Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Choirs of Heaven

"In wonder and gratitude,

we join our voices with the choirs of heaven

to proclaim the power of your love

and to sing of our salvation in Christ:"

This is the conclusion of the preface when, at Mass, the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I. It precedes, or introduces the singing of the Holy, Holy, Holy, or the Sanctus. I have always been drawn into the concluding phrases of the prefaces. When we hear words like "we join our voices with the choirs of heaven," I wonder what those heavenly voices sound like. We all know and believe that the celebration of the Eucharist here on earth is but a foretaste of the banquet in the heavenly kingdom. I know as a publisher, we try our best here at WLP to encourage composers to echo the heavenly song when they compose settings for the acclamations sung during the Eucharistic Prayer. Here's a sample of the Holy Holy from one of WLP's contemporary composers, John Angotti. John's Holy has a definite "rock" feel to it. Here's another example, taken from Ed Bolduc's Mass of Celebration. Steve Janco offers us this setting. Godfrey Tomanek gives us this from his Missa Brevis. Rory Cooney's Mass of St. Aidan includes this Sanctus. Peter Kolar's Misa Luna, a Mass setting that can be sung in either English or in Spanish, or in a bilingual fashion, can be found here. I found this setting of Ambrosian Chant for the Sanctus on YouTube. Finally, here's a Gregorian Chant setting of the Sanctus. 

Why listen to all of these settings? It's a way to show the variety that exists within the song of God's people here on earth. Frankly, I grow tired of hearing people say that "Chant is the only way." I also grow weary of hearing others say, "The Mass has gotta rock if there's going to be any life or meaning in it." If we believe that the Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, I think we need to stretch our imaginations a bit here. Do we not believe that those who have gone before us in faith are somehow part of that heavenly chorus? If we are indeed joining our voices here on earth with the saints who gather at the heavenly banquet, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that there is only one kind of "sound" peculiar to heaven. I know that I have been "taken to heaven" when a chant setting of the Sanctus is prayed. I have been taken there as well when the brass choir introduces a setting of the Sanctus like Steve Janco's in his Mass of Redemption and the assembly enters that song with full voice. I have been lifted up even in a small community when we are singing the Sanctus from Jan Vermulst's People's Mass or Marty Haugen's Mass of Creation without any accompaniment. Call me naive, or even childish of faith if you will, but I think all of the various stylistic expressions used in creating the musical settings for the Mass offer us a unique opportunity. We may or may not like a particular style of music, but I think we need to open ourselves to the immensity of God's love. God’s love was expressed most definitively when God sent his only-begotten Son to be our redeemer. Jesus Christ is the "song" of the Father. I am an incarnational kind of Catholic and I search for Christ whenever and wherever I can. I listen for that "song" all the time. I hear that song in the lives of members of my family, especially when there is great suffering or great joy. I hear that song when I look out across the expanse of Lake Michigan here in Chicago. I hear that song when I see what my parish does for the poor. And specifically when music is played or sung, I hear the song that is Jesus Christ. Sometimes it's embodied in chant; sometimes in rock; sometimes in the splendor of full orchestra; sometimes in the song of a few huddled together, singing without any accompaniment. Whatever the style, I firmly believe that we are hearing the eternal song of God. And for this, folks, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

"In wonder and gratitude,

we join our voices with the choirs of heaven

to proclaim the power of your love

and to sing of our salvation in Christ."


Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry,

What would you say to a Death Metal version of the Sanctus? Yes, this is actually a serious question about where to draw the line, and on what basis.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for the post, Anonymous. You bring up a valid question. Death Metal is regarded by most, I believe, as an extreme and underground form of heavy metal, with music and characters associated with themes focused on the Satanic and the like, to say the least. This genre, in and of itself, appears completely contradictory to the Christian message. I don't believe that any of the clips that I posted come anywhere near this genre. Others might argue otherwise. What basis do we employ to draw the line? I've always struggled with this since first reading Music in Catholic Worship. The "musical judgment," we were told, was to be left up to competent musicians. The current "style wars" sprung from this: "Don't tell me I am not a competent musician, just because my training and expertise is in the execution of a 'rock' style." Or, "I have a Masters in Organ Performance, so my competency weighs more heavily than yours," and so on. Again, I think the issues you raise are good ones. I would argue for more conversation, which usually opens more doors, or at least clarifies that there perhaps are more doors there than we first realized.

Patrick said...

Dear Dr. Galipeau:

1. Your blog is unreadable. Quite literally. Dark green background with dark letters? Doesn't work.

2. How is World Library Publications working to fulfill the Vatican II document "Sacrosanctum Concilium," which states at No. 116: "The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services."?

3. How is World Library Publications working to fulfill "Sacrosanctum Concilium," which states at No. 120: "In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things."

4. How is World Library Publications working to fulfill Pope John Paul II's insight in his 2003 chirograph on liturgical music: "In continuity with the teachings of St. Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary first of all to emphasize that music destined for sacred rites must have holiness as its reference point ... the meaning of the category 'sacred music' has been broadened to include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself."?

5. How is World Library Publications working to fulfill the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote in "Sacramentum Caritatis" (Feb 2007): "In the course of her two-thousand year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided."

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for your comment, Patrick. I'll look into changing the design to make it more readable. I'm still a neophyte at this.

Just a quick comment or two to address your questions.
2. We have now included Latin chant settings of the Mass parts for the people in our worship resources, i.e. Gloria Mass VIII, Mode V; Preface Dialogue Chant, Mode II, Sanctus Chant, Mode VIII; Memorial Acclamation I, the Pater Noster Chant, Solemn Tone, and the Agnus Dei Chant, Mass XVIII. You can find some of the more familiar chants (Pange Lingua, Attende Domine) in these resources as well.
3. We publish an "Organ Library" series, which you can find on our web site. We also publish music for the liturgy that is written to be accompanied by the organ. We financially support liturgical music programs (including organ instruction) in several colleges and universities in the United States.
4. "Holiness" of music. I have complete trust in our diverse staff to filter out any music that does not have an inherent character of holiness. This was the point of my comments today. What one person considers "holy" might seem completely "unholy" to another. I know that this opens the proverbial can of worms, but we do need to create more dialogue around this issue. This past summer I watched hundreds of pilgrims (mostly young people) being sent by Chicago's Francis Cardinal George to World Youth Day in Australia at a Mass in one of our Catholic churches here in the Archdiocese. I saw hearts and minds lifted in praise and thanks to God. I witnessed reverent musicians leading the song. The music was a mix of traditional and contemporary genres. I experienced the inherent holiness of both. I sensed those around me did as well.
5. I believe that that "rich patrimony" is still being developed, and we encourage competent composers to contribute to the development of that patrimony. I do believe that we encourage composers to create music and craft texts that "respect the meaning of the liturgy." I wouldn't be working here if that was not the case.
Again, thanks for your comments.

Noel Jones, AAGO said...

What few understand is that the appropriateness of chant vs. popular music styles battle is cyclical and ongoing. It has always been part of the church and will always be part of the church. But, the only music that survives the battle each time is chant. The popular music of the era is just that, popular, and abandoned like last year's pet rock.

A diamond is passed down through generations of a family....pet rocks sit gathering dust, a conversation piece, sitting in the glow of lava lamps.

Chant always survives because it is not part of the popular culture. The "Born-Again" movement, the "Purpose Driven Church"...anything that people grab onto to make things new and interesting and attract people to church. In the early 1900's it was music in the style of popular opera composers. In the last 50 years it developed out of the meaningful music of the war protests and protests against racial discrimination. It was meaningful and transferred easily then into church. But those times are gone and Catholic Church music of today no longer follows the current musical trends, so this may be why chant is rising again, and music, along with the liturgy appears to be heading back to a form that has survived the centuries.

Durfle, Dupre, Couperin, great composers throughout the centuries have grasped onto the text of the Mass and the melodies of the chant to base their compositions on.

No composer of today is writing, basing his works on the theme from "On Eagles Wings", no matter haw popular it may be in some churches.

Thank you for the opportunity to post.

Patrick said...

I thank Dr. Galipeau for his comments so far.

If I may continue --

6. The Second Vatican Council, and the Popes following it, endorsed the pioneering work of Pope St. Pius X, as mentioned above. That work, the famous Tra le Sollecitudini of 1904, states, inter alia: "Since modern music has risen mainly to serve profane [that is, secular] uses, greater care must be taken with regard to it, in order that the musical compositions of modern style which are admitted in the Church may contain nothing profane, be free of reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces."

Since post-1965 Church music composed in English in the United States is full of profane themes and is fashioned after the manner of profane pieces, how can it be considered in the least bit suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

7. Further, Pope St. Pius X, in the same document at No. 19, stated, "The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells, and the like."

Since post-1965 Church music composed in English in the United States is intended to be accompanied by noisy and frivolous instruments as the guitar, how can it be considered in the least bit suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

8. In 1969, the Sacred Congregation of Rites, in response to a dubium, stated the following (Notitiae 5 [1969] 406):

"That rule [permitting vernacular hymns] has been superseded. What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not "something", no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the Mass. Because the liturgical service is one, it has only one countenance, one motif, one voice, the voice of the Church. To continue to replace the texts of the Mass being celebrated with motets that are reverent and devout, yet out of keeping with the Mass of the day amounts to continuing an unacceptable ambiguity: it is to cheat the people. Liturgical song involves not mere melody, but words, text, thought and the sentiments that the poetry and music contain. Thus texts must be those of the Mass, not others, and singing means singing the Mass not just singing during Mass."

Since the post-1965 liturgical menu of nothing but hymns -- music of the most mediocre quality -- have not merely suppressed the use of the Ordinary and Propers at Mass, but have "cheated the people" of the Ordinary and the Propers from the minds of the American Catholic population, how can that music be considered worthy of any use whatsoever at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

byte228 said...

I would count myself as a "liberal" Catholic musician when compared to the comments thus far. I grew up completely after Vatican II. My only ties to a Tridentine Liturgy is through Bishop Sheen documentaries on Youtube.

I have grown up joyfully singing songs by Marty Haugen, David Haas, Steve Angrisano, the St. Louis Jesuits and other contemporary composers in our Church and others. This doesn't mean though that I exclude the rich history of chant and more traditional hymns. There definitely must be a blend and the songs that survive the test of time do become part of our Church's history and legacy.

I look around at my peers (I'm in my late 20s.) and I see many leaving the Church for other faiths or just giving up on organized religion all together. Music is one of the key points that I hear from them on why they go to another church. They feel more connected to the liturgy because they relate more to the music used. In reality it might not be that it's new music as much as that the music is presented in an engaging way.

Chant done well can be just as engaging as a John Michael Talbot recording of City of God. Likewise chant or any song done with no life or spirit can be as off putting as fingernails on a chalk board.

It's time to end the style wars, we are all one Church, but we are all different parts. The goal of a homogeneous Liturgy to serve everyone is just like expecting everyone to want to drive a black Model T. Rock on! or Chant on! Whatever helps your community connect to the Liturgy most.

Chironomo said...

My opinions have been clearly and oft expressed in several places in the blogosphere, so no need to reiterate them here. The "settings" of the Sanctus proposed (promoted?) here are more than just an embarrasment, they are nearly sacrilege. That you even seriously considered answering the question about "Death Metal" tells one all they need to know.

Noel, posting above, has hit it right on the head....why is WLP (and so many others) waging a struggle that has already been made and lost throughout the history of the Church? Each and every time, the concept of Sacred Music founded on popular models seems to triumph, and then quickly fades. And yet, each generation has to try it again just to show that they know more than the last!

Perhaps, just perhaps, WLP could lead....set itself apart from the other so-called "liturgical publishers" and become a publisher that advocates for the Church. Where will the other "publishers" be when that struggle, once again, is lost?

Anonymous said...

One thing I get tired of as a young adult is the (well meaning) idea that we youngsters need to be hooked in via popular music. I find four major problems with that-

1- We don't all like the same music.

2- We don't get to tap into the music of our heritage, and we can't connect to it if other people decide we shouldn't hear it.

3- Generations are segregated and end up being pitted against one another in the battle of taste.

4- Music based on popular trend dies more quickly in the larger market than in the Church. This is why people make fun of us for hanging on to 70's style music when the rest of society has moved on.

I often go to an EF Mass these days. And I like the feeling that it is one family, not so much separated by tastes and generations. It is more like what I've experienced at various Eastern Rites, where the Mass is just the Mass, not the possession or creation of any one age group.

Regarding style, as I read Vatican documents more and more, it seems the wisest course of action in recovering a Catholic identity should be to aim for what the Church is asking in terms of sacred music. Seeing as the Mass is intended for all peoples and at all times, why not move toward mostly chant and polyphony in the sung liturgy and go for popular music in a rich and varied devotional life? Everyone wins.

Market-driven and profit concerns aside, I think this is our best option.

John M said...

I have listened to the audio samples and what I hear is, from a purely objective standpoint, stylistically indistinguishable from what I might hear on a Sunday morning at the First Assembly Of God, the sole difference being the liturgical text of the Sanctus.

I fear that with the influence of so-called "contemporary Christian music", the offerings of what were once respected Catholic liturical music publishers are descending into syncretism. Where is our historical Catholic identity? It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Why must the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church imitate Protestant evangelical worship? Do we have nothing richer offer for our 2000 year heritage?

When Hollywood - where it is perpetually open season against Christianity - produces a film in which Catholicism is depicted, the soundtrack is nearly always Gregorian chant or the pipe organ. Not Ed Bolduc nor John Angotti. Pagan Hollywood knows that there is a sound that screams "Catholic". The secular media detests the Church, but always respects that Catholic sound. Why is it that they seem to have a more accurate sense of the sacred than we do?

Thank you

Chironomo said...

Dr. Galipeau says:

The "musical judgment," we were told, was to be left up to competent musicians. The current "style wars" sprung from this: "Don't tell me I am not a competent musician, just because my training and expertise is in the execution of a 'rock' style." Or, "I have a Masters in Organ Performance, so my competency weighs more heavily than yours," and so on..."I would agree that this is at least a part of what has spawned the "style wars"....my question is, do you think that this is a legitimate dispute? I would certainly say that if I was planning a "Live Aid" concert program, or something of that nature, I would put more weight on the competency of the Rock Musician. However, the liturgy has it's own particular criteria for "competency", and those are what need to be applied in the passage from MCW which you quoted above.

I would claim the dillemma you pose above is a false one...although there is no assurance that the Doctorate in Organ would have the necessary competence either (I am one, so I can attest to the qualifications thereof...), I would argue that the Rock Musician, if he wants to determine that a "Rock" version of the Sanctus is stylictically acceptable for use in the liturgy, has disqualified himself de facto as being competent to make liturgical judgments.

The Church, in her wisdom, decided to put the readings for each Sunday in a book called the Lectionary, and insisted that that be the only source for the readings. What would our liturgy be like today if the selection of what to read each Sunday at Mass was left to "competent literary experts"? Would we have readings from Shakespeare perhaps? Maybe selections from the Koran, or the writings of Camus or Sartre? No, the Church decided to make those decisions for us.

How nice it would have been had the Church put all of the music for the liturgy in a book rather than leave the selection up to "competent musicians". Oh...wait a minute... what IS this book on my desk here... it says Graduale Romanum...now what in the world is that book about?

Anonymous said...

The pop Sanctus settings linked here have no precedent in the Roman Rite and have nothing to do with Catholicism. This type of music is not constructed to elevate the sense upward and toward eternal issues. It takes us out of Church and out of liturgy and into the world in a completely different context: the dance hall, the basketball pep rally, the television jingle. This is not just about taste. No Catholic in the whole of our history could enter a parish in which these were played and have an aesthetic hook to their own experience in the faith. This is a serious problem, and a practical problem in that this type of thing is driving people away from Catholicism. Calling for dialogue and conversation is fine but there are also moral responsibilities here to the faith that need to be addressed.

Michael O'Connor said...

I've read these posts with some interest and would like to hear more from people who really believe that contemporary popular-style music is the right direction for church music. I'm not convinced that is for many reasons, the most important being that the Church asks us to maintain the chant and its unique ability to lift liturgical texts in a manner that is not affected or likely to go out of date. To byte228 I suggest that your friends did not leave the Church because of the music. You could have given the most up-to-date music possible and it wouldn't have mattered. People leave the Church for doctrinal reasons. Evangelical churches offer a simple and emotionally compelling message that is very attractive. Catholics, when they are being true to their tradition, offer intellectual challenge, mystery, and the hard work of contemplation and penitence. For me, Gregorian chant and art music fit this view of Christian life better than popular music.

catholicsensibility said...

A few things:

- People generally don't leave the church because of doctrine. They leave and search elsewher because of a lack of quality.

- As for the fuss about "competent musicians," it's difficult to take the criticism above seriously. The document quoted places the term in a context, and it isn't genre-competent musicians, but believers who are neither musicians nor able to judge music for quality.

- As a point of information, there are several arrangements of "On Eagles' Wings" on the market. I heard an orchestration, solo, and choir setting on a sacred music program not two months ago.

As a person who grew up listening to classical music, and who learned guitar as a first instrument, and who might be perceived to operate in more contemporary styles, I'm satisfied with the judgment of time and the Holy Spirit as to the music I write, the music I program and play for my parish, and the music of contemporary genres.

People said rock music was a fad, and for a popular genre that was supposed to fade tomorrow, it seems to be doing quite well half a century later.

What nearly all of us on this thread agree on is the notion of quality. Some dismiss some genres outright, and others don't. Judgments made on that level are in the realm of personal taste.


Anonymous said...

I think the blog colors are fine.

However, I think WLP needs to exercise a lot more discretion in what they promote as music that's acceptable for Mass. The Church has been very clear that secular styles are not allowed, but WLP music is mainly written in a secular style.

byte228 said...

I would not say that music alone is the reason that my friends left, but I see the uplifting execution of music in the Liturgy as one of many bell weathers to the overall spiritual health of a community. Often times you can judge a Parish's vitality by how the Liturgy (not just music) is presented. I have done a lot of parish hopping over the last 10 years and although I can't scientifically correlate it, I would say that my experience has been that Parishes with a diverse musical pallet, tend to likewise also have a diverse amount of opportunities beyond the Liturgy in various ministries. These ministries are what engage people to get active and stay active. Many of the people that I went to school with and worshiped with at our Newman Center are the type that need to be involved to feel connected. Like me they can't be the type of Catholic that comes to Mass and doesn't fully participate in the community. Everytime I've tried that it got very easy to come up with excuses on why I didn't need to go to Mass that particular weekend.

I would hate to see a Church that is all popular music just as much as I would hate to see one that is all Chant. We are not a homogeneous community of faith, so neither is our Liturgy as it is the work of the people.

John Angotti said...


First and foremost number 11 in the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy states that people need to be predisposed before they enter in to the liturgy. That means they have been catechized to understand why we sit and stand and sing...that they can name their conversion moment...the bottom line is the Liturgy is a response that we get it....and get it means we understand the mission of love to serve the poor and the needy and to see the face of God in all living creatures whether they are Catholic or not...Christian or Muslim alike....and when our actions meet equal or faith....the response is HOly HOly HOly Lord God of power and might....

Has anyone been to the homeless shelter lately...

I find through my weekly travels....the people in the pew don't understand the faith...can't defend it....We argue about one hour a week that in the eyes of God....does God care if you sing chant or contemporary...or that you don't use your tounge as a whip in the name of personal opinion..

If a song doesn't move you personally...it's an opportunity to get out of yourself and realize it moves someone else....and if it moves them to social justice then so be it...

All of the documents where written with a personal prejudice ....because they were written by human beings ....

I believe in the wholeness of the liturgy...

contemporary and traditional meet without a fight...and are done as best as possible....

Maybe if we work on M.I.S.S.I.O.N. Moving in spirit seeing inside others needs....then we wouldn't be so quick to judge with preference...

a great chant piece moves me to the awe and wonder as well as a Matt Maher piece or Paul Tate piece or Ed Bolduc song that sings Go out in the world....that's the mission...it's about outside the building....not inside...

Do we really think these battles are ending the war....or bringing peace and social justice?

Here were I live the Non denominational church's boast of there numbers of Catholics that attend...and why do they leave in droves...the music and the preaching is not feeding them....

Yet without proper catechesis...they don't know what they don't know....

Open your hearts and minds to a world bigger than our own preference.....

The church is changing whether we want it to or not...

I see the faces of the children, mine who are 12 and 7 and how are we meeting them....with something they don't understand...we have to speak the language the meets folks where they are and then bring them to depth of understanding that these blessed rituals are part of an ongoing conversation between God and us...and God speaks all languages..

But folks are not there.....they are just hungry.......we have a moral obligation to go out to the fold....welcome them...we don't say this is what you are eating as the host but what would you like.....then as we grow together we meet each other on this common ground....where love binds us together....

I don't think when we see God face to face that God is really going to care if we sang a great chant or a great contemporary piece...I think God is going to see how we loved....

Oh and by the way....if our liturgy is a foretaste of that heavenly worship....

then that worship in heaven is where all are welcome and present so maybe that could be Bach will be playing with Hendricks.... :-)

Anonymous said...

John Angotti said...

"Oh and by the way....if our liturgy is a foretaste of that heavenly worship....

then that worship in heaven is where all are welcome and present so maybe that could be Bach will be playing with Hendricks.... :-)"

All I can say is "Oh My...."

Where is the "Catholic" in this church you envision?

Anonymous said...

When Hollywood - where it is perpetually open season against Christianity - produces a film in which Catholicism is depicted, the soundtrack is nearly always Gregorian chant or the pipe organ. Not Ed Bolduc nor John Angotti. Pagan Hollywood knows that there is a sound that screams "Catholic". The secular media detests the Church, but always respects that Catholic sound. Why is it that they seem to have a more accurate sense of the sacred than we do?

Hollywood also likes to have priests anoint after death. Use the wrong prayers at Mass. Use the Protestant marraige rite rather than the Catholic rite. Should I go on? Hollywood doesn't have a clue about Catholic liturgy. A poor example by far.