity, (within whatever you set as non-negotiable parameters.)
    I have found that many chant aficionado are too dogmatic about square-note/modern notation, accompanied/unaccompanied, semiology/Solesmes, psalm tone/solemn tone disagreements.
    And take baby steps, even if they seem like detours as your head for the goal.
    Maybe introducing chant hymns as a prelude to introducing a Gregorian ordinary, or the propers?
    Consider, for instance, acoustic guitar as an accompaniment instrument?
    Introduce the Meinrad tones to someone whose aversion to authentic chant is based on the fact that "chant is written by and for dead Europeans"? (that's a real quote, BTW.)
    Try macaronic texts? mostly, Latin and a bit of Spanish or Tagalog or Polish, or whatever your largest minority non-English-speakers speak, no anti-traditionalist would be so insensitive and reactionary as to object to PC-ness...
    Be willing to take detours into Taize-land -- hey look! Protestants singing Latin!

    To another poster, I'm not sure how constructive or charitable it is to accuse someone who might seek refuge from time to time, of considering "bolting."

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    I have been able to sell chant in Latin and in the vernacular at my seminary when I emphasize that the texts of the chants and the melodies arising from these texts put us in contact with the spiritual experience of our ancestors in the faith.

    You know, I find that that works wonderfully with young to middle-aged adults, and especially children, (for whom the idea of singing something that they heard on a broadcast from the Vatican, or that their great-great-great-great-great grandparents and medieval saints also sang, is wondrous and exciting,) but is actually a point against Gregorian chant for many people in their 50s and 60s.
    As Ed Schafer put it, this music has the power to take people back to other times and other places, and for some of them, to a time and a place they DO NOT WANT TO GO.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • In reading Jeffrey and Arlene's article, I'm struck by two things.

    First of all, ISTM that one must be very careful and deliberate about how one goes about introducing chant into the liturgy, especially when the "blended worship" (for want of a better term) paradigm exists. As they present it, the notion of unity through diverse musical styles certainly falls apart quickly. On a practical level, getting fellow staff members who wield a little (or alot!) of control over the liturgical "planning" process to accept the new paradigm requires a good deal of patience in and of itself. I particularly loved the parallel of using a beautiful and appropriate gold chalice for the Precious Blood, and wicker baskets for the Blessed Body.

    Secondly, and related to the first is the caution that if catechesis at the highest levels (the pastor, in particular) is not focused and deliberate, there can be the danger that the inclusion of chant to a liturgy already rife with "diversity" may appear as nothing more than a novelty rather than a conscious effort to reintroduce an important element of the tradition.

    While we have a "contemporary" ensemble that leads music at a Sunday evening Mass several times a month, I'm now wondering how I can open the doors to a Mass that features simple chant and Latin hymnody once or twice a month. Having read this present article, I'm more aware of the arguments and counter-arguments, but there's still the process of making it happen. I know it won't be over night. I also know that, unlike the contemporary music, those who have an aversion to anything "pre Vatican II" on staff will put up the most vigorous fight against any attempt to dedicate a Mass to a developed introduction and measured conversion to an all-chanted Mass.
  • Arlene says that the job of getting sacred music in the parish is 40% intellectual, 40% strategic, and 20% musical talent.

    By the way, she was the major contributor to that article, which I like very much, now having re-read it. Makes me think I should blog less and co-author more.
  • I like Paul Ford's comments - and I have also found that the connection to the past sells well. Chant as musical lectio divina and sung prayer is also good. Especially in contrast to many hymns, both contemporary and 19th-century gospel style, that are sung emotion.
  • Isn't there a theological basis of some sort for the use of propers rather than generic hymns?
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Lets not forget to figure something else into the breakdown Jeffrey includes, above: the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,171
    Yes, theology and ecclesiology should be the first place by which we should begin this conversation. Please note that I said theology and ecclesiology because I think they are pieces of the same pie being dished up these days in Catholic parishes.

    Competing theologies of God are being placed in our hands these days in the texts we sing. A quick and dirty reading of the current hymnal fare places God very much in an immanent manner. That, in and of itself is not bad. But often, there are no balances in the question. One of the cornerstones of our theology of God is a balance between immanence and transcendence. Emphases on the personal relationship of God are at play, with no concern for the communal. With no balance, I contend that we focus on what our relationship to each other because surely God is sitting on our shoulder. This plays itself out in a horizontalist sense (mass is for who we are) and the loss of God is the byproduct. The parish where I am weekly lives this out as the liturgy becomes a social occasion, rather than contact with the eternal.

    Ecclesiology is the other question in play. On another part of this forum, there are examinations of Elaine Rendler-McQueeney's writing. At the heart of her stuff is an unstated vision of church that is rather flat. Flat in sofar as there is no hierarchy, a willing disregard for any vision of church that does not place the reins of power except in the pewsitters and understated contempt for clergy. Now admittedly, we all have had that experience in our vocation, but the fact of the matter is that our church has bishops, priests and deacons and lay folk. We all have our part to play, but note, our part. All these pieces of our church need each other. Chaos occurs when competing visions of church play out in conflict. Again ,I return to our hymnals for examples and I am sure you can find them there.

    So, I believe it necessary to begin conversations about reform not on a musical level, but on a theological level. In the words of the great rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "Words create worlds". Does that put us at a disadvantage as musicians? Absolutely, if we do not "do" the theology necessary to move beyond the current state of things.

    my .02

    Kevin (Thanks Noel)
  • Forgive my lack of knowledge....could you explain the term ecclesiology?
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,171
    The study of the church, what it is, how it functions and the models of behavior.
  • Kevin,

    I routinely discard hymns that start with the word "I" or have a predominance of "I"s throughout...that's an easy one, but what other hallmarks might we look for in hymn to help us wean out the worst....
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    If we stipulate that most of what we sing at Liturgy should be sung prayer, (although a case can be made for song that, while not prayer itself, exhorts others to pray,) the hymns we insert into the Liturgy should primarily express either thanksgiving, adoration, petition or reparation.
    If it is difficult to figure out to whom the words of a 'hymn' are addressed, or how if it fits into one of these form of prayer, I think we would have to question its use.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Jeffrey and Arlene, thank you for your essay. I learned a great deal. Thank you.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I just went to a prospective church yesterday, and it turned out to be mostly mainstream fare with a bit of chant and choral music thrown in. But the interesting thing was the priest. He sang with an overly theatrical voice, changed many of the words to the Mass (most amusing was "People of God, the Mass is now ended, let us all go forth into the world to spread the mission of the Church!") went out in the pews to shake every hand, had an army of Eucharistic ministers, etc. But at the sermon, he was 100% orthodox and even called for people to attend confession. He inserted a petition at the Prayers of the Faithful for "respect of life from conception to natural death" and even flatly told the congregation (as in "you must vote no...") how to vote on our state's stem cell proposal. So here you have a priest who doesn't get the connection between orthodoxy and orthopraxis - although I give him LOTS of credit, as he was ordained in '79.

    Although Kevin is likely correct that it stems from a faulty ecclesiology: when he (likely) sees the Mass as about "celebrating the community", that's a breach of ecclesiology, which ascribes higher motives to the Mass. Maybe he doesn't see the Vatican's directives as important? Maybe he doesn't care? I don't know, I didn't chat with the priest. But still, that disconnect is so very strange to me - he doesn't get that his actions go against the orthodoxy he preaches.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,171
    In my 25 years of church music work, I am convinced that 90% of the problems occur because of unarticulated and competing visions of church. The problem is that whatever position you find yourself on in the spectrum, all of it is ideological. The history of ecclesiology is a colorful one, but one interesting point does make its way to top of the heap. The supposed narrowness of the pre-Vatican II days did create a streamlined sense of church that made it easy to keep bounds. While I do not wish to go back to 1955, there is a continuity that was lost in the shuffle. I suppose that is some of the continuity the the present Holy Father is recovering.

    Sitting in the chair of speculation these days,