Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Introit: Viri Galilaei

A nameless person in a combox for another post accused me of not liking contemporary liturgical composers in general because I am not celebrating along with the National Association of Pastoral Musicians the naming of Paul Innwood as Liturgical Composer of the Year. Well, I know I shouldn't let these things bug me but I've noticed for a long time that the opponents of sacred music are especially fond of caricaturing our position as opposing modernity and opposing people generally. Sigh.

In any case, perhaps this is a good opportunity to highlight some contemporary ritual music, but first consider the authentic introit, which, you will observe, is neither old nor new but timeless and universal and beautiful precisely as chant has been traditionally described.

In this way, it is like the faith itself. It is not a legitimate criticism of, for example, the idea of the Incarnation that "this is an old view of some peasants 2,000 years ago and has no relevance in our hip happening modern digitally democratized times. We need new doctrines for a contemporary people!"

In any case, one might immediately recognize such rhetoric as fundamentally anti-Christian, which is fine if that's your point of view, but let us recognize it for what it is and not mask this opinion as a mere contemporary application of Catholic teaching.

I hold a similar view toward anyone who would say that this is not an appropriate entrance for Ascension:

Here is a beautiful rendition of the above from the Netherlands:

Now, there are other options, among which are beautiful English antiphons, and I won't link or display them here, but rather draw your attention to what I think is the most successful collection of propers to appear this year. It is the Simple Choral Gradual by Richard Rice. It is ingenious in the way that the music is dramatic, simple, effective -- and I'm also intrigued to find that people actually do sing along with these, even without encouragement, since the music is similar week to week and the antiphon is repeated during the entrance. Truly, this music excites people in a wonderful way while still remaining profoundly liturgical.

It has great dignity. It draws from the tradition, uses the proper text, has the forward motion of an entrance, and relates very closely to our heritage: this is music of the Roman Rite. Here is our own amateur choir singing this after ten minutes of rehearsal.

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