Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

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mcb
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Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by mcb » Wed Mar 08, 2017 11:16 pm

Musicam Sacram was a document issued by the Church in 1967, setting out its vision for sacred music in the context of the major reforms to the Church’s liturgy that emerged from the Second Vatican Council. March 2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the document, and a conference entitled Music and Church took place in Rome from 2–4 March, in order to celebrate the event and explore the current state of music in Catholic worship.

Mary Rouse from the Society of Saint Gregory was one of four British representatives at the conference, along with Martin Barry, choirmaster and director of music at St. John’s Cathedral, Salford, Catherine Christmas, Music and Liturgy Adviser for the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, and Paul Inwood, the internationally renowned composer and liturgist, who was one of the conference’s invited speakers.

The conference explored the ways music has developed in the Church in the last fifty years, the strengths and weaknesses of Church music today, and the opportunities and challenges facing those who ‘make music to God’. The range of views and experiences on offer amply reflected the diversity of traditional and contemporary music-making to be found around the globe. We heard from cardinals and composers, from scholars and from practising musicians. As well as Catholic musical tradition in its many facets, we heard from those working to integrate liturgical music into diverse cultures around the world. Fr Alois, prior of the Taizé, community recounted the remarkable success story of that community’s distinctive musical language. Sr Marana Saad from Lebanon illustrated new forms of musical expression emerging from the melting-pot of middle-eastern Christianity. We heard about the distinctive role of the animator of the singing assembly in the Church in France, of how Renaissance polyphony fused with the indigenous music of Latin America, and of how the music of the Church in South Korea emerged from the simplicity of folk traditions.

If there was a recurring theme among many of the presentations at the conference, it was the need for formation: musicians in the Church can only carry out their tasks if they are given the essential training, and receive the support of the clergy, themselves perhaps the ones most in need of formation. This too was underlined by Pope Francis, who gave a special audience at the end of the conference, after which each participant in turn had the privilege of meeting the Holy Father. In his address, the Pope underlined the importance of the participation of the entire assembly in song, and of safeguarding the Church’s musical traditions, not in a nostalgic way but inculturated into the musical language of the present, with the aim of making people’s hearts vibrate with reception of, and participation in, the mysteries we celebrate.

There were challenges in embracing modern musical forms, the Pope added, not least in the danger of superficiality and banality creeping into our music. It was time, he said, for a renewal of liturgical singing, in dialogue with the musical currents of our time and with an ecumenical openness. Everyone involved with music making in the Church could contribute to this renewal.

At the end of the conference, the hope was expressed that this would be the beginning of something: a new movement to bring music to life in the Church. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, which organised the conference, said that the next step was to move ‘from the monody of presentations to the polyphony of dialogue’ so that the voices of more musicians from around the world could be heard. This will be something to look forward to.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by VML » Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:49 am

Thanks for this useful report mcb, food for thought indeed.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by Gwyn » Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:18 am

Superficiality and banality creeping into our music.

Creeping? I think it's fair to say that it has well and truly crept. There are churches where the assembly don't know what a sung celebration of Holy Mass is, a generation has flowered who nothing other than badly chosen ditties. The closest they've come to experiencing a sung celebration is a parishioner bunging up four hymn numbers on a board to be sung at the usual points in the Mass based on what a so-called Parish Liturgical Committee wrongly believes to be "the theme of today's Mass". For example, it only takes one mention of the word "Light" to occur in any of the readings at The Liturgy of The Word, to ensure that four hymns with a vague reference to light be chosen. If one mentions that actually "The theme of today's Mass" (and every other Mass for that matter) is our redemption and salvation through the birth, death and resurrection of Our Blessed Lord, then "Ah, but it's all about Light today luv, isn't it?" Can be a sincere explanation.

It was time, he said, for a renewal of liturgical singing, in dialogue with the musical currents of our time and with an ecumenical openness. Everyone involved with music making in the Church could contribute to this renewal
.
Why ecumenical? I don't understand. Could it be perhaps that importing from other Christian traditions while excluding our own may have contributed to some degree to the problem that we have created and now have to deal with?

the opportunities and challenges facing those who ‘make music to God’.

Oh joy! Yes, please let's get back to this; to making music for God. So often we have to endure banal crud because "well, the children like it, don't they?" Do they? I don't think they do.

I know that there are churches where the music and the liturgy are of the highest standard, where Holy Mass is celebrated with loving devotion and proper solemnity. I know that there are churches where Holy Mass is celebrated with the pure intention of worshiping Almighty God rather than to entertain. Thank God for these churches, they aren't the problem.

I sincerely hope that the conference will yield abundant fruit.
Saint Gregory; pray for us.
Saint Cecelia; pray for us.
Saint John xxiii; pray for us.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by MaryR » Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:03 pm

It is difficult to criticise those who don't know any different for what they do when that is precisely the problem. Speaker after speaker at the conference talked about the need for formation and training for musicians and singers and, above all, for the clergy. The Bishops need to take responsibility for formation and training, and there needs to be a means of financing it. Until those things change, there will continue to be parishes that are musically impoverished, with well-meaning but largely ignorant people in charge of choosing the music and performing it.

I think (I hope) that the message was heard at the conference. Cardinal Ravasi certainly made it clear that the conference was just the beginning and I am hopeful that he meant what he said and there will be on-going work for change. Someone asked when we would see the next document. Having now read and re-read Musicam Sacram, and having spent a workshop day examining it in some detail yesterday, I'm not sure a new document is needed. With a few tweaks, Musicam Sacram is just as relevant for today and if the Bishops were to take it to heart and actually do something, the situation you bemoan, Gwyn, might just begin to improve.
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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by mcb » Sun Mar 12, 2017 11:15 pm

Goodness, Gwyn, that's a pessimistic view. I have to say I'm not really sure what either your diagnosis is (other than that the world has gone to hell in a handcart, and that the problem stems from being unable to shake off the preconciliar "Low Mass with hymns") or what you think the remedy might be. My view, based on what I've been hearing recently, is that formation is a neglected responsibility for all of us, not just a select few leaders and teachers, and that the only remedy is retreat into the past, which is more or less the central tenet, as I read it, of the International Declaration on Sacred Music "Cantate Domino" which you've kindly shared with us, is both profoundly erroneous and doomed to be ineffectual.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by alan29 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:45 am

So many of the adjectives used in this discussion are subjective .... "superficial," "banal" etc.
And so many of them are used to blanket matters of taste.
And of course I can find phrases in official documents to back up almost any opinion I might hold on liturgical music.
There is room for all types of music. And people tend to gravitate towards a style of liturgy that suits their taste or temperament.
What should be avoided is making value judgements on the preferences of those we disagree with.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by JW » Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:02 pm

With all the talk about formation, you have to ask what's the remedy. All our seminaries have liturgical musicians attached, so priests ought to know what good music at Mass should sound like. And they should be guiding music ministers who aren't up to scratch. Many dioceses do have formation opportunities for their music ministers.

So what's going wrong and how can we fix it?
JW

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by alan29 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:28 pm

Random thoughts here.
What happens in parishes is entirely dependent on the talent in the parishes. That in turn depends on several factors. Declining numbers shrinks the pool of people. Have a look at what sort of music is being taught in schools in those places where it survives. That will have an impact.
The church has rarely been involved in music education apart from in cathedral choirs. Should start to be involved now? There are places .... Leeds is a beacon.
What are we aiming for? I have heard 4000 people at Taize singing to the accompaniment of a single acoustic guitar. It made the hairs on my arm stand up. I have heard a small congregation being totally silenced by an incompetent organist. That depressed me.
Should the aim be to get everywhere singing something as a start?
Should we be precious about style? Should our first question be "What works?"

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by justMary » Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:35 am

Priests receiving formation likely do know what good music sounds like.

But they are also learning that their job is to save souls, not to teach them taste - a fuller op-piece about this here: http://valleadurni.blogspot.com/2010/02 ... music.html

Also, they need to know far more than what good music sounds like: they need to learn how to achieve it:
  • How to find recruit competent musicians to work in their parishes,
  • How to engage these people in formation (that the musicians probably don't think they need)
  • How to organise a music program and manage musicians (easy if you can afford to hire a qualified DOM to do the job, not so easy if you have to do it yourself)

If you're a priest moved to a new area, even just finding musicians can be a challenge. If you've got Mr-dreadful-but-committed-Organist in situ, then it's unlikely that you've got a capably replacement sitting in your pews.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by alan29 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:39 am

Are those priestly functions?

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by JW » Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:07 pm

Under Canon Law, priests are there to run the parish. Saving souls is indeed part of the job description but the Church teaches that the laity is also responsible for evangelisation. However, in many dioceses and parishes true lay representation and participation in management is laughable. After all "the Church is not a democracy."

The job of a priest today, in my view, needs similar skills to those needed to run a small company. However, most priests sadly don't have the ability or the training to do their job. The Church is now appointing quite a few unsuitable people to run parishes because they don't have anybody else.

alan29 wrote:Are those priestly functions?
.

There is a view that priests should only involve themselves with sacramental celebration. This loses sight of the fact that, under Canon Law, you can't do anything in a parish without the permission of the priest, especially if money is involved. Bishops don't trust the laity, they worry that we will unravel the whole structure if we take any responsibility... they could be right.

So if you have a parish without musicians, then who will sort it out if not the priest?

The only other realistic solution is a truly collaborative parish ministry with genuine responsibility delegated to laity, some of whom should probably be paid.
JW

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by MaryR » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:52 pm

alan29 wrote:There is room for all types of music. And people tend to gravitate towards a style of liturgy that suits their taste or temperament.
What should be avoided is making value judgements on the preferences of those we disagree with.


You should have come to the SSG's workshop day in Ingleby Barwick on Saturday where Martin Barry delivered a talk on Musical Sacram at 50. We had a good discussion about whether any musical style is unacceptable for liturgical song. The general consensus was that it wasn't, though the same style will not appeal to everyone. There was agreement that it should be well performed but that it's actually the text that's more important. How much more meaningful are the words of scripture used by many of the St. Louis Jesuits for their music compared to some of the Victorian hymns we still sing?
Mary

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by High Peak » Wed Mar 15, 2017 9:57 pm

alan29 wrote:Are those priestly functions?


The discernment of charisms among his flock is very much part of the priestly role. Too often, however, ministries are assigned to the willing and eager rather than to those who have a genuine charism for that ministry.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by alan29 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:38 pm

MaryR wrote:
alan29 wrote:There is room for all types of music. And people tend to gravitate towards a style of liturgy that suits their taste or temperament.
What should be avoided is making value judgements on the preferences of those we disagree with.


You should have come to the SSG's workshop day in Ingleby Barwick on Saturday where Martin Barry delivered a talk on Musical Sacram at 50. We had a good discussion about whether any musical style is unacceptable for liturgical song. The general consensus was that it wasn't, though the same style will not appeal to everyone. There was agreement that it should be well performed but that it's actually the text that's more important. How much more meaningful are the words of scripture used by many of the St. Louis Jesuits for their music compared to some of the Victorian hymns we still sing?


Yes, yes, yes.
Some may sing victorian hymns ..... I think the last one I played was Abide with me at a funeral last year.
The scriptural basis is one of the reasons I like so much of the more modern music.

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Re: Music and Church: Cult and Culture 50 years after Musicam Sacram

Post by alan29 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 11:30 pm

High Peak wrote:
alan29 wrote:Are those priestly functions?


The discernment of charisms among his flock is very much part of the priestly role. Too often, however, ministries are assigned to the willing and eager rather than to those who have a genuine charism for that ministry.

And more often those charisms are absent.

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