N THE THIRD DAY, the Colloquium is going pretty well so far. Participants are definitely getting to know each other more and we are all in “Heaven”, the musical heaven on earth. This afternoon, Fr. Jeffrey Keyes celebrated his first Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. After an hour of practice, he, the deacon and the subdeacon entered the Sanctuary and offered a beautiful Mass for us. I apologize for not being able to take any picture during the Mass because I was one of the altar servers.
The keynote today was given by Fr. Richard Cipolla from St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, CT. Unfortunately, I missed almost half of the talk; but it was very fortunate that I got to have a conversation with Mr. Richard Rice, the great composer. Even though I was not there for the whole talk, I would like to share what I heard.
Fr. Cipolla’s talk was entitled: “Liturgical Music: The Medium and the Message”. Fr. Cipolla had some really strong opinions in his talk that not everyone may agree with him, but I think there are truth in his points and they are worth sharing. He clearly defined Gregorian Chant as the liturgical music of the Catholic Church because of its “Pride of Place”, and polyphony as another form of liturgical music because of its organic development from Chant. Both of these forms were mentioned in many documents of the Church. He defined orchestral Masses, hymns and other forms of music as religious music. He even went on and said that the Masses by Mozart and Schubert were “unfaithful” to the spirit of liturgical music.
The emphasis of liturgical music is on the text, but no so much on the music. Gregorian Chant, with the Latin text, is the best way to communicate and express the text. Fr. Cipolla thinks that Gregorian Chant is like an icon. God speaks to us through Chant and we venerate Him through Chant too. The simplicity (rhythmic, dynamic, dramatic) of Chant allows us to contemplate on the text; on the other hand, the complexity of the melody shows the beauty of God’s words. Fr. Cipolla suggested that all readings, no matter they are in Latin or vernacular, should be sung in the traditional Chant Tone. Because when the scripture is sung, it speaks to us on a much higher level and draws our attentions. Liturgical music is not meant to accompany the Liturgy but is an integral and necessary part of the liturgical action and event.
He also talked about the important of the Latin language in the Liturgy. Latin, as a “dead language”, do not develop anymore. The grammar and the vocabulary will stay the same. And because of that reason, it is the perfect language for the Liturgy and Gregorian Chant. We often have to deal with the problem of bad translations, or just translation in general. When the text is translated from Latin to the vernacular, it is being “imperfected” at the same time. Latin in the Liturgy has always been a different and higher-leveled language. Even back in the days when Latin and Greek were the main language, the Latin in the Liturgy was a higher class language, different from the one that people use to communicate. Latin language is the foundation of the Liturgy and Gregorian Chant.