Monday, May 28, 2007

A Core Repertoire of Music?

With all the talk of developing a core repertoire of music for Catholics (Heaven knows we need one; whether it can be legislated is a different matter), Gary Penkala draws our attention to a little-known fact: one was actually put in place 33 years ago. It is called Jubilate Deo. It was issued by Pope Paul VI as a gift to the Church and the world, and it included introductory matter: "those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse Gregorian chant the place which is due to it."

Those who know chant tend to neglect this collection because it is too limited. But for the vast majority of Catholic musicians who know very little (or next to nothing; ok, really nothing) about chant, this little booklet is a great revelation. It would serve any parish well for years, in my view, in any case.

I get the impression that Paul VI issued it as a kind of emergency measure, in tribute to the indisputable intention of the Second Vatican Council to reduce the role of vernacular hymnody and increase and democratize the use of Gregorian chant. (Anyone who believes that the council really intended to unleash what is called praise music is woefully ignorant of the important discussions and debates of the period). But the issuance of Jubilite was a little like trying to repair a broken dam ne pebble at a time. The Jubilate was widely ignored and swept aside by the crazed enthusiasms of the 70s. But perhaps Penkala is right that it is time!

He provides some excellent links to free copies, including this interesting site that has images and music on MP3 files.

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