Thursday, February 21, 2008


Previous Parts:
Pars prima / Pars secunda / Pars tertia / Pars quarta / Pars quinta
Pars sexta / Pars septua / Pars octa / Pars nona / Pars decima

OK - I know it's been a while since I've blogged on Sing to the Lord, the last dirty deed of the BCL as headed by a certain Bishop Trautman. Here is, finally, the 11th installment of this series.

B. Instruments

The Human Voice

86. Of all the sounds of which human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are capable, voice is the most privileged and fundamental. Musical instruments in the Liturgy are best understood as an extension of and support to the primary liturgical instrument, which is the human voice.

That is correct. And you'll notice, btw, nowhere in this document will you see any mention of the microphone as an aid for projection, or, in many cases, the fast track to divahood.

87. Among all other instruments which are suitable for divine worship, the organ is “accorded pride of place” because of its capacity to sustain the singing of a large gathered assembly, due to both its size and its ability to give “resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.” Likewise, “the manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.”

But yet, you see the piano and/or guitar in use far more often to give in to the secular-minded "pop culture", instead of "separating church and state" (as I like to call it) for that one hour a week. And, for people like me looking for work, ever notice how many ads call for people proficient in "organ and piano" or "keyboard and organ". Some now even have "guitar abilities a plus". WTF? A predecessor of mine at one parish once told me the pastor who had hired him was told to "think piano" (the organ was a Hammond, probably powered by Kenmore, but they also had a piano). Some parishes have no organ (many of those probably with no intention of getting one till by some miracle the right pastor finally gets assigned), just a piano or a keyboard or synthesizer. Where is the pride of place there?

On a positive note: it is very true that the organ IS the best support of the human voice, whether it be a small group (typical parish choir in a small country church) or a very large one (choir and congregation combined in a cathedral or basilica).

88. In addition to its ability to lead and sustain congregational singing, the sound of the pipe organ is most suited for solo playing of sacred music in the Liturgy at appropriate moments. Pipe organs also play an important evangelical role in the Church’s outreach to the wider community in sacred concerts, music series, and other musical and cultural programs. For all of these reasons, the place of the organ should be taken into account from the outset in the planning process for the building or renovation of churches.

Excellent paragraph above. Not to mention Vatican II's pointing out that the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem.

89. However, from the days when the Ark of the Covenant was accompanied in procession by cymbals, harps, lyres, and trumpets, God’s people have, in various periods, used a variety of musical instruments to sing his praise. Each of these instruments, born of the culture and the traditions of a particular people, has given voice to a wide variety of forms and styles through which Christ’s faithful continue to join their voices to his perfect song of praise upon the Cross.

I don't recall a guitar being mentioned here, humstrumming folk ballads that sound like beer songs, and such. I'm not condemning ALL guitar music. I do concede that Cardinal Arinze even once said "I will not now pronounce and say never guitar; that would be rather severe." But he also mentions not the use of guitar in itself, but HOW it is used: "But much of guitar music may not be suitable at all for the Mass. Yet, it is possible to think of some guitar music that would be suitable, not as the ordinary one we get every time, [but with] the visit of a special group, etc." So, what is that "ordinary one we get every time"? Skim through a Gather hymnal, a Glory and Praise book, or a Music Issue. About 70% of the contents in each of these will give you the picture.

90. Many other instruments also enrich the celebration of the Liturgy, such as wind, stringed, or percussion instruments “according to longstanding local usage, provided they are truly apt for sacred use or can be rendered apt.”

That rules out the kazoo, your typical everyday humstrum, and the rock drum kit.

Instrumental Music

91. Although instruments are used in Christian worship primarily to lead and sustain the singing of assembly, choir, psalmist, and cantor, they may also, when appropriate, be played by themselves. Such instrumental music can assist the gathering assembly in preparing for worship in the form of a prelude. It may give voice to the sentiments of the human heart through pieces played during the Liturgy and postludes after the Liturgy. Instrumentalists are to remember that the Liturgy calls for significant periods of silent reflection. Silence need not always be filled.

Good. Also, one must remember that instrumental music should not must not be played over the spoken word, e.g., the Eucharistic Prayer, the Word of God, etc.

92. Instrumentalists are encouraged to play pieces from the treasury of sacred music by composers of various eras and cultures. In addition, those with the requisite talent and training are encouraged to improvise, as described in no. 43.

Notice they said sacred music.

Recorded Music
93. Recorded music lacks the authenticity provided by a living liturgical assembly gathered for the Sacred Liturgy. While recorded music might be used advantageously outside the Liturgy as an aid in the teaching of new music, it should not, as a general norm, be used within the Liturgy.

I feel that I can safely quote my good friend Fr. Fisette: Liturgy must always be natural. No recorded music at Mass, period. No tape recorder. No CD's. No records. No pre-recorded MIDI files generated via desktop, laptop, or the "parish synthesizer". Plain and simple. Play an instrument (preferably organ), or go a cappella.

94. Some exceptions to this principle should be noted. Recorded music may be used to
accompany the community’s song during a procession outside and, when used carefully, in
Masses with children. Occasionally, it might be used as an aid to prayer, for example, during long periods of silence in a communal celebration of reconciliation. However, recorded music
should never become a substitute for the community’s singing.

I see an excuse for abuse happening here. OK - though I've seen guitars in outdoor processions, basically because they're most portable, the most effective outdoor processions, through my experience anyways, utilize a cappella singing. As for Masses with Children, no - use an instrument. However, when children are brought to remote location (e.g., hall, conference room) for "Children's Liturgy of the Word", perhaps recordings may be appropriate, but not at Mass.

Our next installment will cover logistics.


Adrienne said...

My hubby and I have a major problem with the microphones at our church. It is a small church and they are not needed. We love it when they screw up and we get to experience feedback.

I thankfully missed the Mass when the clowns at 10:30 brought in a flute player who proceeded to play directly into the mic. According to the witnesses, that can still hear, it was pretty painful. Can you say sign wave??

It is sad to go into church after church with a nice, if not wonderful, organ that has been pushed aside to bring in a piano for someone to bang on like it's St Patrick's day at the corner saloon.

P.S. Thanks for the distinctions re: guitar.

Sir Monocle said...

Well said. The Catholic Church has such a beautiful and rich history in music and art. These recent developments are so painful to me. All we musicians can do is continue educating our clergy and congregations, as best we can, I suppose.

Brian Michael Page said...

Adrienne writes:
Thanks for the distinctions re: guitar.

No problem, Adrienne. Like I mentioned from that other post, that's the style of guitars that Jason was getting at with the poster his friend gave him.

Sir Monacle writes:
All we musicians can do is continue educating our clergy and congregations, as best we can, I suppose.

Yeah, without the risk of getting fired for doing so, eh?


Adrienne said...

BMP - No one likes a prophet.

P.S. If you'd like to hear a bit of my hubby go to my blog and scroll down to Feb. 7. I posted his arrangement of the Our Father from his last CD.

And - tell Jason he can quit hiding. I didn't call in Tony (Soprano) over the poster. Takes more than that for this Italian to take revenge.