Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What could be worse?

You may have already read about this one, from Damien Thompson:
A ghastly discovery today: plans to subject Pope Benedict XVI to trendy musical tripe when he celebrates the Beatification Mass for Cardinal Newman at Coventry Airport on September 19. According to Nick Baty, a supporter of the little gang of composers who have liturgical commissions sewn up in this country, the music for the Mass will include:

• Eucharistic acclamations by Fr Peter Jones, who wrote the tiresome Coventry Gloria for John Paul II’s visit in 1982. Yes, he’s still going strong;

Christ be our Light by Bernadette Farrell, one of the inner circle of old trendies whose work is forced on Massgoers by cloth-eared PPs every week;

Salisbury Alleluia by Christopher Walker, another of the inner circle;

• A Gloria by Alan Smith (you can hear a taste of it here: not trendy but utterly banal) and a psalm by Paul Wellicome. According to this document, both men are members of the relevant Birmingham diocesan committee;

• One of the most hideous of all folk hymns, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace;

• Some TaizĂ©. You would have thought we’d heard enough TaizĂ© over the years, but apparently not. [All links and italics in original--E.M.]

Pope Benedict XVI, of course, is a man with a great appreciation for the Church's rich patrimony of classical music. Inflicting this sort of musical pablum on His Holiness is rather like inviting a famous Hollywood director to one's home and then forcing him to sit through hours of cheesy home movies. Shot in black and white. On purpose, to be "arty."

The horror.

I'm acquainted with two of the songs from this list: Christ Be Our Light and Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. I'm also acquainted with truckloads of Taize, as no Catholic born after 1965 has escaped the droning of this music. Oh, sure, some of it's not absolutely terrible. But it is to chant what Arthur Dent's tea experiences aboard the Heart of Gold were to tea (remember, each time Arthur asked the ship's beverage dispenser for tea, it produced a liquid that was "...almost, but not quite, exactly unlike tea..."). Taize is almost, but not quite, exactly unlike chant--and the fact that it's even a tiny bit like chant on occasion and probably by accident only adds to the frustration.

Is wanting the great music of the Church to be a part of the Church's liturgical celebrations merely liturgical snobbery? Not really. Nobody who pays good money to go to a rock concert, for instance, would appreciate it if the opening act consisted of a retired opera singer, a trio of kazoos, a bagpipe and a steel drum, all performing their signature experimental "Wagner/Celtic/Caribbean fusion sound." It's a question of what is fitting.

At a rock concert, rock music is fitting. In Church, sacred music is fitting. As the tune played when the exhausted cartoon mouse-monk character struggles his way across a montage of dreary desert scenes, hiding to avoid predators, struggling with thirst, and fulfilling a dozen other animated visual stereotypes, Christ Be Our Light might be fitting (I dare you to play the music clip at the link above and not picture my cartoon mouse-monk). But at a papal Mass?

In fact, I think the top ten songs more inappropriate to schedule for a Mass at which His Holiness will be present would be these:

1. Ashes, by Tom Conry

2. Gather Us In, by Marty Haugen

3. Song of the Body of Christ, by David Haas

4. Bread of Life by Rory Cooney (nice bit of heresy to sing at Mass, to be sure!)

5. Bread for the World, by Bernadette Farrell

6. Only a Shadow, by Carey Landry

7. Women of the Church, by Carey Landry

8. Anthem, by Tom Conry

9. Let Us Walk in Justice, by Sr. Suzanne Toolan RSM (some of the worst lyrics ever)

10. Glory and Praise to Our God, by Dan Schutte

Oh, I could easily put ten more. Or twenty. Or...but you get the idea.

What song do you think would be a terrible one to schedule for a Mass when Pope Benedict XVI would be present? Don't be shy--list it in the comment box!


LarryD said...

Gotta love a post that includes a reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy!

"Here I Am, Lord" by Schutte

"I Am The Bread Of Life" by Toolan

I could list more, but I ought to leave some for other commenters.

As to your post - I agree with Thompson. The music selection seems to be a direct slap to Benedict. How...progressive of them.

kkollwitz said...

The Church will outlive them all...thank ya, Jesus.

kkollwitz said...

"But at a papal Mass?"

Probably indicative of the egos involved.

Anonymous said...

This is shooting fish in a barrel, right?
How about "Sing a New Church" by Delores Dufner, "Change Our Hearts," by Rory Cooney (why am I not surprised?), "Bread For the World, by the ever-reliable for Marxism Bernadette Farrel ("where we survive on others in our human greed" Really?).
But I too could go on for much too long.

Anonymous said...

From Scotch Meg:

Sadly, at the Yankee Stadium Papal Mass, the choir actually sang "Healing River of the Spirit". My organ-playing daughter and I giggled at each other. We couldn't help it. Each of us was remembering the rant against that particular song by the young parochial vicar at our parish not a week before. He had gone so far as to tell my daughter that she should refuse to play it if asked, and should substitute a more appropriate hymn.

Most of the music was lovely, so the disturbance was small. And they did end the liturgical (?!) dance before the Holy Father entered the stadium. It sounds like the British have much worse in store.

MacBeth Derham said...

Delighted to say that I am unfamiliar with most of that list. I am with Larry in my stand against "Here I Am Lord" which is our pastor's favorite. Landry's "Gentle Woman" (I think it's Landry) is the most unsingable song since the Star Spangled Banner.

Goodness, doesn't the church have a tradition to draw upon? Just sayin'.

MacBeth Derham said...

Ooh! Wait! The new verse of "Faith of our Fathers" that begins "Our mothers, too-oo..." Blech.

Diamantina da Brescia said...

Maybe my taste in liturgical music is undeveloped, but I like "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace". (I am 43, if that helps you any.)

I don't think that the clapping Gloria (who composed that, I wonder?) would be good at a Papal Mass, at least in a predominantly white congregation. My pastor said in passing to my table at a catechists' dinner that white people just do not know how to clap to music at Mass :-)

TJ said...

"Table of Plenty" or "On Eagles Wings"

Margaret said...

Just when I thought I had erased Carey Landry from my mind. The nuns at my high school LOVED him. Gentle Woman=unbelievable, unsingable dreck.

I know people are focusing on it being a Pope's mass but what about poor newly beatified John Henry? A traditionalist to the core, he will be spinning in his grave.

Deirdre Mundy said...

The Oxford Movement had its own Hymnal (Hymns Ancient and Modern).

Why not use music from that? It'd be really appropriate...

Anonymous said...

Since he must have finally realized his idea to do a citizen's arrest on Pope Benedict wasn't going to fly, undoubtedbly atheist Christopher Hitchens is behind this mess.

gradchica said...

"Spirit Friend" or "Say Hey! to the Carpenter" may possibly be worse.

Butch said...

Oh my, I think Benedict is more concerned about the scandle of priest's raping small woman and boys, Dioceses going bankrupt and the legal mess from the years of cover up than what ditty someone sings at one of the thousdands of Papal Masses he presides. The anger over choices of music seems so trite when you put it in context.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the new GIRM going to address some of these issues with liturgical music gone wrong?

eulogos said...

Save the liturgy, save the world.
Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Benedict is forced to think about abusing priests and financial issues. What he loves is the liturgy. He wrote a whole book about it, you know.

Which these MORONS obviously haven't bothered to read.

Poor Benedict. And he'll have to smile.
Susan Peterson

Anonymous said...

The anger over choices of music seems so trite when you put it in context.

The problem with that is that one can always point to something worse in order to justify the status quo. Yes, there are more important things than litrugical music, but it doesn't follow that it isn't important at all. I'm going to assume that we can all walk and chew gum at the same time--that is, call for accountability for corruption in the Chuch (as I and this blog often do) AND insist that craptastic litrugical practices get hosed down like the flaming bag of poo on the doorstep that they are. It's dirty work of course.

bearing said...

Maybe it's good. It'll show B16 just how desperate the sitution has gotten.

Anonymous said...

My new liturgical music rule is that any hymn that contains the word "fam'ly" ("family" turned into two syllables by an apostrophe) is BAD!

Liz said...

I realize yet again that as bad as the music in our parish is, we do get subjected to a lot of that junk, it could be a lot worse. I actually don't recognize the majority of the titles on your list, Thank God! However, things got worse in our parish this year when our fairly orthodox new pastor retired our old hymnals in favor of missalettes with hymns in them from OCP. We are now subjected to the same politically corrected songs and general shoddy music as the rest of the country, but fortunately our organist/choir director does include a fair selection of traditional stuff, or at least as much as the new arrangement allows him to include.

Our pastor did it for a couple of reasons. He wanted people to be able to follow the scripture readings and he didn't want to purchase new hymnals until after the changes are in place. Unfortunately, it means that we are currently being subjected to stuff that gives tripe a bad name.

Anonymous said...

This comment is only peripherally related to the matter of music in liturgy, but does anyone have a good resource regarding the use of audio visual tools in liturgy? I'm interested in guidelines for the use of modern technology (like PowerPoint for lyrics, prayer responses, etc.) Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

Pam S. said...

Oh, please no modern technology for the liturgy! At our parish, we are already subject to two enormous screens on other side of the altar to show lyrics, psalm responses, etc... Isn't that what the missal and hymnal are for? It is so distracting and ugly! When I told our priest it was distracting and taking away from the mass, he said,"It's the wave of the future! Every church will have them." I can just see the great basilicas with screens on either side of the altar. Yuk!

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I like "On Eagles Wings."

I also like "Lord of the Dance." A friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic priest in southern Ohio said he would give that song a nihil obstat (I may have the spelling wrong).

Other than that, I am unfamiliar with these songs, perhaps blessedly so. I find that 8th century hymns which make it into Lutheran and Presbyterian hymnbooks are quite inspiring, but so are 17th century German hymns, and Isaac Watt. Ave Maria is good, even though I am borderline Calvinist on that particular subject.

Muscovite said...

What about the Addams' Family (as we call it) Alleluia (I think it's really called Alleluia snap-snap or something like that)? How about "Go and Make a Difference" for torturous? Or "Celebrate Youth"?

Niall Mor said...

I'm surprised no one suggested, "Let There Be Peace on Earth," (and let it begin . . . with MEEEEEEEEE!). In my humble opinion, the all-time champion in the liturgical musical dreck category.

c matt said...

Did it ever occur to any of you that this music is perhaps God's way of taking some of our time off of purgatory?!? You should be thankful for it.