Tuesday, November 13, 2007


After not having had a funeral since June, we just had one Monday, and another upcoming the Friday. When it rains, it pours. But certainly, no one wants to die in the summer. I certainly won't. I shall stay alive through it, and die as soon as it gets cold!

Any comments on the appropriateness of "Amazing Grace" at funerals?
Keep in mind, yes, I agree that the theology isn't perfect...BUT, pastoral sensitivity would certainly note the heartiness with which everyone present at the funeral sings it, as well as the tears it brings to many eyes. (no, that in and of itself is not reason to program a song for a funeral, but...)

I got another (negative) comment (sort of) about the latin chant being sung at communion. "That thing you're singing at communion is really beautiful. I mean, I can't understand it, but it's really nice!" (coming from someone I know hates Latin!)
I wasn't in a position to go into all the detailed musical analysis and description of how the Latin itself is beautiful partly because it is so old (1200 years? +?) and the musicality of how you can't just squeeze English words into a foreign melody, because that by itself would make it LOSE its beauty! Nor did I really have time to ask about how I DO sing the "English translation" immediately before-is that not helpful?

Any opinions on the publishings of the "Big Three" for yearly booklets that contain just the Sunday Mass readings?


BONIFACE said...

I think Amazing Grace is good for funerals, but it sounds best without words played on a bag-pipe. Anything else does not do it justice. Mara, if I die soon, I don't want it at my funeral. I want you to sing In Paradisum, Mode VII.

mr s said...

Boniface, if you die soon, your sweet wife will kill you.

Cantor said...

Actually, I think the ICEL translation of “Lux √¶terna” would be a relatively not-too-shabby match on the Gregorian melody. The texts themselves have similar accent patterns until the very end.

Oh dear. You brought out the “pastoral” card. What if “Es ist das Heil” brought tears to their eyes? (part of whose first verse goes “Faith alone beholds Christ; good works help no more”)

Emotions...I dunno. They conflict, they institutionalize bad theologies, ... Yeah, they’re part of our human nature, and I can be as affected/driven by them as anyone, but I think the restraint that the Gregorian chant and polyphony model for us is a good path to follow. Bringing tears to people’s eyes might, then, be a reason to avoid “Amazing Grace” at a funeral.

Anonymous said...

I asked my boss about that one, and his take is that Amazing Grace is bad musically (an opinion I don't share, due to my Baptist organist grandmother) but theologically OK. I recognize that many Catholics find it to be heretical, but I just don't see it conflicting with Catholic theology. So my take on it when it's requested is to say "I'm happy to use it, but I'd ask you to consider how much you want that. Many Catholics consider that hymn to be heretical and I wouldn't want your loved one's funeral to be a cause of insult to some."

And boniface, I'd submit to you that "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes is only suitable if the deceased was Scottish or a Star Trek fan :P


Mara Joy said...

I think that the above mentioned priest is wrong in saying that Amazing Grace is musically poor. We have loads of songs which are impossible to sing the correct rhythm (Eagles Wings,) way out of anyone's range (I am the Bread of Life,) melodically boring/pointless ("We come to share our story,) but this is one which (by my definition of a good melodic line) is a good song. The melody has direction, no weird rhythms that everyone sings wrong, and a nice one-octave range (but I would bring it down a step if I could transpose at sight-maybe that's something I shall work on now...)
What is his definition of "good musically" if not that?!

Janet said...

This is probably a dumb question, but how, exactly, do you sing the English translations of the Communio prior to singing the Latin? Just wondering...

Mara Joy said...

I sing the translations to the Psalm Tone which is used (in the Communio book which I am using) for the Psalm verses.