Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the historical development of recent Catholic liturgical and musical documents

In addition to my usual interest in all things liturgical and musical, I have recently decided that I am going to back to grad school, to the University of Michigan for a Master of Music in Church Music.
I was originally reluctant to do so because one of the things I wanted to study in particular is the general topic of liturgy and music and practical application to Catholic parishes, and I would not really get to do that as much as I want at a public university.
However, it seems that I will have the option to do some independent study to fulfill some elective credits in this area, so I have already begun to note books and articles which could serve as scholarly resources on this topic.

An interesting one that I noted recently appears in the most recent issue of the GIA Quarterly (Spring 2009,) an article by Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, on the recent liturgical document, "Sing to the Lord."
In it, he summarizes several official documents from the past century, including their successful (or not) implementation, and the general history of the "liturgical renewal" and active participation.

(He also references a couple times his most recent book from 2007-which I would love to read particularly in my graduate studies, "Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform," rather pricey and long [at least 500 pages,] but it is all online on googlebooks.)

I find Fr. Ruff particularly interesting, since he was instrumental in my initial introduction to Gregorian Chant.

Several years ago, I started singing in a small schola (that only lasted in that form for a school year,) at St. T, and since our director had taken an intensive course in semiology from Fr. Ruff, she directed us from the Graduale Triplex and the ancient neumes. She spoke highly of him, and I learned a bit about that method of interpreting chant, long before I ever knew anything about the Old Solemnes style!

I had the opportunity to very briefly introduce myself to him at a conference a few summers ago, and after I told him my connection to him, he laughed and said, "So you're kind of like my granddaughter?!"

Anyhow, the more immersed I become in these Catholic cultural/liturgical/musical/opinionated style wars, especially after reading his article I think that he has got something right. He brings up some of my unanswerable questions, but mostly I love that he admits and discusses the difficulties of implementing this idealistic liturgy that the "ultra-traddies" push for--and even whether or not their interpretation of what "the Church says" is actually what the church asks! (In one of the footnotes-which I almost missed, but that was probably partly his intention ;-) he mentions "Msgr. Schuler's misinterpretation of Musicam Sacram regarding the polyphonic Mass ordinary," discussed in his book on p. 533-535. tee hee.)

He brings up several other issues, which are just fascinating to me. He begins to provide an explanation for why Vatican II seems to have been so badly interpreted and implemented (regarding Sacrosanctum Concilium,) by saying, "As revolutionary as the liturgical constitution was, it is marked throughout by a certain balance between tradition and innovation. Some consider this uneasy balance to be a political compromise between the many competing positions of the bishops, or even an incoherent bringing together of contradictory positions. Perhaps this feature of the constitution explains the existence of such divergent positions in the years since Vatican II..."

Another favorite issue of mine that he plainly discusses, is just "HOW pastorally feasible is it to give primacy to traditional repertoires?" Perhaps another should-be-obvious reason why SC did not receive faithful implementation.

He also states earlier, "It is rather difficult to stimulate congregational singing in Latin." This sentence is so key, but the traditionalists simply will not admit that this is a problem, but I have found from my own personal experience that IT'S TRUE! Even people who consider themselves "liturgically-conservative Catholics," while the don't mind and even enjoy listening to someone else sing in Latin, they simply do not want to sing it themselves! WHY? and then why does the Church tell us they should? I think Fr. Ruff might have some of the answers, but I'm beginning to be skeptical about other camps which will remain nameless. (like, places and people who don't seem to live in the real world, with real Catholics sitting in the pews...)

hmmm hmm so much to learn and study, so little time...

Monday, April 20, 2009

what's wrong with doing only 2 verses of a hymn?

there's this big stink that I read about in the Catholic blogosphere about how terrible it is to only do 2 verses of a hymn. (like, the first and last verses for the closing, or just the first two at the entrance cuz the priest is at the altar and glaring at you.)

Of course, most of us (Catholics) agree that hymns are problamatic to begin with: they only cover the action that is occurring, as opposed to the Propers, which would actually have texts that are integral to the Mass. (think of it like poetry...)

this is a serious differentiation from most Protestants, where the action stops and then we sing a hymn...that's just what we DO.

But what's wrong with stopping a hymn before it's done? Or singing the first verse then the final doxology verse? I've heard accusations that this makes the text incomplete...but so what? Not seriously. Hymns are almost never direct quotes from scripture; the verses usually seem to me to be *independent* texts of general praise to God.

This is the one that really occurred to me during Mass this past weekend-- "I know that my Redeemer lives."
So we sing,
"I know that my redeemer lives, what joy the blest assurance gives, he lives who once was dead, I know that my redeemer lives."
then so WHAT if we skip,
"He lives to bless me with his love, he lives to plead for me above, he lives my hungry soul to feed, he lives to help in time of need."
"He lives and grants me daily breath, he lives and I shall conquer death, he lives my mansion to prepare, He lives to bring me safely there."
and go directly to,
"He lives all glory to his name, he lives my saviour still the same, what joy the blest assurance gives, I know that my redeemer lives."

Or here's just the next short hymn in my book:
"The strife is o'er, the battle done, now is the victors triumph won, now be the song of praise begun..."
then there is NOTHING wrong with skipping:
"Death's mightiest pow'rs have done their worst, and Jesus has his foes dispersed, let shouts of praise and joy out burst.... He closed the yawning gates of hell, the bars from heav'n's high portals fell, let hymns of praise his triumph tell."
and go right to:
"On the third morn he rose again, glorious in majesty to reign, o let us swell the joyful strain."

The only thing that is diminished is due to the amount of time...but if we were singing the Proper, there would only be the theology of one sentence! But there is no incomplete thought. I would argue that each of the verses are a successfull stanza in and of themself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a million-dollar idea

why doesn't someone make a piano method book for boys? Or not even a complete method, just a supplement.

Well, actually, I know why. No one wants to admit that boys might be different than girls.

why are only 3 out of my 14 piano students boys? and out of those, I am having serious difficulties with one and slight difficulties with another in terms of keeping them "interested?"

Let's face it folks, there are certain styles of music that boys like better than others.

But my problem is I don't have a broad enough survey to get a better idea of what they like.
I could throw in a few ideas. Pink Panther, the Olympic theme song, and Chariots of Fire to name a couple. They will like cool soundtracks, but what to do about the kid who isn't so media savy?
What do songs they like have in common?
Either familiarity, or just as likely, a very steady *strong* rhythmic beat. But I don't really want to go through all of the piano books to pick out songs that are like these...

seriously, someone could make a million bucks off this idea. I KNOW it's not "pc," but doesn't every piano teacher struggle with the same question?
Songs like "Morning" just don't quite cut it for most boys... (and more importantly, doesn't keep them interested!)

(ahem, anyone who DOES make a million bucks off this idea had better give me a slice of that pie!)

(also, I do know that such a book does exist, at least one called "Something new for the boys," published by alfred, but I would criticize it in that it relies much too heavily on popular/contemporary songs, rather than getting at the core of what *styles* of pieces do boys tend to like...and teaching them new songs they don't know, but will learn to love!)