Friday, July 24, 2009

Commitment to the Church's Vision of Liturgical Music

OK, folks, here I go, back into the discussion about "appropriate" music for the liturgy. I do enjoy these conversations and my skin seems to have thickened a bit since starting this blog. Last week, I talked about the commitment that a music publisher makes to the singing and praying Church. One of the faithful followers of this blog made this comment: "Many of us would feel more comfortable if there was a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music by Catholic publishers, and in the absence of such a commitment there is going to be some uneasiness among those who are working to see that vision finally realized." I need to be blunt here at first. I believe that the time between now and the moment when, either Jesus comes again, or we pass from this life to the next, will be marked with uneasiness around this issue. This is a brutal fact. 

You might recall that, in the past, I have said that I am not interested in playing the "ping-pong" game of volleying proof texts back and forth in order to prove divergent points of view. Even as I write this, I know that there are some of you who follow this blog who will simply say, "There are no divergences of points of view. There is but one point of view, and that is the Church's point of view. Period. Here are the texts that prove my point." Those of you who share that viewpoint need not read any further, because you will probably not find what I am about to say consistent with your understanding. For those of you open to entering the "stew," read on.

How does a publisher make "a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music?" As a publisher of music for the liturgy that is to be sung primarily in the United States, we must find our guidance from a number of sources, chiefly the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' newest document on music for the liturgy, Sing to the Lord. I would like to add my comments on a few sections of this work.



In the section "Music in Catholic Schools," the bishops have this to say: "Catholic educational institutions have a special obligation toward music and the Sacred Liturgy. Catholic schools are called to foster the joy of singing and making music, to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I first read this particular section, I thought to myself, "This is what our mission is as a Catholic music publisher: "to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I look at the various pieces of music we have published here over the years, I see our strengths in all three areas. We engage the creative efforts of many contemporary composers, and these are not composers who write music in just one style. Richard Proulx is a contemporary composer. Chrysogonus Waddell (God rest him) was a contemporary composer. John Angotti and Ed Bolduc are contemporary composers. Kathleen Basi is a contemporary composer. Kathleen Demny is a contemporary composer. Steven Warner is a contemporary composer. We represent and publish the diverse repertoires of various cultures. We publish music for the Latino community. Our "In Spirit and Truth" series is written by composers steeped in the African-American musical tradition. We also are committed to cultivating the sacred music inherited from the past. Just in my brief ten years here, I have seen us become much more focused in this area. We have responded to requests from priests and music directors to include the chants for the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin, as called for by Sing to the Lord #75. We make these available in the vast majority of our worship resources now. We encourage our composers to use the great treasury of music as inspiration for new compositions. Some of our composers have mined the rich depths of the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex to create musical settings for the entrance and communion rites. 

Paragraph 60 of Sing to the Lord says this: "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 language and ethnicities of the liturgical assembly into a tapestry of sung praise." Again, when I read this section, I thought that this is really at the heart of our mission as a music publisher. We publish music in a variety of styles and in a variety of forms to help in the weaving of that "tapestry of sung praise."

When I think about our process for the reception, review, and publication of new music pieces, I think about the careful attention paid to texts by the theologians on our editorial staff. Paragraph 83 of Sing to the Lord says this: "Moreover, 'to be suitable for use in the liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith' Therefore, 'liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.'" After we have done a thorough theological review of texts "in-house," we have submitted every piece of music that appears in our worship resources to the censor here in the Archdiocese of Chicago and no doctrinal errors have been reported. We take this mandate seriously because of our commitment to nurturing the faith of the Church through the music and texts we publish.

Finally, Paragraph 83 continues: "No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God." We publish many genres of music and we assess the needs and wishes of the "assembled People of God" regularly. We must do this as a sound business practice and as a publisher committed to serving the needs of the Church.

Please feel free to comment. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

As a publisher of music for the liturgy that is to be sung primarily in the United States, we must find our guidance from a number of sources, chiefly the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' newest document on music for the liturgy, Sing to the Lord.


I'm not sure I would cite SttL as the chief resource, but if so what then would you say about SttL #76? It seems to be saying that the assembly should be singing as much as possible the texts of the Propers in simple response settings or other suitable settings. If they are not able to do so, then the choir should sing the Proper Chants from the Graduale Romanum. It goes on then to say that if they can't render the chants from the Graduale...they are to use the chants from the Graduale Simplex.

SttL#77 then makes a point of identifying where these Antiphons are found, adding that composers who wish to make vernacular settings should draw them from the Graduale. This is excellent advice. Composers should be creating settings of the Antiphons that people can sing easily.

True, SttL says a lot about multi-cultural music and contemporary music. But it also says that the Antiphons, whether in simple response settings or the Chants from the Graduale should be sung as much as possible. If I open a music resource book from any of the major publishers today, do I quickly get the impression that we are to be singing settings of the Proper texts with their Psalm Antiphons as much as possible? Do I quickly get the impression that if we can't do so, we are to then have the choir sing the Antiphons from the Graduale? After all, that's what Sing To The Lord says....and that follows what Sacrosanctum Concilium and Musicam Sacram both say as well.

If I were to try and discern what "a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music" might be, that is where I would start...not with the needs and wishes of the "assembled People of God".

Anonymous said...

As an immigrant who is not a Latino and Afro-American, I feel that the emphasis on those two ethinic gruops make other groups excluded and resmebles the superficial political agenda.
The importance of the Latin in the Litrugy is stated in Sing to yher Lord in length, especially in # 61, 62,
#63 ... To the greatest extent possible and applicable, singers and choir directors are encouraged to deepen their faniliarity with the Latin language.

I help my children learn Latin for the reason stated above, and there are no Catholic schools around here teaches Latin (maybe some high schools as an electice., while most of those schools only focus on learning Spanish instead. (My boy who learned Latin first for 3 years is now learning Spanish in high school, and he is larning it much faster than others.)

The emphasis on Latin is especially true in gatherings of multicultural groups, because it foster the sense of unity as a community of the faith, than emphasizing the diversity.

Learning different languages and cultures are important in our society, but in worshipping God the sense of unity should be fostered, then our appreciation of different cultures will be more genuine in our lives, becuase we believe we are on family in GOd.
#12. Participation in the Sacred Liturgy must be "internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce of hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace. Even when listening to the various prayers and redings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they "unite themselves interiorly to what the cultural and spiritual milieu of their communities, in order to build up the Church in unity and peace."
One m ore item, maybe the publisher can helpis #20. Seminaries and other programs of priestly formation should train priests to sing with confidence and to chant those parts of the Mass assigned to them.
It is very clear that the Church desires Sung Mass with priest chanting and conggoreagation sing responses and Ordinaries (with the goal of singing in Latin #61, #74m and singing Propers. I believe that is important part of "commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music." I believe reflecting muticulturalism is not the end itself, but a step toward fostering the true unity and active participation of the faithful with active interior participation lest those effort doesn't end up becoming a mere "lip-worship." I cannot go on too long here, but here is what the saint of the day teaches us...

“The Eucharist is the life of the people. The Eucharist gives them a center of life. All can come together without the barriers of race or language in order to celebrate the feast days of the Church. It gives them a law of life, that of charity, of which it is the source; thus it forges between them a common bond, a Christian kinship” (Peter Julian Eymard).


(This entry appears in the print edition of Saint of the Day.)

Anonymous said...

I think so much emphasis on “multiculuralism,” can lead to more diversity than unity and even become a distraction in our worshipping God as one community of faith. When we can worship together in our liturgy as one family of God in unity, we can also respect different ethnic groups and cultures on a personal level and see them as brothers and sisters in one family.
True liturgical music fosters the sense of sacredness of the Holy Eucharist, and any music that fosters our attitude of casualness of the Holy Eucharis is not in the right direction of ministering the faithful and deepen our Catholic faith. True liturgical music is not about pleasing people and their taste of individuals. It is about God and pleasing Him, and when we sing the Church’s music with humility and giving up individuals’ taste, God will be most pleased, and we will receive more grace.
Aren’t humility and sacrifice what our Christ showed us in His love? If we insist on what we like and don’t like in our worship, how can we go out and show true Christ’s love?
I’d like to add the followings, not just because “the Church says so period”, but because the respect for the Church and the Pope and following their instruction is basis of my Catholic faith, and also as one who experiences the beauty of sacred liturgy through sacred music.

"An authentic renewal of sacred music can only happen in the wake of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony" Pope Benedict XVI, 2006
"The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given first place in liturgical services." (Section 116, the Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
"Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." (Section 54, the Second Vatican Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)

Aristotle A. Esguerra said...

At the request of a colleague, and not without some reluctance, I'm reposting some observations on Sing to the Lord in relation to the Constitution on the Liturgy regarding musical style:

"[STTL] 136. Sufficiency of artistic expression, however, is not the same as musical style, for 'the Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her own. She has admitted styles from every period, in keeping with the natural characteristics and conditions of peoples and the needs of the various rites.' ((104. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 123.)) Thus, in recent times, the Church has consistently recognized and freely welcomed the use of various styles of music as an aid to liturgical worship."

Looking at SSC 123, we see this:

123. The Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her very own; she has admitted styles from every period according to the natural talents and circumstances of peoples, and the needs of the various rites. Thus, in the course of the centuries, she has brought into being a treasury of art which must be very carefully preserved. The art of our own days, coming from every race and region, shall also be given free scope in the Church, provided that it adorns the sacred buildings and holy rites with due reverence and honor; thereby it is enabled to contribute its own voice to that wonderful chorus of praise in honor of the Catholic faith sung by great men in times gone by.

Which seems on the face to contradict SSC 116:

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.

But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.


Yet when we look at the actual document, we see that SSC 112–121 is the chapter on Sacred Music. SSC 122–130 deals with Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings — not sacred music. The argument brought forth by STTL 136 to justify different styles of sacred music thus looks pretty specious to me, since SSC treats sacred music as greater than any other art, not only in SSC 112 but also in light of the fact that SSC addresses sacred music as a topic distinct from any other art.

Instead of citing SSC 123 out of context to justify different styles of appropriate music, citing SSC 116—even placing an ellipsis in place of "especially polyphony"—would have been more plausible.

Sing to the Lord will be useful in many parish situations—I am citing it liberally for a planning document myself—but to state it as a "chief" source perhaps is a bit much. I'm more inclined to view STTL as a gateway to documents like Musicam Sacram and the Constitution on the Liturgy.