Friday, July 7


Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth...

That's what's going on at the headquarters of my hometown Catholic newspaper over the new Mass translation. The whole article is full of little tirades, but here are some of the highlights:

"I think it’s a pastoral disaster ... it’s a terrible thing."

"It’s obviously distressing,"

“I think a lot of musicians are frustrated and saddened by the thought of
dismissing 30-plus years of repertoire,”

Yes, I'm weeping about that right now. While I can think of a couple of Gloria settings I'll miss, for the most part I can't say as I'll exactly be distressed over the loss of even the better of the English Mass settings. And really, won't your average modern Gloria setting, being responsorial, be as melodically stretchable in this direction as they were in that? (For more on that, see this article.)

Crying over a few decades of repertoire shows just a bit of liturgical myopia. Let's see, we'll give them 40 years of music, just to be generous: 40/2006=~2% That still leaves us with 98% of our Christian musical history to draw on. And don't forget, that's just 2% of Mass settings, since no one's declared textual changes to "City of God," to my knowledge. And given Fr. Michael Joncas's own assertion that most of modern liturgical music won't last more than a few decades, anyway, it's really not such a great loss, now, is it?

And since your average parish uses 1-2 Mass settings for the whole year (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Memorial Acclamation, Amen), that's something like 12 new pieces to learn (Eight really, since most parishes don't sing the Kyrie and the Acclamation and Amen are always the same tune). Eight. One memorizes more new radio jingles than that in a year, without any effort. Somehow I think we can manage this. Run it through a couple of times before Mass, even, to make sure everyone's got it. We survived a couple of new missals in the 60s, somehow, I think we'll make it through this, too.

The big question will be who gets to it first. Nature abhors a vaccum, and with a big upcoming liturgical music vaccuum, parish music ministries are likely to snatch up whatever's available when the changes become official. Given the obvious aversion to change we see evidenced in the article, the first half-way decent one to come along is likely to be the one that sticks. Who will write the next Mass of Creation, and what will it sound like? Given general trends in liturgical music, there is reason to hope for improvement over the last time around, and there is certainly a more poetic text to work with, but only time and GIA will tell us what Mass in America will look like, musically, in the next several years.

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