Thursday, August 9, 2007

Will American Catholicism Ever Find its Singing Voice?

In a long post touching many subjects, The Anchoress notes a problem that all American Catholics have noticed. Namely, the poor quality of modern church music.

Worst Jesus Praise Song Ever. Really. That’s execrable. H/T Junkyard Blog. 95% of all “praise music” and 98% of all Catholic “hymns” written since 1972 are just shudder-inducing. Most of what is played at mass these days serves as useful penance and not much else.
Partly, this is due to the "progressive" priests who tried to make the new Mass more "relevant. But some is I believe due to the movement to the vernacular after Vatican II. As much of the Catholic musical tradition was in Latin it seemed the right time not just to change languages, but also styles (this was also needed as pre-Vatican II, much of the music was meant to be LISTENED to, not sung). The result was a hymnal full of songs that were either unsingable or just plain silly. Not all of the new music was bad, but so much of it was. It lacked majesty and reverence.

There are some very good hymns. Often they are seen as too old fashioned, but Catholicism and the feelings that the Mass and hymns conjure up SHOULD feel old fashioned.

One solution is for the English speaking church to look to the hymnal of the high church Anglo-Catholics. They have almost 600 years of expressing the majesty of God in the English language. I have been to high church Anglican weddings where the music was uplifting and expressed perfectly my feelings toward God and Christ. While it might seem slightly scandalous to use Protestant music in the Catholic Church, do not forget that the greatest of the early Anglican psalm composers, Thomas Tallis, was a practicing Catholic his entire life.

No comments: