About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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A lot of the favoured new settings are musically illiterate, almost is if they were written by semi-trained teenagers, getting to grips with musical rudiments. The style is stodgy and sentimental, tonally and rhythmically stilted, melodically inane and adored by Catholic clergy “of a certain age.” Some Catholic dioceses run courses for wannabe composers to perpetuate this style. It is a scandal. People with hardly any training and experience of even the basic building blocks of music have been convinced that there is a place for their puerile stumblings and fumblings in the modern Catholic Church because real musicians are elitist and off-putting.
— James MacMillan (20 November 2013)

That's Entertainment, Folks!
published 7 August 2015 by Richard J. Clark

HE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL debate of the season was hands down the most entertaining in recent memory if not in history. There was plenty of intrigue, banter, and side plots to distract from substance and policy. Speculation of if and when Donald Trump will wear thin with voters makes for Must See TV. But at some point, politicians must lead. At some point, they must govern. Our lives depend upon it.

Politicians often superficially manipulate perception. Music can do the same. (And I always tell my choir that we must never discuss religion or politics. Rimshot, please.) It is not enough that we are entertaining. In fact, entertainment distracts from the Real Presence. We must lead. We must offer substance. Our spiritual lives depend upon it, as do those whom we serve.

But in order to do so, we too must be spiritually fed and nourished as well. Therefore, we must ask ourselves this simple question, “Are we being fed?”

GOOD BAROMETER FOR THIS IS THE FOLLOWING: When you are in prayer (in the role of a musician or not) are you being fed spiritually? In other words, are your batteries being recharged or are they being drained?

Of course one expects to feel fatigued after working hard in the role of a musician at several Masses. But one should also be uplifted in spirit with energy to forge on in service to God and others.

If one is completely drained, there are two possibilities at play: One is that we are not taking time for silence and reflection during or before the Mass. The second possibility is that there is a disconnect between the music and the Mass itself.

Consider the words from Sacrosanctum Concilium:

112. “(S)acred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.

ACRED MUSIC NEEDS TO LIVE among the sacred. Otherwise we have two separate and incongruent things going on: entertainment on the one hand and prayer that seems awkwardly out of place on the other. We have seen the “talk-show” celebrant that may be incongruent with reverent music. And we have seen a prayerful celebrant with music that selfishly draws too much attention to itself (regardless of style).

From US Bishop’s document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (SttL):

125. The role of music is to serve the needs of the Liturgy and not to dominate it, seek to entertain, or draw attention to itself or the musicians…The primary role of music in the Liturgy is to help the members of the gathered assembly to join themselves with the action of Christ and to give voice to the gift of faith.

As such, sacred music is not simply a “nice addition to the Mass.” It is wedded to the Mass, just as chant grew up side by side with the Roman Rite. Sacred music exists to help us pray the words of the Mass. If this is not happening, we may often feel instinctively out of sorts. If the words of the Mass are constantly changed, this too contributes to a disconcerted feeling.

RE YOU BEING FED? If not, examine your environment. Seek God in silent prayer. Tell Him the desires are that are deep in your heart. Allow Him to enter your life in close relationship. If not, God will still seek you out. He will go after you, find you, feed you, and send you forth to do what He calls you to do. For this, be joyful.