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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Mark Brumley

Don't get me started.

Mark Brumley

The Vatican choir was a chest-thumping bunch LONG before Liberto.

In fact, it's likely that they caused a number of people to flee Catholicism. Their 'singing' technique has always been (in my 40+ yeaer memory) "Bellow" and "Bellow Louder."


"[T]he virtuoso mentality, the vanity of technique...." Oh, so much there! I'm currently heavily immersed in Bach. Last night, for example, I watched a performance on DVD of his St. Matthew's Passion. Absolutely, unequivocally sublime music. The very height of music in every way. So I have very mixed feelings about what the Holy Father says here. I must admit that, yes, the compositional virtuosity here is indeed distracting, and there's no doubt that this work is heavily operatic. At the same time, it points to the heights as it should. The technique is in the service of God. Yet it's so wonderful that one can't help thinking throughout, "How did a mere man write this?" Yes, mixed feelings.

Ed Peters

Don't get me started. Vatican choral music, esp. at Christmas (when, you know, only about a billion people are watching) has been terrible for years. I'd prefer to see it improved, but I'd be satisfied just to see them go away.


I think what is meant by operatic in this context is the overly sentimental
kind of music at the tail end of the romantic period with its empahasis on highly trained voices. I must admit that I personaly love operatic music, though it has no real place in liturgy. There are on the other hand some great
romantic composers such as Cesar Frank (esp. Panis Angelicus), Rachmaninov (Vespers, Liturgy of St. John), shows that tasteful liturgical music can be composed in every age.


That's Franck and Rachmaninoff

Steve Cianca

It is important to remember that in the context of the divine liturgy, music should never call attention to itself. This explains why music, which in the concert hall might be a powerful or even religious experience, doesn't always work well in a liturgical setting. The function of music in the liturgy is to focus our attention on what is happening at the altar. The Mass does not need a soundtrack, nor is it a stage for a performance. Too often the music played at Masses today distracts from the liturgy or mires it in the temporal.

A good part of the problem is that contemporary Catholics confuse the Mass with Protestant worship and praise services. These are two entirely different things. Music that works for one, doesn't necessarily work for the other. A good start would be to put the liturgical musicians back in the choir loft, where they belong. Perhaps we should take a cue from the Orthodox and restrict liturgical music to the human voice.


You've nailed it: creeping Protestantism.

Mark Brumley

We should make some distinctions here. "Praise and worship" music is not, per se, Protestant. There are plenty of Protestants who despise it and plenty of Catholics who love it.

The point is, that this is not liturgical music but contemporary music with spiritual themes. There is nothing wrong with that, in its proper setting, but it is not liturgical music.


I have a recording of various Vatican choirs in around 1903. If you think it's bad now, you should have heard them then!

Carl Olson

We should make some distinctions here. "Praise and worship" music is not, per se, Protestant.

Exactly. The many hours of Evangelical "praise and worship" that I heard growing up and attending Bible college was usually far, far better—musically, lyrically, performance-wise—than the relatively few hours of Catholic "praise and worship" that I've heard. Having said that, I wouldn't want to hear either at a Mass. And I'm thankful that I never have to worry about hearing any of it at Divine Liturgy.

It is important to remember that in the context of the divine liturgy, music should never call attention to itself.

Very true. Unfortunately, it is now commonplace to think—due, in part, because of how pop/rock music has shaped perceptions—that music is all about performance. As much as I like jazz and some pop/rock, I don't want to ever hear it at Mass.

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