Friday, May 1, 2009

"A Tapestry of Sung Praise"


Good day to all and continued Easter joy. I am back home here in Chicago after an informative meeting yesterday at the USCCB in Washington. Thanks again for the comments that continue to stream in. I wish that I had the time to respond to them all. 

I would like to respond to one comment on my "Choirs of Heaven" posting of April 28. An anonymous writer said this: "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 the secular styles are not allowed, but WLP music is mainly written in a secular style." I would invite readers to visit WLP's web site to see and listen to the wide range of music that we do publish. I can't give you a complete taste here, but here are a few examples. 
Charles Thatcher's Seven Communion Chants for the Advent and Christmas Seasons, the sample octavo pages of which can be found here.
Godfrey Tomanek's arrangement of Michael Praetorius' Regina Caeli Jubila, the sample octavo pages of which can be found here.
Steven Warner's setting of Psalm 104, recorded here by his choir, The Notre Dame Folk Choir; the sample octavo pages can be found here.
John Angotti's Veni Creator Spiritus, a snippet of which can be found here.
Al Valverde's Vamos a La Casa del SeƱor, found here.
Kenneth Louis's Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord, from our "In Spirit and Truth: Music from the African-American Catholic Community" can be found here.

We publish music in a variety of styles. Those who sing our music are members of the Church here in the United States and beyond. Simply put, the variety of styles of music serves their needs at prayer. And our mission is to offer music and other resources that serve the needs of the singing and praying church. We are committed to publishing music that fulfills the spirit of our new guiding document from the US Bishops, Sing to the Lord. The bishops encourage us:

"Liturgical music today must reflect the multicultural diversity and intercultural relationships of the members of the gathered liturgical assembly. The varied use of musical forms such as ostinato refrains, call and response, song translations, and bilingual or multilingual repertoire can assist in weaving the diverse languages and ethnicities of the liturgical assembly into a tapestry of sung praise. Liturgical leaders and musicians should encourage not only the use of traditional music of other languages and peoples, but also the incorporation of newly composed liturgical music appropriate to various cultural expressions in harmony with the theological meaning of the rites (Sing to the Lord 60)."

"No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God (Sing to the Lord 83)."

For those wondering how we are responding to the mandates issued in Sing to the Lord, you might want to take a look at WLP's Choral Subscription Service, which affords the subscriber the opportunity to take three glances a year into what we are publishing. 

Some friends who are not in the world of liturgical music have told me how surprised they are at the passionate feelings and words of contention they are finding in the responses to my postings. This is the reality that exists today. And I think that reality is a sad one. But, in the midst of the divisions that exist, I keep reminding myself that God is God and we are not. And for that, we gotta sing and we gotta pray. Thanks for listening.

7 comments:

Chironomo said...

Dr. Galipeau;

I am not trying to be impertinent here, just trying to get a straightforward answer to a question that is at the core of many of the comments you have received.

Allow me to lay my argument out by piece and perhaps we can discern where we disagree.

1.) I believe the Church's liturgical documents clearly state that music which uses "motifs and forms" drawn from popular and theatrical music are unsuitable for use in the liturgy. This principle originates in Tra le sollecitudini(#5-6) and is reiterated in the liturgical documents of the Second Vatican Council, and most recently in John Paul II's Chirograph on Sacred Music and in Pope Benedict's Sacramentum Caritatis. Even the USCCB document Sing To The Lord refers back to this principle in par.83, via it's footnote to JP II's Chirograph which itself quotes Tra le sollecitudini. Is this principle disputed, or would you agree that such music is held by the Church to be unsuitable for the liturgy?

2.) I believe that musical settings such as those by John Angotti and Ed Bolduc use "motifs and forms" drawn from popular music. I could go on at length about the various song forms used, or about melodic archetypes or stylized chord progressions, but since you acknowledge that "John's Holy has a definite "rock" feel to it", I think you would have to agree that this is the case. Is this disputed?

3.) If both of the above positions are not in dispute, then offering music which is actually suitable for liturgical use, such as the works of Godfrey Tomanek you linked to above and the numerous chant resources published by WLP, while admirable, does not make these other selections suitable by association. Thus, arguing that WLP publishes a "variety of styles of music (which) serves their needs at prayer" doesn't really advance the position much...it simply leads to the conclusion that WLP is willing to publish music which is suitable for liturgy as well as music which is unsuitable.

And so...where are we in disagreement? Is it the authority of liturgical documents? Is it the determination of what constitutes popular motifs and forms in specific selections? Is it whether the desires of "the people" should take precedence over liturgical law when it comes to liturgical music?

Or is it that some are just more willing to step over this line than others? Catholic Liturgical music publishing seems like an awkward place for a laissez faire approach given the proscriptions in place, even if interpreted fairly loosely. If this were a matter of publishing music for Christian Churches in general (UCC / Methodist/ AME/ Non-Denominational..etc...) then there would be no argument. But that isn't the case with WLP (nor with OCP...GIA does claim to publish for other denominations, but that is a seperate issue).

You ended your article above by saying...

Some friends who are not in the world of liturgical music have told me how surprised they are at the passionate feelings and words of contention they are finding in the responses to my postings. This is the reality that exists today. And I think that reality is a sad one.I too find this "reality" to be a sad one...what we seem to differ on is the cause of this reality. I sincerely wish I didn't have to be part of an effort to "restore" to the liturgy that music which should, by all indications, be the norm already. That is the source of this contention your friends speak of...

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello Chironomo,
Let me begin by thanking you for your thoughtful responses and for the respectful tenor of them. What I did not want to do with this blog was enter into a kind of ping-pong game, exchanging volleys of liturgical and conciliar documents until someone's paddle missed the ball and the other person simply "won." I simply cannot find the time to do so. At the end of this response, I share a personal story that I hope helps this discussion.
I do believe that we both share a profound love for the celebration of the Eucharist. I also believe we share a deep commitment to cultivating music that will help others deepen their love for the liturgy. And we do have a fundamentally different approach to the musical question. You have stated yours clearly. Mine springs from Paragraph 37 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. "Even in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not involve faith or the good of the whole community. Rather does she respect and foster the qualities and talents of the various races and nations. Anything in these people's way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy, and, if possible, preserves intact. She sometimes even admits such things into the liturgy itself, provided they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit."
I find this section of John Paul II's Chirograph helpful: 10. Since the Church has always recognized and fostered progress in the arts, it should not come as a surprise that in addition to Gregorian chant and polyphony she admits into celebrations even the most modern music, as long as it respects both the liturgical spirit and the true values of this art form. In compositions written for divine worship, therefore, the particular Churches in the various nations are permitted to make the most of "those special forms which may be said to constitute the special character of [their] native music."
Where we differ is in our interpretation of these texts. I believe that there is music, which does echo motifs and forms from secular music, that can and does "respect the liturgical spirit." You do not agree with this. Again, I have to argue from experience here. Whether we want to admit it or not, the "Catholic DNA" that has been developed here in the United States in the last forty years has been deeply embedded with contemporary musical styles in the liturgy. I have to admit that this has led to a loss of "genetic strands" of that Catholic DNA (so much of the chant and polyphonic repertoire). This is a sad state of affairs. But to suggest a jettison of the contemporary as a solution is no solution. We need to work hard—and I believe we do here at WLP—to help Catholics recover this lost genetic strand. But I believe that we cannot impose a rigid uniformity here. There are strands that must be blended together to form an evolving whole.
I wrote a piece of music, which has never been published, on the occasion of the Memorial Mass for a dear friend, a pioneering international catechist, who died suddenly and tragically. It used motifs and chord progressions that one would describe as secular. The text was from the Order of Christian Funerals, a text that is seldom heard today: "Deliver me, Lord, from the streets of darkness." This particular text, in the context of a Mass celebrated for someone who struggled with severe manic depression throughout her life, drew the people assembled into expressing legitimate lament. As the music of the final refrain trailed away, I inserted a "tag," sung by a soprano from a gallery in the rear of the church. When she sang the chant "In paradisum deducant te Angeli," we were all caught up in a moment that I can only describe as sheer hope. Words fail me when I recall this moment. All I know is that this was a blending of strands that opened a sacramental door, allowing God to speak deeply to the hearts and minds of those gathered. This is my enduring hope for liturgical music. It is why we work hard here at WLP to publish music that will do just that.

Chris said...

My own preferred musical forms are the ancient Latin and Greek chants readily available in a number of formats and from a number of publishers. I know that these are not the only allowed forms, but they are certainly my favorite. In my reading of John Paul’s Chirograph, I readily note the two-fold approach that he takes. On the one hand, "Gregorian chant has a special place" (#7). But on the other hand, "it should not come as a surprise that in addition to Gregorian chant and polyphony [the Church] admits into celebrations even the most modern music, as long as it respects both the liturgical spirit and the true values of this art form" (#10). This twofold approach is perhaps best summed up in John Paul's statement, "I make my own the ‘general rule’ that St Pius X formulated in these words: 'The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple'" (#12).

I have argued in other fora that the real problem with liturgical music is not the admission of modern music or that which reflects a secular style. Rather, it is the nearly complete exclusion of the ancient forms. In many places, modern vs. traditional is seen as an either-or proposition, and traditional certainly loses out more often than modern does. This is sad because it serves to reduce – and in some cases to eliminate – the place for Beauty in the Church's sung liturgy. It is particular frustrating to me as a convert who has had to learn both sorts of music – in English, Spanish, and Latin – from scratch, because not only is the Beauty of the older forms far more obvious, but the older forms are almost always simpler in their technical aspects.

This does not, however, mean that the newer forms preclude Beauty. Indeed, one of the great advantages of the older forms insomuch as Beauty is concerned is their age. Centuries ago, there was banal music, and it was no doubt sung in the liturgy. However, time has killed off all the old banal stuff. You can research it and learn at least some of what was admitted to the liturgy in ages past. But you cannot find it in the traditional hymnals any longer. Time has not yet had the opportunity to separate the Beautiful modern compositions from the banal ones. And so an approach to sung liturgy that favors modern forms – while excluding more ancient forms – will by virtue of simple probability include lots more banal music than if only the ancient forms were included (because the ancient banalities have already been excluded).

By way of example, Jaime Cortez writes a modern Te Deum which is genuinely beautiful. On the surface, perhaps, it would appear to be rather distant from Gregorian chant in form. There is, after all, a distinct drum beat with a strong counterpoint evident in the composition, even if you use no drums in its performance. It lends itself, therefore, to being played on a piano (which can natively represent the percussion intrinsic to the composition) rather than on an organ. Nevertheless, the more I ponder it, the closer it resembles chant. First of all, its lyrics are those of an ancient conversational prayer: “We praise you, Oh Lord!” Second, there is a lot of polyphony. Finally, the progression of the music is very deliberate. Plainchant it certainly is not! But deliberate, yes, reflecting the unhurried approach to prayer that chant epitomizes. This is a beautiful – and decidedly modern – piece.

Still, in order for chant to have a “special place,” it must first have a place. And if we are to do justice to modern music, we must hold it up to the standard of Beauty provided by chant. To do so is only fair, for composers are as human as the rest of us, and good starts often lead to bad ends (or bad starts lead to good ends). But neither the composer nor the faithful can really know whether the standard of Beauty has been achieved if there is no objective standard provided, at least occasionally, against which to measure the new stuff.

Charles said...

"I have argued in other fora that the real problem with liturgical music is not the admission of modern music or that which reflects a secular style. Rather, it is the nearly complete exclusion of the ancient forms. In many places, modern vs. traditional is seen as an either-or proposition, and traditional certainly loses out more often than modern does. This is sad because it serves to reduce – and in some cases to eliminate – the place for Beauty in the Church's sung liturgy....
Still, in order for chant to have a “special place,” it must first have a place. And if we are to do justice to modern music, we must hold it up to the standard of Beauty provided by chant."
Absolutely clarity of thought here, Chris. Thank you for expressing my sentiments so eloquently. Would that TPTB allow us to unfold the tapestry of beauty in its fullness, maybe the fatigue of the ping pong would simply vanish.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

You make reference to an anonymous poster who said: "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."

You then give examples of some more traditional "styled" music that WLP does offer.

I don't think that the anonymous poster had an issue with the more traditionally-styled music WLP offers.

I think he was probably stating that the Church simply does not allow all styles of music at Mass. As a matter of fact, the Church forbids certain musical styles from her public worship, and for good reason.

In that sense, I agree with Chironomo (above). In other words, just because GIA (for example) offers a few chant pieces, that doesn't make up for all the music they offer that has been forbidden by the Church for liturgical use.

JP2's Chirograph has some powerful words of wisdom. He points out that the more Sacred music approaches chant, the better it is.

no1 said...

Dr. Galipeau,
I too am sorry to hear such bitterness and contention from people of differing tastes and opinions concerning liturgical music.
I thank you heartily for your even handed and most well informed replies!
in peace, Linda R

Anonymous said...

I appreciate these posts very much. I do think the debate is heading dangerously into the world of dualism. What exactly constitutes "sacred?" Is not the reality that God gives us the gifts and talents to create beautiful music to sing his praises? I certainly do not wish to say that all music is suitable for liturgical worship. Most definiately not. However, I caution to say one style is sacred over another. All can be used for the glory of God in it's own appropriate way.