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The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music
Crisis Magazine ^ | January 1, 2002 | J.A. Tucker

Posted on 01/18/2005 10:13:36 AM PST by siunevada

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To: Romulus

Thanks, I agree with you for many songs. But their basic blue Glory and Praise hymnal, I didn't think those were based on popular songs. I just can't seem to picture them as anything but Church music sounding.

I agree some Churches try to get progressive music, a friend used to go to one of those Churches, and it was one of the last two Catholic Churches she went to. I think that sounds horrid. Church should be about music to sing with the Angels, sing of God's praise, and focus on God. As far as I've known, the Glory and Praise hymns did this. Maybe it is my naivity, it sure could be, as I've been raised on those hymns.

As for a singing contest, well to be perfectly honest, I guess at times I strived to be the best, but I grew up and realized that as long as you're singing with your heart, it doesn't matter, God is pleased no matter what your voice sounds like.

21 posted on 01/18/2005 9:00:37 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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To: Piers-the-Ploughman

Thanks for the answer, you're right I did receive some information. It was appreciated.

1. See my last reply. I'm sure it wasn't created for singing contests. I guess since I learned with the new stuff I don't really have the difficult to sing problem.

2. Actually when people kept writing about traditional songs, easier to sing, I kept thinking the lowest toned song I could think of off the top of my head "Gather us in". Upon further reflection, I guess you're right about its lack of liturgical mention. As far as older tone, I thought that was exactly what people were thinking. I've heard of and sung "Crown Him with many crowns", "Holy Holy Holy", and "Tantum Ergo", but the rest are unknown to me.

3. I can't comment on the songs they bumped, for I didn't know them.

4. Gifts of finest wheat is now stuck in my head.

22 posted on 01/18/2005 9:09:10 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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To: Fast Ed97

Taste and See! I know that song well! I would have to say though the worst is One Bread One Body. There's the line "One Cup of blessing which WE bless." Not God Blessing the cup, but WE. Ok that drives me nuts.

23 posted on 01/18/2005 9:12:44 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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To: siunevada

I like both those. Seek Ye First, is one of my favorites, as is I Am the Bread of Life.

24 posted on 01/18/2005 9:14:23 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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To: RonF

You may have been in a Catholic church, but what you heard was NOT Catholic music.
I rarely hear Catholic music in my Catholic parish.

25 posted on 01/18/2005 9:16:38 PM PST by rogator
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To: infidel dog

Well unfortunately, that was the time I was born into. I know the Liturgy has gotten much more liberal and very inclusive lately, but I never took the time to think about the music.

As you point out, the Music director controlls the tempo of everything now. It starts with total control of the opening prayer in song, and doesn't end until after the Priest leaves during the closing song.

26 posted on 01/18/2005 9:17:10 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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See as someone growing up to it in the 80's it had no semblance of pop to it anymore.

I agree it is about feelings, and its a feel good song. It doesn't speak of repentence for sins, or anything like that. In that aspect its wrong, but it is a nice melody, turns people to focus on God, and it talks of His unending and limitless Love for His people.

This is the first time I can recall thinking seriously about those songs, other than reflecting on how they apply to life and their message.

27 posted on 01/18/2005 9:22:37 PM PST by GopherGOPer
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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.

Thank you for that wonderful paragraph.

As I understand my music history, it was Pope Gregory (the Great?) who gathered the music together, had it written down, and enhanced its use in the mass. Same exact melodies used by Hebrews, cantor and congregation...he wrote down the music in a form that our present day evolved from, from 3, to 4, to 5 lines.

Also, I have read that there are portions of the brain that remain inactive throughout life, unless/until awakened by "Gregorian Chant." To hear the Trappist monks is awesome...

No wonder OCD turns me off. I was surprised to find one song in the OCD missalette--but not in Glory and Praise, iirc-- "The King of Glory Comes" (our priest only uses it once a year, on Christ the King Sunday) and the melody was said to be an ancient Israeli melody...when Hub plays that one, I always feel like dancing.

28 posted on 01/18/2005 9:41:26 PM PST by Judith Anne (Thank you St. Jude for favors granted.)
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To: GopherGOPer; infidel dog; Kolokotronis
"the Music director controlls the tempo of everything now. It starts with total control of the opening prayer in song, and doesn't end until after the Priest leaves during the closing song..."

In the Orthodox tradition, neither the priest nor the choir director/chanters control the "tempo" of the services. It is a symbiotic relationship, with the result being (if not sabotaged -- on purpose or by accident -- by one or the other) a seamless liturgical flow. I have attended Orthodox services in large cathedrals with highly skilled choirs and chanters and in tiny missions with a couple of people to chant the hymns and responses, and it far more often than not has the same effect in either situation.

In traditional Orthodox worship, there certainly is no discussion about what hymnology will be sung. The choir director/chanters have basically nothing to say about the texts that will be used at any given service. With only modest effort, one could determine the text, the rubrics, and the melodies that will be sung at Vespers on Jan 20 2015 if I wanted to. And they will almost certainly not be exactly the same as at Vespers on Jan 20 2014.

Properly done, within each musical tradition, those chanting the responses don't even have much to say about the melodies to which the texts will be sung for much of the service -- the tone/mode of the melody, the type of melody, and often the melody itself is specified for each piece of hymnology in the service books.

Matins and Vespers in particular have great variability in the texts appointed to be sung, and yet the amount of coordination needed prior to any service between chanters and clergy is minimal to none, since we are literally both on the same page...

The true Western liturgical traditions were basically the same, and it is sad to see this all lost. Whereas one can hear traditional Byzantine chant in the smallest village church of Greece or in the largest cathedral in Romania, one can generally only experience traditional Western chants in academic recordings nowadays.

I recently bought a wonderful recording of music that was sung at the Liturgy of the Nativity of Christ from the archives of a large English cathedral -- music that dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Beautiful stuff, and remarkably like "modern" Eastern Orthodox worship. But you won't hear this at Sunday worship at any church in England -- only in effete recordings by professional musicologists and choirs...

29 posted on 01/18/2005 10:20:23 PM PST by Agrarian
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To: Piers-the-Ploughman
With no mention of Our Lord, I imagine this being sung at Masonic Lodges.

"Gather us in" is indeed based on a Masonic song. A musically-trained friend of mine first heard it while passing by a California lodge.

30 posted on 01/19/2005 2:36:27 AM PST by Dumb_Ox (Ares does not spare the good, but the bad.)
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To: Aristotle721
Ah....I feel better already. Thank you.

You might be interested in this group:

Trio Mediaeval

(I'm sorry; I can't get the link to work, but it's available on or Barnes and Noble.)

I heard these ladies singing on a local (NYC-based) TV show and thought their voices were incredible. The songs they sing on the album would, of course, have been sung only by men at the time of their writing, but I tell you...the female voices on the recording are...ethereal.

BTW...I find the traditional hymns and even chant MUCH easier to sing. They say they want participation, but how can a regular gal "participate" in singing songs only highly professional Broadway performers can sing?


31 posted on 01/19/2005 4:58:26 AM PST by VermiciousKnid
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To: siunevada

The songs I see in the missals suck major you know what. Lots of I, me, and we in the songs. Sadly, looks like half of them are protestant songs anyway.

32 posted on 01/19/2005 5:00:12 AM PST by Conservative til I die
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To: infidel dog
"Faith of our Fathers, Holy Faith,
We will be true to thee 'till death."
33 posted on 01/19/2005 6:12:08 AM PST by AlbionGirl
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To: GopherGOPer
I'm just old enough to have, as a kid, sung the 'old' songs in the parish choir - Holy, Holy, Holy, Ave Maria, etc., all of a sudden those songs disappeared and were replaced by the mostly non singable 'new' songs or secular music inclusions like "Morning has broken". To my uneducated ears, the 'new' songs always seemed to be focused on us instead of Him - or - we were singing in God's voice to ourselves. I don't think most Catholics think about the music but when they do, they realize the music now is separate from the Mass (think of how the choir director gets up stands in front and everyone focuses on him/her instead of the Mass) and doesn't seem to flow from the Mass anymore. You should try for one of the Latin Indult Masses to see the difference - a properly said Novus Ordo would also be fine but they are hard to find - although you could watch the EWTN Mass to see what I mean.

I think most Catholics just chalk it up and realize they go to Mass because they want to spend an hour with their Savior and receive His Body and Blood... so the music gets a pass. But I always notice that not many do sing the 'new' stuff, more lift their voices to the 'old' stuff.

Check out the archived articles on music found on Adoremus's website, especially the article by Fr. Paul Scalia (son of Judge A. Scalia) 'Ritus Narcissus: Why Do We Sing Ourselves and Celebrate Ourselves?' .

Imagine the following scene: You arrive at Mass on Sunday, eager to thank God for His goodness to you. You slide into the pew early, kneel in prayer, and direct your praise and worship to your Lord and God. You stand as the song leader introduces the opening hymn: "Table of Plenty". Suddenly your praise comes to a screeching halt, not because of your own prayers, but because of what you are singing. In fact you are no longer praising God at all, but singing to the others:

Come to the feast of heaven and earth!
Come to the table of plenty!
God will provide for all that we need,
here at the table of plenty.

Now it gets worse: you begin to sing His lines:

O, come and sit at my table
where saints and sinners are friends.
I wait to welcome the lost and lonely
to share the cup of my love.

And so at the very beginning of Mass, your conversation with God is derailed and transformed into a participation in the congregation's introspection.

If the topic interests you, I would recommend Thomas Day's 'Why Catholics Can't Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste'. You can find it used on the internet.
34 posted on 01/19/2005 6:36:16 AM PST by american colleen
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To: rogator

Half the anthems my choir sings were written for the Catholic church pre-schism (I'm talking about RCC/CofE schism). My guess is that if you picked up the ECUSA 1980 Hymnal, you'd find much you could use in an RCC parish. The front 1/3 of the book has service music; Sursum Corda, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Kyrie, Gloria, the Lord's Prayer (you'd have to chop off the end of what we sing), the Apostle's Creed, Psalms, and a whole bunch of other stuff. The rest is numerous hymns that I'm sure you could use some of, written in 4 part harmony (and there's a special edition for the organist; I don't think you'll find an edition for guitar or saxophone, though).

If you can find a copy of the 1940 Hymnal, there's instructions for chanting in it.

35 posted on 01/19/2005 7:24:14 AM PST by RonF
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To: Conservative til I die

Is "Amazing Grace" in the missals? I forget, haven't seen one in years.

Also, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God"?

36 posted on 01/19/2005 7:26:29 AM PST by fishtank
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To: GopherGOPer
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.

Looks some others like american colleen have touched on that.

For me they aren't so much wrong as less than they could be. The music bothers me more than the lyric content in most of the hymns. Although, when I sing (and I do sing even if I am groaning inside) "I will hold Your people...", I can't help but think, "Hey, it's all about ME, babe." Not a well oriented thought and not our actual experience.

As for "palm of His hand", I think I would be able to find that in one of the Psalms. Maybe the rest of the refrain could be located somewhere but it all seems cobbled together.

And I detest it when the responsorial Psalm is sung in a 'modern' translation. We're not idiots, we can understand a fairly straight translation of the ancient phrases of the Psalms. It seems very condescending to dumb down the phrasing.

37 posted on 01/19/2005 8:41:50 AM PST by siunevada
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To: Conservative til I die
Sadly, looks like half of them are protestant songs anyway.

Last week we sang Precious Lord and the week before that we sang How Great Thou Art.

I didn't look at the copyrights but I think they both come from protestant traditions. And I don't have a problem with that. If they express the truth and the melody can be sung by those of us with little confidence in our singing then they seem okay to me.

38 posted on 01/19/2005 8:49:33 AM PST by siunevada
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To: GopherGOPer
Please explain whats wrong with the above songs.

You've already gotten my responses re: not so much 'wrong' as less than they could be.

I would also point to the Catechism. What does the Church say about liturgical music and do these songs fit or are they 'shoehorned' in to the Church's intentions for music?

1157 Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are "more closely connected . . . with the liturgical action," according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration. In this way they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful:

How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears, distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face—tears that did me good.

1158 The harmony of signs (song, music, words, and actions) is all the more expressive and fruitful when expressed in the cultural richness of the People of God who celebrate. Hence "religious singing by the faithful is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises as well as in liturgical services," in conformity with the Church's norms, "the voices of the faithful may be heard." But "the texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine. Indeed they should be drawn chiefly from the Sacred Scripture and from liturgical sources."

39 posted on 01/19/2005 9:00:36 AM PST by siunevada
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To: GopherGOPer
Everyone has given you some food for thought. I thought I might add one point that is as applicable to Protestants who embrace "contemporary" music as it is to Catholics.

Although worship of God is the point of all liturgy, the experience of corporate worship is also a binding force within the church (any church, I mean). We are creatures and we are greatly affected by our environment.

When churches "update" music, they have to commit to a more or less constant level of change to stay "updated". Eventually the congregation can lose touch with each other musically. Your Great Grandma might not much appreciate Eagle's Wings and you can bet that your kid sister thinks much of your taste in music is dated.

Traditional hymns, however, stand apart from pop culture. I'm not wild about Ave Maria personally but it does evoke a very strong and specific sense of reverence within me. I know it, my mother knew it, my grandmother knew it and who knows how many other relatives? It is part of my heritage as an Anglo-Catholic. Will anyone be able to pass on these songs to future generations without giggling? It's something to think about.
40 posted on 01/19/2005 9:39:23 AM PST by Gingersnap
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