Wednesday, March 8, 2006


Two articles from Musica Sacra:

Ipsissima Verba - Mrs. Robinson

"There are no rigid criteria for selecting good music for the liturgy. In recent months many songs have appeared which could well find an appropriate place in the liturgy; these might include 'Both Sides Now,' 'Abraham, Martin and John,' 'Mrs. Robinson,' 'Gentle on My Mind' (there is a real need for good love songs in liturgy), and 'Little Green Apples.' In a sense we need 'disposable' music just as we need, and to some extent have, 'disposable' art - objects which are created to last not centuries, but weeks (or hours). Our secular music is that way; the amount of new material is so great that even many good things pass quickly. While many of the songs from the folk and pop lists (as well as the country-western list or the Broadway list) do not have the depth or quality to last for decades, they still have the power to enrich the liturgy here and now."

"Music - We Must Learn to Celebrate," by the Rev. Robert W. Hovda and Gabe Huck.
Liturgical Arts: Liturgical Arts Society's quarterly. Volume 38, No. 2 (February 1970), p. 42.

Source: Musica Sacra
This is a quote from a Fr. March as appears in Sacred Music (formerly CAECILIA), Spring 1970 edition. I was ready to start calling Fr. March names, thus judging the book by its cover: that is, reading only up to "Little Green Apples". I was about ready to get "little green apple splatters" over it. But then I got to read the last couple of sentences to discover that the first few lines were written in sheer sarcasm so it could lead to the last few lines. Thank the Good Lord for that.

Ipsissima Verba - We Are Tired

"We are tired young Catholics, yes tired and aghast at what has happened to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our time. Modern day liturgists seem to regard our generation as being completely without any appreciation for music, other than what one would expect at a teenage dance etc. We feel that this is not only untrue but also unfair. Teenagers today look toward the Church for a Mass that is reverent and causes us to become closer to Christ as our God not as our equal. We take this opportunity to express some of our thoughts and suggestions."

At Mass we should:
1. Have music that reminds us of the God we worship, not of a dance the night before.
2. Have a text that is sound and appropriate and music that is appropriate for the text.
3. Stay away from compromising on tunes that are popular. No one is impressed with a sloppy adaptation of a melody that has been twisted to suit some individual's personal taste.
4. Have a balance of Latin and English so that neither becomes monotonous.
5. Have congregational singing but not to the point of minimizing the role of the choir.
6. Use hymns that are simple enough for congregational participation without resorting to songs that have nothing to do with the Mass but were written for entertainment purposes.
7. Have a large enough variety of music so as to avoid unnecessary and boring repetition which defeats the purpose of keeping the congregation aware of their participation in the action at the altar.
8. Leave the task of sacred music to those trained in the field.

"We want you to know exactly how we feel and these are the views expressed by a cross section of teenagers. If individuals who are subjecting us to the current trend for irreverent and banal music wish to continue to do so, we would like them to identify it with themselves and not with our generation. We want no part of it and do not expect that it be accredited to us.

"Further, we feel that we have as much right to sing and listen to good music at Mass as those who grew up before us. If there are places that did not experience good music it is because they failed to have good instruction. We look toward you as the hope of rectifying the unfortunate state of liturgy and sacred music in the Catholic Church today.

"The girls from Catherine McAuley High School Brooklyn, N.Y."

Source: Musica Sacra
This was from Sacred Music, Spring 1967 edition. And yes, these girls wrote this letter to their music director, a Sister of Mercy - in a high school named in honor of Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in the Americas. Now, we need more letters like that from today's Catholic school students, and even from public school students who just happen to be enrolled in a parish's CCD/Religious Ed/Faith Formation/whatever ya wanna call it program. Send them to your music director, principal, pastor, CCD director, and even your local Ordinary. Tell them you want only SACRED music at Holy Mass, because "SACRED music is the only cat who knows where it's at".

Do it today!



Daniel Muller said...

Whoops! I guess that my explanatory material was too brief. The whole point of the "ipsissima verba" mirror posts was that these people were speaking in their own words. In this case, the words belonged to the liturgist tag team of a priest and the layman Bernardin appointed head of Liturgy Training Publications. And they were quite serious.

The Rev. Ralph March, O.Cist. was very active in the CMAA while he was in Dallas before leaving for Köln to be the Domkapellmeister for many years. He has returned to Our Lady of Dallas and the University of Dallas and is currently on the Board of Directors of the CMAA. He still teaches chant. I hesitate what to think his reaction would be were these words attributed to him in his presence; luckily, Cistercians are relatively unflappable. At any rate, he was reviewing this article from some magazine called Liturgical Arts for Sacred Music, of which he had been editor himself the year before, 1969.

Let me provide Father March's entire review here just so this can be completely clear. Take it away, Father March:

"This article demonstrates once again what happens when unqualified authors write about topics they know nothing about. This short paper rehashes some of Father Hovda's confused ideas about church music, already printed in his 'Manual of Celebration.' I am willing to give him credit for his good intentions but nothing else. Let the reader be the judge:

'There are no rigid criteria ... they still have the power to enrich the liturgy here and now.'

"Are any further comments necessary?"

Brian Michael Page said...

Thanks much, Daniel, for the much needed (obviously) elaboration.

As for LTP and NPM, I wonder what Cdl. Bernardin et al were thinking when they made appointments to such organizations.