Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Say Cheesy!

There are many little things that serve to make life more pleasant, and they are often the patient work of skilled hands. Good meals made from scratch, beautiful music, and richly worded poetry are among them.  The mass-produced, the inane, the vulgar, and the bland become much less appealing when held alongside these things.

Tonight my husband drew my attention to this post over at Fr. Z's blog which links to a recently composed sample of bland lounge music a setting for the new translation of the Gloria in the forthcoming new (and, dare I say, improved) missal.

If you are interested in assailing your ears for a moment, click here.

Here I must paraphrase the fictionalized version of Mozart in the film Amadeus. "One hears such sounds and what can one say but... turn of the century liturgical music!"
I once saw a T.V. documentary explaining the process by which perfectly good cheese is adulterated with procesed fats and artificial colorings in order to produce the ubiquitous single slice of American cheese.  Oddly enough, this composition put me in mind of that.

I have been a liturgical singer since I was in my teens. Up to and during that period of my life, the works of Haugen and Haas, as well as much protestant worship music, made up the bulk of the music I heard and sang at mass. It was not until my college years (at a secular university) that I was exposed to truly traditional and well-performed Catholic music, and knew it for what it was.  I had to take courses from the Music department at my university and join one of the performance choirs in order to learn about and sing what had previously been hidden from me.  It had been hidden, in part, because many in the generation before mine had ignored it, laboring under the misconception that the young have no capacity to appreciate that which is old.

Hearing traditional music after a lifetime of hearing the new stuff is much like trying gourmet cheese after a lifetime of eating Velveeta.

What I have seen of the new English translation is more poetic, more faithful to the Latin, and more theologically "meaty" than that which we currently use.   It is the hope of many that this will lead to a more beautiful liturgy and better catechesis for the Faithful.  In particular, I would like to see the Latin Rite liturgy in America better retain its Catholic identity. (We can take a lesson from Eastern Catholics as well as our Orthodox brothers and sisters here, whose worship suggests a preoccupation with tradition over superficial modernization.) Maybe the new translation will even encourage a higher level of composition for liturgial music?   Maybe?

I am not insisting that we all have to install massive pipe organs in our churches and start singing nothing but FaurÄ—, Mozart, Byrd and Palestrina.  Not all choirs have the skill for that.  Simple, traditional hymns have enough of the poetic and the reverent in their lyrics and their composition to sound lovely with less traditional guitar or piano accompaniment.  For new mass settings, it might be worthwhile to take some of our cues from these.

Or, if I may continue my cheese analogy, if you can't have brie, try a good, everyday cheddar!

Alas, listening to the sample above is like watching someone pour Cheez Whiz all over a delicately prepared filet mignon.

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