Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Thoughts on Music
A few thoughts on music.
We Catholics, we use music differently than Protestants or at least we should. For us music is supposed to soothe and quieten the soul to contemplate God; for Protestants it supposed to rouse the emotions. Catholic music, at least within the Sacred Liturgy is about prayer and communion with God: Protestant music is much more allied to preaching and the proclamation of faith.
Catholic music is, as the General Instruction tells us, above all Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, other music isn't proscribed but the model is music to quieten the soul rather than excite it.
Some of our choir have become pretty proficient at chant; Clare our Director of Music goes off to St Cecelia's, Ryde with a little group of women to do a master classes with their choirmistress, she's been invited to teach a few other parishes about chant. In a world where trivial candyfloss is regarded as the equivalent of chant, the trouble is that we are regarded as odd, "You do things differently at St Mary Magdalen". As far as I know we are one of the few parishes for miles around that use chant: so much for the General Instruction!
At our one sung Mass (Ordinary Form) we try to avoid the hymn sandwich, we do have a hymn to begin with, then the Introit during the incensation, we alternate the Responsorial Psalm with the Gradual, at the Offertory we can have the chant from the Graduale, a motet or a hymn, at Commununion we always tend to have Proper chant but also a devotional hymn, or motet. The recessional is often a hymn, a bit of community singing.
I am not sure that most of our congregation understand why we use chant, despite the occassional bit of catechesis, in the inner city our congregation changes so quickly. For most people chant is just a bit of peace and contemplation whilst something else is going on or a musical lacoona. We have tried the English chant, written for the new Missal translations, to me they sound faux and are difficult to sing. Latin is easier though understanding the text, despite producing handouts, is difficult.
As one of my priest neighbours says, "Sunday Mass tends to be a bit of a bear garden", at least compared to quiet weekday Mass. The problem is of course prayer, though I am not quite sure how you teach two, three, four or five year olds about prayer and worship, perhaps in "Children's Liturgy" rather than "colouring in" they ought to be listening to recordings of chant and taught to pray.
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