Monday, May 14, 2007

A musical foundation for the future

Did you ever get the blue screen of death on your laptop? The only solution is to reformat the hard drive. So it is with Catholic music today in perhaps 3/4 of American parishes.

Ok, let's block that metaphor and try a gardening example. If the garden is overrun with poison ivy, there is no sense in attempting to grow flowers and vegetables. The first step is to kill what is there, and only then prepare the ground for further development.

I'll block that metaphor too and get right to the point. We are stuck with so much bad music from a regrettable period in our culture history that the only solution is a complete rethinking of what liturgical music can and should be.

Here is a Mass setting in English (except for the Kyrie - there is no excuse for not using these "foreign words") that can be used to this end next week. The congregation can learn it nearly on the spot. It requires no instruments (and should not use them either). It only needs a cantor or it can use a full choir. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts and each part is better than it appears: an entire congregation singing these settings is extraordinarily moving.

If you already have a fine director of music who is doing the right thing--and there are many out there--you do not need this solution. But for most parishes, I'll make the extreme claim that this one setting will fix most of what is wrong (on the surface) with the music in American Catholic liturgy. It does not make it what it should and can be: but it does prepare the ground for future growth in the right direction. You still need good hymns. You still need the ideal of the 2nd Vatican Council: the Graduale. You still need better translations and faithful adherence to the norms. But this is a start. A great start.

(I'll not blog the Our Father, since I did that earlier here).

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