About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“I left music college swearing never to write another note again … It was during the mid-1980s when esoteric and cerebral avant-garde music was still considered the right kind of music to be writing.”
— James MacMillan

The One Thing That Unites Church Musicians
published 19 April 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

900 Pope Benedict XVI Ratzinger VER THE YEARS, I’ve taken note of “Who’s Who” in the world of sacred music; something completely natural & normal. I’ve done this in spite of the fact that—when all is said and done—each of us is eminently dispensable. If the movement succeeds, it will do so because GOD DESIRES IT.

Over the years, I’ve seen magnificent church music projects begun, but never finished. 1 I’ve seen other projects—which started out small—grow to massive proportions. I’ve seen talented people become so concerned about copyrighting & selling their products they ended up killing them. I’ve seen people who loudly demand that others “make a commitment” leave the movement, get bored, or fall away from the Faith. I’ve seen people who had (in my view) sparse talent rise to the highest levels—which shows how much I know!—just as I’ve seen people with tremendous potential become stubborn, vindictive, and prideful beyond belief. I’ve been a choir director since the mid-1990s and I’ve seen a lot.

PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT OUR MOVEMENT have different opinions. Readers know I don’t care for Viennese classical Masses, yet Pope Benedict XVI loved them…and I have great respect for B16. Moreover, we musicians are usually highly opinionated and difficult to work with. In the early 2000s, I asked the question, “What unites us, who are so different?”

We all have one thing in common: our appreciation for the Graduale Romanum.

Nobody can force another to love the Gradual. The power of the Gradual is what does it. Recently, I googled the Weber Propers, to see what kind of reception his book was receiving. On a website I won’t be linking to, there was discussion about it. I was astonished to observe folks there using this new publication to disparage the Graduale. Pretty insane, huh? Fr. Weber’s book is based entirely on the Graduale and makes no sense without reference to the Graduale. 2

Years ago, I studied with a wonderful professor of piano: Alice Downs. During a seminar, Mrs. Downs told the male students that careers in music are only good for mothers desiring to make extra cash. Somebody asked her, “Are you saying that no man should ever do music professionally?” She replied with words I’ll never forget: “I’m not saying that. But only men who cannot live without it should pursue music.”

Those of us involved in this movement love the Graduale Romanum. In fact, we cannot live without it. But our lives are not easy. As a great church musician used to say, “The life of a church musician is a life of sacrifice.” Let us recall the words of our Savior in the Gospel of St. Luke (17:10):

When you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.”


1   I call this the “Advent syndrome.” Many people declare that they will be setting the complete proper of the Mass; but after they get through Advent, they realize how difficult it is and give up.

2   The administrator of this particular website formerly claimed to support Gregorian chant, but changed his view following the reign of Pope Benedict XVI.