UR READERS have probably seen the famous Solemn Mass, filmed at Our Lady of Sorrows Church (Chicago) in 1940. The narration, which is utterly sublime, was done by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen. The video is all over the internet … a ‘Google’ search will locate it almost instantly. The music chosen for that Mass—in spite of tremendous performing forces—is a source of embarrassment for some, who say it sounds sugary and lacks depth. One commentator described it as “the very worst remnants of the Caecilian movement.” However, I believe such criticism to be a bit misguided. Let me explain why.
We Are Body & Soul • What the critics fail to take into consideration is how that music would have sounded if you were actually sitting in the pews. It’s similar to the music of Monsignor Lorenzo Perosi, which looks tedious and insipid on the page, but comes off very well in real life. After all, man is composed of both body and soul. It is wrong to completely dismiss the effects of well-crafted choral music heard in real life. On the other hand, I admit that such ‘Caecilian’ music lacks the depth of Palestrina, Victoria, or Guerrero. (And it’s not even a close call.)
Variety, Variety, Variety • I probably sound like a broken record, but I believe a key ingredient for any successful choral program is musical diversity. I would like to mention a piece that hopefully illustrates my point. We normally do a Renaissance setting of the ALLELUIA which comes before the Gospel—but lately we’ve been doing a setting by Johann Sebastian Bach (d. 1750) which the singers really love. You can freely download J.S. BACH’S ALLELUIA (PDF), arranged by Monsignor Moissenet.
Live Recording • Here’s a ‘live’ recording by our volunteer choir from last week: