Thursday, April 16, 2009

Installation Mass, Archbishop of New York

Here you will see the program for the installation Mass of Timothy Michael Dolan as the 10th Archbishop of New York. The music is wonderful, a new standard. I'm particularly pleased that it includes two propers of the Mass, introit and communio. I'm sure the experience was wonderful. If someone has a youtube, please link it and then I'll stick it in here.

I don't want to take away anything from the triumph here, but please permit me to complain just a bit. See the Gloria and Sanctus (an earlier version of this post included the Angus in this list; I was wrong about that). You know these settings. You have sung them ten thousand times in your parish. They are not horrible but they are worn to the point of being trite, and they have no depth to speak of. They are not compositions for the ages. They are songs in English for people to sing. Small, simple songs that don't do much at all. Why choose these? In the rest of the Mass, we have Beethoven, Bach, Fescobaldi, Bruckner, Palestrina, Schubert, Gregorian Chant, and then it comes time for the greatest hymns of the Church, Gloria and Sanctus, and we get tiny little nothings. And why? Because of some embedded, ideologically driven convention that says that the people want their little songs at this spot in this Mass. Why? Do we really believe that the people can't handle majesty, magnificence, excellence, beauty? It is a peculiar thing, really, one that implicitly puts down people's sense of the faith.

It's not as if there are no settings of the authentic Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus available from all of history. Indeed, these texts were the main inspiration behind the entire development of music as we know it. We should embrace them, love them, revive them, make them our own again. These are our treasures! There are 18 plus Gregorian settings. There are hundreds of thousands of polyphonic settings. Let them sit on the shelf no longer! Musicians involved in these liturgies need to take a stand on behalf of tradition, and on behalf of the people of God, who are not idiots and do not need to be treated like children in needs of jingles to make them happy. People can handle Latin. They can manage chant. They are even mature enough to listen to music (listen and not sing!) that is great music, beautifully performed, yes, even at the Gloria and Sanctus, -- especially at the Gloria and Sanctus.

Again, I should probably regret offering any criticism at all. It is a splendid work overall, and a model in so many respects.

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