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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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“The scholar who lives only for his subject is but the fragment of a man; he lives in a shadow-world, mistaking means for ends.”
— Msgr. Ronald Knox (1888-1957)

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Dominican Priest Calls Gregorian Chant “Infantile”
published 14 November 2019 by Jeff Ostrowski

80801 Fr. Gerard Lessard ATHER Gerard Lessard is a guitarist who says he was “among the first to play at Folk Masses in the 1960s.” He recently published an ill-conceived article in which he laments how millennials “seem to be mainly interested in returning to the Gregorian chant and organ music of the distant past.”  (Fr. Gerard Lessard seems unaware that the Second Vatican Council explicitly mandated the use of Latin and Gregorian chant in the sacred liturgy—although it did not forbid the vernacular or other music. Vatican II also said that sacred polyphony and the pipe organ are to be given a very high prominence along with Gregorian chant.)

Among other things, Fr. Lessard calls Gregorian chant “infantile” compared to “superb composers” such as Haugen and Haas.

Father Lessard makes many belligerent statements, such as:

If I hurt your pride, I’m sorry that it hurt, but hope that you now learn humility and control your outbursts.

Is he so belligerent because he craves attention?

Okay, I’ll bite!  Here we go:

Father Lessard: “You find my sincerity incredible because you don’t understand music as well as I, who began teaching music 50 years ago.”

You’re wrong, Fr. Lessard. I read your statements, and I find many of them erroneous and foolish. I have a professional degree from a prestigious American conservatory, and I’ll put my credentials up against yours any day of the week. Your statements about music are flawed, and you need to stop saying things like that immediately.

Father Lessard: “We seem to be in another Dark Age, like the one that followed the Fall of the Roman Empire, because many faithful millennials, like monks in their scriptoria, are busy restoring and preserving the classics instead of moving progressively forward by the Holy Spirit while their secular counterparts increasingly resemble Gothic tribes.”

You’re misinformed, Father Lessard. We should be praising the young people for finally taking Vatican II seriously and placing a high value on the sacred treasury of Catholic music. Many young people reject the goofy garbage played in Church—such as what they forced upon me as a child in the 1980s—and their actions are praiseworthy.

Father Lessard: “Reread my last paragraph and perhaps you will begin to see why chant compared to modern music is like arithmetic compared to calculus because of all the things that I listed that it lacks.”

You are wrong about this, Father Lessard. Plainsong is amazing, and very sophisticated. The kind of music you promote is laughed at by every serious professor of music. Moreover, polyphony is based on plainsong—and two (2) measures of Guerrero or Palestrina has infinitely more value than anything by the composers you promote. And it’s not even close!  Again, I say this as someone with a professional music degree from a major conservatory.

Father Lessard: “Chant has child-like innocence, but it lacks meter, harmony, a set tempo, an introduction or coda, a bridge and other variations, and seldom has even a refrain.”

You’re incorrect, Father Lessard. A giraffe “lacks” wings, but that’s no defect!  A rose “lacks” the nose of an elephant, but that’s no defect. Furthermore, the “harmony” by some of the composers you cite is a travesty: juvenile, amateur, derivative garbage.

Father Lessard: “On the other hand, what you call 'poor and threadbare’ is objectively far more advanced than anything composed in the time of Gregory I. […] Chant is infantile…”

From a musical standpoint, Father Lessard, you are simply wrong. Stop spreading foolish lies!  I gently but firmly insist that you stop immediately.

Father Lessard: “Do you think that modern organs are better than ancient strings, pipes and percussion instruments that glorified the Temple of Solomon to the delight of God?”

The Church could not be more clear on the place of the pipe organ compared to other instruments; educate yourself, Father!  Moreover, it is foolish to act as though everything in the Old Testament applies now. Saint Augustine talks about this.

Father Lessard: “For instance, some Catholic millennials have complained about the music of Marty Haugen and David Hass, but instead of composing something better, they prefer Latin chant.”

I’m just going to leave this here…

Father Lessard: “Cardinal Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington wrote against those who genuflect or kneel before Communion when the norm is to stand because they only draw attention to themselves and distract the congregation.”

I’m not sure you want to be quoting Cardinal Wuerl. Also, take a look at Matthew 17:14.

Father Lessard: “I can assure you that Haugen and Haas are superb composers based on objective elements, regardless of one’s subjective tastes.”

Father Lessard, comments like these made some of the people in your combox wonder whether your article was satire.


T IS BEYOND ABSURD to suggest that music has to sound goofy and secular for people to “participate.”  Here’s an example of how dignified melodies in the brand new Brébeuf Hymnal can be used for congregational participation with common melodies—an exciting technique:


Shown in that video is a completely volunteer parish choir!

For the record, many of the tunes in the Brébeuf Hymnal were composed by contemporary composers—and they are marvelous.



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

*   By the way, I have screenshots of the entire article, as well as another article wherein he attacks millennials. That was done in case he later attempts to delete acerbic comments like this:

80798-Gerard-Lessard-Dominican-Hippie-Music