ULTON J. SHEEN used to point out something important: if you tell jokes to a horse, the horse “won’t even reply with a horselaugh.” That’s because the horse doesn’t understand human language. Question: Is music a human language? What exactly is music? Beethoven once said: “I don’t know what music is.” Even if we cannot define it, we know the Roman Catholic liturgy has required and elevated music for at least 1,500 years—and I trust the Church. Vatican II said: “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art” (SC §112).
How To Succeed: I probably sound like a broken record, since I always recommend “balance” in a Catholic music program. (Instead of “balance,” you could think of it as musical diversity.) I feel that choir members will stop coming back if the music is always the same. Even truly great composers—such as Father Francisco Guerrero or J.S. Bach—can be overdone. Whether one directs in the “Ordinary Form” (Pauline Mass) or the “Extraordinary Form” (Missale Vetustum), an essential part of your choir’s repertoire should be hymns from the Brébeuf hymnal. Something praiseworthy done by the editorial committee was setting Eucharistic hymns to seasonal melodies.
Here’s an example for Lent:
Rehearsal videos for each individual voice await you at #144.
Not A New Idea: The melody for “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was originally a funeral procession—but once its associations fell away it was adopted for Advent. The pipe organ was originally a secular instrument, but its associations fell away and currently it’s held up by the Catholic Church as the sacred instrument par excellence. The quintessential Easter song (“Regina Cæli Lætare”) was originally a Christmas antiphon. So what the Brébeuf editors have done here with seasonal melodies is nothing new. Indeed, the idea came from the traditional practice of the Divine Office.