When Church ‘music’ ditties and commercial jingles collide. What could go wrong?

Maybe you have heard of “Parody Masses”. This is a technical term for a polyphonic Mass that elaborated a melody, often secular. For example, there is the famous Masses by Josquin des Prez, the Missa “L’homme armé”, based on a secular tune, though the “armed man” might be St. Michael. Dozens of Masses were composed based on this theme. Other Parody Masses are are based on a sacred hymn or antiphon, such as the Missa “Pange Lingua” by Josquin (not pronounced “hose-queen”, which I have actually heard). Many composers wrote many Masses this way.

In our modern time have you ever thought when listening to some out of tune guitars during Mass that you have heard that tune before?

In seminary, I’d swear we played one that sounded like the theme to Gilligan’s Island and another just like the old Hamm’s beer commercials.

Over at Corpus Christi Watershed (a great resource for learning Gregorian chant, by the way), there is something that you survivors of 70’s and 80’s church “music” are going to find a real hoot.  You readers of The Pill and The Fishwrap… not so much, I think.

Jeff Ostrowski found a remarkable similarity between the commercial jingle for “My Little Pony” and a Mass setting by Dan Schutte of the St. Louis Jesuits.

So, go read what Ostrowski has to say over there, but here is a sample of the Missa “Mannula mea”.


A search on My Little Pony leaves me confused.  So I looked it up, as one does!

On the one hand, it sounded promising with the World’s Biggest Tea Party.  “Could it be”, I wondered, “a, like, young conservative starter program?”

Boy… er um… cis-trans-er… was I wrong!

Then I saw all the stuff about “Rainbow Power” and “Runaway Rainbow” and “Equestria Girls” and “Friendship is Magic”, blah blah, and I got out of Dodge.  Fast.  The recent Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood thing was depressing enough, after all.

The internet is a danger place!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. *puts on musicologist hat*

    Sadly, this sort of thing isn’t new at all. One of the final pre-Trent straws, musically speaking, was a polyphonic Mass setting based on a secular ditty about how, erm, attractive and, umm, friendly the local fifteen-year-old girls were. That little stunt alone nearly got polyphonic Mass settings binned permanently during the liturgical revisions made during that time. Fortunately, they weren’t, and rather stricter rules about their composition came into effect shortly thereafter. (Item One: If You’re Thinking It’s A Good Idea To Base A Mass Setting On A Bawdy Song, Think Again.)

  2. Pie and P: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  3. Gail F says:

    My daughter, now 20, used to LOVE “My Little Pony.” We had to rent a movie over and over again about this bad witch (also a pony) scheming against all the good Little Ponies… She had a My Little Pony castle for her little ponies, one of my biggest scores ever from a discount store after they had been discontinued but she wanted one anyway.

    BOY do those pieces sound alike.

    I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about being influenced by secular music. But if a hymn or Mass setting makes people laugh, you’re doing it wrong. We sing one in our parish that starts off just like the beginning of “Cheers” — “With one voice, we’ll pass the Word along/With one voice, bring justice to the world/And with all the angels we’ll sing the glory of God/With all (clap) power and glory, with all (clap) power and glory, with all (clap) power and glory/the Woooooooooooord of Gooooooood shall reign.” And yes, it’s as bad as you think.

  4. Sonshine135 says:

    On one hand, one wonders why the FFI get investigated when this type of abuse goes ignored and unchecked.
    On the other hand, my kids got a kick out of the clip (Pony fans).

    Reason number ??? for Summorum Pontificum eh Father Z?

  5. mshepard85 says:

    I haven’t heard it in ages, but there is a popular OCP song that stole its melody directly from a Beatles song (I think it was “Here comes the sun,” something slow like that, but am not sure…) Perhaps someone else will be able to name it. I remember hearing the unmistakeable melody of it as a kid and thinking it was strange that Beatles music was being played at Mass.

  6. OrthodoxChick says:

    All the moms will be chiming in with My Little Pony stories. Well it began in the mid ’80’s. The original theme song had the same lyrics as what CCW posted, but the tempo was faster in the original theme song. And before everything in the entertainment industry was corrupted by progressives, it actually used to be a cute t.v. show. Lousy subsititute for sacred music however, then and now. What a disaster.


  7. majuscule says:

    Speaking of Beatles music at Mass…I was recently at a Bilingual Mass where the music was provided by the Spanish language group with no songs in English. I could swear one of the hymns used Beatles music. I can’t recall which song, but I was certainly surprised to recognize it! I could understand the lyrics enough to know they weren’t the original English translated into Spanish.

  8. Muv says:

    We used to go to a church where they sang a Moody Blues Mass. Don’t ask me what it was really called, but for a few bars at a time it would slide into pure Moody Blues with all its 1970s slushy smoochy sleazy Nights in White Satin last dance at student parties lights off spilt beer and fag ash atmosphere.

  9. Volanges says:

    And I thought we had it bad with the Lord’s Prayer set to “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ, Superstar.

  10. OrthodoxChick says:

    The priest singing his “hymn” to the pony tune sounds like the same guy who sings the churchified rendition of Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken. Hate that one. It’s like fingernails down a chalkboard every time. Knights in White Satin as a hymn is a new one on me though!

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    I had the misfortune to hear “Let It Be”, with its explicit rejection of Heaven, at a Catholic mass in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, it was played more than once in the same semester. Predictably, this travesty took place in the same chapel in which a reading from “Winnie the Pooh” was substituted for the Gospel.

  12. Muv says:

    This parallel tunes game works both ways. At Madrid Airport in 1976 the announcements over the loudspeakers were preceded by the first four notes of Praise to the Holiest in the Height. It just kept you hanging in suspense on a high note. Very airport.

  13. mamajen says:

    Oh bloody hell. Why did I click to listen?

  14. StWinefride says:

    Muv says: “Very airport.”

    I just have to – one of the best songs from the 70’s!:


  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    Pie et Palestrina,
    I know the Mass setting in question.
    Problem was, unlike earlier composers who simply used a popular melody as a starting point (and seem to have enjoyed inverting, reversing, or otherwise concealing it from all but Those In The Know), our friend didn’t even lightly disguise it.
    I think he did it on a dare and it jumped up and bit him.

  16. albinus1 says:

    The choir director at an FSSP parish which I attended (and sang in the choir) in the late 90s occasionally wrote his own pieces. One that he wrote for us was a Sanctus in which the Hosanna in excelsis melodic line was ripped right out of Miklos Rozsa’s score for the movie Ben Hur. Several of us noticed it, and he admitted that he had lifted it from the movie score deliberately.

  17. Charles E Flynn says:

    Oh no. Why did I not heed mamajen’s timely warning, and not click? I had to stop reading when I was informed that Dan Schutte is a former Jesuit priest. Then, to make matters worse, I revisited the page and I listened to several seconds of the two mp3 files.

  18. mrshopey says:

    There is another song that has a tune that is the same as in a children’s show. The Seventh Brother? I am not sure who did the borrowing but it frustrating. The kids were at an age where they knew the words to the other song.

    We have enjoyed My Little Pony. Not sure how much longer as things seem to turn queer quickly. Anyway, they do have some good concepts about friendship.

  19. Kerry says:

    Forgive me Father, I am about to sin, musically. The words and music from Amazing Grace, and the theme from Gilligan’s Island are interchangeable. ” This is, the tale, of castaways…aboard this tiny ship”. “AmazingGrace howsweetthesound thatsavedawretch like me”.

  20. OrthodoxChick says:


    Let’s just be grateful that (former?) father Schutte didn’t choose the Barney song instead!

    “I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family. With a great big hug…”


    OK, Charles E. Flynn, if you know what’s good for you – do NOT click this link!


  21. Nicholas Shaler says:

    All I, as a teenage male, is RUN, the Bronies are coming!!!!!!!!,

  22. MarthainCanada says:

    Apparently, Father Z is not a “Brony.” Why am I not surprised?

  23. mamajen says:


    Indeed! It could be worse! Hopefully he’s not working on that as we speak.

  24. amenamen says:

    “Believe it or Not”
    Christopher Cross wrote a snappy little tune for “The Greatest American Hero”:

    Do not listen to these lyrics:

  25. majuscule says:

    Charles E. Flynn, thanks a lot.

    The Beatles song I heard in Spanish was “Let It Be”. Your comment jogged my memory. At the time I recognized it as a Beatles tune…but since it was in Spanish I didn’t recall the title. I think they used some other words, though. But I am not a Spanish speaker so I can’t be sure.

    My “thanks a lot” was sarcasm, but nothing personal! I’m actually glad I finally recalled, with your help.

  26. Charles E Flynn says:

    I was wrong about the lyrics to “Let It Be”. It was in the song “Imagine” that John Lennon expressed his rejection of Heaven, religion and anything worth dying for.


    Anyway, I should not make too much of the abuses I saw in that chapel. They only cost me seventeen years as a lapsed Catholic.

  27. Christophe says:

    “Here I am Lord” sounds like the “Brady Bunch” theme song – “I have heard you calling in the night” and “she was bringing up three very lovely girls.”

  28. Theodore says:

    George Harrison’s litigation over his tune, My Sweet Lord and it’s close relationship to the Chiffon’s He’s So Fine should be a cautionary tale to all composers.

  29. Rich says:

    There has been many derivatives of the My Little Pony theme song; my gut tells me that when speaking of THE My Little Pony theme, we have to go with the original commercial.


    There is a bit of resemblance of this with Dan Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior’s Gloria.


  30. Legisperitus says:

    One of the triple-Alleluia settings currently in vogue in the Novus Ordo sounds exactly like “Tree Tree Tree” by Mister Rogers (well, technically the first three-quarters of it).


  31. Palladio says:

    Best evhur. My little pony, and Glory to God. My daughter has had a transformative experience.

  32. AVL says:


  33. OrthodoxChick says:


    …Which sounds a little too close to Kumbaya for my liking.

  34. Imrahil says:

    I don’t know whether that fits here but…

    I guess you are familiar with I will follow him

    and maybe you have seen a movie, where a talented actor whom God may get out of that insane and dangerous sect he got himself into posed as a successful naval aviator and in the middle has a scene maybe morally objectionable to watch and certainly morally objectionable to live… where they sing… Take my breath away.

    The exact same melody, the exact same. I always sing the one text to the other :-)

    there’s also a pop song which has the same theme as Laudato si, but I don’t know the title.

  35. Charles E Flynn says:

    Aside from the miserable music, too many of the lyrics of modern church tunes do not express Catholic truth, but something watered-down and self-congratulatory.

  36. Obumbrabit says:

    Sadly, the English rendition of the Gloria in this post is the default one in my diocese of Erie, PA. At least we have an EF Mass to go to on Sunday, so I don’t have to hear it very often. I just don’t like the singsong way that modern liturgical composers try to force a tune into the Mass texts.

    In about 2005, when I was in college we had a mariachi band at a Mass which was bilingual in English and Spanish. At the Our Father, they performed their rendition to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.”

  37. xgenerationcatholic says:

    The Kyrie from the new Missa Simplex starts out sounding exactly like the opening bars to “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

  38. yatzer says:

    Memories….One parish we belonged to had us always singing the Our Father to the tune set by the Singing Nun. I only spent 10 years out of the Church after that bunch, although it was the way they looked at me as though I had 2 heads when I occasionally mentioned God that finally did it. Thank heaven for the Internet and EWTN to get me back in.
    Now My Little Pony was a lot of fun. My daughter had pony shoes, and pony brushes, and ponywear for the little dudettes.

  39. majuscule says:

    Help! My brain is fried! The My Little Pony Gloria is buzzing through my mind! It won’t go away! I am thankful that I have never heard that one in my church. But I think I’ve heard it elsewhere, as well as the Tree Tree Tree Alleluia.

    And then there was the time I was visiting a church where they handed out an assortment of bells to people near the choir so they could ring them during the Gloria. Come to think of it, that may have been one of the My Pony renditions…

  40. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Someone told me about her parish (1960s? 70s?) singing a (slightly adapted) “Edelweiss” as a Eucharistic hymn (“Small and white, Clean and bright…”).

  41. everett says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned one of the most egregious examples of parallel melodies, Gather Us In & The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

  42. Art says:

    Why only go back to Trent? If we go back all the way the the 4th century, we’ll find a bishop by the name of Arius setting his theology to a popular drinking song called “Thalia”, resulting in a song which St. Athanasius described as “effeminate in tune and nature. ” When Arius sang this at the Council of Nicaea, some of the Council Fathers stormed out of the council chamber while others clapped their hands to their ears. One, however, let Arius know in no uncertain terms what he thought of it by striking him in the mouth!

  43. Irradiated says:

    My name is Michael. I’m 37 years old, and I’m a Brony. In spite of the popular perception, the current incarnation of My Little Pony has nothing to do with the homosexual agenda. Regardless of the efforts of those trying to force an aberrant sexuality on the characters – particularly on an athletic, competitive female character with a rainbow mane – the writers have affirmed multiple times that the characters are not gay. In fact, the show deals with some very down-to-earth themes in a morally acceptable way, is cleaner than most things on the Disney Channel (or almost any other network apart from EWTN) these days, and still manages to incorporate stories and animation of high enough quality to attract an audience that is the complete opposite of its intended demographic.

    While there are indeed other shows that do strongly promote a pro-homosexual agenda, this isn’t one of them. I would challenge anyone here to watch a single episode before deciding whether or not it’s for them. They’re freely available on most streaming services, and are only about 20 minutes long. If you don’t like it, fine. But please stop painting the show and those of us who do enjoy it with such a broad lavender brush.

  44. rosaryarmy says:

    Sadly, I’ve heard Let it Be as a Communion song. That’s nothing compared to a story I once heard about “Takin’ Care of Business” being played at Communion. But this is the way to get the young people coming, according to the aging hippies that are the only ones present for such a mockery.

  45. AnAmericanMother says:

    Don’t worry. It happens all the time. Syllabic congruence is inevitable.
    That’s what those funny numbers and letters under the hymn titles mean (in the case of Amazing Grace, C.M., Common Metre, or
    You can also sing Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” to either tune. Or the Pokemon song. There’s a reason they call it “common”.

  46. AnAmericanMother says:

    Nothing inherently wrong with bells . . . We use them with a very straight up setting of the Latin “Gloria” at Christmas and Easter.
    Also with duFay’s setting of “Conditor alme siderum”.
    Of course, 2-3 choir members are also in the handbell choir, so we use (1) nice bells (2) in fifths and thirds.

  47. jflare says:

    “On the one hand, it sounded promising with the World’s Biggest Tea Party. ”Could it be”, I wondered, “a, like, young conservative starter program?””

    So sorry, Father! I almost fell off my chair laughing at that one!!
    I remember watching commercials for My Little Pony when I was a kid; I never thought much of a program mostly (apparently) aimed at little girls. I learned to my shock about 2 months ago that apparently the show was making a bit of a come-back. I recall cringing at the thought.

    I did, unfortunately, remember the melody to the song. The one on the website at the link..is EXACTLY the same tune. Grrrrrrrr….!!
    If he had to imitate a cartoon from the 80’s, couldn’t he have at least picked something from say, The Shirt Tales? Yeah, OK, not exactly prayerful (I reviewed their theme on YouTube too), but still fun and cool….

  48. jflare says:

    “I had the misfortune to hear “Let It Be”, with its explicit rejection of Heaven, at a Catholic mass in the early 1970s.”

    Um, Charles, I don’t know if there’s an age difference problem here, but I’m afraid you’ve lost me entirely with that remark. I did a Google search for the lyrics, found a copy accompanied by the song. I don’t see anything there that even hints at rejecting heaven. Not to me anyway. I see something about dark days and cloudy times, but not really even mentioning anything beyond Mother Mary. Am I missing something here?

    I will say though, I remember hearing “Imagine”; hearing the lyric about “imagine there’s no heaven” and “imagine all the people, living every day”. I recall thinking that I’d rather be shot than be forced to live without the hope of eternal life.
    ..And people wonder why I’m not a big fan of the Beatles….!

  49. jflare says:

    Oh, dang!
    Sorry Charles, I hadn’t spotted your other comment RE “Imagine” yet.
    Well, at least I know I haven’t flipped. ..yet!

  50. Netmilsmom says:

    We had a piano player belt out the “Sabbath Prayer” from Fiddler on the Roof.
    She changed “Israel” to “Paradise”.
    And the tempo to a happy cheery song.

  51. teomatteo says:

    Everett, wasn’t that song “the wreck of the Gordon light foot” . It was sung by Ed. Fitzgerald. No?

  52. My mother used to refer to a certain type of modern church music as ‘Smurf Hymns’.

    This term stuck beautifully, because it summed up the treacly, non-committal nature of these ditties perfectly. Plus they also sound like something Smurfs would sing in those whiney voices, too.

    Has anyone noticed that if you sing ‘The Lord is My Shepherd (and I Want to Follow)’ in Kermit the Frog’s voice, it sounds just like ‘The Rainbow Connection’? All you need is a banjo accompaniment.

    Some naughty boys at a local Catholic school also once told me that their favourite hymn was ‘Yahweh Is My Dog, A Big Alsatian’.

  53. PS: I went to a groovy parish Mass once in the 1980s which was so groovy that we had to sing ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ as a hymn.

    My Catholic high school was worse. It was run by feral nuns, and I remember us all solemnly singing ‘Let It Be’ (man, this was 1979, which made it even more embarrassing) and ‘The Rose’ (Bette Midler) in our RE classes.

    Yay. Songs by drug addicts, and/or about drug addicts.

  54. La Sandia says:

    Ugh, I didn’t know that the Simon and Garfunkel Padrenuestro was so widespread. I heard it in Peru some time ago and wondered how many of those singing it knew the melody’s origins.

    Hey, perhaps Dan Schutte will do a Spanish Mass setting using the Dora the Explorer theme songs— S-s-s-s-s-SANTO! S-s-s-s-s-SANTO!

  55. robtbrown says:

    Not mass and I hope not Catholics, but:


  56. robtbrown says:

    The melody from a secular song found its way into Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion. Later, Paul Simon appropriated it for American Tune.


  57. uptoncp says:

    If I may take this opportunity to blow my own trumpet, you may find some familiar (if unseasonal) melodies in this mass setting (Church of England traditional language texts): http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Messe_de_Minuit_pour_No%C3%ABl_%28Christopher_Upton%29

  58. uptoncp says:

    Oh, and the polyphonic Mass mentioned above was published in 1581, according to Wikipedia, so didn’t trigger any decisions at Trent, but rather defied them.

  59. torch621 says:

    You’ll actually be pleased to know that MLP has exactly ZERO promotion of the homosexual agenda, Father, and contrary to appearances is quite good, which is refreshing in light of the dreck that appears on the Disney Channel and elsewhere. But I would stay away from Equestria Girls, that movie is pure terribad.

  60. The Masked Chicken says:

    Well, technically speaking, a Parody Mass is a subcategory of the more general music Contrafactum techniques which developed by the late 1400’s (if memory serves) and greatly expanded in the early 1500’s. It was the process of substituting new words for old melodies. It was applied not only to Masses, but many other compositions during the period. There were no copyright laws or intellectual property laws back then and the musical original might or might not be cited (as in de Prez’s Missa L’homme Arme, although I doubt that anyone can sing me the original song without looking it up).

    Given the sheer density of music produced, especially since Rameau finalized modern music theory, it is almost impossible to find any piece of music that does not contain partial quotation of another piece of music. Modern copyright laws make use of someone else’s tunes illegal. One need only think of the legal battles over My Sweet Lord:


    The problem with many uses of popular themes in Mass settings is simple: most composers are not talented enough to really pull it off. Properly done, it becomes an optical illusion, where, after listening to the Mass setting, one would swear that it must have come first, the music is that powerful. Something like this might be observed with the Star-Spangled Banner. Nobody still sings the drinking song from whence it came.

    The Parody Mass that Pie and Palastrina and uptoncp cite is by Orlando di Lasso. It is the Missa entre vous filles, based on the Clemens non Papa French Chanson, Entre vous filles de quinze ans (Between you fifteen year year old girls – the Wikipedia translation is incorrect). It is a standard citation in many intro music history courses. It seems like a very X-rated song by modern standards (DO NOT look up the very bad English translations on-line, it is a near occasion of sin), but it is, really, no more X-rated than the Song of Songs – it is, essentially, a coming-of-age song focusing on female biology (people, back then, were a little more, “earthy”). Non Papa was a Dutch Protestant who made about 16 Mass settings. Indeed, most of his output was sacred music. His, Souterliedekens, is the first setting of the 150 psalms in Dutch and is deservedly famous in musicology circles, as it influenced many subsequent generations of Protestants.

    The use of Contrafactum in music is an example where the Natural Law right of property and the Natural Law right of intellectual growth narrowly miss colliding. One can see something similar in software development, where it should be perfectly fine to use someone else’s code snippet to solve a problem. This was the basis for Richard Stallman’s founding of the GNU/free software concept. This whole issue has echos far beyond music.

    The Chicken

  61. AnAmericanMother says:

    Dear Chicken,
    ( singing ) “L’homme, L’homme, L’homme armé, L’homme armé. . . ” ( / singing )
    . . . not really fair bec. I write the History of Catholic Music column for our church bulletin and web page (with music links) and we just covered cantus firmus, paraphrase, and parody (which I prefer to call imitation, to avoid the modern pejorative implication). Of course L’Homme armé is the most popular cantus firmus melody of all time . . . Dr Grout says that a Renaissance composer didn’t feel that he had earned his spurs until he composed one.
    di Lasso was a naughty boy. His correspondence with his boss’ son, the Duke of Bavaria, is a near occasion of sin all by itself.

  62. Absit invidia says:

    That’s the same Gloria I’m subjected to each Sunday. I filter it out and try to use the book to pray the text – not an easy task with fairy plum drop music in the background.

  63. Gregg the Obscure says:

    I’m quite familiar with the Hamm’s beer jingle (“come to Jesus now, go to live His word rejoicing”) as the exit music for Mass. I’m glad it seems to be used less often now than it was a few years ago.

    A couple jingles that I run across might not be recognized by most here as they are from commercials that are older and perhaps regionally limited: C&H Pure Cane Sugar (“We are many parts”) and the Marlboro cigarette jingle (“Send down the fire”).

    A few years ago someone suggested that most current Mass settings would be better replaced by the tune used in the sports chant “Na na na na, hey, hey, hey, good bye”.

  64. The Masked Chicken says:

    “di Lasso was a naughty boy. His correspondence with his boss’ son, the Duke of Bavaria, is a near occasion of sin all by itself.”

    Yeah, I wish I hadn’t named the infamous Mass by di Lasso, above (well, he didn’t write the original song and if you don’t know the lyrics…all seems innocent). I don’t want to be a cause of scandal for anyone. The original lyrics are pretty clinical (so don’t look them up – take my word for it), which, unfortunately, is enough to have caused the puerile interests of the porn-saturated crowd to put the lyrics in its bawdiest form on-line, because most musicologists I know are much more prudish and would at least use circumlocutions if not outright bleeping. So, my apologies if anyone has sinned due to my carelessness (although, I did say not to look).

    The words and music for L’homme arme can be found, here:


    On the other hand, no one complains that, “Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,” is a contrafactum and contralingual setting of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

    The Chicken

  65. The Masked Chicken says:

    My last two comments to this post never posted – no moderation, no nothing. Maybe, my guardian angel is working overtime. In any case, I apologize for naming the Mass by di Lasso. It do not want to be an occasion of scandal for anyone.

    The Chicken

  66. AnAmericanMother says:

    Dear Chicken,
    It’s not that bad, you see and hear worse every time you turn on the TV or glance in a magazine, and with no redeeming artistic value either.
    One or two words prob ought to be bleeped, but other than that . . .
    I don’t think it would be an occasion of sin for anyone (other than for intellectual pride at having heard of it . . . mea maxima culpa . . . ;-) )
    Besides, it is a GORGEOUS tune and beautifully set. Perhaps deLasso had no impure motive, but felt that he could not improve on Clemens non Papa’s setting and did not want to change it!

  67. OrthodoxChick says:

    Gregg the Obscure,

    “A few years ago someone suggested that most current Mass settings would be better replaced by the tune used in the sports chant “Na na na na, hey, hey, hey, good bye”.

    HA!! Either that or, “We will, we will – ROCK you”!

  68. The Masked Chicken says:

    “HA!! Either that or, “We will, we will – ROCK you”!”

    I think they should post a sign at the door:


    The Chicken

  69. HyacinthClare says:

    I LOVE mass music horror stories… you all are so funny!! I’m doing income taxes this afternoon and I really needed these laughs. And since I’m blessed just to attend the EF now, I don’t have to suffer that stuff anymore. Many years ago in an OF parish far, far away, at Christmas time, the choir director sang “Mary Did You Know,” which was “so sweet” and said, about Our Lady, “She’s just an ordinary girl.” And they used to sing, “You and I are the Bread of Life.” NOT. Blessed be God for the FSSP.

  70. Gail F says:

    Art: That was St. Nicholas. There’s a great meme with his picture and the words “I came to punch heretics and give presents to children, and I’m all out of presents.”

  71. Gail F says:

    AnAmericanMother: You can sing Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” to “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Hilarity ensues.

  72. The Cobbler says:

    I have found that most tunes can be changed into completely different genres merely by changing the tempo, syncopation and/or key. For better or for worse, the “genre” of sacred music seems to rebuff this characteristic much more than most genres. The “genre” of Mass music that really isn’t sacred, on the other hand, basically makes everything plod along — they’ve butchered more good Irish tunes than I could program a computer to count. There are exceptions — the ones that sound mildly aggressive and have lyrics about how we’re going to take the world by storm with our us-ness, aka the really stupid ones among the really stupid ones.

    Also, dear bronies, there may be nothing necessarily morally or even psychologically wrong with grown men watching a show that originated in girls’ dolls, but it is still… amusing. (I say this as a guy who likes The Sound of Music and has never been any good at sports other than code golf, just so you’re aware I’m not saying it out of a perceived need for machismo.)

  73. The Masked Chicken says:

    “have found that most tunes can be changed into completely different genres merely by changing the tempo, syncopation and/or key. For better or for worse, the “genre” of sacred music seems to rebuff this characteristic much more than most genres.”

    Yeah. I might have done more than anyone else to develop a true geometry of music, although Dmitri Tymoczko gets the press because he works at Princeton (and, apparently, has not read my work, or else, he should have cited it, harumpf). I developed ways to track the trajectory of music in phase space – and the topology of music is intimately connected to that – a decade before Tymoczko (although I could not get a famous math writer to understand this back in the early 1990’s when he was considering writing an article about it). I, even, won a university-wide graduate research competition for doing it, but, alas, I guess the time was not ripe (and I was both insulted and demoralized by the math writer). I know some guys at MIT were interested because we talked during the paper session at the American Acoustical Society meeting.

    Connecting the topology of music to the topology of the neural processing in the brain is another few generations away. Transforming one type of music into another is a really cutting-edge research project and if I had an acoustics lab and about five post-docs, I would give modeling it a try.

    The Chicken

  74. mlmc says:

    oh no not one of these threads again- Fr Z you are going to get me in more hot water with my wife. I shared some of the parodies of the St Louis Jesuits that you linked to in the past with my adult sons & now whenever (like tonight in mass) we sing Gather Us In one of my sons will have to stifle a laugh & my wife never fails to notice it.

    [My work here is done.]

  75. RafqasRoad says:

    This morning our Sunday mass (NO) ‘Gathering song’ (entrance hymn) including organ intro could very easily have been mistaken for ‘Golden Brown’ by the Stranglers – sadly, butchered to within an inch of its life and not a patch on the secular song it attempted to parody. A rather cheeky part of me, out of sheer frustration with this, was very tempted to sing ‘golden Brown’ in protest but kept my mouth shut and commenced praying the rosary instead.

    Shame, because the sermon was spectacular and touched upon many ‘hot button’ issues raised here on this blog and others – Fr. could spend a year’s worth of sermons unpacking the dozen or so points he fit into today’s offering. it takes guts to preach God’s truth in this ever increasingly secular age, and do it with conviction. He even unpacked the concepts of moral law and natural law, offering the genuine meaning of terms such as ‘radical’ (when used in conjunction with the Gospel) e.g. from the Latin word ‘root’ hence it being the taproot and bedrock foundation of our faith, not radical in the contemporary sense of the word. Same with the word ‘Moral’ re its latin originator better understood as ‘more’ as in ‘social more’, but grounded in God’s word and natural law, which is the reason behind all Church teachings which are far from arbritrary.

    I know I’m drifting off topic, but one gains the distinct impression that liturgical music is held firmly in the iron grasp of a certain group that are of a certain gender, generation and outlook – and Fr. and his colleagues find it less agonising to simply ‘quietly step around the minefield and redeem the day within their sermons and manner in which our Lord is sacrificed upon the altar and given to we congregants. Tragically, said generation are wedded to this style of 60’s and 70’s music, not realising that it is now as old hat as they suppose the gallant and stirring hymns of bygone days plus those composed by serious musicians engaged in sacred and liturgical music of our own time are. Even much of Rutter’s offerings would be far preferable, especially galling are the settings of the Gloria etc. that do not flow smoothly and have forced musical emphases placed apart from the natural rhythm and meter of the words themselves; plus dreadful melodies that are horrid to sing and syncopation all over the place. Its shabby to sing. Only the Agnus Dei flows; so well that it is very easy to interpose the latin words upon the English setting (which I do in my quiet little corner of the congregation).

    As for sung psalm settings; all such offerings as performed by the UK’s ‘King’s College Cambridge’ are extraordinarily beautiful and would be very easy for a congregation to participate in. Why oh why do we allow ourselves to be subjected to drab, bland, flavourless drivel when there’s so much amazing sacred and liturgical music out there from medieval to thoughtful contemporary composition. And heck, as a former SDA and Evangelical, I know contemporary worship music – I’ve sung it, both as a congregant and band member – the NO minces this into flavourless pulp also!! GADS!!!

    Reason 8472 for EF and the Anglican Ordinariate?????

  76. benedetta says:

    I just wanted to say, I love a good Fr. Z post on music…

    Also, in some places, it is currently happening, where all church-y or liturgical is dropped, and, well, secular music at Mass in lieu of spiritual songs, chants or hymns. Ah yes.

  77. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    The Masked Chicken said, of “L’homme arme”, “I doubt that anyone can sing me the original song without looking it up” – I can, sort of (my medieval-French-by-heart not being up to much) thanks to an interesting Philips recording of Music of the Hundred Years’ War.

    He also said, of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “Nobody still sings the drinking song from whence it came”- well, I do – and even did so long before I heard the Hilliard Ensemble’s enjoyable recording of “To Anacreon in heaven”. Just because I do, however, I agree with his observations that, “Properly done, it becomes an optical illusion, where, after listening to the Mass setting, one would swear that it must have come first, the music is that powerful. Something like this might be observed with the Star-Spangled Banner.”

    When he observes, “no one complains that, ‘Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,’ is a contrafactum and contralingual setting of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy”, I wonder whether I have missed objectionable details of the Schiller poem (which I probably should have reread before posting this)…

    By the way, how do people like Beethoven’s version of ‘Tantum Ergo”, rediscovered not so very long ago? (It’s on YouTube.)

  78. The Cobbler says:


    Would you by any chance know if there is a known algorithm that takes as input a melody or motif and a piece of music and outputs whether the former occurs in the latter and if so where and with what stylistic differences? I have thought of a couple potential uses for it. From what I can tell of things like transposition in music, I figure it could be done without (or with very little) reference to the mathematics behind keys, pitch, tempo and whatnot, just with knowledge of such in themselves as most musicians and composers have; but I am not an expert…

    (On the flip side, I am fairly sure it would be trivial to give a computer a list of mutually compatible keys and rhythms and their definitions and have it tell you what all songs would harmonize with each other while not actually sharing the same tune. Pachelbell is following us all, indeed. But to be complete, it would be nice to be able to compare relations of content with different forms and not just relations of forms with different content.)

  79. bookworm says:

    The only recent example I can think of, of something like this, was a couple of years ago at an Easter Sunday Mass, at a parish that normally has great music and has its liturgical act together, an instrumental was played during Communion that, no joke, sounded (to me) like a theme song from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Not in the sense of matching a particular melody but stylistically it sounded like something Ennio Morricone would have written for that purpose.

  80. JimP says:

    A parish I attended in the past occasionally used an Alleluia that always sounded to me like Jimmy Buffet’s Volcano, but without the steel drums – and that wasn’t even the worst one.
    My current parish was, for about 6 months, using a tune for theGloria that I couldn’t recognize, but that sounded so much like a show tune that every Sunday I expected a chorus line to pop up dancing around the altar singing “Glory to God!, Glory to God!” after the pianists full keyboard rip. Fortunately OCP, GIA, or some other pop source came up with another rendition, that while it isn’t Vivaldi, at least it doesn’t make me cringe.

  81. BenedictineOblate says:

    At my church, many people think that chanting in Latin is something that should be “left in Rome.”
    Trying to tell them that Latin is the official language of the Church is an alien concept to them, they’d rather hear the “My Little Pony” hymns. I pray for them. That’s all I can do, but I always hope that the music will change for the better.

  82. HeatherPA says:

    Ahhhh!!!! That is our current mass setting. I cringe every.single.time the Gloria fires up. My son and I shoot a glance at each other and sigh every time too. It sounds wrong and it is so bad that it distracts from the prayer we are supposed to be doing. I absolutely despise it and wish it would go away forever. I eagerly look forward to Lent when we do chant instead. Why Father picks this happy go lucky crap is beyond me but this made be laugh hysterically because it DOES sound like “my little pony” hahaha!!!!

  83. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Would you by any chance know if there is a known algorithm that takes as input a melody or motif and a piece of music and outputs whether the former occurs in the latter and if so where and with what stylistic differences?”

    Yes. These sorts of algorithms were beginning to be developed at Ohio State and Stanford in the late 1970’s. I haven’t kept up with the field, but, if you like, I can do a little digging. It is not really hard. In fact, I think the Cantus site implements something like this.


    I don’t know about algorithmic recognition of genres of music, but I think that is, also, being done. If you have programming chops, the best way to do this is by using a Bayesian decision algorithm. This is an excellent project for the program R and if anyone wants to have some fun, they can let me know. One can use a modified Monte Carlo Markov Chain procedure to arrive at probabilities of genres.

    The Chicken

  84. The Masked Chicken says:

    I apologize for my geometry of music remark. I think I was being a little prideful and not giving Tymoczko the credit he deserves.

    The Chicken

  85. Peggy R says:

    I know this Gloria setting; our NO parish uses it. I was in college during Little Pony thing. My boys for some reason watch it now on Roku. ??? I don’t know the theme.
    * “Eye has not seen” ….the “what God has ready for those who love Him…” follows the music of The Big Valley theme (no words to the theme)
    *There is a song that sounds like “Come Sail Away” …”I’m sailing away…” I forget which song.
    *The Brady Bunch sound alike I agree with too.

    There are others that don’t come to mind right now..

  86. Volanges says:

    Philippa Martyr says: My mother used to refer to a certain type of modern church music as ‘Smurf Hymns’.

    Funny you should say that. I’m a fan of the Smurfs and one or two of their songs can bring me to tears.

    But there is one of their Christmas songs that had me scratching my head for a while. “I know this tune! What is it? I’m sure I’ve sung this at church. WHAT IS IT?!” Then it hit me. So THAT’S what the tune is. See if it you get it quickly.

  87. Absit invidia says:

    I’ve also heard a Communion “hymn” played to the tune of “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles. I wondered to myself, “how did Ringo become Catholic?” Then the painful realization forced me to admit, these were sad wannabe’s.

  88. The Cobbler says:

    Chicken, sounds like some good leads; thanks! I can’t follow up on any of it presently (lots of other things occupying my time), but I will try to remember to get your attention once my music programming ideas move from the back burner to the front burner.

    Father, thanks for fixing the comments!

  89. Wow. Being of the younger generation, I do know what this is. And when I saw the connection …. I could not help but ROFL and LMAO (roll on the floor and laugh my A(# off). It DOES sound like MLP. Oh Man. I think we now need a parody mass which is centered around My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Any takers?

    Fr. Z: +9000 for this post. And reason number #45342 for Summorum Pontificum: We like to keep that which is Brony apart from out Manly Mass!

  90. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Netmilsmom (15 February) refers to ” the ‘Sabbath Prayer’ from Fiddler on the Roof”, noting that the pinao player “changed ‘Israel’ to ‘Paradise’.” I have never heard such a use of it as she describes, but there was a sheet music Fiddler on the Roof medley published (in the 1970s?) which included (for whatever reason) ‘Israel’ changed to ‘Paradise’.

    bookworm (16 February) refers to “an instrumental [that] was played during Communion that… sounded like a theme song from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Not in the sense of matching a particular melody but stylistically it sounded like something Ennio Morricone would have written for that purpose.”

    Ennio Morricone wrote the score for The Mission and I have heard a selection from it used as a sort of ‘ intrada’ prior to the Introit of a Mass. I suppose whoever was responsible considered it suitable for that position at least in part because of the subject of the film. While surprising, I do not know that it was distracting, in that preliminary position. Perhaps what you heard really was Ennio Morricone, from The Mission, as well.

  91. connorkeef says:

    The organist at my Parish came up with this little video…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s-PW3654FE&feature=youtu.be

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