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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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)

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A Hymn That Just Keeps Popping Up
published 16 November 2017 by Jeff Ostrowski

HE COMMITTEE on which I serve continues to make progress on the St. Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal. We often provide multiple tunes for a single hymn text, because congregations appreciate this. Besides, singing the same text to a “new” tune can make one appreciate different aspects of the text which, after all, is a prayer.

One tune that keeps popping up is INNSBRUCK, often paired with O Esca Viatorum (link)—a traditional Eucharistic hymn. After finishing editing one of the texts for INNSBRUCK, I was driving down the road listening to a marvelous recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion…

…and what should I hear?

    * *  Mp3 • Excerpt from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

J.S. Bach “recycled” many works, but in the Brébeuf hymnal we stop short of going as far as he does. For example, Bach used the PASSION CHORALE in many places, including his Christmas Oratorio! That’s pretty bold, folks.

I did not tell my choir this in advance, but during Mass last Sunday, I suddenly felt inspired to sing INNSBRUCK. I asked them to pull it out, and they sang it very well:


Someone in the pews recorded the entire Mass, which you can view on YouTube.

Albert Schweitzer—speaking specifically of Bach’s incomparable and magnificent Art of the Fugue—wrote that Bach’s music inhabits a “still and serious world…deserted and rigid, without color, without light, without motion; it does not gladden, does not distract; yet we cannot break away from it.” Believe it or not, that’s actually a compliment!

(Those who love Bach will understand.)