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...


WhollyRoamin'Catholic said...

Interesting. At my very-ordinary form parish, we don't have much trouble getting the congregation to sing traditional hymns that use Latin or English verses. Advent and Lent use the Latin versions of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

But slip a "Pan de Vida" in there and you'll here the cantor go it solo.

Scelata said...

"It is rather difficult to stimulate congregational singing in Latin."

Well it's a dang sight easier than to stimulate congregational singing in multiple and changing vernaculars as our increasingly transient-across-national-borders society would oterhwise demand.

Surely the liturgical Tower of Babel many of us experience in our home parishes is not preferable to at least making an effort to use the universal language of the Roman Catholic Church?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Ann said...

We don't experience this problem in my parish, but then, the choir will use the same hymn over-and-over again for several weeks which gives the congregation time to get used to it.

I also think it's easier for a congregation to learn a Latin hymn if it's being led by a cantor rather than a choir. It's easier to make out the sounds.

Matthew J. Meloche said...

At my (rather liberal) parish in Columbus, Ohio, Sanctus and Agnus Dei XVIII are sung with great gusto by the congregation during Advent and Lent. We have excellent accoustics that help chant, though, and they've been using these settings for about 8 years now every Advent and Lent (long before I arrived). Just keep it up and eventually they'll learn to love it. I was so close to switching to Mass XVII this Lent, but then decided against it and I'm always glad to hear them singing the more simple XVIII chants than I would be to hear just a few singing the much more beautiful XVII setting.