Expert comments on the music for a Papal event in England

At The Chant Cafe my friend Jeffrey Tucker, a distinguished Church musician, has a few trenchant comments about some of the music for an even during the upcoming Papal Visit to England.

My emphases and comments:

Damian Thompson reports on the sabotage of the September 18 prayer Vigil for the Pope on his visit to the UK will consist mostly of pseudo-folk music from the 1970s and 80s. The detailed program is listed here, but what I really do not understand is why it is necessary to trot out huge forces of instruments and singers for such a thing.

This is mostly unison music that most Catholics could rattle off in their sleep. It isn’t really choral music at all. It’s just a series of small tunes, best performed with a guitar, sitting on a stone by the fireside at a youth encounter thirty years ago.

Talk about over-egging the pudding: "The choir will consist of 160 singers from nearly all the dioceses in England and Wales. Together with 50 singers and 50 musicians from the New English Orchestra, you will provide the majority of the accompaniment to the Vigil. You will also be on stage (under cover should it rain) and in close proximity to the Holy Father. It should be an experience to cherish for many years."

Oh, there is one grand piece: Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. This is also something that I do not understand. There are many good things to say about this piece and they would all be easier to say if this piece hadn’t become the world’s most notorious musical cliche, second only to the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th.

[And this is a part to pay attention to:] But even if we consider the intended purpose of the piece, it is a composition for religious theater, by a Protestant for Protestants. This doesn’t mean that it is bad, or something that should be banned from Catholic circles, but there is a downside for any community that cannot define itself with its own magnificent forms of cultural expression [there it is!] but instead relies on rehashing other people’s traditions. It is not necessary to make Handel central when you have a Catholic musical tradition inclusive of Tallis and Byrd.

I have detected a trend for Catholic gatherings of this sort to use the Hallelujah Chorus as a signaling device, as if you suggest "Lest you think that we only sing small ditties about journeys of love, here’s a big classical piece just to show you what we could do if we wanted to."


This is a direct hit.

I resonate with what Mr. Tucker says about other people’s tradition.

For example, I know that there is presently a revival of Catholic architecture in the Latin Church in part with the integration of elements from the Greek Byzantine tradition.  I like the Byzantine tradition.  But I think we Latins have our own styles and traditions.

Why do we have to turn to the Easterners in order to reclaim the sacred and transcendent?

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  1. AnAmericanMother says:

    What he said.

    What you said, Father.

    With all the beautiful and thoroughly English Catholic music available (I notice Mr. Tucker cites the same two I mentioned earlier this week – the glorious Messrs Tallis and Byrd) why beat poor old Mr. Handel’s ultra-cliche into the ground? (I bet Georg Fredric, assuming he knows the current state of affairs, is sorry he ever wrote the chorus given how it’s been abused.)

    Mr. Tucker is going to be one of the speakers at the Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium at our parish tomorrow. I’ve signed up for his breakout session.

    I am sorry to report that Mr. Haas has more people signed up for his sessions than anybody else . . . . ‘nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.’

    But as a good host I am going to keep my opinions to myself.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Sang to give good example to the children, two Haas songs at morning Mass. One has obvious heretical words, but nobody seems to notice and John Foley was sung as well, who is almost worse.

    Byrd, Tallis, Gibbons, and why not Palestrina, de Victoria, and Monteverdi to invoke the universal Church?

  3. Marcin says:

    But I think we Latins have our own styles and traditions.

    Yes, relegated to the basement if not the dustbin…

    Why do we have to turn to the Easterners in order to reclaim the sacred and transcendent?

    Well, byzantinization of ours would be just like latinization of their churches. But once you experienced an ad orientem worship in a Byzantine temple, you can’t really suffer Novus Ordo, as we know it, anymore. So maybe that’s a solution: to send parishioners to the nearest ByzCath church for mystagogic catechesis, and if they can _stand_ through Divine Liturgy and Hours for couple of weeks, they would accept a new English translation without complaint, start chanting the propers and show their pastor his way around altar to have him properly oriented.

  4. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sounds good to me!

    I would have loved to see a little nod to the early English Catholic music tradition – composers like Dunstable and Cornysh – as well as the later Catholic converts like Bull and Philips.

    And sure, ring in the Continentals as a gesture of welcome to the Holy Father — it would be fun to sing some Isaac or Schütz. And if we think we ought to sing some Handel because he was a German who moved to England . . . let’s sing something a LITTLE less hackneyed than the “Hallelujah Chorus”. Please.

  5. Hieronymus says:

    I think the reason for “going big” with the bad music is to give the impression that this is solemn and grandiose — it’s how people with bad taste make music “fancy”.

    Why doesn’t the Holy Father go to a diocese with a bishop who will actually arrange an appropriate Mass? I know that severely limits his possibilities for travel to just a few dioceses in the world, but it would certainly make a statement. Then again, if he and his predecessor had appointed orthodox bishops, he wouldn’t have to suffer through these terribly tasteless variety-show Masses. So in a way, perhaps it is best he sees what the rest of the world has to suffer at the hands of their “shepherds”. You reap what you sow.

  6. Andreas says:

    Is there not a requirement that someone in the Vatican review the content and form of all proceedings at which the Holy Father will be present? As the Pope has specfically addressed the sad state of Catholic music during these past decades, it would seem that the program outlined would be reviewed and summarily rejected by those overseeing such arrangements.

    By the way, there is no need to dwell only in the Renaissance and Baroque periods when looking for appropriate sacred music for the Mass or any other such sacred event. There are a host of composers from the 18th through 20th centuries whose sacred music (especially with the musical forces to be there) would be not only more appropriate but quite glorious.

  7. Why do we have to turn to the Easterners in order to reclaim the sacred and transcendent?

    Point taken, though Westminster Cathedral borrows its architectural style from Byzantine traditions without losing its Catholicity.

  8. Jono says:

    There is also a heavy Byzantine influence on San Marco in Venice. In fairness, Venice does straddle East and West. Even so, I think we could probably say that using elements of the Byzantine tradition in the West has long been a part of the Latin patrimony.

  9. Hieronymus says:

    The more I think about this, the more I find it difficult to feel sorry for the Holy Father when he is made to sit through all of these liturgical aberrations. He is the one man who can do something about it. Tell the local ordinary that he will not sit through such a service; replace him with an orthodox bishop; stop visiting the dioceses run by those who insist on this garbage.

    How long can this go on?

  10. Jayna says:

    They should have booked The Tallis Scholars. No instruments required. Just ten insanely talented singers who are all British. The Holy Father would love it.

  11. chcrix says:

    “the world’s most notorious musical cliche, second only to the opening notes of Beethoven’s 5th”

    Well, there is the opening to “Also Sprach Zarathustra”

    “Tallis and Byrd”

    Well, I’ll give him this. We are going to Great Britain after all. Other than that there are also a few minor German and Italian Catholic composers as well.

    But one thing. I refuse to stand during the Hallelujah. Doesn’t matter to me that some usurping Hanoverian princeling once stood up for it.

  12. chadmyers says:

    Personally, I hope they do their worst. It’s not that I wish the Holy Father pain and suffering, but by enduring this, he will understand better what’s going on in the US and UK with regards to our liturgy, sacredness, and celebration of Mass. He got a good dose of it in the US and now he’ll get in the UK. Perhaps it will cause him to throw up a little in his mouth and start making some much needed changes. I *LOVE* that the Holy Father gets out of the Vatican often to hit the streets with the Flock and feel the pain from the bottom of the ladder.

    Stay classy, Pope Bene!

  13. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:


    Of course it would be good to see and hear such beautiful music as COULD be possible, and Tallis and Byrd are excellent representatives of English Catholicism. He might be letting this nonsense go on precisely to make the juxtapositional point: this liturgy vs. that music. We could hope for specific follow-up instructions on the need to revitalize music in the Church, although they’re likely to be delivered to some meeting of artists and make the news because the Pope has forgotten that he’s not a professor any more … etc., etc.,

    Remember that he has outmanoeuvered Bishop Trautman and outlived Cardinals Bernadin and Mahoney.

  14. Taquoriaan says:

    And here we are, in our international Cathedral Parish, which offers Vigil Mass in English, using mostly British Catholic hymns for the music.

    Why are the British Catholics ashamed of this great heritage. I guess I know the answer: the people who make this crap are 1. not listening to what the faithful want (real music), but think they need to be ‘hip’; 2. Probably in their 60s and therefor choosing what in their time was ‘hip’. Or what they perceive that to be.

    I call that old-fashioned. We (young people) want hymns. Hymns are cool. Hymns are modern. Why does it always have to be old-fashioned?


  15. muckemdanno says:

    It’s all about ecumenism. You have to take bits from everyone. I guess the goal is to make everyone feel at home by incorporating stuff from everyone’s traditions.

    It’s like having an ethnic cuisine night where you serve all the different delicassies from around the world. And you put them all into a big pot and boil the mixture until it has no flavor and it winds up pleasing nobody.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:


    I agree that superannuated ‘hipsters’ are part of the problem. But that’s not all of it.

    Part of this is the tension between music publishing/performance/marketing and real composers.

    A good composer is not necessarily a good politician or a schmoozer. But because the music publishing business is the way it is (oriented towards marketing and sales, as well as most of its members coming from a pop background) they are primarily politicians and schmoozers who tend to be comfortable with birds of a feather. Plus of course the self-promoters tend to shove in ahead of more modest composers with better music.

    And of course it circles right back to the whole ‘hip’ thing because so many of the music publishers are Of a Certain Age . . . the 70s crowd are in their mid to late 50s now and thus have moved up the ranks in music publishing. (The 70s is where the really bad music comes from . . . the 60s were actually pretty creative musically.)


  17. Dr. Eric says:

    “Why do we have to turn to the Easterners in order to reclaim the sacred and transcendent?”

    Probably because in the last 50 years we Latins have lost our sense of the sacred and transcendent whereas the Easterners (in all their flavors) have kept theirs.

  18. AnnLewis says:

    As a musician I’m mortified. Do they really NOT know that the pope is a musician himself? Do they NOT know how insulting this is to one as knowledgeable as him? Not that he will be uncharitable. I’m sure he’ll be sweet about the whole thing as he usually is. But seriously…this is just…I don’t know.

    I’m so embarrassed for Britain. I really, really am. (sigh)

  19. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    How about something from Handel’s Carmelite Vespers?

    Or from his Italian Resurrection oratorio?

    He spent a fair bit of time happily composing in Italy (and people were happy to employ him there).

  20. Mitchell NY says:

    Unfortunately for the thousands of people who will see this event and millions of others who will watch some portion of it, and are not followers of this blog or others like it, they will not even know that this is not appropriate. They will simply see the Holy Father presiding over this and will assume this to be completely appropriate and may even think the Pope has arranged it all. That is the deeply disturburbing thing about the whole mess. And those planning it probably know that as well. What I do not understand it being that it is so publicized beforehand, planned, discussed, and even criticized for its’ shortcomings, is how the Vatican does not do something about it? If they want to lead by example, not issue any decrees, mandates or the like then what kind of example does this show? If you want to lead by example then do so. It’s almost like Rome has little right to complain about abuses or anything much at all anymore. And even allowing all this planning without the Holy Father’s considerations is wrong. In the end, it ends at Rome’s door. Who approves for looser controls anyways?

  21. GoZagsGo says:

    Paypal visit…What? this has nothing to do with….ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh PAPAL visit…. :P

  22. Gail F says:

    Ugh, “One Bread, One Body.” Hate that song. I think the writer is quite right about the reason they chose the “Hallelujah” chorus. But sue me, I like it.

  23. AnAmericanMother says:


    I know. I like Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major . . . or at least I did until our choirmaster did his “Cocktail Lounge Version” and now I can’t get that out of my head. Or my daughter’s summer camp and their “Taco Bell Canon” in which the camp choir sings the names of various Mexican foods to the different voices. It’s pretty funny actually.

    I can still like the second movement which nobody ever plays . . . .

  24. TJerome says:

    The Holy Father (contrary to all the old mischaracterizations by the left-wing media as an “enforcer”) is a gentle man. Now if he had my nature, I would stand up, thank them all for coming but make it clear I will return to listen when they decide to play Catholic music, not warmed over leftovers from the 70s and 80s.

  25. The other thing that kills me is that this is Vespers, but no Vespers stuff. There’s a major project that’s been going for years to make recordings of medieval Vespers stuff for various Scottish and Irish saints. There’s tons of medieval Sarum stuff that’s England-specific. It’s good stuff, it’s interesting, they could sing it in English instead of Latin if they wanted. They could even sing devotional medieval songs that were written in Old English or Middle English, because we’ve got the melodies and words for some of that.

    But nooooo. Let’s sing “One Bread, One Body”, because somehow, despite it being American, that song is the pinnacle of _English_ musical and ecclesiastical history, and nothing better could possibly be found for presentation before the Pope – especially since he’s sat through versions of that in at least five different visits to five different countries so far, if I recall correctly.

    Well, nobody can say that Pope Benedict isn’t getting his Purgatory done now.

  26. I think this is tailored as a “media event”. And a “populist” kinda thingee.
    In English speaking countries, unfortunately, we have all this “crap” that is called “liturgical music”, “praise music”, whathaveyou.
    In an informal prayer group; fine; no problem. As long as it’s not heretical.
    But for something like this, there is no problem with popular or contemporary sacred music, as long as it’s THAT (sacred music, according to the norms of the Church documents)…and the criteria, I’m afraid, has sunk very LOOOOOW.
    Why are the Liturgy of the Hours (Evening Prayer; Compline), the Rosary, other devotions not integrated into the whole thing with the musical tradition that is very much a part of them (I think of the “Litany of Loreto” by Monteverdi?)…
    If you want to inspire, uplift, and give people a “taste” of the transcendent, you provide the traditional repertoire.
    But this looks like ‘compromise city’, if you ask me.
    The Papal Masses in Malta did not sound like this; Turin, either. I don’t know what went on before or after. But somehow, we in the English-speaking world have to raise the bar…A LOT!

  27. BenFischer says:

    Why do Latins look to Byzantine influences? That’s easy. If you’re in the Latin Rite, and if you’re a part of the current culture elite mindset, then Byzantine culture is different, multiculti, open minded, exotic and tolerant. Roman history is parochial, triumphalist, stuck-in-the-mud.

  28. Genna says:

    On the button, Hieronymus. The only classical (they would sneeringly call it elitist)music the philistines know is the Hallelujah chorus.

    Although our parish does have solemn hymns at Sunday Mass, every one of them is Anglican. Not a good old Catholic hymn to be heard (or sung).

    I read that the luv’n’hug stuff for the beatification Mass was kyboshed after protests direct to The Vatican. Sigh of relief. Also, the ageing trendies have been excluded from their dead-hand input into the Westminster Cathedral Mass in London where the choir will sing Byrd.

    Unfortunately, they managed to grab the youth vigil at Hyde Park. Why is it that they think teens and twenties relate to this garbage? No mention of a Newman hymn. It is rumoured that the tickets take-up is not impressive.

    Plus the Protest the Pope mob (motored by gays and fundamentalist secularists)are mooting the Pope’s gathering of schoolchildren in west London for a demonstration against him. Nice.

  29. shadowlands says:

    “Perhaps it will cause him to throw up a little in his mouth and start making some much needed changes”

    Way to go brother! Just because he’s the Pope, the head of the Church, don’t mean the commenters on this blog can’t have a go on him. You lot are, after all, the authors and finishers of true Catholicism, at least you know all the right words.

    Vomit in the Pope’s mouth? Mmm….

    I can’t wait to see the Holy Father, whether in the flesh or on screen. I won’t be looking at all the discrepencies, I don’t know what they are anyway.

    And don’t tell me your nasty attitudes are because of years of liturgical abuse. You didn’t let the Irish dissenters get away with that line, in the previous thread, why should you perfected ones be excused and allowed to use ‘abuse’ as your ticket to un-Christian behaviour? I accuse you, many of you, of blatant hypocrisy. One rule for others and excuses for your insulting behaviours. Someone even ordered a soul back to hell the other day!

    Now where’s my two-piece trouser suit and floppy hat? Follow the smell of moth balls gal, it’s in the wardrobe somewhere.

  30. shadowlands says:

    ‘The only classical (they would sneeringly call it elitist)music the philistines know is the Hallelujah chorus.’

    What exactly is a philistine, when used to slag off a fellow brother or sister, in the faith? Chortle, chortle, I suppose I’m a phillistine for needing to even ask, eh, what!

    “I read that the luv’n’hug stuff for the beatification Mass was kyboshed after protests direct to The Vatican. Sigh of relief.”

    Yep, if there’s one thing the commenters on this blog hate, it’s love

    “Also, the ageing trendies have been excluded from their dead-hand input”

    Old people, let’s just curse them, and hope that they die. The real deal Catholics can then be a shining light in this dark world.

    “Why is it that they think teens and twenties relate to this garbage?”

    Yes, we must give the teens and twenties what they ‘need’. We must listen to them. It’s only the groups we disagree with, that we knock, when they speak about their ‘needs’. We tell them, “The Church is not a democracy”
    It’s about making arguments fit, as they suit. We’re bound to win, we argue so much more persuasively than the uneducated masses (ha-ha, did you spot my pun there, uneducated masses?).

    How the Lord loves guile. Oh no, sorry, that’s Satan isn’t it? God hates it.

  31. shadowlands says:

    Growing old is not a disease or a woe to humanity. It is our right. It is a privilege allowed by God.

  32. Kerry says:

    “Adoro te devote, latens Deitas, quae sub his figuris vere latitas: tibi se cor meum totum subjicit, quia te contemplans totum deficit.”

  33. ckdexterhaven says:

    “the world’s most notorious musical cliche”- Hey now, Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin isn’t *that* bad. :)

    Are they really going to sing “One Bread One Body”. I’m embarrassed.

  34. eulogos says:

    Shadowlands, you are right that snide remarks directed at people now in their sixties are sinful and uncharitable, and as indecorous as the comments some of those people made about “those who can’t accept the change in the Church” back in the 1970’s.

    But, are you disagreeing with the opinions expressed here about the music itself?

    Why by the way, do you say growing old is a privilege? I suppose not having died yet is a privilege, but some of the accompaniments of growing old are quite distressing. And as someone who has worked in a nursing home I’d have to say that the final stages of our decline must surely be the result of the fall.

    Susan Peterson

  35. chcrix says:


    These are Philistines:

    Though to give a sample of the state of the Church in England a chorus of “Gloire a Dagon” would be more appropriate than the Bacchanale.

  36. TNCath says:

    And I thought the Irish had bad liturgies and choices in music! Other than Tantum Ergo and Lead, Kindly Light, this thing looks like a musical disaster. I kept waiting to see “Here We Are” on the menu.

    Ok, if they wanted simple, what about good old Father Faber? Anything but this drivel.

  37. jfk03 says:

    Father, you ask: “Why do we have to turn to the Easterners in order to reclaim the sacred and transcendent?”

    My answer: Because 99% of Western parishes have lost their liturgical connection to the Apostles and Church Fathers, and this fact is reflected in the sorry state of church music. But tradition is alive and well in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches. That is part of the reason the Holy Father places such importance in healing the tragic schism between East and West. Unfortunately, most Roman Catholics are blissfully ignorant of the Eastern Churches and, for that matter, their own Western tradition.

  38. Gail F says:

    Someone tell me why there is so much “Greek” style art on Catholic books, posters, prayer cards, clip art, etc.? Personally, I do not like the Greek style. Why is it so popular now? And is it really popular, or is it just what the few Catholic publishers think people want to see?

  39. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Lots of young people have very catholic tastes, or at least varied ones: at any rate the sound tracks do not prevent them from enjoying such films as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Star Wars’, and symphonic metal albums are made for money as well as love. Sir Christopher Lee’s new metal concept album, ‘Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross’, has him singing verses from Psalm 70 (Hebrew 71) in English with the choir then singing part of the responsory and another verse from the Psalm in Latin: think, Thursday Compline! (Not that I am suggesting this partial setting as ideal for a Papal Vespers…)

    Many young people are too polite to say or show openly how cringe-making they find some of the music people solicitously choose in the expectation of pleasing them.

    ‘Philistine’ is also, of course, a usage coined by Newman’s contemporary Matthew Arnold (q.v., for full flavour).

  40. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Shadowlands – and everyone else,

    For interesting food for thought about the possible interrelations of ‘guile’ and God, reread the Book of Judith and then try one or more of the works of art based on it, like the Old English poem in the Beowulf MS. or Vivaldi’s ‘Juditha Triumphans’ (how I would have loved owning a recording of that when I was avidly listening to his works in my youth…).

  41. JonM says:


    The poor Holy Father, savaged by the media and jeered by his own, is actually so gentle that I believe that one writer was correct in suggesting he suffers from Nice Guy Syndrome.

    He needs to challenge this mockery head on: ‘if there isn’t actual Catholic music, I will not be coming because I am your leader and you are to follow.’ There is simply no defensible reason to let the progressive aged-spoiled brat generation dicate unacceptable terms to the Lawgiver.

    As Michael Voris has covered like so few have, this ‘Springtime’ is more like a free fall. Younger adults (mid 20s to low 30s) are almost extinct from the mainstream Church (though this is different, I understdand, for the SSPX and other traditionalist communities.) No 30 year old in his or her right mind is going to be misty eyed over a 58 year old guitarist strumming to ‘Shine Jesus Shine.’

    I’m sorry to report this news, but I know first hand that young adult Catholics really don’t look to the Church much for guidence on anything (save for the above listed exceptions.) As long as Priests are allowed to dump the Precious Blood or turn Mass into a Broadway Idol episode while 60ish folks treat the parish as their own personal project to better their suburban ennui, younger people will not feel strengthened enough to fight the temptations thrust in their face.

    Speaking of which, when was the last time a Bishop did a public campaign specifically condemning pornography and pronographic billboards and urding lawmakers to forbid such practices?

    And so, while English prelates give offerings to pagan Hindu deities and plan intensely stupid Mass programs, the only Catholic group to receive staunch condemnation is the SSPX, which of course would appear perfectly Catholic to a frozen time traveller from the 1940s.

    A side note about Pachelbel’s Cannon: it was my understanding that one could not use this during a Mass because it was composed for secular purposes. Many of us have immagined it being a perfect wedding song. Can a person use it during a Nuptiual Mass or only as a recessional?

  42. boko fittleworth says:

    I am astonished at your arrogance, Mr. Tucker.

  43. Supertradmum says:


    In England:

    The Greek style is connected to the fact that when the Roman Catholic Church was allowed to build churches again after the Emancipation Act, a decision was made to create the Cathedral in London, Westminster Cathedral in the Byzantine style for several reasons. One reason was to avoid duplicating the rational, 18th style of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and to avoid the Neo-Gothic, or Medieval style of architecture found at Westminster Anglican Cathedral. The Byzantine architectural choice was a genuine move of genius, as it pointed back to the early days of the Catholic Church before the schism and Protestant Revolt, and pointed away from the Anglican National Church, which had stolen so many Medieval churches from the Roman Catholics.

    Therefore, and second point, the use of the “Greek” motif is merely a connection to the Mother Church of Roman Catholic England, and another avoidance of use of the traditional English perpendicular or other architectural patterns which may cause confusion or make a political point–which the Roman Catholics in England would never do…

    Since the building of Westminster Cathedral, frequently called “the womb of the Church in England”, the Greek style has been popular, as a connection to that “new” presence in Great Britain of the legal, Roman Catholic Church.

  44. JonM says:

    @ Supertradmom,

    As usual, excellent contribution regarding the Greek architecture in England. Thank you.

  45. shadowlands says:

    Susan Peterson

    Thank you for your comment.

    ‘And as someone who has worked in a nursing home I’d have to say that the final stages of our decline must surely be the result of the fall.’

    Well, decline or death whether delivered in youth or old age is obviously part of the fall. But God promised man three score and ten, so we were certainly meant to have longevity and the respect that scripture speaks of, as being deserving for the old. Proverbs 23:22, Solomon exhorts his son to “harken to your Father who begot you and do not despise your mother when she is old. Our Lady was born without original sin, yet she grew old, certainly not as a result of the fall, in her case. We will become vulnerable and in need of others physical help one day, should we age. It is too easy to pick on the old. I see God in the priest at my local parish, he is 96 next birthday. He told me off for calling him a saint, and said “I’m not dead yet.” He was quite miffed.

    Re people’s opinions about the papal music, they are to their own tastes, and class too, but their comments about other’s tastes, or perceived lack is very hurtful. To judge a man’s soul, by his views on Grahame Kendrick (whom I have met, and he is a God fearing/loving man)is crazy fanaticism to me. God will look at the hearts of the singers, what will we be looking at? A common characteristic I am noticing here, in some Catholics is they seem to talk a lot about how right or wrong people are, on the outside. Do they spend Mass in contemplation of God, or scrutinizing the priest? When do you rejoice together, in worship? I appreciate you are trying to bring back proper liturgy, but where is the welcome for sinners? The good news? We know we are getting it wrong, but how many lists of faults are you going to make?

    Since I started the daily rosary, I felt instructed to pray daily for priests. It was an inwardly felt nudge, not something I read on a blog. Then I heard it was the year of the priest! I also started to look on priests as sons, which was odd to me, as I had not heard of this phenomena before.In Mass, I began to also pray for the priest as he celebrates.I never judge what he is doing, because I don’t have the knowledge of this and he is Our Lady’s son, she has never given me permission to judge her son. Any critical attitude regarding priests, had to be repented of, and the defect in my character that might be tempted to do so, surrendered, daily. I can criticize sometimes, you see. (ask Father Longenecker!). I’ve said sorry. :(

    My behaviour at Mass has altered as well, I am much more in touch with something other worldly, probably the wrong description but it’s the only one I have. Adoration, which was always a struggle, I now know I am meeting with Jesus, but I don’t know how I know this. I will not reach a stage where I am in a position to judge the priest,it will be the very opposite. If I can’t pray for him, keep quiet. They are just my orders ofcourse, my ambition is t one day be a faithful spiritual mother, by the grace of God.

    I would really like to learn more about the traditional Mass and that side of things. I just wish some of the people who promote it weren’t so unfriendly, to outsiders, I mean. They don’t want to meet you in your ignorance of these matters, they just seem to seek to expose and ridicule you, and anyone who disagrees with them.

    It takes a lot of energy and strength to keep approaching folks here, and I am getting tired and unhappy doing so. I feel ill after outbursts and my natural inclinations are to box! I pray everyone finds peace in their spirit’s and is able to enjoy the Pope’s visit and celebrate some good from it.

    I am sorry if my anger has caused me to sin in my comments here.

  46. Supertradmum says:


    Please do not take some of the comments to heart. I think there is plenty of room here for differences in opinion on music, but some of us do find “modern” music distracting at Mass, rather than conducive to worship or prayer, which is why some of the comments are so strongly worded.

    I agree with you 100% that prayers for priest are necessary. In fact, many years ago, I “heard” from God that I was not to criticize a priest unless I was willing to pray for him. We laity have high standards, which should include our own behavior. As to writing on this blog, I highly encourage you, as we all need to sharpen our ideas and shape our feelings into the Mind and Heart of Christ, and I think we are a little community online trying to do this with our feeble and imperfect efforts. Just consider us a family at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and stick with us all.

  47. paladin says:

    AnAmericanMother wrote:

    I know. I like Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major . . . or at least I did until our choirmaster did his “Cocktail Lounge Version” and now I can’t get that out of my head. Or my daughter’s summer camp and their “Taco Bell Canon” in which the camp choir sings the names of various Mexican foods to the different voices. It’s pretty funny actually.

    That sounds a bit like my own shock re: Pachelbel’s Canon in D: when I realized that (with a key change) it goes perfectly with the refrain of “Karma Chameleon”, by Boy George…

    Spoiled it for me forever, I think… :)

  48. shadowlands says:

    Thanks for your words Supertradmum.

  49. Dave N. says:

    Time to end these massive outdoor liturgical travesties.

  50. AnAmericanMother says:


    Don’t worry too much about the “siege mentality” of some of the TLM/EF/Latin Mass fans. And for heaven’s sake don’t take it personally.

    They have suffered a lot of abuse and suppression for a very long time. As a result they are sometimes hyper-critical and prickly.

    Our local FSSP parish is a good example. They are not real friendly to outsiders, and they justify this by the theory that every visitor is potentially a spy from the “enemy’s” camp.

    This sounds paranoid, BUT . . . I know of one case in our former Episcopal diocese where a supposed “volunteer” for a “high” parish was actually a mole keeping an eye on what the priest was up to. I have no idea if she was sent by the bishop or one of his underlings, but I heard several priests joking and laughing about it. Just Reason No. 4,563 why we left the Episcopal Church.

    As for musicians . . . also don’t take that personally. Just because I loathe the “Christian Contemporary” and OCP genres doesn’t mean that I think the people who sing it or like it are stupid, or evil. I do think the composers should know better because they call themselves musicians, but that certainly doesn’t apply to their fans. Hopefully exposure to better music will win folks over in a gradual and friendly fashion.

    We had good examples of that at the SE Liturgical Symposium today. In the question period following the keynote address, one person stood up and said that he had never been exposed to chant and wasn’t sure he knew how to go on. There was a bit of a murmur of support from the audience.

    But of the people in our session of Mr. Tucker’s chant presentation, a good number were not familiar with chant or the Gregorian notation at all. By the end of the session they were carolling along with everybody else. As I told one novice singer . . . this isn’t rocket science. Really, it’s not. If I can learn it in my late 40s, anybody can!

  51. AnAmericanMother says:

    The Symposium was very good, by the way.

    Mass was sung – with plenty of Latin, chanted reading and Gospel. A good selection of settings for the Ordinary, several chant modes and a couple of our own man’s compositions. Just a three-hymn sandwich with of course a Haas selection (insert eye roll here).

    Msgr Wadsworth gave an excellent, perceptive keynote address, pointing out the necessity for a common liturgical music throughout the Church (and at least strongly suggesting that chant was the way to go). Best line of the presentation: in response to a question from an auditor who complained that her very small parish could get nobody to play the organ and could rarely get anyone on the keyboard: “The only instrument necessary for Mass is right here” – tapping his chest.

    Jeffrey Tucker’s presentation was outstanding. Wit, humor, good solid teaching, and plenty of singing. Best thought to take away: Gregorian chant is something authentically and uniquely Catholic that Catholics can call their ‘own music’ – not borrowed from anyone – that members of the congregation can sing. The Church Music Association’s little “Parish Book of Chant” – which he distributed to all auditors – is absolutely excellent and is a good replacement for Msgr Spence’s Chants of the Church which is out of print and a bit out of date (sort of like the wonderful 1920s Philadelphia St. Gregory Hymnal – a treasure, but a museum piece.)

    Will Breytspraak is a local choir director who has developed an excellent method for teaching sight-singing. He ran us through various exercises and games to teach non-readers to read music. It was couched in terms of methods for teaching his children’s choirs . . . but every bit of it is perfectly applicable to adult singers and it is very clever to present it as taught to children because it gets past grownups’ reluctance to participate.

    Best moment of the day: a group of us walking back into the parish hall . . . on one side the Haas seminar attendees were singing, and as we walked into the atrium you could hear on the other side the Tucker seminar attendees chanting . . . what a pleasant noise. Everybody’s head swung around and we just walked as a body towards the chant.

    “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . . . ” but we weren’t really sorry we couldn’t travel both. It may be the road less traveled, but when you put them head to head the superiority of chant both musically and for ease of singing is obvious.

    Sung Vespers concluded the day (once the wedding party cleared out of the church). All in all a pleasing and instructive way to spend a Saturday.

  52. AnAmericanMother says:


    I didn’t find Mr. Tucker arrogant at all. He’s a very approachable man and listens to what you have to say. He also has a good dry wit, which I appreciate. Of course I agree with him pretty much down the line on the issue of good and bad music . . . . of course he’s also correct that many of the people who criticize chant or refuse to sing it have never tried it. Sort of like Chesterton’s quip about Christianity.

    Can you give examples of his “arrogance”? Why should he not promote chant and polyphony as (1) officially given ‘pride of place’ in the Church and (2) superior musically to the folk/pop/rock melodies often offered?

    If you have any thoughts about the superiority of the latter genre for Catholic worship, do please have at it.

  53. AnAmericanMother: Mr. Tucker’s alleged arrogance is nothing but a rabbit hole. He is right about his position or he isn’t. Argue the merits.

    This rabbit hole is closed.

  54. AnAmericanMother says:

    Hearing is obedience!

    My personal opinion is that of course he’s right. The Holy Father has tackled this issue in his Spirit of the Liturgy and makes some very good points: (1) pop music is commercial and emotional, intended to appeal to the senses in a way that is not conducive to worship or holiness; (2) the modern ‘classical’ music (which I would really term ‘experimental’) has painted itself into an elitist corner in which fewer and fewer people claim to like it or understand it.

    For music that is both worshipful and holy, and that at the same time is easy for congregations without a great deal of musical training to sing, chant is a perfect fit. Mr. Tucker talked a bit about mixing and matching selections from the various modes to meet the need for simplicity to start off with — then introducing more variety as you go along.

    He also wants to bring back the propers — and suggested that a reasonable way to do this would be to begin with some of the propers and then go on to a conventional hymn (or motet). In our parish, we often sing the sequence, and sometimes the introit as a choral prelude. There is a time problem — given that we have multiple services and large congregations, not to mention fitting Sunday School in between — but where there’s a will there’s a way.

  55. TJerome says:

    In this instance, Father Z, I think it’s Boko who is the troll and should be admonished!

  56. Tony from Oz says:

    I have a few comments on the Mass setting for the al fresco Papal Mass in Scotland, and, I think too, in Bermingham.

    Having listened to the music (refer Fr Z’s earlier post), I must say that, while I commend the effort the composer has put into his composition, it will disappear without trace afterwards. The reason? It is waaaay to complicated for the average congregation to sing easily. I mean, it is fine for a trained choir – but I sense that, in the effort to redeem the dumbed down musical attrocities heard in church for years, the composer has had to reach an unhappy compromise between choir and congregation due to the continuing diktat of participation fetishists still holding sway within Church elites.

    The congregational repetitions within the ordinary setting for the papal Mass – which the composer has had to add into his original composition – are all apiece with the ‘active participation’ fetish which still reigns supreme; but one cannot expect most people to have absorbed the notion that this sort of thing is superfluous – that it is the actuosa participatio (i.e. actual participation, an inclination of receptivity and meditation upon the text) which actually matters.

    Performance of this by choirs in Church? Fine. Participation by those who can, and wish, to sing along in the congregation? Fine. Although – we all need to move back to the notion that the timeless rendition of the sacred choral patrimony of the Catholic church – by composers such as Palestrina, Victoria, Tallis and Byrd – should be able to be rendered once more by choirs, and at Ordinary Form Masses, without the ignorant and erroneous whine that the congregation is, thereby, being ‘excluded from participation’.

    And one more thought: if the liturgical commission for the papal visit DOES want a combination of actual as well as active mass participation in the Mass – why not just do one of the simpler plain chant Masses from the timeless sacred repertoire? After all, it’s what Vatican II called for!

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