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The David Ancell Liturgical Music Guide

  /   Saturday January 04, 2003  

Looking in the recent comment section on Catholic Light, you’ll see this comment by Greg Popcak, to which I responded in that comment section. I want to elaborate some. Please bear in mind that this is the perspective not of a musician but rather of a punk in the pews.

First, I do respect Greg Popcak, but I, from the standpoint of a non-musician, have some disagreements with what he has said. I do want to make note of other posts where he elaborates, here and here. He writes from the perspective of a parish music director. There are others, but these are most pertinent to what I will say.

First, I will address the practical issue of appropriateness of style. I do not presume anything but good will on the part of those who use inappropriate music, but do they ever think about, or even notice, why no one is singing? How I wish they would take a hint! The people who are in charge of music in the church are often capable musicians. The punk in the pews is not, as I am not. Music that is too fast, too complicated, or otherwise is completely unknown to the congregation will not promote congregational participation. Therefore, style often affects singability, which was addressed by Greg Popcak.

The problem arises in the same manner that I, who can do some computer programming, often don’t realize that my users aren’t going to figure some things out in the interface of my program. When I get questions that indicate that certain things aren’t understood, I revamp the interface. I did this on the web site I did for my young adult’s group. Likewise, musicians need to listen to see if anyone can sing this stuff they are playing. This is a major, though not the only, determinant of what is an appropriate style.

The other issue regarding appropriateness of style is the reverence it conveys. A sense of the sacred is nearly non-existent in most places I’ve been. I believe that this is one reason why the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy regarded Gregorian chant as most suited to the Roman Liturgy (though other styles were not excluded). I’m not against everything written after 1965, nor am I even against the use of guitars. I can pray well to the music of an acoustic guitar. However, drums are a different story. People clapping bothers me greatly because when we are at Mass, we are at Calvary. Ditto for opera-style singing complete with unintelligible diction during the reception of the Eucharist that makes me wish I had brought ear plugs to Mass.

As for text, I agree with Popcak for the most part. The text should be not only theologically correct, but prayerful. I have a hard time praying while playing the part of God in first person. In Be Not Afraid, I don’t know who I’m talking to while singing “You will cross the barren dessert . . . ” If we aren’t praying, what’s the point? Nothing disturbs me more than songs praising the congregation with no mention of the God who makes the congregation what it is.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized



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