OK, so I haven't blogged here in about six months (see what the Advent of Facebook can do to someone? LOL). No, this blog hasn't died, as you're about to see below. Couple that with moving to a better city, as well as improving on my composing projects, and BAM!
Today's post is one that I couldn't resist, and was inspired by a conversation I had with a certain family after my last Mass last weekend. The matriarch of this family had mentioned that since the Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition (and translation thereof), that one would expect music at Mass would improve. Instead, the contrary, in terms of most parishes and the major publishers of Catholic worship aids.
Since the latest translation of the Roman Missal, the publishers did get a couple of things right: terminology, for one ("Entrance Chant", "Penitential Act", etc.), plus the ICEL chants getting a prominent place amongst the Mass Ordinary settings (along with the "Order of Mass" in most worship aids), so that they appear to be the default setting (instead of, let's say, "Mass of Creation").
Just in time for the latest translation to take place, GIA Publications released their new additions to their "family of hymnals". "Worship - Fourth Edition", "Gather - Third Edition", "Lead Me, Guide Me - Second Edition", and a new bi-lingual English/Spanish hymnal. Now, I don't have a copy of the new "Gather" yet, and don't want one. I'm really afraid to see it for two reasons: 1) the previous editions of "Gather" (comprehensive and otherwise) have been mostly hideous (it's GIA's competition to OCP's "Glory and Praise", on the most part, and 2) my disappointment in the new "Worship".
Previous posts to this blog have pinpointed the many shortcomings I found in "Worship IV". "Worship" used to be a primarily traditional hymnal. Yes, a few mistakes here and there ("I am the Bread of Life" and "Gather Us In" for example), the bulk of the previous "Worship" hymnals' repertoire have consisted of good solid hymns, with "Worship II" (1975) being the best, in my opinion. While many of us were hoping that "Worship IV" (2011) would revert back to much of "Worship III" (1986/1998), we found ourselves discovering that the exact opposite happened. "Worship IV" starting picking up much of the garbage that one would find in a "Gather" volume instead. While still retaining a good amount of decent hymnody, what I have found (you can search this blog by using the search engine at the top of this page, just use "Worship IV" and/or "Follow-Up" as your search parameters, be sure to use quotation marks) was the addition of "Gather"-type melodies, or good solid tunes killed by really bad texts (theologically and/or poetically), or both. Again, do the search, and you'll see what I mean. As for my fear of the new "Gather" because of this, it's like my mother used to often say, "With friends like that, who needs enemies?"
Now, let's look at OCP. I won't even get into "Glory and Praise". The latest edition I had of that hideous "hymnal" is the maroon edition from the mid 1980's, right around the time the St. Louis Jesuits released their "Steadfast Love" double LP (yes, records were still around back then). I won't get into "Journeysongs" (their second edition, mid 2000's, which I do have), which is probably the best of the bunch (it helps that GIA doesn't allow for their copyrighted material to appear on other publishers' hardbound hymnals, thus the Marty Haugen and David Haas tunes being MIA, a win for someone looking for some liturgical salvation here). By the way, that's almost a pun - in Journeysongs, the muzak of GIA is MIA! I will, however, look into the most popular of OCP's books, the "Music Issue", which I've often referred to as the "Muzak Issue" or the "Music Issue with Issues". The "Music Issue", along with "Today's Missal", their missalette subscription, or the two in one bigger book, "Breaking Bread", has always had this knack of having a repertoire as balanced as, let's say, one of the "Gather Comprehensives", about 70/30 in favor of love ballads, hootenanny music, and sacro-pop. Around 2005-2006, I was beginning to see some signs of improvement. Hymns like "O God, Almighty Father", "God of Our Fathers", and "O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts" were surfacing for the first time, as well as solid hymn texts by Benedictines Harry Hagen and Genevieve Glen, wedded mainly to good solid hymn tunes. But over the years, the repertoire of "Spirit and Song" (a book geared for the "Awesome God"/"Jesus Our Buddy" crowd) has been finding its way into the Music Issue. The 70/30 contemporary mix seems to have gone to about 80/20. One would think that with a more conservative Archbishop being installed in Portland, Oregon (OCP's home office), not all that long ago, that things would improve. Instead, Randy DeBruyn is retiring as the head honcho of the editorial staff and is being replaced by Rick Modlin, one of "Sprit and Song"'s regular composers (source: "Today's Liturgy", XII-1-13 to III-4-14 edition). This could be a very scary transition for those souls still frequenting mainstream parishes.
There are solutions to this problem.
- Of course, there is my own music (which isn't always perfect, either, I'll admit). But that is only a miniscule part of the solution.
- Jeff Ostrowski has done tons of work towards the improvement of liturgical music today, including the introduction of two new hymnals, one of them primarily for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the other for the Ordinary Form, though the Extraordinary Form shows up in the Ordinary as well. Visit Jeff and his many excellent guest composers at Corpus Christi Watershed.
- Visit such places as the Adoremus Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy and the Church Music Association of America for a wealth of good music and good articles on music.
- The St. Michael Hymnal, Fourth Edition, is another excellent source of good liturgical music.
- Most important solution is to PRAY and PERSEVERE! Prayer is always a powerful thing!
Right now, it looks as if things are getting worse (read: mainstream publishers), but people are catching on, little by little (or in Italian, the musical term "poco a poco"), to the solutions to the problem.