Music for Juneteenth
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 838
    Any ideas on music for a Juneteenth service?
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 198
    This would not be liturgical by any means, but for your own edification. It is amazing and raw and musically out the park. My friend shared this with me today. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KgNaRQ_J-c&fbclid=IwAR35TGsr5sIbD9WAdKh2qPW5DXdS_O_QH9j7J2LNu6lqvlNQoUrDTojQCUw
    Thanked by 1Brian Michael Page
  • Various settings of In Exitu?
    Various settings of De Profundis -- I have composed one of these
    Various settings of Vexilla Regis - ditto
    Various settings of Super flumina Babylonis

    What sort of a tone are you hoping to create with music for a Juneteenth service? It seems to me that lamenting the institution of slavery would be appropriate. Do you need the text to be in some African language, being mindful that slaves were (at least in this country) often of African origin? What sort of musical style?
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 198
    Re liturgical music, African American spirituals seem especially appropriate to me.

    In Christ there is no East or West
    We Shall Overcome
    Guide My Feet
    There is A Balm in Gilead

    any Miserere
    Prayer of St. Francis
    Thanked by 2Chrism cesarfranck
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,102
    Precious Lord
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 563
    Lift every voice and sing
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,655
    We did a Mass for Various Occasions #38 For the Forgiveness of Sins recently with a similar idea in mind (though not on that date).
    Thanked by 1JL
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,883
    Would that U.S. marine song count... the one with the verse where they deal with the Barbary pirates (slavers).
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,102
    No. Barbary pirates typically raided European port towns (and the US's participation in the First Barbary War and Tripoli et cet. predated the legal end of the US participation in the transatlantic slave trade). Juneteenth is about the emancipation of African-American enslaved people (and, in some sense, a remembrance of how long it took for the formal promises of that emancipation to later become manifest in reality).
    Thanked by 3tomjaw JL cesarfranck
  • Polska Piano,

    Are Negro Spirituals ever appropriate for Mass?

    BHCordova,

    What sort of "service" did you have in mind?

  • MarkB
    Posts: 374
    I didn't know Juneteenth was a thing until this year. Kind of like when I learned Kwanzaa was a thing.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Carol
  • Mark,

    Both Juneteenth and Kwanzaa have made it on to the American secular calendar, but neither one has (yet) made it on to the Liturgical calendar.

    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • davido
    Posts: 308
    Spirituals and precious lord as “liturgical music”? Oh boy...
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    Oh sinner man is #429 in our hymn books, between O sacred heart and Oh the love of my Lord (as gentle as silence), ; we never use it AFAIK curiously the last stanza is omitted.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    This is not a church holy day so I will treat it the same as other non-liturgical feasts. This is not even a legal holiday.
  • JL
    Posts: 170
    1. Only just finding out that Juneteenth or Kwanzaa "is a thing" is like only just finding out that, say, St. Peter Canisius is a Doctor of the Church. It's not a reflection on the thing.

    2. Spirituals did indeed arise in and for non-liturgical settings, rather like Italy's laude in the 13th century and England's carols (Christmas and otherwise.) Whether or not any particular one is appropriate for liturgical use is, of course, ultimately a matter of judgment, but off the top of my head, I would say that "I want Jesus to walk with me" or Jester Hairston's setting of "Amen" would work at Mass, while "Follow the drinking gourd" or "Swing low, sweet chariot" wouldn't. For an extra-liturgical devotion, of course, the rules are different.

    3. "Negro" is one of those words that has passed into eyebrow-raising territory. There are better words. Let's use those.

    4. Of course Juneteenth isn't on the liturgical calendar. Neither is Fathers' Day, or Veterans' Day, or Presidents' Day, but it would be odd and a bit insensitive not to acknowledge them in the Mass of the day--in the homily, the general intercessions, and/or in the music.

    5. In exitu is an excellent idea. A setting of said Psalm, in English or Latin, by a Black American composer (sadly, I can't think of any, but the internet will know) would be an excellent choice. For a hymn after Mass, I would recommend "Lift ev'ry voice and sing" (which every American needs to know anyway), followed by the Salve Regina and the St. Michael prayer.

    6. If you're asking about Juneteenth music at noon on Juneteenth, your biggest problem isn't a lack of selection. ;)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Thank you for your little lesson on political correctness. I think we all know by now the difference between secular and religious holidays. I suspect that especially on this forum we also know the difference between what belongs at mass and what doesn't.

    Why not gather in the church yard and sing, "We Are Many Parts?"
    Refreshments will be served - PC Kool-Aid of course, and masks are "de rigueur" until the pandemic is over. Social distancing observed by all.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 374
    How many of those people who are now pushing Juneteenth recoil in horror and maybe even give a condescending woke reprimand when someone wishes them "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays"?
    Thanked by 2CharlesW tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    I think I will celebrate "Umpteenth" this year with my choir. As in, "I have told you umpteenth times..."

    I find it a bit crazy that some of us have spent years trying to get trash music out of the liturgy, then some "enlightened" soul comes along and wants to put it back in.

    My black choir members wouldn't sing spirituals to begin with. They call them "slave songs." One of them passed away a few years ago and they vetoed spirituals immediately when we were selecting music for the funeral. One crazy old white woman wanted to sing them, of course.

    For the umpteenth time, no secular celebrations at the liturgy.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,102
    Is the War on the War on Christmas back on? Can't keep track these days.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,413
    How about Kevin Allen's music - such as "Desidero Mi Jesu"?
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,643
    Of course Juneteenth isn't on the liturgical calendar. Neither is Fathers' Day, or Veterans' Day, or Presidents' Day, but it would be odd and a bit insensitive not to acknowledge them in the Mass of the day


    Not at all. Even though "Caesar Sunday" is commonly celebrated in the US on the Sunday nighest July 4, that still doesn't make it a good idea. The focus of the Church is otherworldly.

    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 622
    Though Kevin Allen's music is superb, I wonder if he might feel tokenized if his compositions were solely used to celebrate such an occasion. That would be my worry, at least.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,141
    As stressed church musicians don't we all find it easier to be gracious when someone wishes "Happy Hanukka"?

    "Bah, humbug. Say it back!"
    Thanked by 2CharlesW cesarfranck
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    It has taken me years to say "Bah, Humbug." There was a time when I would have said worse.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw


  • I have another three suggestions for what to sing. Te Deum, Nunc Dimittis and The Lorica of St. Patrick

    As to "eyebrow raising", given what causes people to swoon nowadays,I think I'll stick with Negro Spirituals. To update the name is, I think, to try to pretend something didn't happen.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,141
    The New Yorker in its Tulsa coverage raises a good question about whether Juneteenth has national significance, given that slavery was not ended in the border states Delaware and Kentucky by the 13th Amendment until Dec. 18:
    Yet even this inspired bit of middle-fingering the movement was shot through with Trumpian ineptitude. For decades, even among African-Americans, Juneteenth was primarily celebrated by those who lived in or were from Texas. In recent years, it has been more widely observed, but still overwhelmingly by African-Americans. The Trump team, in designing the Juneteenth stunt, dramatically elevated awareness of the day. Companies across the country have made Juneteenth a paid vacation day; governors, including Ralph Northam, of Virginia, announced plans to declare it an official state holiday.


    So that's two more dates for which one can plan a Te Deum.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    Juneteenth, Cinco de Mayo, and a number of these supposed holidays are a bit questionable in origin and purpose. Then there's World Chocolate Day. That's a celebration I can really get into. If this keeps up we can have year-round holidays and never do any work.

    Those slaves were freed a couple of years before June 19th by the Emancipation Proclamation. It would seem more reasonable to celebrate that rather than something that happened locally in Texas.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • JL
    Posts: 170
    Oh my. I apologize for coming across as patronizing or talking down to any of my learned colleagues here. That is absolutely not my intention--nor am I trying to chastise anyone for not being suitably "woke" (which, for the record, is a term I don't like and don't use.) Having said that, I'm a bit bewildered by some of the reactions to bhcordova's relatively straightforward question. (bhcordova, are you all right there? I notice you haven't said much since your initial post. Was any of this helpful?)

    I suspect that especially on this forum we also know the difference between what belongs at mass and what doesn't.


    After watching the forum re-litigate The Bach Question more than once, I'm not too certain we're all on the same page there either. (For the record, you'll have to pry WACHET AUF from my cold, dead, hand.) Dismissing an entire body of religious music as "trash music", and suggesting (even in purple) that its use in or out of a liturgical setting is akin to (or a result of) "drinking the Kool-aid" of "political correctness" is beneath any of us here, even at a time when we're all under a lot of stress, sick of being stuck indoors, and worried about the future.

    The focus of the Church is otherworldly.


    In that case, we can jettison our prayers for the sick and for peace among nations, and cancel the Red Mass, the White Mass, the Blue Mass and the Mass in Time of Pandemic.

    Though Kevin Allen's music is superb, I wonder if he might feel tokenized if his compositions were solely used to celebrate such an occasion. That would be my worry, at least.


    That worries me too. I'm always a little put off when Jester Hairston, Moses Hogan, R. Nathaniel Dett et al. make their appearances in February and then disappear for the rest of the year. The solution here, of course is to program tons of Kevin Allen--and Adolphus Hailstork, and Margaret Bonds, and Jose Mauricio Nunes Garcia--all year.

    Those slaves were freed a couple of years before June 19th by the Emancipation Proclamation.


    On January 1st, which is already taken by secular and liturgical calendars.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    I play "Wachet Auf" from time to time, even though Bach is not one of my favorite composers. Some of his compositions are really difficult to fit into the framework of a mass. In his day, those Lutheran services went on forever and he could perform cantatas and lengthy organ works. Now we have to move the first shift out to clear the parking lot in time for the next mass.

    Trash=Haugen, Haas, and such with much of it originating in the seventies. I enjoyed the time period, the clothes and the parties, just not the religious music from that time. What belongs at mass is chant, polyphony, and good anthems at which the English excel.

    I am not stressed at all. I like being indoors and not having to continually deal with other people, especially musicians who should know better. The future is in God's hands and I am convinced he knows what He is doing.

  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,655
    Though Kevin Allen's music is superb, I wonder if he might feel tokenized if his compositions were solely used to celebrate such an occasion.


    To borrow a bowdlerized phrase from Senator Bentsen, I know Kevin. I consider him a good friend, despite our musical differences. We've spent many an evening deliberating over cocktails. He was kind enough to write a role in his newest opera with me specifically in mind (based on my performance as Rutledge in 1776, ironically enough). He is a truly ecumenically minded fellow - a proud supporter of the fledgling Tolton Institute; he proudly boasts a picture of the reverend father in his hallway. That being said - from my discussions with him, Kevin is first and foremost a Catholic and considers his music to reflect that universal spirit. The best compliment you could give to him would be to consider him on his own artistic merit, regardless of pigmentation. (Our last shindig involved a conversation over staging Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors - Kevin, having performed in it a few times, was less than thrilled with recent productions attempting 'politically correct' rewrites.)

    As for Mr. Cordova's original request, I unironically recommend a setting of the third antiphon from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, especially as set by Palestrina or [especially] Casals.
    Thanked by 1Schönbergian
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,643
    Though Kevin Allen's music is superb, I wonder if he might feel tokenized if his compositions were solely used to celebrate such an occasion.


    Who would ONLY do Kevin's music on Juneteenth?
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab JL
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 622

    Who would ONLY do Kevin's music on Juneteenth?

    I know quite a few who would - not out of malice, but a genuine desire that it's the "correct" thing to do.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,643
    So they weren't doing Kevin's music before Juneteenth came into national consciousness? Or does every composer only get one day?

    If you like his stuff, do it; if you don't, don't. But the notion that black composers don't exist 11 months out of the year is pretty offensive.

    I like José Maurício Nunes Garcia too. But since he was Brazilian and never a slave, it's hard to justify him as a Juneteenth choice.

  • PolskaPiano
    Posts: 198
    Back to Chris's questions:

    I do believe spirituals can be used in liturgy if it arises out of the congregation's culture.

    Just as I wouldn't lift Kenyan dancing processions from many of Kenya's beautiful liturgies, I wouldn't lift African American spirituals and use them in a mostly white suburban parish. However, I do see situations when it could be used quite effectivelty in the liturgy- this event being one of them.

    I personally don't feel comfortable using/leading spirituals regularly because I'm a white director leading a white choir, but we have a fair amount of African Americans in our parish- among many other cultures- and I do wish I knew how to effectively use beautiful music from these cultures during the liturgy well. During Christmas, however, our pastor wanted to open the preludes to all the cultures of our parish and I did accompany multiple African songs that a newly immigrated family from Senegal sang for the parish. That was authentic. If I had tried to present that, I don't know.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,093
    - José Maurício Nunes Garcia was not a slave, but his parents were born to slaves. Slavery lasted in Brazil until 1888; and abolition after long campaigning by Emperor Pedro II was one of the factors that led to his overthrow by a conspiracy of plantation owners and army officers.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Polska Piano,

    Let me widen the lens a bit.
    If Negro Spirituals are appropriate, because they arise out of the congregation's culture, what else fits under that rubric?

    If our parish has a group of 20-somethings, for whom Mary Magdalen's preconversion lifestyle is a model, is it right to program music from (say) Madonna or Cyndi Lauper or Boy George?

    If our parish consists of Welsh coal miners, should "De Profundis", in translation or not, be a normally programmed hymn text?

    If our parish is in Silicon Valley, do we need songs which include the words "Zoom", "Yahoo", "Google" and the like?

    So I'm clear, I'm not trying to be confrontational. I don't think Negro Spirituals belong at Mass for any reason whatsoever, but your reason for including them doesn't seem to extend as a general principle.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,413
    Hmm... "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?"

    Or... "Go tell it on the mountain"

    And... "Swing low, sweet chariot"

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Now, Chris, your question attempts to make Polska Piano's reason ridiculous by including secular music. Surely you are too intelligent than to think Polska Piano intended any such thing.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • Charles,

    The sentiments of the texts may be consonant with Catholic theology, but the style of music ...
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Yes, I can't be a fan of "Were you there". Its nagging question sounds dreary and reproachful. It's OK for God to reproach us on Good Friday, but I don't want to put up with it from other human beings.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • Chonak,

    I take your point, but Negro Spirituals weren't primarily religious music when they were used on the underground railway (if my teachers were correct).

    Polska Piano,

    Please accept my apology if (as Chonak surmises) my writing gave you the impression that I meant to lampoon your reasoning. I was taught (in college, mind) that Negro Spirituals were used along the underground railway, as a way of communicating the whereabouts of local vigilante gangs and others looking for runaway slaves.

    Could you explain what would count as sacred music from various cultures?
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 622
    Are spirituals religious? Undoubtedly. Are they liturgical music? No - they were never intended to be.

    Whether they were used in a secular context does not diminish the fact that they deal with undoubtedly religious ideas.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JL
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,141
    Lol, Chonak.
    [Paragraph]

    Let me ask, do we really have two cultures? Spirituals have been sung by diverse communities from the very beginning: Deep River for example appears to have originated among white Quakers. And I suppose we all will grant it's appropriate for Kevin Allen to write in his chosen style.

    Thanked by 1Liam
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 498
    Is it common to celebrate secular holidays at Mass? I'm trying to think of examples I've seen. I suppose on Mother's Day there's usually a blessing of mothers after Mass; but that's all I can think of at the moment.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Richard Mix writes:
    Lol, Chonak. Let me ask, do we really have two cultures?

    Hi, RM. Is that a question for me or someone else? I don't get the context.
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    CatherineS writes:
    Is it common to celebrate secular holidays at Mass?
    In short, yes.

    In the U.S., it is common to see some mention of Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and M.L. King Day, or some musical reference to the themes of these days.

    Most parishes offer a Mass with special propers for the not-totally-secular-but-not-really-Catholic Thanksgiving Day.

    New Year's Day, though it is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, is also observed in places with prayer vigils that are mostly about the start of the new year and not much about the Divine Maternity.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 838
    @Richard - Yes, we really do live in two different cultures (if not more). Most white Americans live in a culture derived from Great Britain. Most black Americans live in a culture derived from 400 years of slavery and oppression. Others have a culture derived from their country of origin. All these cultures have differnt foods they tend to eat, musical forms they use for hymns, etc. Oh, and we in the South definitely has a different culture from the rest of the US, rooted in our defeat in the War between the States.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • Chonak,

    SHOULD the American church celebrate all these secular holidays?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    My part of the South (East Tennessee) fought for the Union - I have ancestors who fought in that war. This area is not suitable for plantation farming and there were not many slaves here. The only oppression that was that serious was the oppression of Catholics by Baptists. Go 400 miles to West Tennessee and you are in the old South, a totally different culture.

    No apologies to anyone for things done by people long dead. No pandering to them, either.


    SHOULD the American church celebrate all these secular holidays?


    No! Although a good case can be made for the American church itself being too secular.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Considering that a famous book described North America as consisting of "nine nations", it would seem there are more than two cultures.