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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Much of the beauty of the older forms was lost and the hymns did not really become classical. We have reason to hope that the present reform of the breviary will also give us back the old form of the hymns. But meanwhile it seems necessary to keep the later text. This is the one best known, it is given in all hymnbooks and is still the only authorized form. Only in one case have we printed the older text of a hymn, number 57, “Urbs Jerusalem.” The modern form of this begins: “Caelestis urbs Jerusalem.” But in this case the people who changed it in the seventeenth century did not even keep its metre; so the later version cannot be sung to the old, exceedingly beautiful tune.
— Fr. Adrian Fortescue (1913)

Musician • Center of Attention or Servant?
published 22 April 2016 by Richard J. Clark

OHN 13:16-17: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”

Regardless of specialty, the vast majority of musicians find themselves in the role of service. Consider any educator. Those who teach music live an unglamorous life. Whether teaching at a prestigious conservatory, or a Kodály movement class for four-to six-year olds, teaching is the very definition of service. The teacher is not the center of attention. Those who embrace and relish this role are the teachers who change the world.

CULTURAL PROBLEM that pervades the Roman Catholic Church is the secular view of musician as a focus of attention. This view persists quite often in both congregations and among musicians. This is the root of countless liturgical (and professional) problems, most importantly the misunderstanding of the role of sacred music, which is to uplift souls by pointing to God. (Tra le Sollecitudini [“Instruction on Sacred Music”] §1. “...the glory of God and the sanctification, the edification of the faithful.”)

Applause from a congregation for musicians, or musicians that impede congregational singing for the sake of personal artistry, are but symptoms. The church musician has been misidentified as a separate entity—a showpiece—and not properly identified as a servant of the liturgy, a servant of God, a servant of the people. As servant, the church musician must inspire, yet be invisible to the greatest extent possible. This requires large doses of skill and humility.

HERE ARE MANY extraordinary artists who deserve much recognition for their work. Interestingly, the greatest artists also seem to be the most humble. They deflect credit to talented people around them that contribute to their work. More importantly, they seek to point to something larger than themselves: a message, beauty, hope, aspiration, inspiration, and in the case of a church musician, divine transcendence.

The greatest of artists also tend to be more secure within themselves and have no need for attention to affirm their self worth. They prefer to allow their art speak for itself. If worthy, it will change the world.

“It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” — John 15:16