Monday, May 16, 2005


Greetings, readers!

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure of watching my fourth (and final) child, my 7-year-old daughter, Brittany, receive the Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time. She was also one of those who got to take part in the Offertory. As a father, I was in my glory, and very proud of Brittany. My wife took pictures like you wouldn't believe.

As a parish musician (not the parish where her First Communion Mass was, thank God), I was sick to my stomach. Here's the liturgy sheet:

Prelude (choir): One Spirit, one Church (talk about killing "Come, Holy Ghost")
Processional: Let the little children come (I forgot the author's name, but it was sung to "Hymn to Joy"). I don't mind the "Hymn to Joy" so much, but the text was horrible.
Gloria: It was the first time I had ever heard this setting. Composer name was not listed. The line "You are seated at the right hand of the Father. Receive our prayer." was left out completely.
Psalm: Lord, send out your Spirit (Joe Zsigray) A metrical setting. The verses were big time irregular. Though in a fast 3/4, you can fall asleep waiting to get back to the antiphon. Bright spot: the text is from the Lectionary for Mass.
Offertory: We come to your table (from that insipid "Hi God" book)
Sanctus: Massive Cremation, at 78 speed
Memorial Acclamation: I forgot what it was, but it sure as heck wasn't any of THE Memorial Acclamations.
Amen: Massive Cremation
Agnus Dei: Dean Olawski
Communion: Jesus, come to us (Haas); Take and Eat (Joncas)
Recessional: This is the day (that one with the echo - that had me singing on the way home "This is the day (this is the day) that my dog got spayed (that my dog got spayed)"

According to the music director, who I know personally, it was the CCD folk (figures!) that picked all this watered down trash for music. But that's par for the course. I'm just glad that the kiddies didn't get up to the altar and sing something. That happened at my former parish, and the pastor had the colossal nerve to say "it's not entertainment". If they're using the altar as their little stage, which they did, and the parents are getting all sentimental over it, then yes, it's entertainment. To boot - that song was another from the "Hi God" dungpile - "His banner over me is love".

I would never subject my junior choir to that kind of garbage. I have a choir of 7-12 year olds who love "Mass of the Bells", especially the Gloria and Sanctus. They have the Latin Sanctus and Agnus (Mass XVIII) down to an art form. They sing standard hymns - Catholic hymns (I wouldn't consider much of what Haugen writes "Catholic"). Even my own 7-year-old couldn't stand the music yesterday at her First Communion.

My message, aimed particularly at CCD directors, teachers, and liturgist-wannabes: Don't dumb down the liturgy. These are, usually, very bright and very devoted children who seek to receive the Lord. They're not 3-year-olds. They don't need "Hi God", "Rise Up and Sing", "Young People's Glory and Praise", or any facsimile of such putrid collections. There are plenty of reverent selections that can very easily (and very enthusiastically) sung by young children. Yes, it's their big day. But they need to learn that the Mass focuses on Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Sacrament, and not on themselves.

+In Christ,


Brian Michael Page said...

Ah yes - I remember "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road" - from about 1972-73 or so. Stinkin' the highway, just like Carey Landry's insipid four-plus volume collection does to Catholic liturgy.


Daniel Muller said...

We come to your table (from that insipid "Hi God" book)

Being a member of the original Hi God! generation, I am somewhat disappointed that I am not familiar with this song.

"Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road"

Such a puzzling post! Would it have gestures like "His Banner over Me is Love?" The opposite gestures? Or would they be more like a PC version of "Jump down, turn around?"

The problem with teaching children this silly stuff is that, even if it is somehow relevant to them in some mysterious preadolescent way, it will never be useful to them in later life. I can sing "Hi God" after 30-odd years, but why? I can confidently say that I have no use for it in my liturgical or devotional future. And what good does it do that I can when the priest intones "Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes" after Communion at the lunchbreak Mass at the downtown chapel? I was studying the wrong book precisely at the age that the information was going to remain with me!

Brian Michael Page said...

Daniel writes:
"The problem with teaching children this silly stuff is that, even if it is somehow relevant to them in some mysterious preadolescent way, it will never be useful to them in later life."

Exactly, Daniel! Or, on a more positive tone, I'm a firm believer that today's junior choir is tomorrow's senior choir. Though I wouldn't expect a choir of 7 to 12 year old kiddies to chant out a Gradual with 20-some-note neums from the Liber Usualis, they need to learn at least the basic standard pieces that the average congregant should know. Wean them on "Hi God" (and facsimiles thereof) now and they WILL be completely lost as they grow and try to blend with the average adult.

My junior choir knows, at this point, a good selection of metrical standard Catholic hymn tunes, how to chant propers (in English for now) to Psalm Tone 8, Sanctus and Agnus XVIII (both in Latin), and they LOVE the Gloria and Sanctus from Peloquin's "Mass of the Bells". They even get little liturgical tidbits of trivia in bits and pieces during rehearsal. Any other parish would have CCD directors, teachers, and even senior choir members, growling at me.

Great post, Daniel!

Anonymous said...

"Any other parish..." you say?
Yes, I work at that "any other parish" and the animus inspired when I dare to chant a psalm rather than sing the favorite Haggen-Hasz ditty is a great sorrow to me.
I do not want the principal to be unhappy, but I do not wish to conribute to the degradation of the liturgy and the malformation of the students by filling them with the "earworms" I was subjected to in my formataive years.
My second and third graders are like Christians in the catecombs, we secretly work on the missa orbis factor and the sequence for Corpus Christi, unbeknownst to the "Why don't we sing any of the good old songs like 'We Are Called' anymore?" crowd.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Page,
You are my long lost brother. I am toiling in the wilds of Michigan after teaching K-8 music in a Catholic school in the Diocese of Arlington, VA (aka "Eden").
There, I spent my time teaching the kids "Panis Angelicus" and chant and "Tantum Ergo". Got lots of flak for it from the menopause crowd, but told the kids, "I am teaching you music that you can have for your Catholic weddings, your parents' funerals." They understood.
Now I'm going to be the CCD teacher for my son's 2nd grade class (because of course the Catholic school shut down ten years ago), and am salivating at the thought of teaching the kiddies Actual Catholic Music again. Your post about your daughter's First Communion was hilarious, just the balm I need, for I am sure to run into more menopausal DREs and Haugenettes, only this time it will include issues of doctrine as well as liturgy.
Sometimes I feel so alone . . glad to know I'm not, at least in cyberspace. BTW, I immediately threw out the copies of "Hi God!" that I inherited from the previous music teacher in Arlington. I do remember singing "His Banner over Me Is Love" in Protestant Sunday School in my 70s youth!
Before I converted them, the big song was something called "GLYSDI -- God Loves You So Do I." Is that a Landry ditty? Poor me, I never got to actually hear it.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe, well into the 21st Century, that people are still arguing over what music is "Catholic" and what isn't. Because something is in Latin with organ accompaniment, does that make it "more" Catholic than a song in the vernacular accompanied by guitar? Sing good music in praise to God, regardless of its origin or language!

Brian Michael Page said...

Anonymous, you pose a good question? If the music is good and the text is theologically sound, the answer is yes. Much of the "Hi God" type paraphanalia (sp) does NOT fit that category in text or in music.
I'm not one to say that all contemporary music is bad. It isn't. I'm using James Moore's "Taste and See" on the weekend of 7/3. Schutte has two ditties I like - "Only This I Want" (scriptural, yet devotional to an extent), and "Christ, Circle 'round Us" (the "O" Antiphons set to a not-so-bad metrical adaptation of "Salve Regina"). However, I'd still trash his "Table of Plenty" in a heartbeat.


Unknown said...

All sacred music that was hidden: please come back to every parish.