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 lives with his wife and two children.
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"In the Orthodox Churches they have kept that pristine liturgy, so beautiful. We have lost a bit the sense of adoration. They keep, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time doesn’t count. God is the center, and this is a richness …"
— Pope Francis (8/2/2013)

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Bishop Doerfler’s Stunning Church Music Letter
published 31 March 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

The following was promulgated by Most Rev’d JOHN F. DOERFLER (Bishop of Marquette, Michigan) on 26 January 2016:

624 Bishop John F. Doerfler of Marquette, Michigan

HE PSALMS from the Old Testament give witness to the human expression of faith through Sacred Music that manifests the beauty of God. It is our joy to give God the best, most beautiful musical expression that we can offer him as we sing the Mass.

My illustrious predecessor, the Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample, wrote eloquently regarding Sacred Music in his pastoral letter entitled, Rejoice in the Lord Always. The teaching and directives given therein remain in effect, although he acknowledged that the implementation of the directives would take some time and catechesis.

Therefore, to build upon the foundation laid by my predecessor, I hereby issue this INSTRUCTION ON SACRED MUSIC IN DIVINE WORSHIP to elucidate the steps to be taken to promote Sacred Music in the Diocese of Marquette over the next five years. The following easy steps can be taken by the smallest parishes in the diocese. Thus, all parishes and schools are to have implemented the following directives by December 31, 2020.

1. All parishes and schools will learn to chant the Ordinary parts of the Mass in English that are found in the Roman Missal, and they will be sung by the congregation some of the time throughout the year.

2. All parishes and schools will learn to chant the KYRIE, SANCTUS and AGNUS DEI from the Missa lubilate Deo, and they will be sung by the congregation some of the time throughout the year.

3. All parishes and schools will learn to chant the Communion Antiphon in English to a very simple tone that everyone can sing, and the Communion Antiphon will be sung at every Sunday Mass. A hymn may be sung after the Communion Antiphon while the congregation is receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

4. A Diocesan Hymnal will be used to ensure the musical quality and doctrinal integrity of the Sacred Music. The hymnal will include a broad repertoire of hymns from classical to contemporary.

a. It is projected that the hymnal may be ready to implement on the first Sunday of Advent, 2017. Once the diocesan hymnal is implemented, no other hymnal may be used.

b. Effective immediately, no other hymnal may be purchased.

c. To assist with the cost, the diocese will purchase the hymnals, and the parishes will reimburse the diocese for the cost over a period of three years. Over time, this will amount to a significant cost savings to the parishes in comparison to the annual disposable music resources.

d. It is acknowledged that some parishes have recently purchased hymnals. In these cases, a singular provision will be made for each parish. To assist with the planning and implementation of the diocesan hymnal, the pastors of these parishes are to request this special provision from the Diocesan Bishop in writing no later than April 30, 2016. In making the request, please indicate the hymnal that was purchased, the purchase date, the total number of hymnals purchased, the cost and any other relevant information, such as whether the hymnals were donated, etc.

e. Parishes may recommend hymns to be included in the diocesan hymnal, with the understanding that not all recommendations might be accommodated due to space limitations or to ensure doctrinal integrity. To facilitate this process, pastors are to submit all hymn recommendations to the Diocesan Director of Sacred Music no later than April 30, 2016.

f. Once the diocesan hymnal is implemented, permission may be requested from the Diocesan Bishop to utilize new Sacred Music for congregational singing that is published subsequent to the implementation of the diocesan hymnal.

g. Once the diocesan hymnal is implemented, permission may be requested from the Diocesan Bishop to use choral settings that are not for congregational singing and are not in the diocesan hymnal.

h. More information regarding the hymnal and its implementation will be made available as it is developed.
5. The Diocesan Director of Sacred Music will provide annual, regional workshops for parish musicians to assist them in the implementation of these directives. He will also assist music teachers in Catholic schools to implement Sacred Music in the school curriculum and at school Masses. Finally, he stands at the service of parishes upon request to help implement Sacred Music in other ways.

Through the implementation of these directives, may we all offer to the Lord ever more beautiful praise. Sing to the Lord, All the Earth!

Given at the Chancery, Marquette, Michigan, January 26, 2016.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD Bishop Doerfler’s original letter, but the typeface came through a bit fuzzy. I believe Bishop Doerfler should be commended for attempting to improve the sacred music in his diocese. By the way, our readers probably remember the 8-part series we published regarding the actions of Bishop Doerfler’s predecessor, Most Rev’d Alexander Sample. 1

This paragraph by Bishop Doerfler jumped out at me:

3. All parishes and schools will learn to chant the Communion Antiphon in English to a very simple tone that everyone can sing, and the Communion Antiphon will be sung at every Sunday Mass.

The musicians in Marquette may wish to explore the following complete collections of Communion antiphons:

(1) Laudate Dominum Antiphons (Motyka) — with complete rehearsal files

(2) Simple English Propers (CMAA) — with videos for rehearsal

(3) Lalemant Propers (CCW) — also available in hard copy

(4) Fr. Samuel Weber Propers — published by Ignatius Press

(5) John Ainslie Propers — not available for free, but worth purchasing

Many other composers—such as Richard J. Clark and Gary Penkala—have set the Communion antiphons. I wrote an article about English plainsong settings of the propers, which you can access here. Of special interest on that page will be the “Graduale Parvum.”



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   Our own Andrew Leung has already commented on the latest developments in Marquette, but this letter is so powerful it’s okay to continue to speak about it.