Thursday, January 29, 2009


I wanted to draw out some further implications of Pope St. Pius X's, 1903, Motu Proprio Tra le sollecitudini (Restoration of Sacred Music).

We need to keep our focus clearly on the notion of active participation. The purpose of music is to aid in our worship and not to entertain us. The musical instruments should be played in a way that aids the singing and should not draw attention to the musician or the instrument. For example if the piano is used it should not be louder than the singing. St Pius notes, "singing must always have the chief place, the organ and other instruments should merely sustain, never suppress it." (AOG 121) The manner in which the music is played should be simple and not involve complicated extra musical parts that interrupt or delay the singing. "It is not lawful to introduce the singing with long preludes, or to interrupt it with intermezzos" (Ibid). In my experience this means that those playing key boards need to reign in the tendency to add musical flourishes. St. Pius' admonition that music must be good and also "suited to the ability of the singers and always sung well" means that the sometimes common philosophy of saying we are just hear to "make a joyful noise" regardless of the quality is misguided. The choir should contain singers with ability, and who have practiced, and are singing what they are good at. Better to have a small choir of good singers than a large one that is mediocre. Further if the goal of the choir in to encourage the entire congregation to sing, then the music director must choose songs that are sing-able. The songs choice must be in a key that most people can sing and the words of the song must be inspiring and not banal or trite. Some thought must be given to not simply singing the "old favorites" that are now the "favorites of the old people". I honestly don't know what to say about generation problem, but clearly experience shows that younger people are drawn to the music and the leadership of their own generation. Prudence would suggest at least some method of sharing the worship time among differing tastes. Perhaps this means hosting a youth Mass, and allowing for some diversity in the regular worship. This of course could be taken to extremes where the Altar is replaced with a rock band, and liturgy becomes a performance. There is nothing wrong with a Christian rock concert, it is just not what we mean by liturgy. I think I will leave it here and hope I haven't offended everyone. J

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