söndag 15 maj 2016

Veni Creator Spiritus


Today was Pentecost Sunday and we had all the ancient traditional music that goes with it - the Introit Spiritus Domini, the Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus, the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus and the Alleluia, Offertory and Communion verses sung from the Graduale Romanum. Nothing was left out.

In this, we were very fortunate, as it is rare to find a Catholic parish where this happens. The music normally gets replaced by Protestant hymns or translations of the Catholic texts, which are generally a clumsy fit to the music.

In the bigger scheme of things, where Christians are being murdered for no other reason than that they are Christians, this is a minor matter. On the other hand, the music of the liturgy helps to tell the narrative on which Christianity is founded. When the music is replaced with something else, the message becomes blurred.

It runs deeper than that. Until 1970, Catholics would have been brought up with this music and it would have been imprinted in their memories. Young people who had left the church before that time, as often happens when doubt sets in during their late teens, they would have found something unrecognisable if they returned a decade or two later. Worse still, much of the replacement music is not only not Catholic; it is anti-Catholic, having been composed by and for Protestants as a means of affirming their reformism. Nor does it work stylistically. Hymns are of their nature metric, and in a major or minor key, whereas Catholic music is melismatic, modal and gives precedence to the words. Any mixture of the two, which is a widespread compromise, is the musical equivalent of drenching sushi in a strong curry sauce. Attempts to satisfy everyone, in this way, end up by leaving everyone slightly dissatisfied.

We need to get back to following what was laid down in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which affirmed that pride of place in the liturgy should be given to Latin, Gregorian Chant and Polyphony.

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