Musical Disharmony Part II

The flap over the papal Mass music continues. The Archdiocese of Washington has released a list of some of the music that will be performed at the papal Mass at Nationals Park. Mass music director Tom Stehle has described the selections as music that "represents our long Catholic and Christian tradition and the current diversity of our church."
But some Catholic music traditionalists still aren't happy. They had erupted in protest last week when a list purporting to be the music selections for the Mass were posted. As it turns out, some of the archdiocese's music selections are on that list, but others are not.
William Mahrt, president of the Church Music Association of America, is critical of the selections. He wants some selections of Gregorian chant and more music by classical composers, such as Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Bruckner, and Stravinsky.

"How does this list represent 'our long Catholic tradition'?" Mahrt asks in an e-mail to the Post. "Why
do other Christian traditions and diversity so strongly trump the tradition of Catholic Church music, which the [Second Vatican] Council called a treasury of inestimable value, especially since Pope Benedict has given clear signs that he wants these to be more widely employed in the liturgy."
Stay tuned. The music announced so far is just for processions and the prelude. No word yet on the music selections for the Mass itself.

By Jacqueline L. Salmon |  March 26, 2008; 4:21 PM ET
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the link to the list doesn't work.

Where can we find the entire list?

Posted by: Julia | March 27, 2008 1:44 PM

Bravo for Mahrt! Sacred music should convoy a sense of reverence, awe, and the sublime. It should be joyful, but also at times convoy the sense of seriousness that comes with the study and worship of the Almighty. Chant, Bach, and Bruckner can meet these needs in a way that folk song, pseudo-church rock, and "Our God is an Awesome God" cannot.

Posted by: The Dumb Ox | March 30, 2008 3:54 PM

Just because a song isn't 500 years old doesn't mean that it can't touch people.

Just because a song doesn't resonate with you, doesn't mean that it doesn't resonate with someone else.

Just because you head a group with an important sounding name like the "Church Music Association" doesn't mean you speak for liturgical musicians as a whole, nor do you head the National Pastoral Musicians (NPM), which is recognized as the association of Catholic liturgical ministers.

Just because a song is a classical masterpiece, doesn't mean that 42,000 people can easily join in congregational singing of it in an outdoor setting.

Posted by: Joe in SS | April 1, 2008 4:43 PM

Joe in SS:

Excellent points; let me address them one by one.

"Just because a song isn't 500 years old doesn't mean that it can't touch people."

Well put. To that end, I would ask that works by John Tavener, Morten Lauridsen, Henryk Gorecki, Arvo Paert, Maurice Durufle, Olivier Messiaen and Flor Peeters at least be considered. All of their works are under 100 years old; many of them are under 50, and a few of them are under 10 years old.

"Just because a song doesn't resonate with you, doesn't mean that it doesn't resonate with someone else."

This is a two-way street, is it not? Whether a song resonates with someone or not simply is not the point. Whether or not the music fulfills the role of singing the Mass (and not merely singing at Mass) is the point.

Those in the Church who despised the "bad old days" often bring up the canard of old ladies praying the Rosary instead of praying the Mass. It strikes me that many of the selections do not seem to correspond to the prescribed texts of the Mass at the entrance, offertory and communion. So, the music committee is advocating the musical equivalent of 'praying the Rosary' at Mass by singing 'at Mass' instead of singing the Mass. In effect, they force their devotional music on the rest of us. How richly ironic. At least the rosary-clutching church ladies kept quiet and to themselves!

"Just because you head a group with an important sounding name like the "Church Music Association" doesn't mean you speak for liturgical musicians as a whole, nor do you head the National Pastoral Musicians (NPM), which is recognized as the association of Catholic liturgical ministers."

Who speaks for liturgical musicians as a whole? I certainly do not, nor does the CMAA. The CMAA, of which I am a part, serves to bring awareness to what the Church teaches regarding sacred music and its role in the Sacred Liturgy. Its purpose is not to speak for liturgical musicians.

Do you maintain, then, that the National Assocation of Pastoral Musicians speaks for Catholic liturgical ministers? That too is an inaccuracy, because while I would fall under the NPM's broad definition of a Catholic liturgical minister, NPM certainly does not speak for me.

"Just because a song is a classical masterpiece, doesn't mean that 42,000 people can easily join in congregational singing of it in an outdoor setting."

Just because a song is a modern marvel doesn't mean that 42,000 people can easily join in congregational singing of it in an outdoor setting. Another two-way street.

Let me propose an ancient two-note masterpiece: "Amen." This sung assent of faith has served Christians and their elder Jewish brethren marvelously well for millenia. If that masterpiece is replaced by a more complex classical or modern setting (and it does seem to be replaced by the latter), how does that help 42,000 people better enter into praying the Mass?

For those willing to delve further, here's a downloadable RealAudio of Prof. Mahrt's recent interview by Fr. Mitch Pacwa, SJ on EWTN Live where he speaks about the proper role of sacred music and how it serves the Sacred Liturgy.

Posted by: Aristotle Esguerra | April 1, 2008 10:19 PM

What large group speaks for whom?

I admit that I joined the CMAA late in my musical/liturgical life. It was my mistake. For your information, there is a document on the CMAA website, authored by Msgr. Richard Schuler, which chronicles the reform of the Mass since St. Pope Pius X, with emphasis on implementation in the USA throughout. It is very interesting reading when you get to the Vat. II implementation era! It details the origins of NPM, giving names, places, and dates.

Having pointed you to that document, I must now admit that I attended, with much joy and commitment, the NPM Convention in Chicago back in 1979. Although it was a great "musical" experience, singing under both Alexander Peloquin and Joseph Gelineau, I now consider that a mistake equal to that of waiting so long to join CMAA. I would never, ever consider attending a NPM convention again. I do not support any of that groups views, not do they support a singal one of mine.

My boss has tickets to the President's greeting the Pope on the White House lawn. He is taking his teenage daughter with him. I'm sure it will be a wonderful experience. I would not waste the time or train ticket to sit in a crowded not-church for a Mass with this sort of non-liturgical music. I will probably listen to Sirius radio for most of the events just to hear what is going on. So far, I am embarrassed to be considered a Catholic musician along side the people putting on these ultra-contemporary Liturgies.

Posted by: Stephen M. Collins | April 2, 2008 3:08 AM

Hello Joe in SS. The Lord be with you! I understand your point of view, which is still held by the majority of Catholics (at least it seems to be) today. If I may offer an echo to Aristotle's point, I would say that we have been mislead for years to believe that the purpose of the music at the Mass was to touch or uplift us. This is understandably a very ecumenical view, but music in the Catholic Church is supposed to heighten the praying of the Mass text, period. Chant is eminently suited to this, but other types of music draw too much attention to themselves. Classical music shares this same problem at times, to be sure. The Church provides us with the proper music, but we have chosen not to use it because we've been led down a blind path over the last 40 years. We must retrace our route before we can progress again.

Posted by: Michael O'Connor | April 2, 2008 11:56 AM

"represents our long Catholic and Christian tradition and the current diversity of our church."

Albeit your linked 'list' is abbreviated, I did not see any Gregorian Chant therein.

If the "long Catholic...tradition" extends only to Mozart's time, then who were all those guys in Rome before then?

Posted by: L A Stich | April 2, 2008 2:46 PM

Aristotle is quite mistaken when he argues that the selection of hymns to be sung at the opening, offertory, and communion is the musical equivalent of "praying the rosary during the Mass." While the Missal does provide for short texts to be used at these moments of the Mass, it also provides for the use of an appropriate hymn.

Posted by: John D. | April 14, 2008 9:21 PM

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