OMETHING THAT TROUBLES me deeply is when liturgical conferences spend virtually no effort on the music. At such gatherings, the music seems an “afterthought.” I won’t name names—because doing so would get me in trouble!—but I have witnessed liturgical conferences which cost more than $100,000 (with numerous bishops and cardinals in attendance) where the music is provided by only a handful of musicians, rather than a spectacular, robust, fullsome choir. Some priests mistakenly believe that it’s okay if the music is unimpressive, tedious, monotonous, poorly executed, and boring. Their argument is as follows:
“Sacred music is about honoring God; it’s not about giving delight to the faithful. Therefore, even if the music sounds terrible, that’s okay because God sees the heart.”
My response would be: “If what you say is true, Father, are you willing to wear a poorly-made, misshapen, ugly Chasuble? After all, sacred vestments aren’t meant to give delight to the congregation, right?”
Rapprochement • Not long ago, I suggested that what’s needed between priests and musicians is a “rapprochement.” Too many priests are ignorant of the glories of authentic sacred music. On the other hand, too many musicians don’t realize that church music must be presented well if we expect priests to fall in love with it. I have encouraged choirmasters to select music which is not too lengthy and to make sure it is sung with utter perfection. The following “Alleluia Polyphonic Extension” is based on an arrangement I made twenty years ago, from one of my favorite composers: Giovanni Gabrieli (d. 1612). We created the following rehearsal video (simulation), for this glorious piece that will be sung by 85 singers at this year’s Sacred Music Symposium:
Coming From Somewhere • In another article, I attempted to explain how important it is (in my humble opinion) to build on authentic traditions of the past. I try to look at things as they really are. For example, I feel one of the greatest Masses ever composed—one for which I would give my life—is Missa Mille Regretz by Father Cristóbal de Morales (d. 1553). Some claim it’s inappropriate, since it was based on a secular melody. In the past, I’ve made many arguments against that allegation, and I won’t repeat them all here. However, it’s worth pointing out that other composers—in the wake of the COUNCIL OF TRENT—disguised their “secular” Masses. For example, Palestrina wrote a l’Homme Armé Mass as late as 1582AD, which he disguised by calling it “Missa Quarta.” Other composers disguised their Masses by calling them “Sine Nomine.” Again I say: Let us always examine the intrinsic characteristics of the music!
Those Who Hate Tradition • One thing that annoys me is the way the reformers of the 1960s seemed to have no regard for the ancient traditions of the Catholic Church. CARDINAL ANTONELLI was—one could argue—the “prime mover” of all the liturgical reforms of the 20th century, owing to his Memoria Sulla Riforma Liturgica (1948), which he got Pope Pius XII to approve. Antonelli had much more veneration for history than Annibale Bugnini, and yet the statements made by Antonelli often reveal unthinkable hubris, ignorance, and naiveté. For example, Antonelli told that pope that everyone who resisted the reforms did so “from indolence or lack of liturgical sensibility.” In the late 1940s Antonelli said: “Everywhere and by everyone it is recognized that today in the Catholic world, especially among the clergy, there is a desire, indeed even a conviction of the need for liturgical reform.” Indeed, Antonelli even said that the essence of the sacred liturgy “unfortunately, had been lost for centuries.” How arrogant it is to pretend that we, who are alive now, are so much more enlightened than all the Catholic saints of the past!
On the other hand, Cardinal Antonelli did have the honesty—in retrospect—to admit the flaws of the reformers, saying: “they have only been able to demolish and not to restore.” Indeed, regarding the post-conciliar liturgical changes, Antonelli wrote in his diary: “Time will tell whether all this was for better or for worse, or merely indifferent altogether.” As far as I can tell, Ferdinando Giuseppe Antonelli never served in any pastoral role. During his entire (very long) life he was never a pastor; he never had a congregation of his own. Perhaps this lack of experience explains why he allowed himself to be seduced by the reform zeitgeist, which demanded change for the sake of change.