Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Memo to Corpus Christi Watershed

Corpus Christi Watershed has been the creative force behind the digital distribution of liturgical music and liturgical enlightenment generally, pioneering the use of creative commons as a publishing arrangement and making fantastic instructional videos and websites used by Catholic musicians all over the world.

There's more than enough stuff to do in life and no one really wants to have yet another project dump on himself, but I'm going to do this anyway: I have a suggestion for Watershed going forward.

We need a series of videos giving tutorials in the liturgical basics for Catholic musicians.

We all know the problem out there. Many Catholic musicians are stuck programming the same music over and over forever mainly because there are always costs to change and it is always easier to take the path of least resistance. The following hymn worked last week, last month, last year, so let's do it again. There is no compelling reason to change.

And yet we know that most parishes need to completely rethink what they are doing with music at Mass. The top goal here is to sing the text that the Church wants sung and head toward singing the music that the Church wants sung. Only in this way can the music and the liturgy be integrated and the Mass be presented as a solemn, seamless whole.

So long as we are just picking hymns week by week, stuck doing legacy content forever, dragging out the same offline publisher materials, the Mass will always existing in two theaters: the text and the music living as separate entities.

It is not enough to be intellectually convinced of this point. Musicians need point-by-point tutorials in how to go about progress toward Catholic music. In the course of this, musicians can come to a completely new understanding of the musical structure of the Roman Rite. This is what we teach every year at the Sacred Music Colloquium but we are still very much in need of a distribution method that is universal and can reach everyone, not just the people attending an event.

So here is what I suggest. We need a series of 15 to 20 tutorial videos that discuss and demonstrate the music of the Mass (presuming ordinary form here) in a step-by-step fashion.

These could begin with the introit. It could explain that the ideal here is not a hymn but the Mass proper of the day. It could begin with a demonstration of the easiest solution with the Anglican Use Gradual. It could move on to a proper setting from Fr. Kelly, then from Fr. Weber. The next step would be the English from Bruce Ford, and then the choral setting from Richard Rice. Finally it could end with the full Gregorian setting from the Graduale Romanum. It could end with a quick review going backwards and then reiterate the lesson at the beginning. Links to all free resources can be illustrated on the video. The whole video could last 10 minutes.

This would be part 1. The next step would be to take on the Kyrie using the same approach. Next comes the Gloria. Then the Gradual Psalm and Alleluia. Offertory could come next. And so on. A special video could be made for the dialogues with the priest and the various options. This way priests could have a single link to send their musicians and rely on this as a method of training!

They would also need musical examples and a single narrator. Obviously Jeffrey Ostrowski would be the ideal narrator and director of this. It needs nothing fancy, no high production values; just straight talk about the music of the Mass, piece by piece, dealing with just the facts and designed for musicians with every level of talent. The musical examples can be a mixture of accompanied and unaccompanied, high voices and low voices, single voices and groups.

I really see this as a high priority. The results would be a priceless gift to the faith. If Watershed agrees, I hope many people will support the project as a way to educate musicians today. There is a crying need and I think Watershed is the best hope for this to happen.

Here is an example of what Watershed can do:

St. Jean de Lalande Library of Rare Books from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

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