Friday, October 12, 2012

Liturgical Music Reform: A "Sample" of What Can Be Done

Bishop Alexander Sample seems to be serious about the reform of liturgical music in his diocese (Marquette, Michigan).

Here’s an excerpt from his article, “A Liturgical Quiz and An Invitation” at the website of the Diocese of Marquette newspaper. This article is in the May 14, 2012 edition of the paper, so it’s “old news” at this point, but it still is an example of what can be done about liturgical music.

The article starts out:

I propose a brief quiz on the Sacred Liturgy. Answer true or false to the following statements: 1) Vatican II changed the language of the Mass from Latin to the vernacular (in our case, English). 2) Vatican II replaced the signing of Gregorian chant at Mass with more contemporary vernacular music.

If you answered “true” to one or both of these statements, you should hear a buzzer going off right now indicating at least one incorrect answer. I am sure that this will come as a surprise to many…

He then quotes relevant paragraphs from Sacrosanctum Concilium as evidence that Latin and Gregorian chant were never diminished in value, and that “these guiding statements from Vatican II have not been fully adhered to, and have sometimes simply been ignored.”
Bishop Sample adds:

Just on the issue of singing Gregorian chant at Mass, far from enjoying a “pride of place” in the liturgy, when was the last time you heard it sung or sang it yourself at Mass? Surely “pride of place” means more than an occasional sung Sanctus or Agnus Dei.

After assuring his readers that he is not proposing a “simple return to all Latin and Gregorian chant in the Mass”, he says:

What I am saying is that, in our ongoing efforts to renew and reform the Sacred Liturgy, we need to go back to the sources that gave us the direction for liturgical renewal, especially the actual Vatican II document on the Liturgy…[W]e need to interpret the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II in light of the whole liturgical tradition of the Church, as an organic development, and not a break with the past.
This especially applies to the area of music in the Sacred Liturgy. Let’s face it, in most places liturgical music has become simply selecting the four hymns for Mass (entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional). Many might be surprised to learn that this is not at all our liturgical tradition and is not what was envisioned by Vatican II. But that is what we have become used to.

The Church’s tradition actually calls for us to “sing the Mass,” not sing “at” Mass. The texts of the Mass given in the Missal are meant to be sung. Instead we often just paste on the four hymns which may or may not related to the actual texts of the Mass. Not sure what this means? Read on!

And Bishop Sample had a plan: he invited all to attend a two-day workshop on Sacred Music, which was apparently held last June.

I don’t know anything about the workshop – what was covered, how many attended, or whether parishes are changing their approach to liturgical music – but I do know that Bishop Sample posted the following advertisement on his Face Book page (my emphases):

I am posting HERE my advertisement for the position of Diocesan/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Pass the word to those who might be interesting and who might "fit the bill":

The Catholic Diocese of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is seeking a full-time Diocesan Director of Sacred Music/Cathedral Director of Sacred Music. Time will be split between directing St. Peter Cathedral’s sacred music program and leading the diocesan effort to renew and reform sacred music as detailed in the bishop’s directives on sacred music, which seek to implement the Church’s authentic discipline regarding sacred music as outlined in official Church documents. Qualifications include fidelity to Church teaching and discipline, proficiency in organ, and knowledge of Gregorian chant. Applicants must be able to work well with choirs, cantors and other musicians and possess the patience necessary to teach others, leading them gradually to a full understanding of sacred music in Catholic worship. Full time compensation and benefits will be commensurate with applicant’s educational and work experience. Please send cover letter, resume and references to: Office of the Bishop, Diocese of Marquette, 1004 Harbor Hills Drive, Marquette, MI 49855. Deadline for submitting applications is November 15, 2012.

It would be nice to see this sort of thing happening in more than one diocese!

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