Catholic influence on the wider Church

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Southern Comfort
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Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by Southern Comfort »

Just watching Songs of Praise with six primary school choirs competing in the semi-final to see which three will go through to the final. Some fine vocal training in evidence here.

Among the six hymns/songs are the following:

Make me a channel of your peace (Temple)
Here I am, Lord (Schutte)
On eagle's wings (Joncas)

— three out of the six. That 50% would have been unheard of 20 years ago. Catholic writers are having a considerable and increasing influence on other Christian denominations.

I find it encouraging that this is happening at a time when Pope Francis's example of leaving aside the trappings of his office and showing a genuine concern for the poor and oppressed is also giving a strong lead to the wider Church and indeed to the world.

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VML
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by VML »

Interesting and rather encouraging observation, SC.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by Nick Baty »

Yes, we've made a huge contribution to music for worship.
Yes, we have superb social teaching.
But what does the-person-in-the-street hear?
Sadly, neither of these.

alan29
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by alan29 »

Nick Baty wrote:Yes, we've made a huge contribution to music for worship.
Yes, we have superb social teaching.
But what does the-person-in-the-street hear?
Sadly, neither of these.


Their source of information is the press which only seems interested in one sphere of human life, sadly.

dmu3tem
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by dmu3tem »

Yes, Catholic musical influence on other churches is certainly more extensive than it used to be. However, there are still many serious problems:

[1] If all denominations have Sunday services at more or less the same time this reduces the potential for cross-over, not so much amongst the 'rank and file', who can 'pick and mix', but among regulars such as the clergy and musicians who have to be in the same church every week. I have frequently found anecdotal examples of astonishing ignorance among non-Catholic christians. For example Anglican Choir directors in major Cathedrals who do not seem to know that there has been a new translation of the Mass or the system of vetting for all new compositions that has been set up.

[2] The new translations of the Mass seem almost 'designed' to prevent ecumenical 'cross-over' in the usage of Mass text settings. Anglican Holy Communion settings still rely on translations that are identical to the 'old' 1973 ICEL translations.

[3] Amongst many non-Catholics Catholic church music - especially performance practice and singing - still has a very poor reputation. From a technical angle the same criticism is still sometimes made against Catholic composers. Catholic musicians do not help themselves if they do not make strenuous attempts to raise standards. Major obstacles include the following:
(a) A tendency to focus on liturgy as a way of 'evading' technical musical issues. For example, if a new composition is shown to a group of fellow musicians more time is frequently spent discussing the text content itself as opposed to how it has been set musically.
(b) An unconscious assumption - particularly amongst 'folk' musicians - that taking trouble with details and rehearsals is somehow elitist. I frequently find with such players a reluctance to provide proper parts for instrumentalists (e.g. leaving it to Clarinettists to make transpositions themselves, no proper dynamic, tempo, bar numbering or other 'bells and whistles').
(c) An unwillingness - especially among 'folk' musicians again - to consider the needs of the congregation. I recently encountered a situation where a group refused to use a melody instrument to deliver the first few bars of a hymn to the congregation as an introduction despite the fact that the hymn was almost certainly unknown to that particular congregation. Similarly, amongst clergy, there is a reluctance to accept that new congregational music has to be rehearsed with them beforehand (This reluctance, by the way, is not confined to Catholic clergy - I recently had a major clash with my Anglican vicar on this point).
(d) At grass roots level there often seems to be a real shortage of competent musicians who know how do such things as arrange music, write out parts properly, rehearse a choir-music group (including warming-up voices and other techniques of vocal projection).

One final observation. I have recently been looking at music service programmes published by many Anglican cathedrals and other similar choral establishments. I note that at Holy Communion in many cases it is standard practice for the choir to sing old Latin Mass settings (e.g. St George's Chapel, Windsor, Durham Cathedral, Temple Church London). I find this astonishing. I also note that the same policy pervades at the main Sunday Mass in Westminster Cathedral. Note how in both Anglican and Catholic institutions such policies effectively exclude the use of vernacular 'mass' or Holy Communion settings designed for sophisticated and highly trained choirs. You therefore get a divide between Cathedral and Parish practice in such circumstances shutting off the possibility of adding really sophisticated vernacular music to Cathedral repertoire. This particularly applies to the Catholic church because the 'rubrics' for the new translations require vernacular Ordinary settings to be sung by congregations. If I were to submit a Cathedral type setting to the Bishops Conference vetting panel I imagine it would be rejected on these grounds alone.
T.E.Muir

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VML
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by VML »

Would you like to define 'folk' musicians please?

I agree that parish circumstances make congregational rehearsal difficult. After years of my hoping for a little quiet respect before Mass, PP decided around the time of the new translation that we will have a prayer then silence, -of a kind...- for five minutes before Mass. But the church is barely a quarter full before the silence, so runs through are not as useful as they might be.

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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by dmu3tem »

You asked for my definition of 'folk' musicians. Here is my approach (not necessarily the official one).

I mean smallish instrumental groups consisting of Guitars (playing rhythm chords but unable otherwise to read music), singers (usually untrained voices and the same as the Guitar players) and (sometimes) one or more melody instruments to give the tune and possibly a descant.

Repertoire usually consists of things like the Israeli Mass, O the Love my Lord is the essence, and Peace Perfect Peace.

I distinguish quite sharply between this sort of group and combinations consisting of classically trained instrumentalists handled in a Classical way with fully written out and arranged parts supporting the congregation e.g. Oboe, Violin and Clarinet.
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musicus
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by musicus »

The term 'folk', as used here by Thomas and elsewhere by many others, is totally unconnected with folk music (as in English Folk Song and Dance Society, etc). In fact, it isn't a generic term at all, but almost a term of abuse (well, derogatory, certainly). In my experience, virtually any instrument can be usefully employed in any genre that calls for instruments. Whether they are appropriate, well-played, competently arranged for, etc, is another matter.

I know of several amateur "smallish instrumental groups consisting of guitars, ... singers ... and ... melody instruments ..." that sing and play well, use effective arrangements, and have a wide-ranging repertoire of good and appropriate music. They probably wouldn't call themselves folk groups (even if their congregations still cling to the term), and they almost certainly wouldn't call themselves classical musicians - an equally abused term - but they would almost certainly be insulted by such a description as has been given here.
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alan29
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by alan29 »

Gosh - musical snobbishness.
I won't go further.

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VML
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by VML »

As a practical musician who had only a very few organ lessons and Grade 2 piano, I am mostly what some would call self taught. Only I have learnt huge amounts from folk musicians over the last 48 years. It would do many church guitar players good to get out into the folk community and absorb ways to improve their playing, whether with or without being able to read music. I too despair of guitar players who refuse to progress beyond a scrubbing strum, but they are not folk musicians.
When my husband plays Irish slow airs on a whistle, accompanied by my English concertina, we are folk musicians.
We don't use these instruments in church. He was fortunate to have been taught recorder by a perfectionist teacher: Fr Gregory Murray.
And I use my experience and regular practice of traditional singing to encourage our congregation. It would be great if they were as instinctive in their use of spontaneous harmony singing as the average traditional folk club, but you can't have everything.

So thanks musicus for your defence of less formally qualified music groups.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by Nick Baty »

VML wrote:So thanks musicus for your defence of less formally qualified music groups.
And let's remember that some of the most highly qualified musicians working in our churches are among the worst liturgical musicians.

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Gwyn
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by Gwyn »

And let's remember that some of the most highly qualified musicians working in our churches are among the worst liturgical musicians.

How true this is.

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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by JW »

Gwyn wrote:
And let's remember that some of the most highly qualified musicians working in our churches are among the worst liturgical musicians.

How true this is.


Who is being attacked here? Sorry, but I think a statement like this has to be justified.

Is there only the one perspective on what constitutes good liturgical music. e.g. what is done in Westminster Cathedral, whose DOM is involved with SSG? The music in most of our churches bears little comparison with this (for a start it tends to be in the vernacular).

There is, as far as I'm aware, no liturgical qualification for the common or garden church musician and in documents such as the GIRM are quite flexible, so by what criteria does one judge a poor liturgical musician? If someone is highly qualified as a musician, then s/he will at least have had some training in and appreciation of, the liturgical music of the past. Modern Catholic worship has progressed in the last 50 years but is still in a state of flux. I may not agree, for example, with the liturgical music that certain churches use but I would not presume to say that it is poor liturgy.

If a musician, regardless of training, is considered to be a poor liturgical musician, then the church that employs him/her (whether paid or voluntary) should arrange for appropriate support for him/her to improve. If they cannot, or will not adjust, then dispense with that person's services.

However difficult it is, I think we have to be very careful about labelling other liturgical musicians as "worst". See also my post on the latest M & L.
JW

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Gwyn
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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by Gwyn »

I don't see anyone or anything being attacked. I'm aware though that it is not uncommon that a choir leader has been chosen simply because he or she can play the organ; or that a music group leader has been appointed simply because he or she can play the guitar/flute/cello.

We forum members will all be aware that in order to lead a choir or music group, one requires a quiver full of skills: interpersonal, musical, conciliatory, yadda - yadda - yadda.

I'm sure that many may have experienced the consequence(s) that occur when the wrong individual is chosen.

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Re: Catholic influence on the wider Church

Post by nazard »

This thread is going on gloriously meaninglessly - actually even worse that that, it can mean whatever any reader wants it to mean. I have been taught over the years what constitues a bad performance: poor intonation, musicians not together, errors in counting and so on ad inf. Good performance restrains and reduces all these to an acceptable level, whatever that might mean, but additionally requires that little bit of musicianship, whatever that means. We are talking way beyond anything that can be measured, so objectivity is pretty well impossible. Then comes the issue of good liturgy on top of that. I wouldn't know where to start with that, but I know that when performance standards are so low that I want to leave the building then I feel that the liturgy is not working for me. Now, this is just a feeling, how am I to know if liturgy is really working? Then Nick throws in his comment that some of the most highly qualified musicians working in our churches are among the worst liturgical musicians. This may well be true, but without knowing whom he is talking about or which aspects of their musical practices constitute bad liturgy, whatever that may be, it is singularly unhelpful.

The only points made so far which I can unreservedly support are:

(1) the term "folk music" as used in the Catholic Church seems to have no connection to its secular use.
(2) Thomas' assumption that the belief that rehearsals are "elitist" is more common amongst "folk" musicians than others. I have never heard it used by members of part singing choirs, but they often just claim to be too busy to rehearse anyway, with much the same effect.

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