Skip to comments.The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music
Posted on 01/18/2005 10:13:36 AM PST by siunevada
Well, if your missalettes are like those issued in more than half of American parishes, they're copyrighted by the Oregon Catholic Press (OCP)-the leading Catholic purveyor of bad music in the United States. Four times a year, it prints and distributes 4.3 million copies of the seemingly unobjectionable booklets (which OCP doesn't call missalettes).
But that's just the beginning of its massive product line, where each item is integrated perfectly with the others to make liturgical planning quick and easy. To instruct and guide parish musicians and liturgy teams, the OCP prints hymnals, choral scores, children's song books, Mass settings, liturgy magazines (with detailed instructions that are slavishly followed by parishes around the country), and CDs for planning liturgies and previewing the newest music.
This collection of products, however, does not include a hymnal-or anything else-designed to appeal to traditional sensibilities (its Heritage Hymnal is deceptively misnamed). The OCP's experts never tire of promoting the new, rewriting the old, and inviting you to join them in their quest to "sing a new church into being" (as one of their hit songs urges). The one kind of "new" that the OCP systematically avoids is the new vogue of traditional music that has proved so appealing to young Catholics.
The bread and butter of the OCP are the 10,000 music copyrights it owns. It employs a staff of 150, runs year-round liturgy workshops all over the United States, sponsors affiliates in England and Australia, and keeps songwriters all over the English-speaking world on its payroll. In fact, it's the preferred institutional home of those now-aging "St. Louis Jesuits" who swept out the old in 1969 and, by the mid-1970s, had parishes across the country clapping and strumming and tapping to the beat.
The OCP also sails under the flags of companies it has acquired, established, or represented along the way: New Dawn Music, Pastoral Press, North American Liturgy Resources, Trinitas, TEAM Publications, White Dove Productions, and Cooperative Ministries. Every time it purchases-or assumes the distribution of-another publisher, its assets and influence grow.
Power Without Authority
But while the OCP dictates the liturgies of most U.S. parishes, it has no ecclesiastical authority. It's a large nonprofit corporation-a publishing wing of the Diocese of Portland-and nothing else. It has never been empowered by the U.S. bishops, much less Rome, to oversee music or liturgy in American parishes. The OCP's power over Catholic liturgy is derived entirely from its copyrights, phenomenal sales, and marketing genius. Nonetheless, it wields the decisive power in determining the musical culture of most public Masses in the United States.
And once a parish dips into the product line of the OCP, it is very difficult to avoid full immersion. So complete and integrated is their program that it actually reconstructs the sense that the liturgy team has about what Catholicism is supposed to feel and sound like.
But few of those subject to the power of the OCP understand that it's the reason why Catholic liturgy so often seems like something else entirely. For example, pastors who try to control the problem by getting a grip on their liturgies quite often sense that they're dealing with an amorphous power without a name or face. That's because very few bother to examine the lay-directed materials that are shaping the liturgies. Too many priests are willing to leave music to the musicians, fearing that they lack the competence to intervene.
Meanwhile, the nature of the OCP is completely unknown to most laypeople. Many Catholics shudder, for example, when they hear the words Glory & Praise, the prototypical assortment of musical candy that was already stale about 15 years ago but which mysteriously continues to be repackaged and rechewed in parish after parish. "Here I am, Lord," "Be Not Afraid," "City of God," "One Bread, One Body," "Celtic Alleuia," and (wait for it) "On Eagle's Wings"-these all come courtesy of the OCP.
But at the publisher itself, this moldy repertoire is not an embarrassment. On the contrary, the publisher brags that Glory & Praise, whose copyright it acquired in 1994, continues to be the best-selling Catholic hymnal of all time. And what about those prayers of the faithful that seem far more politically than doctrinally correct? They're probably from the OCP, too. A new edition of its Prayer of the Faithful is printed every year. (In what is surely great news for the unrepentant, the OCP brags that the volume helpfully includes "creative alternatives to the Penitential Rite.")
Hijacking of Catholic Truth
It wasn't always like this. Before 1980, the OCP was called the Oregon Catholic Truth Society. It was founded in 1922 in response to a compulsory school-education law that forced Catholics to attend public schools. Archbishop Alexander Christie got together with his priests to found the society. Its aim: to fight bigotry and stand up for truth and Catholic rights.
In 1934, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society released a missal called My Sunday Missal. It was good-looking, inexpensive, and easy to use. It became the most popular missal ever (you can still run across it in used bookstores).
But the rest of the story is as familiar as it is troubling. Sometime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Oregon Catholic Truth Society began to lose its moorings. Catholic truth had to make room for the Age of Aquarius.
Thus, in the course of a single decade, a once-reliable representative of Catholic teaching became reliably unreliable. Money given to the organization to promote truth was now being used to advance a revolutionary approach to Catholic life, one that repudiated traditional forms of the faith. The only thing that did not change was the breadth of its influence: Under the new dispensation, it was still a powerhouse of Catholic publishing.
If you've been keeping up with the OCP's latest offerings, you know that the songs from the mid-1970s don't begin to plumb the depths. The newest OCP hymnals are jam-packed with music from the 1980s and 1990s, with styles meant to reflect the popular music trends of the time. (Actually, they're about five years behind the times.)
They sail under different names (Music Issue, Journeysongs, Heritage Hymnal, Glory & Praise), but the content is similar in all of them: an eclectic, hit-and-miss bag with an emphasis on new popular styles massaged for liturgical use. (Worst choice: Spirit & Song, which "encourages the youth and young adults of today to praise God in their own style.")
Some of the newer songs sound like variations on the musical themes you hear at the beginning of TV sitcoms. Some sound like Broadway-style love songs. Others have a vague Hawaiian, calypso, or blues feel. You never know what's going to pop up next.
Not all of it is terrible. In fact, there are real toe-tappers among the songs. The question to ask, however, is whether it's right for liturgy. The answer from the Church has been the same from the second century to the present day: The Mass requires special music, which is different from secular music and popular religious music. It must have its own unique voice-one that works, like the liturgy itself, to bring together time and eternity. It's a style perfectly embodied in chant, polyphony, and traditional hymnody.
The OCP revels in its ability to conflate these categories; indeed, that's the sum total of its purpose and effect. And judging from its newest new line of songs and CDs-"we just couldn't wait until our next General Catalog to tell you about it"-your parish can look forward to a variety of ska and reggae songs adapted for congregational purposes.
How It Hooks You
But let's go back to that innocent, floppy missalette. The OCP claims it has many advantages. Missalettes "make it easy for you to introduce the latest music to your parish, and changes in Church rituals are easy to implement." Thus the missalette is "always up-to-date."
It's also quite a bargain. If you buy more than 50 subscriptions to the quarterly missalette, you receive other goodies bundled inside. You'll get a Music Issue (the main OCP hymnal) to supplement the thin selection in the missalette. In addition, you'll receive a keyboard accompaniment book, a guitar book, the Choral Praise Comprehensive, a handy service binder, two annual copies of Respond & Acclaim for the psalm and the gospel acclamation, biannual copies of Prayer of the Faithful, two subscriptions to Today's Liturgy (which tells liturgy teams what to sing and say, when and how), and one master index. And the more you buy, the more you get.
Why would you want all this stuff? Well, if you're in parish music, you'll quickly discover that the missalette has too few hymns to cover the whole season. The Music Issue seems like an economical purchase. But there's something odd about the OCP's most popular music book: There's no scriptural index. How do you know what hymns fit with what gospel reading?
No problem. Just buy a copy of Today's Liturgy, which spells it all out for you. If you want a broader selection of possible hymns, you can also order the OCP's LitPlan software or its monthly Choral Resources, which is visually more complicated than the Federal Register (but still contains no scriptural index).
If you follow the free liturgical planner closely, you'll notice you can purchase a variety of choral arrangements and special new music (copyright OCP) that match perfectly with the response, the hymnal, and the missalette (copyright OCP), which is itself integrated with the prayers of the faithful (copyright OCP) and the gospel (not yet OCP copyright). And so it goes, until you follow the complete OCP plan for each Mass, from the first "Good morning, Father!" to the last "Go in peace to love and serve others!" By making each element dependent on the next, the OCP has ensured a steady-if trapped-clientele.
But why should the liturgy team go along with this program? The average parish musical team is made up of nonprofessionals. Its poorly paid members are untrained in music history; they have no particular craving for chant or polyphony, which often seems quite remote to them. Most musicians in average Catholic parishes would have no idea how to plug into the rite an extended musical setting from, say, the high Renaissance, even if they had the desire to do so.
The OCP understands this point better than most publishers. In an interview, Michael Prendergast, editor of Today's Liturgy, pointed again and again to the limited resources of typical parishes. The OCP sees serving such needs as a core part of its publishing strategy; its materials keep reminding us that we don't need to know Church music to get involved.
Lack of familiarity with the Church's musical tradition would not be a grave problem if there were a staple of standard hymns and Mass settings to fall back on. But it has been at least 30 years since such a setting was available in most parishes. The average parish musician wants to use his talents to serve the parish in whatever way possible, but he's at a complete loss as to how to do it without outside guidance. The OCP fills that vacuum.
Under its tutelage, you can aspire to be a real liturgical expert, which means you have attended a few workshops run by OCP-connected guitarists and songwriters (who explain that your job as a musician is to whip people into a musical frenzy: loud microphones, drum tracks, over-the-top enthusiasm when announcing the latest hymn). These "experts" love the OCP's material because it allows them to keep up the pretense that they have some special knowledge about what hymns should be used for what occasions and how the Mass ought to proceed.
Real Catholic musicians who have worked with the OCP material tell horror stories of incredible liturgical malpractice. The music arrangements are often muddled and busy, making it all but impossible for regular parishioners to sing. This is especially true of arrangements for traditional songs, where popular chords give old hymns a gauzy cast that reminds you of the 1970s group Chicago.
The liturgical planning guides are a ghastly embarrassment. Two years ago, for example, the liturgical planner recommended "Seek Ye First" for the first Sunday in Lent ("Al-le-lu-, Al-le-lu-yah"). In numerous slots during the liturgy, OCP offers no alternative to debuting its new tunes. When traditional hymns are offered, they're often drawn from the Protestant tradition, or else the words are changed in odd ways (see, for example, its strange version of "Ubi Caritas"). The liturgical instructions are equally pathetic. On July 8 this year, the liturgical columnist passes on this profound summary of the gospel of the day: "Live and let live."
The Middle Way?
Nevertheless, the OCP seems to have solved a major liturgical rift affecting today's local churches. Just as every parish used to have a low-Mass crowd and a high-Mass crowd, there are now two factions in parishes:
One wants more "contemporary" music of the sort seen in Life-Teen Masses-loud, rhythmic, and rockish. Another wants traditional music and sensibly asks whatever happened to the hymns of the old days. These two groups are forever at loggerheads and have been so for decades. In fact, most pastors are so sick of the dispute that they'll do anything to avoid talking about music at Mass.
This is where OCP steps in and serves as the peacekeeping moderate. After all, it's an established music publisher, and thanks to the missalette, it doesn't appear (at first) to be particularly partisan. Its literature contains enough traditional material to allow the liturgical team to claim they're sensitive to the needs of both the contemporary and traditional factions. Indeed, the OCP eschews the most extreme forms of grunge-metal Life-Teen music (though its Spirit & Song comes close). At first sight, it does appear to take the middle ground between two extremes. In truth, however, it's only slightly behind the curve of the most radical liturgical innovators-as it's always behind the curve in the popular styles it tries to imitate.
What about the other option of splitting up the Masses according to style, so that those who like traditional music can have their own Mass and the people who compose for the OCP can have theirs? Prendergast rejects this. Whether the style is traditional, contemporary, folk, or even "rock," Prendergast says, "everyone in the parish has to be exposed to it." And what if a pastor just doesn't like rock and other contemporary styles? Prendergast says, "I would talk to the [chancery's] Office of Worship about him." I asked whether that means he would turn this poor priest in to the bishop. His response: "I would try to arrange for him to attend a workshop on liturgy."
With a great deal of knowledge, careful planning, and conscious intent, it is possible to manufacture decent liturgies even if the OCP music is all you have. You'll have to dig to find the good hymns (10 to 20 percent in the typical OCP publications), but it can be done. It's also true that not everyone involved with the OCP wants to destroy all that has gone before. There are probably many people on its middle-aged staff who from time to time cringe at the music, just as the people in the pews do. For his part, Prendergast is sure that he thinks with the mind of the Church, and there's no reason to doubt his sincerity.
In fact, there are periodic signs of hope. Regular readers of Today's Liturgy might have been astounded to see the recent one-page article buried in its pages that urged children be taught Latin hymns and chant. "The Second Vatican Council did not destroy the tradition of chant," said the writer, who was a student of the excellent English composer John Rutter. "We can still claim our chant heritage as part of the living Church's journey into the future." Indeed we can! But the news seems to be slow in getting around the OCP office. (The same issue contained a blast against a poor old lady who read a prayer book during Mass instead of singing goodness knows what.)
What's completely amazing about the entire OCP family is how lacking it is in self-awareness. The poor quality of contemporary Catholic music is a cultural cliché that turns up in late-night shows, Woody Allen movies, and Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. It is legendary among real musicians. Ask an organist what he thinks about today's Catholic music, and you will receive a raised eyebrow or a knowing laugh.
What You Can Do Right Now
The truth is that no one is happy with the state of Catholic liturgical music-least of all musicians-and the OCP is a big part of the problem. So, what can you do? Step 1 is to get rid of the liturgical planning guides and use an old Scripture index to select good hymns that have stood the test of time (if you absolutely must continue to use the OCP's materials). Step 2 is to rein in the liturgical managers and explain to them that the Eucharist, and not music, is the reason people show up to Mass Sunday after Sunday. Step 3 is to get rid of the OCP hymnals and replace them with Adoremus or Collegeville or something from GIA (no, none of these is perfect, but they are all an oasis by comparison).
Finally, reconsider those innocuous little missalettes. These harmless-looking booklets may be the source of the trouble. Parishes can unsubscribe-accept no OCP handouts or volume discounts. There are plenty of passable missalettes and hymnals out there, and all the choral music you'll ever need is now public domain and easily downloadable for free (www.cpdl.org).
In his book, The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2000), Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger states clearly that popular music does not belong at Mass. Indeed, it's part of "a cult of the banal," and "rock" plainly stands "in opposition to Christian worship."
This is very strong language from the cardinal. And yet we know that many liturgy teams in American parishes will continue to do what they've been doing for decades-systematically reconstructing the liturgy to accommodate pop aesthetic sensibilities. The liturgy is treated not as something sublimely different but as a well-organized social hour revolving around religious themes.
It's up to you to decide the future course of your parish's liturgy: reverent worship or hootenanny. Despite what the OCP might tell you, you can't have both.
J.A. Tucker is the choral director of a schola cantorum and writes frequently for CRISIS.
I will hold your people in my heart. (What IS the derivation of that phrase?)
I was shocked to see the 2005 Music Issue from OCP had Adoro Te Devote with both Latin and the Hopkins English translation. I'm still waiting to see it listed when I walk in for Mass. I hesitate to mention it. I mentioned that I was glad to be able to sing Panis Angelicus after one Mass and we haven't had it again for two years.
Yeah, I have to admit that the protestants seem to have the corner on church music although I do like "The Canticle of the Turning."
As a twenty-something Roman Catholic, I have to ask, what is wrong with Eagles Wings, and Here I am Lord, and City of God?
I grew up with the hymnal "Glory and Praise". The Church I considered my home still has blue Glory and Praise hymnals. So for some of us, we don't really know what is the difference. Those are the songs that for me define Catholic, compared to some Protestant songs.
The Church I currently go to has Mass books with the Mass and the songs in the same book.
Please explain whats wrong with the above songs. I'll reply later, but I have to go to work now. So I'll see your response, but not for several hours.
I knew I shouldn't have looked at this post...now that danged "On Eagle's Wings" is running around polluting my head.
And some more:
The Complete Works of Tomas Luis de Victoria - online in PDF, MID, and some MP3s
The Choral Public Domain Library - the best value in Catholic liturgical music (search "Palestrina", "Byrd", "Tallis", "Morales", etc.)
Another twentysomething's take.
Admittedly, some of the "Glory and Praise" songs sound like they could be pitching laundry detergent, but I really enjoy "I Am the Bread of Life" and "City of God" and "Seek Ye First..."
I really like some of the songs, too...that said:
My husband is a classicly trained keyboard musician who has done church music all his life, since his teens. He's the organist for our parish, and he's also played for a local OSCO abbey, once for the ordination of a priest, by invitation. He's also a convert to the RC church, 16 years ago...
We love the old music, and he plays it occasionally at church, but rarely for a hymn selection, our parish priest uses OCD exclusively...Hub and I, for pleasure, go to the abbey where the Trappists let him play to his heart's content on their decent large electronic organ...the Gounot-Bach Ave Maria (most beautiful piece of music ever composed, imho) and his other favorite selections...Panis Angelicus...the rest.
We also love chant, and to hear the monks singing in the middle of the night, at dawn, during the day, at vespers...we sing with them if we are sure our voices will not stand out, but blend perfectly as they school theirs to do...
Music during the mass is a distraction, especially when our older congregation cannot or will not sing some of the oddball stuff the goofy music committee at the mother parish (we're a mission) selects. Once in a while, the priest will bring in something that comes straight from a protestant hymnal with maybe a word or two changed for the Catholics...
I recall when he was Lutheran (Missouri Synod) my husband's joy at playing truly classical and utterly exquisite pipe organ pieces, and the abject sense of loss he had with the Catholic OCD music...unless you've spent your life at it, you probably can't imagine the grief, and the price he paid in silence...He'll always be a Catholic, but imho the OCD are nothing but derivative junk.
Wrong? I don't know if I would say wrong, more like, close but no cigar.
To my untrained ear a lot of the 1970's - 90's tunes are too choppy, too many eighth notes. Too much prancing about, not built for those of us from peasant stock. Not written to be sung by those with little confidence in their ability to sing. Just an opinion, but they won't last.
A lot of the traditionalists also point out that the lyric content is oriented toward I, I, I and not so much toward worship.
On Eagle's Wings is supposed to be based on Psalm 91 but I'll be darned if I can figure out where in Psalm 91 the refrain comes from:
And He will raise you up on eagle's wings, Bear you on the breath of dawn, Make you to shine like the sun, And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
Then there's the whole minor key to major key change in going from the verse to the refrain. The emotional tone seems a little forced.
Here I Am, Lord. Pretty good melody in the refrain, much better than the verse which always seems labored to me. Do you know the derivation of the phrase: I will hold Your people in my heart? I don't know why that phrase makes me grit my teeth but it does. Maybe if I knew it was based on Scripture, I could get used to it.
City of God? Can't comment, haven't heard that one enough recently. I could make a wise-ass comment about how I remember it but that would be pointless. I think maybe it's starting to fade from the scene.
There's nothing particularly wrong with any of the current tunes that are played over and over and over again but we tossed aside a lot of good tunes for no better reason than being 'up to date'. And we just follow OCP's suggestions for appropriate tunes without much thought. Some of the old tunes are still in the hymnals. They just don't get played. Why not?
Once in a while, I like singing something that has stood the test of time. In some way it connects me to everybody in the past that sang the same song.
I think the article makes a good point that OCP sells a whole product line that is helpful to most parishes with limited resources. Better than inventing the wheel from scratch. But they do have a particular vision of Catholic liturgy and they are only lay people with no particular authority.
The problem with these happy-clappy songs -- one problem, anyway -- is precisely the fact that they give pleasure. Sacred music should not be ugly, of course. But it should not be an aesthetic experience for its own sake. In some protestant traditions, church music exists to be manipulate enthusiasms, to sweep the hearers along, especially with rhythm and syncopation that seek an outlet in a physical response. This is very different from what it should be doing, which is supporting prayer. The happy-clappy songs are so busy and invasive that they destroy the inner serenity and composure most of us need for genuine prayer or contemplation to exist. Furthermore, they inhibit community worship, in that they separate the able singers from those less nimble. Sacred music should be a reflection of perfect communion, in which all of us are doing the same thing.
Music that derives from secular pop models denies the sense of the sacred, implying that whatever is good enough for us in our daily lives is good enough for God. It reinforces a subtext that the Church is really about progress and change and rejection of the old and pandering to the young. It prepares the ground for liturgical novelties of every sort. It lacks the vertical dimension and thus fails to lift the mind and heart. It is a reflection of our own trash culture, reinforcing the idea that even worship is all about us. In the end, it's our own self-image that we're worshipping, our own expectations that we serve, our own appetities that we gratify. In the end, this new music boils down to self-worship.
Fuhgeddabahit. However, you could go and ask for it - but don't hold your breath.
My sister works as a music director in an Episcopal church that hired her because she plays the organ and is also well-versed in Gregorian chant, traditional Catholic music, etc. Catholic churches, on the other hand, have no interest in this, and when she has applied for local Catholic church positions, they tell her they want somebody who likes "contemporary" music - Marty Haugen and the St. Louis Jesuits, for example.
Of course, these guys haven't been "contemporary" for 40 years now, but neither has Father or the aging and reduced parish council, so I guess that's okay with them.
Fair question and you've already received some excellent answers and if you reread them all for me, I agree with all they said.
1. Most are more difficult to sing. Traditional hymns are easier, much easier, the only problem might be if your voice can't cover the scale plus an extra note or two, and that goes for the modern stuff too.
2. Impoverished theology bordering on masonic, at least for the song I detest "Gather us in". With no mention of Our Lord, I imagine this being sung at Masonic Lodges. Compare the theology in traditional hymns vs the happy emotional sentiments of modern songs. Think of "Lord who at Thy First Eucharist didst Pray" "Crown him with many crowns" "Church's One Foundation" (yes, I know that was written by Protestant-it still works for Catholics) Father, We Thank thee, Humbly Lord We Worship Thee, Holy Holy Holy,
3. Since these poor songs bump better ones, I dislike them all the more. Catholicism is imbued with tradition and Tradition and the idea that one epoch of Church history, 1960 and on has the "best" music is preposterous. Sure, add a few modern songs, but most of them belong at that Sunday 5 pm Guitar mass.
4. I do like "Gifts of Finest Wheat" among modern hymns
My opinion only, that one has the possibility of lasting. If the verse is played simply and doesn't get too overwrought. By the time you get to the third verse the congregation gets out of breath if the musicians push it to its limits. Some of the traditionalists have commented that the congregation singing 'in the person' of God is all wrong and can lead to incorrect understanding.
Okay, I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack but that sounds stupid, even to me.
Seek Ye First
Not bad. A simple tune. Stays within an octave, no one is going to be intimidated by it. Everybody can take a crack at it.
Ah, yes, the "liturgical music director" will now direct the congregation. Vapid,sing-song drivel more suited for a hippie commune or 1970's soft-drink commercial than any sort of Catholic religious service is the hallmark of almost all NO churches I've had the misfortune of attending in my lifetime. I am 30-something, not in my 20's, but had the opportunity to hear traditional Catholic hymns in my childhood before the predominance of OCP drivel. I pity you, Gopher. Post VATII Catholic liturgical music is some of the most God-awful dreck ever yowled and screeched by human throats. I strongly advise you to explore the traditions of your Church prior to the revolution Father Limpwrist, Bishop Aging Hipster and their heretical cronies try to deny ever happened.
On a purely temporal level and as a music lover, it's a lousy, sappy, dated song.
On a spiritual level it's a non-focused humanistic window dressing feel-good pop song that has not a thing to do with the sacred liturgy or our history.
The melodic structure you hear in our sacred music dates back to what was heard in the temples of the Israelites before our Lord walked the earth. It's the soundtrack of our faith. Such brings with it reverence and offers depth and meaning.
The poppy self-help pop songs bring with them a feeling of wanting to tie a rock to my head and jump in the river behind my house.
The fundies hate us Catholics because we can go and gamble and drink at the church and have fun....
Beautiful antidote! wow!
Some contemporary Catholic music is very good such as John Michael Talbott. It seems the traditional music is out the door- while the middle age to older croud prefers the "gather" (The worst song is taste and see), type music- Most younger Catholics now want the evangelical fundamentalist rock music.
Ok, now that you've pointed it out, I'm not so sure I can find the part about the palm of God's hand.
As for Here I am Lord, I really see it as a great song, and an inspiration. As for holding God's people in one's heart, it means to love all and serve all. As Jesus loved and served and demonstrated at the Last Supper. Its also always spoke to me about St. Peter and the apostles who fostered the early Church by holding all the early Christians in their heart. Its a song that makes one seriously reflect on a possible vocation, at least it does to me.
Some of the other songs can get too inclusive language'y and its about feelings(ugh I hate it when it goes to feelings). But I was looking for why these songs are liturgically wrong. I know no better for songs, so I was hoping you'ld help me see it.
I'm in the choir of my ECUSA parish (bass-baritone). I'm pretty good at sight-reading. I went to my wife's uncle's funeral, as a pall-bearer, at a local Catholic parish. When the first hymn came up, I opened up the hymnal (noting that it was in unison; the 4 parts weren't written in) and started to sing. Just about everyone else there was Catholic.
The first thing I noted was that I was the only one singing. The second thing I noted was that there was a good reason for that; the hymn was just about unsingable unless you, like the church musician, didn't mind sounding like a hotel lounge singer. I tried joining in on the second hymn and gave it up as a bad job.
My wife interrupted me in the car as we left; "I know, the music is terrible." I told her, "Put a baseball bat in my coffin. If the musician starts playing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' as my coffin is wheeled down the aisle, I want you to grab it and whack him with it until he stops."
Say what you will about the ECUSA, but the music is a lot more amenable to a spiritual approach to God than what I heard that day.
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