The Vatican II Crisis… applied.

More than one of you have sent links to an article in The New Republic wherein an interesting comparison is made in a discussion of the decline of American orchestras.

Here is a taste:


Dare’s comments were another contribution to a long argument about what classical music in America should be. For decades, the musical world has been going through its own protracted and painful Vatican II, initially driven by the assumption that the only thing that really ails the form is a superficial matter of liturgy and presentation. Conductors should turn away from the altar and face the congregants, speak in the vernacular, and forego white-tie-and-tails vestments. The service should be consumer-friendly. The process has liberated certain mavericks, and led to interesting experimentation. In the early 1970s, Pierre Boulez, then the music director of the New York Philharmonic, inaugurated his “rug concerts,” removing the seats from the acoustically inert Philharmonic Hall and inviting listeners to recline on carpets and cushions. “There is so much formality involved in the performance of music that we make it hard for audiences to get emotionally involved,” he said at the time.
But the same process also led to a severe dilution of the reverential aura surrounding music, and with it the implicit power of conductors to curate the concert experience. Like Vatican II, it brought on a severe crisis of confidence within the Church, and worse, it has not stemmed the decline in audience attendance or improved the financial bottom line. [BINGO!] One striking thing about the League’s annual navel-gazing in June was how many top orchestra leaders acknowledge that many of their innovations—educational programs, diversity and outreach efforts, musical healing events at hospitals and hospices, community concerts away from the orchestra hall—have not yielded anything encouraging when it comes to enticing new audiences. “But it’s the right thing to do,” they say, regardless.


The future of the American orchestra may well look like the Church after Vatican II, a contest between “progressives,” who believe, as Rosen suggests, that “the concert is not what it’s really about,” and traditionalists, who search out the rare High Mass of real music or retreat to their home stereos and isolation. The best hope for the latter is still big-city orchestras that must for now cater to an older, more traditional audience, which includes serious listeners. [There it is.] But even that category—serious listeners—is an uncomfortable one for almost all orchestra leaders.


Read the rest there.

The deadly erosion of the vestiges of decorum continues apace.

With the erosion of decorum comes the erosion of beauty and of truth.

I have made the comparison of baby food and adult food elsewhere.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. NoraLee9 says:

    I have maintained for years that 9th graders should take a “finishing school” or “decorum” class in high school. When I was a principal, I tried to pull it together, but it was too expensive. Ninth grade is always the biggest class in high school. (We lose students by attrition). The cost would have been almost $150,000. 3 teachers = 15 periods. Students would have been separated by gender, a taught everything from setting a table, to how to open a door format lady, etc. I think the only place this class is still held is West Point.

  2. iPadre says:

    “Feelings, Wo-o-o feelings.”

  3. Geometricus says:

    When I attend a TLM, there are lots of younger people there. Is that true of orchestra concerts as well?

  4. jflare says:

    I will plead guilty as sin to having rather mixed reactions to the ideas the article presented.

    My home town had too little interest or too small a population–or both–to support an orchestra. Even so, we had some occasions when..somebody..arranged for a concert of some sort of classical music at the auditorium of our local high school. I will assume these would’ve been professional performers engaged in some form of tour; I was in 5th or 6th grade at the time, so I have no idea for sure.
    I can vaguely recall little snippets, but I can’t say I was ecstatic about the experience. I recall being quite displeased with having to “dress up” in the first place, but I also didn’t care much for sitting still for an hour or two and listen to music that I had never heard. I’m sure the musicians did quite well, but I can’t say they precisely caught my attention and left me dumbstruck. Not with awe, anyway. I regret to say I tended toward being quite bored. ..I hadn’t learned a trick of taking a book along to read beforehand. Oops.

    On the other hand, I have many memories of visiting a local park and listening to the municipal band play a variety of music. I think the director might’ve been the band instructor for the local high school, most–if not all–musicians were volunteers, and most everyone brought lawn chairs or blankets for a free concert. ..And we young’uns could romp on the playground equipment not far away or run around and have fun, all the while hearing the strains of the music coming from the bandstand.

    Would I have a different impression now?
    I have no idea.
    I have developed a bit more taste for “classical” music–or at least, something that isn’t obvious pop music on the radio. I can’t say that I would know one style from another all that well though. ..Which raises an interesting question: What did the author mean by his reference to “pops music”?
    I’ve heard of many groups; the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, or the Boston Pops, or others. I’d be hard pressed to explain how they differ aside from the obvious differences in the city that supports them.

  5. Andreas says:

    Mr. Kennicott’s article is insightful and brings to bear the notion that cultural Marxism can be as dangerous and destructive as can its socio-political counterpart. One can certainly listen to and enjoy great works of art in many types of settings, both formal and informal. Yet, as with the Vatican II comparison, the attempts to ‘popularize’ (that is, infantilize) the presentation of high art, sacred practice or any manner of transcendence by destroying those very qualities that define a society demeans the greatness of what we are as a civilization. Whether in the serious practice of classical music or Catholicism, that such ‘managers’ and ‘marketers’ believe it necessary to obfuscate the message (the music or the liturgy) by couching it in less-serious forms merely in the name of popularization and ‘diversity’ not only does a grave injustice to those who have created and presented the works, but to those in the concert halls and pews who so eagerly seek that which goes beyond the all-too-prevalent distasteful cultural and religious junk food.

  6. Elodie says:

    Here’s a subject I could write about for pages and pages. I’ve compared the dumbing-down of art to the dumbing-down of the church. Once God gets removed from art, that art is less appealing to even those who don’t dwell on God very much. And when I write about God in art, understand that I don’t mean stories/dances/paintings strictly of a religious nature. I mean art based on order, on beauty, on truth, on good triumphing over evil, etc.

    I recall an article where a ballet company was griping about having to do Nutcracker every Christmas, but it’s their “bread and butter,” so they do it … and complain that no one wants to pay money to see their alternative, hip, cutting edge, questioning-societal-standards types of choreography. Yawn. Not only can such works be offensive, they’ve become predictable, stale, and just played out!

    I don’t pick on ballet. Orchestras, theatre, art museums do it, too. BUT I happen to know many artistically talented Catholic youth and young adults. I believe in a Catholic renaissance in the arts as well as in everything else that’s falling apart: education, medicine, etc.

  7. jaykay says:

    By coincidence, Damian Thompson at the UK “Daily Telegraph” had this entry on his blog today:

    ‘Creating an LGBT Inclusive Learning Envronment [sic] – Compulsory for all staff”, thunders a memo from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’d assumed that Scotland’s premier music and drama school was already gay-friendly – but not, it seems, until everyone has attended a session “facilitated” by the Policy and Participation Manager, LGBT Youth Scotland, and the Policy Director, LGBT Youth Scotland. The aim? You’ve guessed it – to develop “best practice”.

    Also on the menu at the conservatoire: “Greening the Curriculum” – a “workshop” (of course) introducing “the Natural Change Foundation’s work for the development of the ‘eco-centric’ artist who will engage in social actions for an ecologically sustainable future”. Plus “Reflection in Practice”, so students can “reflect holistically across their studies and work towards becoming a reflective practitioner”. No wonder the Scottish arts scene is so vibrant, eh?’

    As the acerbic Daily Express columnist John Junor used to say: “Pass the sick bag, Alice”

  8. introibo says:

    Oh gosh, this SO hits the nail on the head…what gets me is the concerts that incorporate the Beatles and the Grateful Dead, etc. Blah. I cut my teeth in high school on Handel’s Messiah and symphonies of Gustav Mahler, and fell in love with music doing so, thanks to the local orchestra. So much the worse, of course when the “pop” music was put into the Mass in order to make it relevant..

  9. Abe says:

    Has anyone read “Rebuilt” bt Fr.Michael White and published by AveMaria Press? He has incorporated the ” best” of protestant mega-churches into his Catholic parish. What can we do if our local parish staff is reading this book and going that direction? And what does this mean in the big picture about what is going on in the church?

  10. RosaMystica says:

    I thought this applies to the TLM as well: “The “totalitarian” concert experience that Dare criticized is in fact countercultural, obliging listeners to explore humility through attention to unfamiliar ideas, without regard to their own immediate need for gratification.”

  11. anilwang says:

    I definitely agree there are parallels, since I see liturgy and architecture as intimately tied together.

    But there are differences. For instance, the pomp and grandeur that enhances great music need not be man made. For instance, take a peaceful secluded lake or a magnificent canyon or mountain range. Classical music and Gregorian Chant fits in perfectly with the environment, enhances the experience of the environment, and is greatly enhanced by the environment since they flow from the same basic tones and reflect a harmony of sound and sight that shows that both have their inspiration from the same hand.

    Now try to play classical rock, “boy band music”, grunge, or hard rock at these same locations. They are out of place, out of harmony, and mock each other scornfully.

    I’ve never been to an outdoor liturgy in the Old Rite or Eastern Rite, but the telecasts of the outdoor World Youth Day liturgies (including those by Pope Benedict XVI) seem to be greatly cheapened from the lack of theologically harmonized architecture. I suppose that’s why in Exodus God goes through excruciating detail about how the Ark of the Covenant and temple must be built, and then Moses repeats the detailed instructions again just so you get the point that minor details matter.

  12. samwise says:

    Bernstein’s “Mass” explored this very phenomenon, namely, the contemporary feelings people had toward VCII Liturgy vs. pre-VCII liturgy in orchestral music. As a jewish composer/conductor, my guess is that he did not encounter Christ in his composition of “Mass”–that’s the important piece that is missing: “A culture of encounter” as proposed by Pope Francis. “If we build it, they will come”–not by starting from scratch, but with what God has already put in place. Believe it or not, it begins with our own personal/family prayers to God, and then with worship in the sanctuary

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Not all orchestras are in dire straits, but all of them face roughly the same cultural and economic challenges, made painfully clear in the years since the economic crash of 2008. ”

    As someone fairly familiar with orchestra working, I have to say that this article might be an example of what is known in psychology as improper transference. If one looks at strictly the performance aspects of the modern orchestra and the Mass, I suppose some parallel could be drawn (but, hey, look at fashion trends for a similar upheaval). The truth is that the economic down-turn, not some cultural Marxism is responsible for most failing orchestras, today. That, plus the shift away from live concert music by the young (who, unlike the Mass, do not find a fondness for the older forms, once discovered). No, simply put, the economy and a lack of respect for the past among the young have led to the current orchestra crisis, not the hidden cabal of Modernists. It was the old people who created the Liturgy crisis (who were, perhaps going through mid-life crises), but we’ve known about the encroaching of technology on legit music since I was in graduate school in the 1990’s and we knew this was coming.

    The Chicken

  14. anilwang says:

    Abe says: Has anyone read “Rebuilt” bt Fr.Michael White and published by AveMaria Press?

    I haven’t but have just browsed the materials on ” “.

    On the plus side he decries the consumer mentality of many parishes and people in the pews. On the minus side, his solution seems to be the pelagianism and consumerism of mega-churches rather than getting the parish to start with God, right wishop, and getting people into the right spiritual condition to do battle. It attacks the problem by deepening the problem. Anyone familiar with megachurches know that they are revolving door. They are growing, but its precisely the most active and longest attending members who are leaving.

    Liturgy and prayer are central to everything. From my understanding, one of the strict rules of the Missionaries of Charity that applies even to volunteers is that one must devote a certain amount of time to prayer every day. Without prayer and God’s grace, the work there is impossible and you’d burn out immediately.

    The charism of a priest is that of a social director, namely to “set up programs” or “enhancing the worship experience” or “making the light over the altar bright so everyone can see it” (bad theology, BTW). The charism of a priest is to be a priest and if he takes his job serious (especially the sacraments and the spiritual works of mercy which are at the core of his shepherd’s role) there will be no shortage of lay volunteers handing the non-priestly aspects of a parish (which the shepherd need only occasionally check up on to make sure they don’t unintentionally harm his sheep).

  15. anilwang says:

    Oops. I mean “The charism of a priest is *NOT* that of a social director”

  16. JonPatrick says:

    One thing that is puzzling to me though about the “encroaching of technology on legit music” that the Chicken referred to above is that concurrently, assuming this refers to the availability of recordings, podcasts, etc. is that recorded music is being “dumbed down” itself. This started with he replacement of vinyl records with CD’s with inferior audio response, then MP3 and similar compressed formats that go even further. I wonder if in a few years as this trend continues and real orchestras disappear, will anyone still know what a real violin sounds like?

  17. contrarian says:

    Really great piece. But let’s remember that decorum isn’t the only thing to worry about.
    The Mass of Paul VI changed more than decorum–it changed the words of the prayers.

    Lang Lang might play Beethoven’s 110 with blue jeans and a t-shirt, but it’s still Beethoven’s 110. Beethoven’s late sonatas lend themselves towards a certain decorum, which is why Lang Lang’s outfit looks silly. The music itself is simply ‘better’ than the silly decorum on display. But when a Mass of Paul VI is celebrated casually, it seems…right. After all, it has already been sanitized.

    So the analogy only holds so much…

    The reason that Bobby Mcferrin’s jeans and t-shirt look out of place when he conducts the St. Paul Chamber orchestra is because the music lends itself to formality. The formality is didactic. But at least he still directs the music with seriousness. And the music is still the same music.

  18. contrarian says:

    Actually–and sorry to be a naysayer–but I’m not sure this analogy holds.

    The TLM is essentially a serious thing, to be celebrated with gravitas. Not all classical music is like this. In fact, we can make the mistake of playing certain classical pieces too ‘serious-like’. In other words, not all classical music lends itself to formality. Some of it is playful.

    Think of the over-wrought and stentorian Bach of Wanda Landowska. I don’t care if Glenn Gould was wearing a swimming thong, and the other audience members were dressed likewise: I’d go to his concerts any day of the week over Landowska’s. I’ll happily attend a picnic-style classical music concert. I have many times. The music actually lends itself to playfulness (maybe not thongs, but you know what I mean).

    But that ain’t gonna fly for a TLM. A TLM does not lend itself to such things. It’s inherently more serious. Mahler maybe is too. So is St. John’s Passion, perhaps. But not Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.

    As for the Novus Ordo Mass? Well, I’m not so sure. Certainly, many people seem to think that it lends itself quite well to casualness…

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Several points and from the inside. I worked as the manager of the Midwest Pops Orchestra and assistant manager of the South Bend Symphony for a year between my MA and PhD studies. It was a wonderful experience, but crazy as well. In addition, my mother, most of her life, did volunteer work including fund raising, which I also did, for her local orchestra, the Quad-City Symphony orchestra.

    The rot started to set in when the Gen Xers became adults. They did not support local orchestras or drama in the same way as the Baby Boomers and our parents. (I also have some experience in local drama, as Supertradson did summer stock and he is talented).

    Now, here are the reasons. 1) The schools went all politically correct and moved away from teaching the classics such as Shakespeare and music theory; 2) in the old days, people played music at home for entertainment-piano, violin and such, but televison and computers infringed on music lessons or just playing at home; 3) discipline is lacking in most families and parents would not discipline their children to play an instrument; 4) the death of community in so far as people do not go out but stay at home and stay inside as in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s vision; 5) less and less volunteering- this is a huge problem-huge-no one wants to do things without getting paid and the entire volunteer scene began to end in the 1990s; 6) the disappearance in Gen X of the stay at home mom, many of whom did volunteer work for orchestras (I helped organize volunteers); 7) the dumbing down of society so that there is no sense of the need for culture or class and the dying of appropriatness in dress, behavior, and time; 8) the inverse snobbery that such things as culture are polticially incorrect; 9) the lack of religion which gave people a sense of refinement, reflection and sense of place; 10) addictions to cult games, cult movies and so on, destroying traditional sources of “art”.

    All these things can be applied to church attendance and the horrible abuses of the Liturgy as well. We have entered a time of neo-barbarism and we cannot change that. It stated at least 20 plus years ago and I think we shall merely witness more and more the decay of both Sacred Liturgy and the arts.

    The Church created western art and the Church in decline cannot keep up with the decay in the society.

    By the way, I am a morning person and when one works with orchestras and famous opera singers, soloists and so on, one does not get home before 2 or 3, which one reason why I left the job. But, I learned a lot. Also, I wanted to go back and pursue the PhD.

  20. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    The Masked Chicken gets it the firststs and the rightest. The analogy between Mass and concerts is so limpy it’s lame. What killed (practically) the philharmonic was the CD, pure and simple. What’s killing (but won’t quite kill) opera is the DVD. I can get CDs of the complete Mahler symphonies from, say, the Vienna Philharmonic, new, for less than it would cost me to bring my wife to hear so much as one M symphony live. And can I seriously think of dropping twice that amount that on a single opera when I can get, I dunno, Carreras and Stratas on DVD doing Boheme under Levine’s direction, and watch it ten times in three years (and not have to listen to some moron four seats over unwrap an candy wrapper during Che gelida to boot?). Forgettaboutit.

    This, mind, from one who was season ticket holder to BOTH (regional) symphonies and opera companies, and who makes sure all six of his kids attended both live.

  21. Vecchio di Londra says:

    You could draw a parallel with almost any branch of the arts, humanities, media outlets, or stages of education.
    This did not happen by accident. It was carefully planned, and it has a clear political motive: to make the people more stupid and malleable.

  22. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I wonder if in a few years as this trend continues and real orchestras disappear, will anyone still know what a real violin sounds like?”

    Yes, sadly, a recent Broadway musical way produced without any live musicians. Electronics and synthesizers are replacing human performers. That is NOT going to happen with the Mass.

    This is not happening in all of the humanities. Most schooled musicians appreciate classical music. It is the garage band wannabes that are partially the reason for the loss of musical taste and partially the rise of “easy-to-make” and “easy-to-play” music that is responsible for the loss of the culture of music.

    Another factor, not mentioned, is the stupid record company producers who market music. There is no strong corralate in liturgical practice. A record producer determines what is on the play list in a way no priest every could.

    Some of what Supertradmum says undoubtedly is contributory. Young people have the attention and concern about the culture of fruit flies.

    The Chicken

  23. Andreas says:

    Chicken notes that, “The truth is that the economic down-turn, not some cultural Marxism is responsible for most failing orchestras, today.” When one reflects on the past 50+ years or so, this notion is not wholly substantiated. Indeed, in the 1960s and 70s, when the economy was in a far better sate than today, the trend was even then to ‘popularize’ serious music. Several major labels marketed classical recordings (LPs and cassettes) within sleeves and cases sporting psychedelic pictures. The notes on the reverse side were written not to inform but to let the potential listener know that Beethoven is a ‘cool dude’. As record sales then suggested, such marketing approaches failed miserably. No, there seemingly forever has been this stark dichotomy in the attitudes to ‘serious’ vs. ‘popular’ in the arts that has little to do with economic downturns. That a similar state came to being with the abuses of the tenets of Vatican II is therefore not entirely surprising.

  24. Cantor says:

    One key difference, of course, is that your preference for Bieber, Beatles, or Beethoven won’t really affect your chances for eternal salvation. (C’mon, let’s be fair here. Beethoven isn’t really all that bad.)

    I’m disappointed that the article does not include significant success stories. It comes across more as a personal whine fest than anything constructive. People’s musical tastes change, and that’s a fact of life. If we’re all supposed to run out to a traditional concert, fine. What’s the last full-length traditional Chinese music concert you attended? Not part of your cultural heritage? Surprise, but neither is Edvard Grieg to most young people today.

    Quite disgusting by the article’s author is the significant pull quote he gives to one man among those opposed to the author’s opinion. He follows it up explaining that the man was a registered sex offender who married his victim. Isn’t this the same sort of rubbish heaped up against Catholic priests whose opinions differ from various groups? By implication, if you believe like him you must be like him.

    Kids’ attention spans today are much like they’ve always been. But their world of choices is many times what it was just a few decades back. They will seek – and pay for – what they find fulfills their needs and wants.

    The article’s author bemoans the fact that the ‘new’ creation he heard (ironically entitled Kingdom Come) was not to his liking. Perhaps he longs for Overture of 1812… again and again and again.

    Perhaps THAT is where the article sheds light on the crisis in our Church. We all seek fulfillment, things to our liking. Sure, I’ve heard a few tales of TLMs overflowing the churches, filled with young families. (I’ve not seen this reflected locally.) When I start to believe that this is a solution and not an isolated counter-revolutionary fad, however, is when I hear of overflowing TLMs at Newman centers, filled with independent young people.

  25. PostCatholic says:

    Since Vatican II, almost of the professional concert halls in the United States have been built. Just a few of those are the top venues include Lincoln Center (New York, 1962-1966); Walt Disney (Los Angeles,2003); The Kennedy Center (Washington, 1971); and the Kimmel (Philly, 2001). Older major venues have had extensive restoration, acoustical improvement, access improvement, etc such as Symphony Hall (Boston), Max Fisher (Detroit), Orchestra Hall (Chicago), and War Memorial (San Francisco). Not one of those would any serious music critic consider “wreckovated,” with the possible exception of the now-infamous Carnegie Hall concrete slab under the stage that was later removed.

    Moreover, the crowd pleasers that keep the audiences coming are the dead white men everyone’s heard of in the classical canon; review any company’s concert season this year and you’ll see plenty of titles you already (should) hum. The new and more experimental orchestrations are the province of the hard-core fans who’ve heard everything twice and have deep knowledge of the art form.

  26. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Indeed, in the 1960s and 70s, when the economy was in a far better sate than today, the trend was even then to ‘popularize’ serious music. Several major labels marketed classical recordings (LPs and cassettes) within sleeves and cases sporting psychedelic pictures. ”

    Well, I have extensive knowledge of the LP’s during that period and there were a few, “odd,” experiments with avant-garde labeling, but mostly, this was for avant-garde music. I saw no trend to popularize serious music.

    “Since Vatican II, almost of the professional concert halls in the United States have been built. ”

    Seriously? Many existed before Vatican II and they were quite nice. The best concert hall in the United States, according to acoustical scientists, is Severance Hall in Cleveland. It is an old concert hall (recently sort-of renovated). The reason that concert halls cannot be wreckovated is because there are certain acoustic criteria that have to be met, not merely aesthetic ones. Yes, there are plenty of new halls, but they all have to satisfy the same acoustical requirements as the building they have replaced. There is nothing comparable in religious architecture. Pretty much, any building can house a Mass, but not any building can house an orchestra. One may look for beauty in a Church, but for a concert hall, one looks for the precursor of beauty – the ability to hear the work being played.

    The Chicken

  27. abdiesus says:

    “I dare say that the Symphony has never been so well as it is today. The Orchestra does not collapse: I am sure of it, I am sure of it!”

  28. Supertradmum says:

    The Masked Chicken, my comments were not exclusively about the youngsters, but mostly about their parents. Like attending TLM, it is up to parents to cultivate a climate of culture, including the arts and music in the home. We are so in decline as a culture, people no longer care for beauty, whether in a church or an opera house.

  29. Johnno says:

    Actually quite a lot of young people into music do like orchestral music. We hear it in film and anime music scores too. There is some great stuff being composed here and there. We appreciate old and new music. Even the fun remixes which also lead us to appreciation of the original.

    The fact of the matter is that CDs and MP3s are cheap and convenient. Concerts are not. This isn’t to say young people can’t appreciate the difference… but once upon a time, live bands were the only way to hear music as pristinely as possible. This is no longer the case. Back then such places were more social. Today not so much. Or again, the places that cater to this are cost prohibitive. The decorum and setting is foreign to many of today’s youth because this same decorum that once existed as a natural course of social and family gatherings is no longer around. They were never brought up with it or thigns such as ballroom dancing, and thus are afraid or embarassed to even try. Much less spend money learning.

    Know a good way to get them interested in a cost-free manner? The Church should pay teh minimal costs to invest in better Church music and choirs. People will attend Mass if only to hear it once a week. I know for a fact that oftentimes at the University Choir practices in a chapel, would actually bring random passerbys from the street inside to sit down and just listen to the practice sessions.

    People love the classics. They will go where these are available. The Spirit of Vatican II Church however has decided to dump it overboard. But the ‘pop-culture’ is very much interested. Michael Voris had an interesting Vortex about this here:

  30. dominic1955 says:

    “Pretty much, any building can house a Mass, but not any building can house an orchestra. One may look for beauty in a Church, but for a concert hall, one looks for the precursor of beauty – the ability to hear the work being played.”

    True, but isn’t that kind of sad? I’ve seen a Low Mass said on the tailgate of a pickup, in decorated sheds, on outdoor altars, etc-one makes due with their situation, but that isn’t the situation we should base our liturgical standards, is it? I’ve also been in glorious cathedrals and basilicas, gold leafed, mosaicked, frescoed, etc. etc. to the nines with wonderful acoustics and reverberation only to have the priest waddle out in a polyester poncho and “read” a NO, overmic-ed beyond belief with a couple old ladies screeching some Haugen und Haas. The first instances have a certain rugged beauty to them, the second one is just sad-sad, sad, sad! Such glory is wasted on such ugly. I wandered why it didn’t strike the priest odd that this is what they do these days in this glorious building-do you think it wasn’t made for more? If that is all that Mass is, then why waste all the time and money building such a glorious building if a glorified barn will work just as well.

    With the arts, it helps to keep it snobbish to some degree. I hate going to see a concert (or a ballet or play for that matter) and see all these people come so underdressed and so casually. Take a walk through the parking lot and its mostly Cadillacs, Lincolns, Mercedes, BMWs…yet the people inside are too often dressed like the hoi polloi that are down at the Dew Drop Inn listing to whatever garbage is on the radio at 25c a play. When the elite is embarrassed to be elite, the culture is getting ready to kick the bucket. Then again, its often like that at Mass as well. I was stationed at a pretty well to do parish out in the burbs where the parking lot would have quite a selection of luxury vehicles but a suit was a sight for sore eyes indeed!

    Finer things are going out, precious few people even know how to appreciate them any more. We hardly ever do anything worth dressing in white (or black) tie any more, we no longer have Towncars or Sedans de Ville but rather tarted up versions of the baseline SUVs, and liturgy seems to be too high-falutin’ if you’d feel out of place in shorts and flip-flops.

    Not even to mention the far more serious moral problems of our society-we truly have become barbarians.

  31. PostCatholic says:

    I might also point out that the frequently cited orchestral “Imperial March,” so beloved by our Gentil Organisateur, was composed by Willliams in 1977. Drawing from Holst and Chopin, sure, but Lizst often did the same sort of alchemy.

  32. jaykay says:

    Johnno: good points certainly, but just on this one: ” The Church should pay the minimal costs to invest in better Church music and choirs.”

    Outside of large well-funded parishes and major cathedrals this just isn’t feasible as a general rule.

    First problem is getting a trained director with an appreciation of appropriate music for the liturgy – this point has been covered on the blog many times. It ain’t easy, believe me!

    Secondly, that person will have to be paid appropriately and this will of course depend on their personal circumstances e.g. a newly-qualified sutudent, even if suitable, will cost less because s/he will not have the same commitments as an experienced middle-aged married person with children etc. etc. But which one would you really want, in general?

    Thirdly, if your director also combines the position of organist (and most will, but try getting a competent organist these days…) you will also need to have an experienced conductor, since only very good choirs will be able to sing properly, with proper interpretation, dynamics etc., without someone out front conducting – unless you want to do it all a cappella.

    Finally, getting good trained singers who can read music. Oh boy… don’t get me going (as a member of three choirs). Again, you’ll basically have to pay, and you will pay a lot unless, that is, you’re fortunate enough to have a committed group of people who will form a choir for nothing and possess all the requisite skills. Not saying that doesn’t happen, but it’s pretty rare. And that’s assuming that you can even source the necessary people, hence only large urban areas with a critical mass of population. Certainly, I’ve been in volunteer choirs with committed people but in only one of the choirs I’m in do all of us read music and are trained in singing to varying degrees, so that makes it easy to develop a good repertoire and give a polished performance. But in the 2 others, only about a third read and very few have any training, so the pace of learning is slow and the overall result is, to put it charitably, mediocre – with odd highlights. That is the situation with most church choirs, volunteers but a mixed bunch. If you want to change that, you’ll generally have to pay which, given the costs, just isn’t possible for most churches with their declining numbers and soaring costs.

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