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.
Connect on Facebook:
Connect on Twitter:
Giovanni Doni is known for having changed the name of note “Ut,” renaming it “Do.” He convinced his contemporaries to make the change by arguing that 1) “Do” is easier to pronounce than “Ut,” and 2) “Do” is an abbreviation for “Dominus,” the Latin word for the Lord, Who is the tonic and root of the world. There is much academic speculation that Giovanni Doni also wanted to imprint himself into musical canon in perpetuity because “Do” is also ulteriorly an abbreviation for his family name.
— Giovanni Battista Doni died in 1647AD

Do not mistake competence for conservatism.
published 15 May 2015 by Richard J. Clark

OST PEOPLE LIKE categories. Those who market products demand them. Likewise, we place labels upon each other. (I am guilty of this.) Then when we get to know someone or a situation more deeply, we may find they defy easy classification.

Interestingly, the more knowledgeable a musician is about the Roman Rite, the Vatican II documents, and the GIRM, the more likely that musician is to be labeled “conservative” in their views. This is viewed negatively in some circles and positively in others. This is nonsense. It should be viewed simply as professional competence—no more—no less.

Professional competence is precisely this: you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. And church musicians must do several things well all at once. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to improve their skills in the following areas:

1 • Play, conduct, sing well.
2 • Know the Church Documents; know the liturgy.
3 • Teach and catechize well.
4 • Be an effective administrator.
5 • Be a pastoral leader with good people skills.

Cultivating and effectively integrating all of these areas takes years if not decades. All-around competence is a matter of professionalism, not ideology. Interestingly, while No. 2 is often viewed as “conservative,” No. 5 is viewed in some circles as “liberal” or “progressive.” This too is nonsense. A pastoral approach is one of the most important aspects of being competent. It must be exercised with at least equal weight with all other areas. I.e., If one has studied music and liturgy at a high level, so must one be highly pastoral.

ERHAPS ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE is the vow of obedience taken by priests. I happen to know some priests who dislike the new translation of the Roman Missal—some, quite vehemently. However, one would never know this by attending any masses they celebrate. They are doing what the Church is asking of them and doing it well. This is obedience. This is also professional competence. Their personal view or opinion did not come into play.

Likewise, musicians must temper their own personal tastes. I have musical interests that are well beyond the scope of this blog or the liturgy. As such, the Mass is not a showcase for my personal ideology or interests. Does such an idea make me conservative? Or do considering pastoral needs in my decisions make me liberal? I don’t care, and I am weary of such labels. But I hope this approach make me better at my job. I hope such views lead to prayer.