Monday, June 30, 2008

My Three Predictions about Sacred Music: UPDATE

Last November, before the Bishops composed and voted on the new guidelines, I wrote an article containing three predictions for what would be happening with Sacred Music at 6 months, 12 months and 18 months in the future. At that time I said that I would check back and see how things are turning out....

The prediction for 6 months:

There is going to be a transformation of the discussion/ debate concerning music at Mass within 6 months.
Further still, there is going to be a radical transformation of this issue and how it is discussed. The transformation will become apparent this next week with the Bishop’s vote on Sing To The Lord: Music In Divine Worship, although I will qualify that by saying it is not the document itself that will bring about the transformation. Rather, this document is going to serve as a kind of epitaph for the last 40 years of liturgical music, putting a good face on it and speaking lovingly while affirming that it has passed on, paving the way for what will follow. The key feature of this document is that it will affirm that the directives of the Second Vatican Council concerning music need to be clarified, and that future development of music needs to be guided by the principles set forth in the council documents themselves.

Ok... this was certainly the most vague of my three predictions, but remember that it was made before the new music document was made public. Has there been a "transformation"of the discussion about Sacred Music? Consider the following:

  • November 9th 2007: Msgr. Miserachs hints that there may be a curial office for Sacred Music in the works and that "a pontifical office with authority over sacred music would correct the abuses that have occurred in this area"
  • December 6th 2007: The USCCB announces the new music document Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship. Although this document is not everything that some would have liked, it is HUGE in terms of political impact on the status quo. With MCW, as vague as it was, there was a sense of "official approval" for the continued movement away from the Church's traditional music in favor of a "people's music" approach. The new guidelines make it difficult to infer such an approval in the future, with prominent statements on the use of Latin language in the liturgy, a statement regarding a minimum repertoire of Gregorian Chant ordinary settings that EVERY assembly should know, extended discussion of Antiphons at Mass and how they should be used, a strong statement about the importance of the presider's chants and the "sung Mass" model being preferred over the current "spoken Mass with hymns". All of these points and others made in SttL refute the general direction of progressive liturgists and in a sense put them in opposition to the official position of the USCCB. The new vision laid out in SttL is, in a sense, a considerable change in direction for liturgical music, albeit one that may take several years to have real impact.
  • The Masses at D.C Nationals Stadium and St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Pope's visit to the United States in April created an atmosphere in which the usually rarified and esoteric discussions about liturgical music suddely were thrust onto the pages of the New York Times and mainstream news services. Two of the "mega-liturgies", D.C Nationals Stadium and St. Patrick's created an easy comparison, so obvious that even those not normally concerned with liturgical music made note of the differences. The verdict.... Il Papa was not pleased with the music at DC, while he was obviously overjoyed with the Mass at St. Patrick's. Later, the Mass at Yankee Stadium prominently featured beautiful hymnody, Gregorian Chant selections, appropriate psalmody and the unusual occurance of 30, 000 faithful singing the Credo III in Latin together. I doubt such a public Mass would have been possible even two years ago...

So is there a transformation of the discussion about Sacred Music taking place? I think there is, although it is a difficult thing to put a finger on at this point. Consider that the Winter-Spring edition of the OCP Journal Today's Liturgy bore the foreboding title Music in a Time of Change.

...and of course, when OCP says there is change happening we can be assured that it's for real!


Dad29 said...

Not to mention Pastoral Music's recent issue--all about Gregorian Chant (per J Tucker at TNLM.)

The terms of the discussion are certainly changing.

Good prediction!!

How's the DJIA going to look in 6 months?

Chironomo said...

Yes... I haven't looked it over yet but I understand that there is a "party line" forming in the usual suspect's publications. I trust OCP and GIA with overseeing the use of chant at Mass about as much as I would trust them with publishing catechetical materials for the new Missal translation... NOT!!