Friday, January 30, 2009

Virgil Funk's "Commentary" on Sing To The Lord - Part III

In case you are just joining in on reading this series, I'm commenting on the review of the USCCB Document Sing To The Lord: Music in Divine Worship by former NPM President Fr. Virgil Funk that appears in OCP's Today's Liturgy, the Lent/ Triduum/ Easter 2009 edition. You can find the firt two parts of my comments HERE (Part I) and HERE (Part II).

Before I get too far in, I will interject my own opinion here as it will undoubtedly shape the following review. I believe strongly that to refer to Pastoral Musicians, Church Musicians, Liturgical Musicans as "Ministers" offers the possibility of confusing their role with the role of the ordained. As I have pointed out before HERE, the liturgical musician serves the liturgy, not the "Gathered Assembly" or any other group present at the liturgy. This understanding is crucial if we are to get away from the popular-music model for liturgical music.

Fr. Funk continues on with a review of Paragraphs 28-47, dealing with the various Ministers of Liturgical Music.

The choir is discussed in paragraphs 28-33 and is affirmed as it always has been in the official documents, but Sing to the Lord places special emphasis on the choir by having it first in order of discussion. The document identifies the proper role of the choir in relation to assembly participation when it says, "The choir must not minimize the participation of the faithful" since assembly participation is primary.

Concerning how the choir has been affirmed in other documents, it would be a bit deceptive to say that Sing To The Lord affirms in quite the same way. The following are some sections of relevant documents that affirm the role of the choir:

Among the faithful, the schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical function, ensuring that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chants, are properly carried out and fostering the active participation of the faithful through the singing.87 What is said about the choir also applies, in accordance with the relevant norms, to other musicians, especially the organist.

19. Because of the liturgical ministry it performs, the choir -- or the Capella musica, or schola cantorum -- deserves particular mention. Its role has become something of yet greater importance and weight by reason of the norms of the Council concerning the liturgical renewal. Its duty is, in effect, to ensure the proper performance of the parts which belong to it, according to the different kinds of music sung, and to encourage the active participation of the faithful in the singing. Therefore:

(a) There should be choirs, or Capellae, or scholae cantorum, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and religious houses of studies, and they should be carefully encouraged.

(b) It would also be desirable for similar choirs to be set up in smaller churches.

20. Large choirs (Capellae musicae) existing in basilicas, cathedrals, monasteries and other major churches, which have in the course of centuries earned for themselves high renown by preserving and developing a musical heritage of inestimable value, should be retained for sacred celebrations of a more elaborate kind, according to their own traditional norms, recognized and approved by the Ordinary.

However, the directors of these choirs and the rectors of the churches should take care that the people always associate themselves with the singing by performing at least the easier sections of those parts which belong to them.

22. The choir can consist, according to the customs of each country and other circumstances, of either men and boys, or men and boys only, or men and women, or even, where there is a genuine case for it, of women only.

The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30.

These three documents comprise the triad of officilial documents that address music, and each of them, by virtue of it's status carries more weight, both juridicially and practically, than the USCCB document does. Choirs are indeed affirmed in all three documents, however, their primary role is to preserve the treasury of Sacred Music (Chant/ Polyphony), to "ensure the proper performance of those parts which belong to it", and lastly, to encourage the active participation of the faithful in singing as laid down in Art. 28 and 30, which reads:

28. In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy.

30. To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence.

Nothing new here, at least for those familiar with these documents, but it is a bit of a stretch to say, as Fr. Funk then concludes, that "assembly participation is primary". To say that the passage from Sing To The Lord which states "The choir must not minimize the musical participation of the faithful" somehow definitively defines the relationship between the choir and assembly, and that relationship is one in which the assembly's participation is primary and the choirs role is secondary is wrong. The Church's official documents, cited above, make it clear that in terms of the liturgical music, the choir is the primary body which then encourages and supports the (secondary) role of the assembly.

Fr. Funk then concludes this paragraph with a rather shocking statement:

Choir members are to be drawn from the assembly as opposed to being paid musicians from outside the parish; they should attend rehearsals and possess requisite musical skills.

In the context that it appears in this article, it seems to the reader that Sing To The Lord actually says this! So what does SttL say?

Choirs and ensembles, on the other hand, comprise persons drawn from the community who possess the requisite musical skills and a commitment to the established schedule of rehearsals and Liturgies. Thus, they are able to enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.

Choir members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.

Perhaps it's me and my peculiar fascination with legislative documents and texts, but even I can tell the difference between a descriptive text and a proscriptive text. This passage is simply describing that since, in most instances, choirs are comprised of persons drawn from the assembly with specific skills, they are thus able to carry out a role that exceeds the abilities of the congregation alone. It then concludes by saying that choir members are "servants of the liturgy and members of the gathered assembly", emphasizing their dual role, not a mandated prerequisite!

To conclude that this passage somehow prohibits the use of paid musicians for choirs is absolute nonsense! By the same logic, the Director of Music would also have to be a volunteer from the assembly. This is clearly a statement of Fr. Funk's opinion and feelings that choirs should be volunteer subgroups of the "Gathered Assembly" rather than groups whose first priority is the service of the liturgy and the preservation of the treasury of Sacred Music. What he seems to be describing is less of a Schola Cantorum as in Musicam Sacram, and more of a "Folk Group" as was common in the 1970's and 80's (and in some places, even today!)

More To Come....

Virgil Funk's "Commentary" on Sing To The Lord - Part II

Continuing on with a look at former NPM President Virgil Funk's analysis and commentary on Sing To The Lord in the Lent/ Easter/ Triduum Edition of Today's Liturgy...


This passage of Sing To The Lord is roughly eight sentences long, although you might envision it as much longer reading Funk's review. He begins this section with a summary of the main points:

Sing to the Lord identifies three concerns that have faced the assembly over the years but are presented as current and containing some new urgency: division in the assembly, the musical formation of the assembly, and introducing new music.

I would first argue that these are not concerns that have faced the assembly, as I doubt that very many members of the assembly even think about such things, but rather these are concerns that have faced those who prepare the music liturgy in a parish. He goes on....

Regarding division, Sing to the Lord poses interesting questions for those studying this document: What divisions exist in your parish community and which of them can be overcome by congregational song? How can the faithful shun any appearance of individualism or division?

So what does Sing to the Lord actually say? Let's see...

Because the gathered liturgical assembly forms one body, each of its members must shun “any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have only one Father in heaven and accordingly are all brothers and sisters to each other.” (SttL 25)

That's all. I don't see where this poses any questions, let alone these particular questions. I will say there is a certain amount of vanity in the question he poses: "What divisions exist in your parish community and which of them can be overcome by congregational song?". What must someone think of themselves to consider that their music can "overcome divisions" in a parish community? Sheez...

The second question has an answer, and a rather obvious one though it is doubtful that Fr. Funk really wants to go there: "How can the faithful shun any appearance of individualism or division?" That's an easy one. We don't sing "Calypso inspired" music because there are folks from the carribean in the assembly, and we don't sing "Mariachi inspired" music because there are Hispanic folks in the assembly, and we don't sing "Negro Spiritual inspired" music because there are African-Americans in the assembly: We sing Catholic music because that's what we all (ostensibly) are! It's amazing, given the way that so much "contemporary liturgical music" partitions the people in the assembly by ethnicity, that Fr. Funk would have the nerve to even ask this question. The million dollar question is, what is Catholic Music? The obvious answer to that question is the reason that Fr. Funk doesn't want to go there.

His analysis continues...

When discussing musical formation, the document notes that " singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy...The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation"(26). Musicians, priests, deacons, and Bishops are invited to participate in the musical formation of the assembly. The study question at the parish level, of course, becomes how.

Before I comment, let's take a look at what SttL actually says about this:

26. Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. The people are encouraged “to take part by means of acclamations,responses, psalms, antiphons [and] hymns. . . .”40 The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation.

First, I find it interesting that Fr. Funk leaves out the second sentence which says "The people are encouraged “to take part by means of acclamations,responses, psalms, antiphons [and] hymns." Now why would he leave that out? Let me see...the most important thing the assembly sings is the acclamations, then the responses to the priest's invocations, then the response to the psalms, then the Antiphons (What's an Antiphon? Hmmm...maybe he doesn't want anybody to ask that question...)and hymns. What??? No "songs" "Gathering music"? Sheez...

Again, I looked and looked and looked some more, and nowhere could I find that "Musicians, priests, deacons, and Bishops are invited to participate in the musical formation of the assembly." It's just not there. Not that it's a bad idea, it just seems to be inserting something that's not actually there. As such, it is not really a useful "study question" to figure out how to accomplish this... there are other more pressing matters that could use our attention.

For instance...let's see how Fr. Funk ends this insightful analysis:

Regarding the introduction of new music, the document suggests that "A pastoral judgment must be made in all cases." (27), particularly when deciding how often and when to introduce new music. Unfortunately, the document doesn't provide more specific guidelines on how to go about this, but it includes that pastoral judgment remains the responsibility and challenge of the parish musicians and clergy reading and studying Sing to the Lord.

OK... does it really say all that? Let's see...

27. So that the holy people may sing with one voice, the music must be within its members’ capability. Some congregations are able to learn more quickly and will desire more variety. Others will be more comfortable with a stable number of songs so that they can be at ease when they sing. Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization. A pastoral judgment must be made in all cases.

Hmmm...alright... it does say that "a pastoral judgment must be made in all cases", but that is the last thing it says, and even then it is a qualification statement. The main point of this section is the argument for a limited and stabilized repertoire of music for Catholic Worship, the very thing that was called for in Liturgiam Authenticam and which the Bishops were supposed to produce in the Directory for Music and the Liturgy. Since the very concept of such musical regulation is anethema to the commercial liturgical music industry, it isn't surprising that Fr. Funk glossed over this particular issue. What a shame.

I also find it interesting that Fr. Funk laments that the document fails to provide specifics about what music to introduce, and how to introduce it. Perhaps he hadn't gotten to section 74 which says: (my highlights in bold)

74. The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin.70 In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. While prudence, pastoral sensitivity, and reasonable time for progress are encouraged to achieve this end, every effort in this regard is laudable and highly encouraged.

75. Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered. “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.”72

When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended. Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to“unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings.73

Wow! It says what the church documents ask us to introduce to the assembly, how to introduce it, gives some VERY specific examples, and even some more advanced examples to introduce once those have become old hat! It then goes on at length to suggest alternatives that the choir may do on occasion, or if your choir is not up to the Propers in the Graduale Romanum, suggests that you might try those from the Graduale Simplex first! And... it even reminds you that when your choir sings the Adorate Deum on the Third Week of Ordinary Time, you need to provide a vernacular translation for the assembly so that they may "unite themselves interiorly".

Sheez... how specific is that?

Virgil Funk's "Commentary" on Sing To The Lord - Part I

Back in July I made a post about a review of Sing To The Lordin OCP's Today's Liturgy Magazine. My point was that the "reviewer" was presenting a less-than-complete portrayal of this document, leaving out some very important points while adding personal interpretations that are not even in the document. This is particularly insidious because Today's Liturgy is a publication that is distributed widely to parish Music Directors, many of whom take such published articles as Gospel Truth without ever checking to see if what is being said is even factually correct.

The LENT-TRIDUUM-EASTER edition of Today's Liturgy puts forth yet another review, this time by former president Fr. Virgil Funk. The status of Fr. Funk at the NPM gives him a particular level of authority within that organization, and so it is all the more regrettable that he has seen fit to put his name to a "review" that is at best deceptive, and at worst is transparently undermining the intention of the Bishop's document by turning some of the document's words to support the very liturgical music agenda that the document is setting out to correct.

This particular article is Part II of a 4-Part series. Part I dealt with Section I - "Why Do We Sing?"... and interesting but largely expository essay on the nature of liturgical singing. Since that section presents a great deal of opinion on the subject, comments made about it are also matters of opinion, and the commenter (Fr. Funk) is totally free to give his opinion about the "normal consequences of liturgical celebration" or whether our liturgical singing is an historical continuation of Moses's song during the Exodus. Without being too dismissive, this first section of Sing To Ther Lorddoesn't really present too much in the way of substance, so I don't get too excited about what a reviewer says about it.

Section II is a different story though... this section presents some very strong and definitive statements about liturgical music and it's practical conduct. This might be a good time to point out a small but important point. At one place in his review, Fr. Funk says "for the first time in an official document..." and then goes on to continue his point. While this is a published document of the USCCB, I would question whether it is an official document in the way that Fr. Funk is trying to imply, as it lacks approval from the Holy See or the CDW. As such, even the strong statements made in this document have no juridicial force, and are little more than suggestions. Perhaps pointing this out would have been a better tactic for Fr. Funk to adopt, noting that while the document calls for some rather radical things, it has no real authority and as such we have to wait for an official document. Instead, he seems to vest considerable authority in the document... and then goes on to misrepresent it!

Where to the introduction to the article

Because this is a pastoral document that provides guidelines for the United States, it begins with a discussion of the Bishop and his staff, and then the roles of the priest and deacon. While some may interpret this approach as hierarchical, such an evaluation would be offset by the fact that the document does not mention the international commission (ICEL), nor the pope or the Vatican commisssion (Congregation for Divine Worship) and its various committees (e.g, Vox Clara).

True... the document doesn't mention those entities, although I'm not sure why ICEL or the CDW would be discussed in a document on US guidelines for music. This fact does not mean that the approach is not hierarchical: it clearly is so. Some points that Fr. Funk left out here.

  • The Eucharistic celebration is an action of Christ and the Church, namely, the holy people united and ordered under the Bishop. (GIRM 91)

  • Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the Bishop, either in person or through priests who are his helpers. (GIRM 92)

  • A priest also, who possesses within the Church the power of Holy Orders to offer
    sacrifice in the person of Christ,81 stands for this reason at the head of the faithful people gathered together here and now, presides over their prayer, proclaims the message of salvation to them, associates the people with himself in the offering of sacrifice through Christ in the Holy Spirit to God the Father, gives his brothers and sisters the Bread of eternal life, and partakes of it with them. (GIRM 93)

  • After the priest, the deacon, in virtue of the sacred ordination he has received, holds first place among those who minister in the Eucharistic Celebration. (GIRM 94)

  • The acolyte is instituted to serve at the altar and to assist the priest and deacon. (GIRM 98)

OK... so the holy people are "ordered under the Bishop".... these include priests "who are his helpers"...the priest "stands at the head of the faithful people"...and "after the priest, the deacon... holds first place among those who minister..." who may include acolytes who "assist the priest and deacon". Can someone explain to me how this is NOT hierarchical? Lumen Gentium is pretty clear on the hierarchical authority within the church.

Since Sing To The Lord draws heavily on Musicam Sacram and Sacrosanctum Concilium, the foundations of those documents have to be considered, and one of those foundations is the authority of the Bishop. The only reason for disputing this would be as a rationale for ignoring those recomendations of the Bishops that you might disagree with. I wonder aloud if this might be the purpose of this particular point appearing at the beginning of the review.

Going on...Fr. Funk quotes Sing To The Lord concerning Diocesan liturgical commissions.

"The Bishop is assisted in his role by his staff in the Diocesan Office of Worship and/or the diocesan music or liturgical commission which provides valuable asssistance in promoting sacred music together with pastoral liturgical action in the diocese"

followed by

Sing To The Lord recognizes that, in the US, paid staff has often overshadowed volunteer commissions in practice.

I searched and read, and read and searched, and nowhere in Sing To The Lord could I find anything like the above statement. It certainly calls for just and adequate compensation for musicians, and as such strongly advocates paid staff. However, the way this is framed by Fr. Funk, it seems to be solely for the purpose of discrediting diocesan liturgical commissions. Not that I am a big fan, but there is a concerted effort in the first two paragraphs of this review to minimize the authority of the Bishop without coming out and saying so.

These points are academic though in light of what follows in this review. A Summary of his review section by section.


While noting that SttL restates already existing directives that the Priest and Deacon should sing those parts of the liturgy proper to them, he can't help bringing up those parts of Music In Catholic Worship which were much less stringent on this issue and contrasting them to the new directives. He goes on to enumerate some of the parts of the Mass that the Priest is supposed to sing, but leaves out some rather notable ones such as...

  • Seminaries and other programs of priestly formation should train priests to sing with
    confidence and to chant those parts of the Mass assigned to them. (SttL 20)

  • Those priests who are capable should be trained in the practice of chanting the Gospel on more solemn occasions when a deacon may not be present. (SttL 20)

  • At the very least, all priests should be comfortable singing those parts of the Eucharistic Prayer that are assigned to them for which musical notation is provided in the Roman Missal. (SttL 20) (Fr. Funk only mentions the preface...)


Fr. Funk points out that SttL encourages the Deacon to...

  • Sing the dialogue at the Gospel and dismissal

  • Sing the invitation "Let Us Pray" of the litanies, the Exsultet, the third form of the Penitential Rite, and the Prayers of the Faithful

but he leaves out...

  • If they are capable, deacons should be trained in the practice of chanting the Gospel on more solemn occasions.
  • Programs of diaconal preparation should include major and compulsory courses in the chant and song of the Liturgy.

Wouldn't these provisions seem to be of any importance? Maybe not since the Gospel would have to be chanted (as in plainchant) rather than be set to an inane OCP published melody. And a compulsory course on chant....? I think the combination of "compulsory" and "chant" in the same directiver may have been too much for Fr. Funk.

Stay tuned for Part II of my "review"...