Throughout the next year, and until the implementation of the New Translation of the Roman Missal, The Authentic Update will focus on issues surrounding the New Translation and developments in Sacred Music arising from it. I hope you will visit here frequently and join in the conversation as the Church enters into this remarkable period of liturgical transformation.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Verbum Domini on Music

Well, here it is more than a month since my last post, and it ends up being on the same subject! What's strange is that now we find out that Fr. Lang was speaking just a few days after the release of Benedict's most recent Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, which had been released on September 30th for publication. And we find that in this document, once again the topic of the relationship between scripture and music is addressed in a way that is continuous with all of what has been said before it:

70. As part of the enhancement of the word of God in the liturgy, attention should also be paid to the use of song at the times called for by the particular rite. Preference should be given to songs which are of clear biblical inspiration and which express, through the harmony of music and words, the beauty of God’s word. We would do well to make the most of those songs handed down to us by the Church’s tradition which respect this criterion. I think in particular of the importance of Gregorian chant. (Verbum Domini, par.70)

I have been saying for quite a while that there is bound to be another document along the lines of Tra le sollecitudini sometime soon, whether from Benedict XVI or his successor. I have yet to see a document extolling the virtues of contemporary liturgical music, or even very much mention of it at all in official circles. One might assume that the most recent pontiffs have had little exposure to it and as such have little urgency to address it. But the frequent and continuous stream of statements such as these by Benedict and those immediately around him are leading me to conclude that they have become very aware of the problems in contemporary liturgical music. With awareness comes a greater likelihood of action. We'll have to wait and see... maybe it will be brought up in the special session on liturgy with the Cardinals later this November? Who knows...

Friday, October 8, 2010

An Interesting Point of View

The following article appeared on October 7th in a number of Catholic publications. I find it interesting that there have been quite a few lectures, speeches and articles making this same point recently, all by prominent individuals. What exactly might be the reason for wanting to make the point that Chant is the ideal of Catholic liturgical music and should serve as the model in any renewal of Sacred music?


Chant Will Renew Sacred Music, Says Vatican Aide
-Notes Its Link to Liturgical Texts

ROME, OCT. 7, 2010 ( Sacred music cannot be limited to Gregorian chant, but it is chant that contains the key to renew liturgical song, according to a consultor for the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.
Father Uwe Michael Lang, also an official of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, made this observation Wednesday at a lecture at l'Accademia Urbana delle Arti in Rome.

Father Lang pointed to the 1749 encyclical "Annus Qui" by Pope Benedict XIV as the "most important papal pronouncement on sacred music" prior to Pope St. Pius X's "Tra Le Sollecitudini."

The 18th century encyclical "proposes the important criteria of sacred music that are valid beyond the limits of their historical context and resound also in our time," the priest said.

Father Lang explained that the encyclical presents plainsong as normative for the Roman liturgy "while it approves unaccompanied polyphony and also permits orchestral music, though with certain conditions, in divine worship."

He said this position of the Church is reflected in the constitution of sacred liturgy from the Second Vatican Council, which "exalts Gregorian chant as the 'proper' music of the Roman liturgy."

"The pre-eminence of chant," Father Lang further recalled, "was confirmed by Benedict XVI in his 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation 'Sacramentum Caritatis.'"
Father Lang proposed that the value of Gregorian chant is "its profound relationship with the liturgical text, to which it gives musical form."

"'Annus Qui' requests explicitly the integrity and intelligibility of the texts that are sung in the Mass and in the Divine Office," the priest affirmed. "This concern was already debated in Trent, but not included in the council's official documents."
He added that though "sacred music cannot be limited exclusively to Gregorian chant, it has in itself, however, the keys for a true renewal of sacred music."


And so, as is pointed out by Fr. Lang, Gregorian chant has always been the ideal form of Catholic liturgical music, and that position was strongly reinforced by the Second Vatican Council and has been re-iterated by all Popes since that time and there has been no document or proclamation to the contrary. But we all know what the status quo is, so why come out and say this again at this time? And why go as far back as “Annus Qui”… a prominent document from a previous Pope Benedict?

And why make the point that Annus Qui proposes the important criteria of sacred music that are valid beyond the limits of their historical context and resound also in our time. Note that he doesn’t say that “Annus Qui” proposed these criteria… he says that the document proposes these criteria. This may be nitpicking to an extent, but I think there is a difference in point of view when one speaks about documents of the Church. When one generally sees older documents as outdated and irrelevant, those documents claimed… or stated… or proposed specific ideas that are no longer relevant. They are past tense… no longer valid. But when one accepts the validity of a past document as relevant in our own day, that documents claims… or states… or proposes its ideas to us still, and they are as relevant now as in the past.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t documents and teachings of the church that are no longer valid, but when that is the case, those documents or teachings are abrogated, such as Ecclesia Dei Afflicta was abrogated by Summorum Pontificum. That abrogation is noted in the new document and it is specifically spelled out that the provisions of the former document are no longer in force. But in the case of Annus Qui, it’s provisions have been re-iterated and strengthened, first by Pope Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, and then again more comprehensively and forcefully through the documents of the Second Vatican Council, again in 2000 by Pope John Paul in his Chirograph on Sacred Music, and most recently by Pope Benedict in Sacramentum Caritatis. Rather than being abrogated, it is clear that the criteria and concerns so eloquently and clearly laid out in Annus Qui have been re-iterated and reinforced from the 18th century up to the present day without exception.

And what are those criteria and concerns laid out in Annus Qui? What were the reasons given for the reform of Sacred Music by Pope Benedict XIV?

•Sacred Music must be distinct from popular (theatrical or profane) music.

•Instrumental music poses the danger of profanation by association with popular or theatrical music. Recent practice and some local customs which encourage the use of popular instruments and singing styles within the Church are to be eliminated.

•When instruments oppress and bury the voices of the choir, and obscure the meaning of words, then the use of the instruments does not achieve the desired purpose, they becomes useless and indeed remain forbidden and prohibited.

•Sacred Music is first and foremost a proclamation of text, and all musical settings must derive from the text and not vice-versa as is the case in popular or theatre music.

•The liturgy must be primarily sung… particularly the words of the prophets, the apostles, or Epistle, of the Creed, the Preface or action of thanksgiving and prayer of the Lord. Practices or teachings that seek to reduce the singing of these parts of the Mass are to be eliminated.

•The distinction between the musical forms of the Office and the musical forms of the Mass are to be observed in recognition of the distinction between the prayer of the office and the Sacrifice of the Mass. To one belongs hymnody and strophic singing, to the other belongs the riches of the chant and polyphony. In both, the texts must be clearly proclaimed and not obscured by the musical forms or instruments.

•The incorporation of popular singing styles and theatrical forms excites the listener and distracts from the sacredness of the Mass, leading the minds of the listener away from the mystery to a place where it remains in the common world.

Other than the occasional references to “bawdy” music and a strong underlying assumption in this document that the reader is familiar with liturgical practices from the time of Charlemagne onwards, this could have been written this year by Benedict XVI rather than in 1749 by Benedict XIV! The concerns are very much the same.

And so I ask again… Why the sudden outpouring of references to these former documents and their relevance today by prominent figures from the Church’s hierarchy? I mean… it’s not like we have the same problems...uhhmmm...OK...Maybe we should think about this a bit.

A Lesson Learned

I’d like to pick up where I left off with my last posting and take a look at another aspect of how the New Translation will affect the direction of Catholic liturgical music, perhaps for many years to come. I noted in my last post how there exists a sort of “soft mandate” that publishers include the ICEL-USCCB produced chant settings of the Mass Ordinary in all published worship materials after the implementation of the New Translation in November of 2011. As it is currently understood, other settings will be included, but none have yet received approval, and even once approved, they will have to be included as secondary settings since the ICEL-USCCB chant settings must be the setting presented in the Order of Mass. This alone will have some considerable consequences for how publishers promote and present their own (copyrighted) settings in published resources. But there is also another aspect of the implementation that may have a much more profound impact on liturgical music, which up to now has been dominated by “The Big Three” (OCP, GIA and WLP) publishers. History can be a good teacher in this case.

The past 10 years has seen the rapid decline of print media. Newspapers and magazines have watched their circulations reduced to non-sustainable levels, requiring mergers, buyouts and large scale layoffs in the fortunate situations – bankruptcies and closed doors in the less fortunate, and lots of lamenting and hand-wringing all around. The lamenting and hand-wringing seems disingenuous though, because the cause is clear and well known: The Internet and the diversity of views that it permits. No longer did the consumer of news and information have to accept what was given by the established media. With the internet anyone can be a reporter and compete with the once dominant publishers and their immense distribution networks. The individual who used to type their own “pamphlets” and hand them out on a corner downtown can now hand them out to the entire world, updating them every day, every hour, every minute if necessary! And the consumer who enters a topic in a search engine finds that information right alongside the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. On the internet, everyone is equally accessible and the page of the multi-billion dollar corporation is exactly the same size as the page for the guy blogging from his smart-phone.

Statistics now show that more people receive their news from websites and blogs than from all print media combined. The internet, a medium that was largely amateur driven and populated by a peculiar and specialized group of enthusiasts only 15 years ago has, in the last 5 years, managed to take on and conquer the one-time giants of the media world. And the point that I would make here is this: the media giants saw it coming and their reaction was to protect their turf by attempting to change the already established rules of the internet game to allow them to import the status quo of their dominance into a realm that had already disposed of them and moved on. The result is a sort of “Jurassic Park” of media dinosaurs relegated to an online island far removed from reality, living out their final days fighting and devouring each other while the rest of the world watches with the sense of detached amazement that comes from seeing once-great beings become inconsequential curiosities. Their extinction had already happened and that fate was accomplished even before the first mouse-click by a force far more powerful than the internet. It was the idea that news and information can’t be owned and sold in a world that now sees it as something free. News and information is a part of the culture and belongs to it, not to the New York Times and not to any company, government or person.

It might be obvious by now that I’m inferring an analogy here to the situation developing in Catholic liturgical music. It’s not really a true analogy because while music exists in real time and is experienced as such through performance, it is also like news and information insofar as it has historically been distributed by publishers in the form of print media which is claimed to be the property of the publisher and which is then sold to the consumer. But liturgical music is also like news and information as a sense is rapidly developing that,in whatever form, it belongs to the liturgy and to the faithful, not to this or that publisher.

So this may not be so much an analogy as it is another part of the same phenomenon described above, but one which has lagged behind slightly because of the slow-moving nature of liturgical music media which renews in one year cycles for so-called “disposable” hymnals, and in 5-10 year cycles for hard-cover hymnals. With the implementation of the New Translation, all of it is “up for renewal” at once, allowing an assessment of options that is unprecedented, at least in modern times. And if that’s true, there may be as different a future for liturgical music now as there was for newspapers, magazines and books 10 years ago.

I am going to end here by looking back to the time 10 years ago when the media giants failed to see the writing on the wall. I would suggest that there has been a lot of writing going on these past few years, and the message on the liturgical music wall is pretty clear. Those who understand the message will be poised and ready, but you really have to understand the message first.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What is to Become of the ICEL Chants?

As we move forward into the coming year, one of the nagging questions that is still "hanging out there" is the role that will be played by the ICEL Chant Settings of the Ordinary. These settings were "composed" (OK... they are actually adaptations of the Gregorian melodies fit to the newly translated Ordinary texts... but that is a fine point!) under the direction of ICEL and are to be included with the New Missal as the normative settings of those texts. Other Chants are also included in the collection, such as the dialogues and prefaces, as well as psalm-tone settings which may be used for singing the Gospels on particular occasions. The totality of this collection comprises what I have come to call "The ICEL Kyriale".

The project came to light in 2008, much to the surprise of many. Immediately there was discussion and debate about what role these settings would play in the implementation of the New Missal Translation. Foremost among the questions posed was whether these settings would be somehow mandated for use. At this time, it is a question that has still not been answered.

Most mandates, at least within the Catholic liturgy, are exclusive mandates... mandates that particular things must be used, or be said, or be done to the exclusion of other things being used or said or done. There are mandates that particular materials must be used for sacred vessels, and that particular substances must be used for the sacred hosts and wine. There are mandates that the readings of the particular day must be used, and that these must be from the approved Lectionary for Mass. There are mandates that the words of consecration must be said without variation or alteration, and on a greater scale, a mandate that the texts of the Mass must not be altered or improvised by anyone, including Priests. There are mandates that particular folmulae and actions must be used in Baptism, and that particular actions must be done as indicated in the books regarding the consecration of the Bread and Wine. All of these, and many more, are exclusive mandates in that they indicate both what must be used or said or done, and proscribe that nothing else may be used or said or done in their place.

So the idea of there being a "mandate" regarding the ICEL Chants would be bound to raise more than a few eyebrows, and for good reason. To begin with, previous mandates regarding musical settings had more to do with the texts than with the musical settings themselves. Musical settings per se were addressed by less stringent documents which proscribed some attributes of the settings regarding formal characteristics and liturgical use. However, there has never, at least to my knowledge, been a specific setting of the required texts mandated for use, nor would it be practical to do so.

A mandate of any liturgical nature has two distinct parts. First, there must be a mandate to produce and provide the thing that is being required, whether it be a Lectionary with specified texts, candles made of the appropriately proportioned Beeswax, or whatever the thing is that is required. While many such things were historically handled "in house" by the Church, today much of the production end of things is handled by private concerns which must follow the Church's proscriptions in order to be considered liturgical vendors for catholic parishes.

Secondly, there has to be a legislative mandate that the thing, whatever it may be, MUST be used or said or done to the exclusion of other things. There must be a specific "disallowing" of other options.

And this is precisely why the situation of the ICEL Chants is becoming more of an issue as we move towards the implementation of the New Translation in November 2011. At this point, the ICEL Chants are the only setting of the Ordinary yet to be approved for liturgical use. Publishers are REQUIRED to include the ICEL Chant settings as the normative setting in all published liturgical books, hymnals, guides or Missals intended for liturgical use. In both permanent and renewable hymnals or songbooks, where there are settings of the Orinary included with an Order of Mass, the ICEL Chant settings MUST be included as the setting within the Order of Mass. This much has already been mandated

Furthermore, a quick look at the web sites of the major publishers will reveal a statement like the following:

We have been asked by the United States Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship to remind you that the musical settings are for preview only and not yet approved for liturgical use. In addition, we are not yet being allowed to share any complete settings.

So... in addition to the ICEL Chants being mandated for inclusion in all published resources, all other settings, at this point, have not received approval for inclusion, for sale, or even for posting in their entirety online for viewing. One seriously has to ask.... why is this? Is there a process for these settings to be approved? If not, why not approve them now? Is it simply to keep these settings from being used ahead of time? That would make sense and may well be the explanation. But if that's the case, why release the ICEL settings now since they are also not to be used until November 2011?

As the time gets closer we'll have to watch what happens concerning approval for these "other settings" of the Mass texts. My general impression is that they will eventually be approved for inclusion in the books, but always in addition to the primary ICEL settings.

As of right now, it looks strangely like a mandate, but a mandate of a very different kind, allowing exceptions but in a secondary capacity. That's where things are right now.

Cardinal George on the Need for a New Translation

Francis Cardinal George (Archdiocese of Chicago) gives some interesting insight into the New Translation.

Let the Catechesis Begin!

With the final approval of the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal in August (adding the caveat that this is not the first "final approval" of the text!), we enter into the period of catechesis leading up to the implementation on Sunday, November 27th of 2011.

Already, Bishop's Conferences, Regional Conferences, National Liturgy groups, Dioceses and local Parishes are undertaking the process of informing parishioners of the coming changes, training parish musicians in new styles and forms of liturgical music for the Mass and most importantly, introducing the new texts to the Priests and beginning the process of "re-imagining" the post-conciliar liturgy that has been called for in Liturgiam Authenticam and Sacramentum Caritatis.

Catechetical materials for the implementation are now being produced and approved by the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship from a variety of sources. Some of these resources, such as those produced by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions are of the "train the trainers" type.... workshops and materials intended to train Diocesan and Parish leaders who will return to their respective local areas and train others. Much the same, and somewhat overlapping in terms of personnel and materials are the catechetical programs from the USCCB. These programs, in the form of seminars and training sessions for Priests, Seminarians and liturgical leaders have been produced in conjunction with the FDLC and The National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

The NPM, for its part, has focused on revisiting the 2007 Bishops Committee Instruction on Music, Sing To The Lord, Music in Divine Worship. This document, which perplexed many musicians at the time of its publication, is now more clearly able to be seen as an instruction for the reform of liturgical music in conjunction with the implementation of the New Translation. NPM should be encouraged to continue its emphasis on this document and every Catholic musician should place a great priority on re-reading and studying this document and the provisions therein in relation to the liturgical demands of the New Translation. It can only be hoped that both the NPM and Catholic musicians will consider the entirety of this document and its vision and not merely those parts which are convenient.

There are also a great many resources for information online.... among my favorites is Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray, a blog by Jerry Galipeau of WLP. Jerry features posts on the New Translation each Tuesday and Thursday. As the Editor of one of the major publishing houses, Dr. Galipeau has insights into the process and progress of the New Translation that are both informative and interesting. Regarding sacred music, and from a very different perspective is a site originating from the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) appropriately titled The Chant Cafe. While the articles and discussions more generally focus on the restoration of sacred chant and polyphony in the liturgy, the emphasis lately has been on the primary issues of the music for the New Translation - vernacular chant and vernacular versions of the Antiphons. Both of the above sites also allow for comment and discussion, allowing a unique opportunity for questions and obtaining additional resources.

There are individual entities who have undertaken the production of training materials as well, all of which must have the approval of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship. One of the most notable is a Seminar/ Workshop for Priests and Seminarians by Msgr. James P. Moroney, Executive Secretary of Vox Clara, produced at the request of Francis Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago for the instruction of priests and Seminarians in his Diocese. Msgr. Moroney has a busy schedule of lecture dates around the country during the coming year, and the entire program is also available on DVD or can be viewed online HERE. The program has some very notable advocates, including Cardinal Francis Arinze, Cardinal Antonio Canizares, Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal George.

Msgr. Moroney's approach to the New Translation differs from those previously mentioned here in that he firstly sees the implementation as being an action of liturgical renewal for Priests, focusing on the Priest's praying of the texts as the primary form of catechesis for the congregation. In doing so, he affirms the vision of the New Translation set out in Liturgiam Authenticam, and the more general vision of liturgical catechesis set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and more recently in Sacramentum Caritatis. While noting that the implementation of the New Translation will present some challenges, Msgr. Moroney's program is refreshing in the absence of an underlying assumption that the New Translation faces overwhelming opposition by Priests and the faithful that needs to be overcome by extensive explanation of the translation and approval process and detailed theological and liturgical justification for any and all changes to the texts spoken by the congregation.

Regardless of the resources used, the time has come to begin the process of implementation. I hope you will return here from time to time as I will do my best to keep up to date on issues surrounding the New Translation and liturgical music during the coming year.
Deo Gratias!