Skip to comments.The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music
Posted on 01/18/2005 10:13:36 AM PST by siunevada
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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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