Saturday, June 06, 2009

1957: Catholic musicians were very unhappy

Look at this Interesting issue of Caecilia from 1957.

It is a great issue that includes a full publication by Peter Wagner but also this extremely interesting editorial, probably written by Fr. Francis Schmitt. The world was moving beneath their feet. Gone was the sober confidence from the 1930s, the sense that all that was necessary was more education, scholarship, and funding. The threat to the core of Catholic music was all around them, making the chant enthusiasts worry for the future.

To jump from the archives from the 1930s to this one issue from 1957 is quite extraordinary. It would even appear that production values of the publication itself, the predecessor to Sacred Music, had dramatically declined.

As the discussion of the chant develops, we should like to reach some sort of editorial understanding. Let it be said right off that our chief interest lies in the singing and preservation of the chant, for despite the great propaganda Gregorian chant has enjoyed, both its use and its preservation are in mortal danger. The danger comes from curious sources----those who imagine themselves to be in the advance guard of a) the liturgical movement, especially the vernacular folk, b) congregational singing enthusiasts, c) educational simplification. In the first matter we ask you to weigh most carefully the words of Father Vitry in the February issue of Caecilia. In the second we are in substantial agreement with J. Robert Carroll, who in the May-June issue of the Gregorian Review ably defended the role of chant in congregational singing. Many of the chant's erstwhile proclaimers have cast it out. This is not to say that congregational singing may not take many other forms, but in the end, whatever form it takes, it will be based on, and it will be the result of, a whole culture, and not the inane notion of three minute rehearsals and shouting down the congregation such as Father Clifford Howdl propounds in the current music pages of Liturgy. In the third matter we have only to be minded of several new psalm-tone propers that have been added to the plethora of spoon-fed education. About all of these one puts out only a warning. A review would be pointless, for one is as bad as the other. We firmly believe that the guts of chant itself is worth the trouble.

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