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:
• 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 Taizé. You would have thought we’d heard enough Taizé 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."
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!