Thursday, September 20, 2007


Renowned "composer" Inwood: Ix-nay on Otu-may Oprio-Pray

That's right, kids! Paul Inwood, the director of liturgy for the Portsmouth diocese in the UK, as well as world renowned composer of schlock that liturgeists pass off as sacred music, has asked the people of his diocese not to ask for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Catholics in the diocese of Portsmouth are to be told that most of them are not allowed even to ASK for the traditional Latin Mass, which has just been restored to full parity with the newer form of Mass by Pope Benedict. The reason? According to Paul Inwood, Portsmouth’s lay “director of liturgy”, the Pope’s own ruling does not permit them to.

(Attention to Fr. Erik --- let's give Inwood a big Bat Shit Crazy Award for that last sentence!)
(UPDATE: Fr. Erik left very good reasons in this post's combox why a Bat Shit Crazy Award should be denied to Mr. Inwood.)

In other words, the diocese – with the apparent backing of its liberal bishop, Crispian Hollis (never heard of him) – is grotesquely misrepresenting Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter on the traditional liturgy, Summorum Pontificum, which says pretty much the opposite of what Inwood claims it says. Does he seriously think he is going to get away with it? The piece is not due to appear until the October issue of the diocesan newspaper, but already Catholics in Britain, America and Rome are outraged. (That's riiiiiiiiiight!)

Fr John Zuhlsdorf, the world’s leading traditionalist Catholic blogger, has the details here. There will also be a full report in the forthcoming Catholic Herald, in which Hollis suggests he agrees with Inwood’s stance.

Fr Z begins by saying: “Let us pray to God and all the angels and saints that this piece is corrected or, even better, trashed and not published at all … This is the stupidest of all diocesan statements about Summorum Pontificum I have seen to date.”

(Big time kudos to Fr. Z., who (as per usual) knows where it's at, as does Damian Thompson, who wrote this article as you see it in italics.)

I’ll second that. The Portsmouth article is based around an interpretation of the papal document that is so obviously biased and wrong that one wonders how on earth it came to be written.

According to Inwood, “people cannot now decide that they want a Tridentine Mass and ask for it”: they must have already have declared their attachment to the older liturgy. (Balderdash to the fullest extent of the word!)

This is utter nonsense. Summorum Pontificum says no such thing. As Fr Z correctly notes, “a brand new group of people can form, who have never gone to the older Mass, and they can make a request.” In any case, the diocese has no say in who can or cannot ask for the extraordinary form.

Almost unbelievably, Inwood brings up the subject of child protection, of all things, saying that any priest who comes into the diocese to say the older form of Mass must have been cleared by the authorities. To quote Fr Z again: “WHAT? If serious, this would merely be a blatant tactic to block priests who are willing and able to say the older form of Mass… This is an exercise in intimidation.”

I blogged yesterday about the risible political correctness of the Portsmouth diocesan bureaucracy. But this is not risible: it is a very serious matter to misrepresent, even unintentionally, the contents of an apostolic letter to the people of a diocese. As, I think, Bishop Hollis will soon discover. (Let's hope!)

Now that you've seen that one - I kind of followed a set of links, you see. I surfed the NLM blog and found this post by Jeffrey Tucker, which led to the Damian Thompson article you'll see below, which led me to his article which I printed above (btw, snarky remarks and emphases mine). This next article, also by Mr. Thompson, goes into Mr. Inwood's ditties, called "liturgical music" by Liturgeist Central and certain big-time publishers of what is supposed to be Catholic music.

I’m learning interesting things about the powerful subculture of ageing trendies who control Catholic worship in many dioceses. Paul Inwood, the Portsmouth "director of liturgy" who wants to ban churchgoers from asking for the traditional Mass, turns out be a composer by trade. Indeed, he is the composer of many of the mind-blowingly banal ditties that the English bishops have been forcing on congregations for years. And he makes a jolly nice living out of it.

(The weird thing is that Mr. Inwood had some really good settings of the Psalms and what not in an early 1970's version of the Simple Gradual in English. The stuff of his that has made the infamous OCP Music Issue over the past couple of decades, well... not half as good.)

You can find excerpts from Inwood’s music here (click on “compositions”). Warning: your toes will curl. Yet his music has featured in more TV and radio broadcasts of Catholic liturgies than that of any other living composer. (That might be in the UK, but in the US, that dishonor goes to Marty Haugen.) And he also sits on the liturgical formation sub-committee of the Bishops’ Conference.

Inwood has received very substantial patronage from the Catholic Church in this country. The evidence is here, on the website of his own company, Magnificat Music, which describes itself as “the leading independent publisher of sheet music for Catholic churches in the British isles”. Interestingly, it gives its address as Park Place Pastoral Centre in Wickham, which also houses much of the Portsmouth diocesan bureaucracy.

Inwood has recently been commissioned to write Masses by the dioceses of Plymouth and Shrewsbury, and has conducted “thousands of workshops” in Britain and America. Fair enough, you might say. (We need better composers to grab hold of what may just be the new Mass translation and get working on real settings thereof, before guys like Inwood, Haugen, and the like start infesting the English-speaking Church with their latest jingles.)

Except for one detail. The guy has a certain technical facility, but his melodies are staggeringly banal. Listen carefully to the excerpts on the website. The tunes are formulaic and unmemorable – and I’m not saying that because I dislike his whole approach to the liturgy. This is bad music, full stop.

A typical Inwood tune meanders up and down the scale, jumping the same intervals, supported by droopy harmonies. Many of the melodies are virtually indistinguishable from each other: you could programme a computer to write something very similar. (As an experiment, I have just sung the instructions on a packet of soap powder to an Inwood-style melody – it’s very easy to do.) (As one local good friend and mentor of mine once said, "A first year harmony student wouldn't get away with writing stuff like that!")

How much money, I wonder, has the Catholic Church spent on this dreary stuff over the years? There is a real problem here. There is nothing illegal or unethical about what Inwood is doing, but we are confronted by a problem that Thomas Day identified in his book Why Catholics Can’t Sing, a stinging attack on the trendy Catholic musical establishment.

As Day says, many professional Catholic liturgists are also composers. They push dioceses and congregations towards the style of music that they themselves compose and publish. How very convenient. (Thus, crap!)

This morning I spoke to a distinguished musician employed by the Catholic Church. He told me: “There’s a cosy relationship between dioceses and the composers and publishers of what is basically bad pop music. Watch out for the new English translation of the Mass [expected in 2009]. I bet that various ‘approved’ composers are already preparing settings that will be commissioned the moment the new texts appear. It’s incredibly galling.” (Go back to my snarky remark three paragraphs up. And, btw --- I don't want no stinkin' commission. I just want to be able to share what I would hope is a decent musical setting of Holy Mass.)

Indeed it is. And what are we going to do about it?

(Start writin'! That's what!)

Great set of articles, Mr. Thompson!


Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Nope, no Batshit Crazy Award for this bozo. Why? First, I had to sing his (and his friends') crap at the seminary. Second, author's of Batshit Crazy Post have to be aware that what is said is well batshit crazy.

Brian Michael Page said...

I did his "O blessed are those" once - was ok at best. The stuff he did for their Simple Gradual project (circa 1972ish) was so much better than the crap you would see these days.

Gotcha on the "batshit crazy", Father. :)


Alice said...

Aw yuck, that is crap.
As a music student, that stuff sounds like an exercise we had to do in theory class.
We were FORCED to learn rubbish like this at primary school, and guess what? I'm the only practising Catholic out of the lot of them.... why? Because I discovered proper liturgical music and Gregorian chant, that's why.
And, we all know why this guy wouldn't like the Latin Mass, it does him out of a job - we don't need any new composers!!!

Scelata said...

Well, I fo one am looking forward to any new Mass ordinaries composed by Mr. Inwood.
As long as they are of the same quality as "Alleluia Ch Ch," that is....

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Brian Michael Page said...

I just took a listen to that "Alleluia Ch Ch". It's downright horrible. No church composer in his/her right mind would actually write such a thing.