Monday, September 12, 2022

Three Nostalgia Trips: Audio Albums from 1957, 1975 (?), and 1979

It seems as if advocates of eliminating the Catholic Church’s liturgical tradition often try to explain away the surprisingly dogged adherence to older forms as a matter of “nostalgia”—even today, when the average age of many Latin Mass congregations cannot be much higher than about 18 thanks to the enormous number of babies. It is hard for them to understand that the older forms have a holy eloquence of their own, an effiacious communicative capacity, that has almost nothing to do with the age or past experiences of the ones who attend.

But one might feel a bit of genuine nostalgia looking at these three LPs that have come my way in recent times.

The first was discovered by a priest when cleaning out his parents’ house. Today there are websites on which one can practice making the responses at Mass, but back in the day, in 1957 to be precise, you could pick up an old 45 called The Mass: Serving and Responses: Latin Responses for Altar Boys and for First Level Participation in Dialogue Mass, with an imprimatur from Cardinal Stritch. Quite the time capsule of 1957.

The second is a rather revealing slice of history: Latin High Mass for Nostalgic Catholics, which was produced by World Library of Sacred Music in Cincinnati. There is no date, but I’m guessing, on the basis of the description on the back, that it would have come out around 1975. The cover shows scenes taken from Fr. Lasance. It features a recording of the traditional Nuptial Mass, with Casali’s Mass in G, Schubert’s Ave Maria, Franck’s Panis Angelicus, and Widor’s Toccata from the 5th organ symphony. The celebrant is a certain Rev. Cronan Kline, OFM, and the director of the choir is, interestingly, Omar Westendorf, whose hymns show up in many a hymnal.

What I find especially noteworthy, and rather sad, is the justification the record offers for itself:

The third exhibit is something of an oddity from 1979: Lieder des Papstes Johannes Paul II in Polen. The pinkish halo surrounding the Polish pope seems already to anticipate his accelerated canonization—that seems a better interpretation than radioactivity or phosphorescence.

The music is all sung in Polish, of course, but the album is designed for Germans, so it offers (according to a tiny note) a word-for-word literal translation of the various folksongs and specially composed offerings for the Polish pope on his momentous return trip to his homeland, from which many date the beginning of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe.

If I were to say “Ah, those were the days!,” I would be telling a lie, since I was exactly –14, 4, and 8 years old at the time these discs were manufactured. No, they hold no nostalgic value for me, but they do prompt some thoughts. Lots of little boys are still learning and making the responses at Mass, in spite of the attempt, some twelve years after the 45’s release, to cancel out the Latin Mass forever. Second, chant, choral music, and organ music of a far higher caliber than that which is found on the Westendorf record can be heard today at actual High Masses and Solemn High Masses around the world, in spite of renewed barbarian aggression against the Latin Mass. Third, whatever one might say about John Paul II’s weaker moments, he is in fact glowing in comparison with what Providence has allowed us to suffer in the past decade.

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