ERRUCCIO BUSONI wrote two years before his death: “I have devoted myself too much, I think, to Bach, to Mozart, and to Liszt. I wish now I could emancipate myself from them. Schumann is no use to me any more, Beethoven only with an effort and strict selection. Chopin has attracted and repelled me all my life…” These words are not to be dismissed out of hand. After all, Busoni was the most celebrated of all Italian pianists, and in 1909 bequeathed his famous masterclasses to none other than LEOPOLD GODOWSKY! In a moment, you’ll understand why I quote Busoni.
Jeff Ostrowski’s Artistic “Credo” • Today, I will speak of two aspects of my artistic “CREDO.” My hope is that readers will find them intriguing or (better still) helpful. Both of these items are suitable for inclusion in my ongoing series: Tricks of the Conscientious Choirmaster.
Diversity (1 of 14) • I have suggested that authentic church music should bring delight to the listeners. Listening to it should not be drudgery. For many years, my small SCHOLA CANTORUM sang the complete Gregorian Propers for each Sunday Mass. When I say “complete,” I mean everything: the full INTROIT, the full GRADUAL, the full ALLELUIA, and so forth. Furthermore, every Sunday we sang from the Gregorian Kyriale. We sang (in their entirety) Mass I, Mass II, Mass III, Mass IV, Mass V, and so forth. Not only that, but at the OFFERTORY and COMMUNION, we would toss in Gregorian hymns. Father Valentine Young, OFM, allowed us to do this, even though he gently reminded us that it was “untraditional” to sing the full GRADUAL and ALLELUIA each Sunday. He was absolutely correct when he told us this, but we were too immature—or perhaps arrogant—to take his words to heart. (Only a handful of monasteries 100 years ago sang the full GRADUAL and ALLELUIA, but certain people cannot accept this truth.) This approach might be called THE FULL GREGORIAN. We sang like this each week, never missing a single Sunday or holy day, for years. On the one hand, we had a lot of fun doing THE FULL GREGORIAN each week—and what we learned was invaluable. On the other hand, that quote by Ferruccio Busoni comes to mind. Looking back all these years later, I probably should have made different decisions. THE FULL GREGORIAN might be excellent for a monastery, but there’s more in the Thesaurus Musicae Sacrae than just Gregorian Chant—and parishes deserve some musical diversity. Someone might object: “I could listen to the same Gregorian Chant Mass setting every day for the rest of my life, and I’d love it.” That might be true—but not every human being is the same. For example, SAINT CHARLES GARNIER (d. 7 December 1649) was of noble birth, yet sacrificed everything to become a North American missionary. Father Garnier could walk through the snow for hours, and carried sick Native Americans on his back (although his constitution was not strong). Father Garnier frequently ate nothing all day long, except a single bread crust. How many Catholics possess such ardent love for Christ? Not everyone is the same.
Diversity (2 of 14) • These days, I make sure to utilize musical diversity. One of my professors used to say: “An example is worth 1,000 words.” Therefore, I will try to provide plenty! By the way, 100% the examples I use below were recorded ‘live’ over the last week or so by the volunteer choir I direct. Let’s start with hymn #870. We never repeat strophe after strophe without variation. The conscientious choirmaster can always figure out ways to deftly add diversity to hymns. For example, notice how I throw in an improvisation on the pipe organ between verses:
Diversity (3 of 14) • Father Valentine Young, OFM, used to say: “The cemeteries are filled with people who thought they were indispensable.” The conscientious choirmaster will make sure to give conducting opportunities to members of the choir. That way, when we die, the tradition will live on. Last Sunday, I had one of my singers (Ms. Rachel Aldridge) conduct KYRIE XI. Remember that we are discussing musical diversity. This piece is rather “somber” or “dark” or “serious.” That means it’s a wonderful contrast to the hymn we just listened to:
Diversity (4 of 14) • Even for singers who read music perfectly, singing in SATB parts requires an “incubation period.” That means your choir members must sing it again and again before the harmonies “click.” But there’s only so much rehearsal time—and it goes so quickly! That’s where the innovative “common melodies” strategy pioneered by the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal comes in handy. The following text is suitable for the feast of Christ the King. Listen to it and see if you understand what I mean by the shared melodies strategy:
If you still don’t comprehend the shared melodies strategy pioneered by the Saint Brébeuf Hymnal, listen to the next video. Speaking of “musical diversity,” notice how the first verse is sung in a cappella SATB harmony whereas the verse that follows is sung by females only, accompanied by the pipe organ. For the record, this is the only hymn I know which has a tritone skip (!) in the tenor line! Nevertheless, if you examine all the hymnals going back 150 years, that tritone skip is never omitted by any editor. I already mentioned that 100% of the examples I use in today’s article were recorded ‘live’ over the last week or so by the volunteer choir I direct. If anyone doubts this is a ‘live’ recording, listen to the ending of the third verse (you’ll hear where I play several wrong notes on the pipe organ). By the way, this hymn text is eminently suitable for Holy Communion:
Diversity (5 of 14) • Part of your job as a choirmaster is to keep the singers coming back for more. A good way to do that is to let them sing music that’s challenging, compelling, spellbinding, intriguing, intricate, and marvelous in every way. An example of that type of music would be the Glória In Excélsis from “MISSA ISTE SANCTUS” by Father Francisco Guerrero (d. 1599). Believe it or not, almost every line—Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass—is derived in some way from the piece of plainsong this Mass is based upon, even though sometimes it’s turned upside down (“inversion”). Below is an excerpt from my volunteer choir singing that piece last Sunday:
Diversity (6 of 14) • Now, since a cappella polyphony is a little “heavy” or “serious” or “complicated” for some listeners, let’s take a break from that. Let’s listen to a “catchy” tune with a text to Christ the King and luscious organ accompaniment. Not to be missed is the hauntingly beautiful “AMEN” at the end of the piece (marker 0:49):
Last Sunday, we also sang an Irish hymn. Well, its melody is Irish. Its text has a complicated history that would take too long to explain. Using music from different countries is part of the “musical diversity” we’ve been talking about. The translation is by Father Edward Caswall (d. 1878), a disciple of Cardinal Newman (who taught in Ireland). Notice this hymn is sung by females only:
Diversity (7 of 14) • That last piece was in a melancholy (“minor”) mode. It’s not good to have too many pieces in such a mode. Therefore, let’s examine an excerpt from the SATB Alleluia we sang last week, which comes from the Saint Noël Chabanel Mass. Notice how it mixes “pure” plainchant with SATB polyphony—consonant with the “musical diversity” we’ve been talking about. It’s a very “bright” or “happy” or “joyful” piece:
Diversity (8 of 14) • You know we’ve been discussing musical diversity. We just listened to the ALLELUIA which was sung without accompaniment. That piece utilized all the voices in the choir. Now we will show something different. At the beginning of Mass, the “ASPERGES” is sung by the entire congregation, with accompaniment on the pipe organ. But it also utilizes beautiful solo singers, as you can hear in this excerpt from last week:
Last week, when we sang the INTROIT for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost, we also had some female soloists—contrasted with the entire group of women—and you can hear how that came out.
Diversity (9 of 14) • Let’s say a word about the feast of Christ the King (celebrated on the final Sunday in October by those who follow the Extraordinary Form calendar). Since the Kýrie Eléyson was sung without accompaniment, we decided to use the pipe organ to accompany the Christ the King INTROIT:
Diversity (10 of 14) • That INTROIT is in Mode III, which is a “somber” or “dark” mode. It’s good to juxtapose such a piece with a “happy” or “bright” melody. I think you will recognize this hymn, although the text is different from what you heard in other samples above. Isn’t it fascinating that this sacred song is also for Christ the King? Yet, could there be a more dramatic contrast between this and the INTROIT for Christ the King?
Diversity (11 of 14) • I have argued in the past that it’s best to eliminate singing at the OFFERTORY because there’s already so much singing during the traditional High Mass. Indeed, it’s troubling when people who self-identify as “liturgical experts” talk about the silence of the Traditional Latin Mass. There’s virtually no silence at all. Here’s a brief overview of the High Mass:
The bell is rung.|
Then, immediately, the Processional is sung/played.|
Then, immediately, the Asperges is intoned and sung.|
Then, immediately, the dialogue after the Asperges is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Introit is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Kyrie is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Gloria is intoned and sung.|
Then, immediately, the Collect is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Epistle is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Gradual & Alleluia are sung.|
Then, immediately, the Gospel is sung.|
Then, immediately, the organist plays until the priest preaches.|
After the Homily, the Credo is sung.|
Then, immediately, the priest sings “Dominus Vobiscum.”|
Then, immediately, the Offertory Antiphon is sung.|
Then, immediately, organ is played until the Preface Dialogue is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Preface is sung.|
Then, immediately, the Sanctus & Hosanna are sung.|
A few seconds of silence for the Consecration.|
Then, immediately, the Benedictus & Hosanna are sung.|
Then, immediately, the “Per Ipsum” and Pater Noster are sung.|
A few seconds of silence before priest sings “Per omnia, etc.”|
Then, immediately, the Agnus Dei is sung.|
A few seconds of silence before the priest says “Ecce, Agnus Dei.”|
Then, immediately, the Communion antiphon is sung.|
Then, immediately, a motet or hymn is sung.|
Then, immediately, the organ is played.|
Then, immediately, the Post-Communion is sung.|
Then, after a few seconds of silence, the “Ite Missa Est” is sung.|
Then, immediately, the organ plays softly during the Last Gospel.|
Then, immediately, the Recessional is sung.|
Therefore, an interlude on the pipe organ (after the mandatory antiphon) is usually the best choice for the OFFERTORY, instead of singing a motet or hymn. Below is my attempt at an Organ Interlude by Dom Gregory Murray (d. 1992). He wrote about 100 of them, and I have been playing them since the early 2000s. They get better and better each year! Like Horowitz said of Chopin’s Mazurkas: “Each one is better than the next; pure gold.”
Diversity (12 of 14) • Another way to add contrast is to employ music from composers who come from different countries. We gave an example (above) from Father Guerrero. Now, consider the SANCTUS from William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices. My volunteer choir sang at last Sunday, and below are some excerpts:
Diversity (13 of 14) • That William Byrd Mass is rather “complicated” or “dense” or “intricate” or “esoteric.” We juxtaposed that with an ancient monodic melody every Catholic should know by heart: CREDO IV. Some manuscripts suggest CREDO IV may have been sung as “musica mensurata” in certain localities. However, it also sounds quite beautiful as it is presented to us in the EDITIO VATICANA. I accompanied it on the pipe organ and we used alternatim between the females and tutti:
Diversity (14 of 14) • I could give more examples of contrasting music my volunteer choir sang over the last two weeks during our Masses … but perhaps I’ve already provided too much! (For example, I didn’t have time to include any of the contemporary choral music we sing each week.) You have probably noticed how music I program these days is quite different than THE FULL GREGORIAN. Let’s close with a hymn by Cardinal Newman that we sing during the month of November. The following was recorded last Sunday. We tried an experiment on the verses: having all the female singers sing the melody and just one alto singer on the harmony. Please notice that sometimes I accompanied the REFRAIN, but other times I did not. Which do you prefer?
OOKY. Sometimes one encounters a statement so kooky that one feels compelled to determine (immediately) the truth. For example, if I told you the second most important person in the government under RONALD REAGAN was a man named DONALD REGAN, wouldn’t you want to verify that? If I told you that President John F. Kennedy appointed as Attorney General his own brother, who had zero experience in any state or federal court, wouldn’t you want to verify that? If I told you the Nazi armies laid siege to Saint Petersburg—a city of crucial importance to pianists such as John Field (d. 1837), Anton Rubinstein (d. 1894), and Josef Hofmann (d. 1957)—holding them hostage for 872 days and forcing them to eat sawdust each day (when temperatures sometimes got down to minus 22° FAHRENHEIT) wouldn’t you want to verify that? In just a moment, you will understand why I bring all this up—specifically in the context of staying grounded musically.
Justine Ward’s “Joke” • I recently read a kooky statement in the groundbreaking book called “The Politics of Plainchant” by Katharine Ellis of Cambridge University. The 1949 statement, made by Justine Bayard Ward,1 was characterized by Ellis as “a delicious in-joke” attacking the work of the Vatican Commission on Gregorian Chant, which had been established by Pope Saint Pius X to create the official edition. (The president of the commission was Dom Joseph Pothier.) According to Ellis, the “inside joke” was that the monks of Solesmes reserved the “weakest” (her word) chants of the EDITIO VATICANA “for use use as artistic penance during Lent.” On page 8, Katharine Ellis interprets—correctly in my view—Justine Ward’s statement as a snide remark, barely shrouding “distaste for Dom Pothier’s paleographical legacy.” But would the monks of Solesmes really use the sacred liturgy to get back at Pope Pius X for not giving Dom Mocquereau the adulation some feel he deserved? Is the Holy Mass really a type of play-thing we can use to “settle scores” with monks who have been dead for decades? In other words, was Katharine Ellis quoting Ward accurately? More importantly, was Ward telling the truth about this supposed “tradition” of the monks of Solesmes? I needed to know. Therefore, I successfully located the 1949 quote. It turns out that Katharine Ellis was correct. As part of a “hit piece” on the EDITIO VATICANA, Ward did indeed claim that the Benedictine monks of Solesmes intentionally select the “poorest” (in her view) melodies “as an artistic penance” during Lent. That being said, I highly doubt such a thing actually happened. I suspect Ward—perhaps unwittingly—invented that story. No serious Catholic believes that it’s acceptable to select shoddy music for the Holy Mass. Without question, Lent is a time of “heightened” penance, fasting, and almsgiving. But no serious Catholic would choose inferior music as a form of “penance.” The conscientious choirmaster might well select austere music for Lent; but that’s not what Ward was talking about. She claimed the monks of Solesmes we’re so artistically enlightened their sensibilities did “penance” by singing the shoddy editions of Dom Pothier. Ward seems ignorant of the fact that Dom Pothier was himself a monk of Solesmes, although later in life he was appointed abbot of Saint-Wandrille Abbey (located near Normandy in France). Dom Pothier’s brother, Dom Alfons Pothier, was also a monk of Solesmes. Furthermore, Ward seems ignorant of the reality that Dom Pothier, at the direction of Dom Guéranger (d. 1875), was almost single-handedly responsible for the restoration of Gregorian Chant that took place at Solesmes Abbey. Dom Mocquereau himself wrote (on 9 April 1885) that Dom Pothier “carried on Dom Gueranger’s restoration work, and that he is one of the glories of Solesmes.” For twenty years, I’ve avoided saying anything negative about Justine Ward. I was neurotically worried about publishing today’s article, because I have friends who hold Justine Ward in high regard. I finally decided to go ahead due to advice I received. Before publication, I showed this article to a friend, expressing concern over possible repercussions. My friend replied:
“Jeff, you clearly feel passionately about this subject. If people turn against you for speaking honestly, that means they weren’t really your friends in the first place.”
Staying Grounded (1 of 3) • I promised to speak of two aspects of my artistic CREDO. The second is “staying grounded.” This aspect dovetails my recent article about the Choral Warm-Up by Thomas Morley (d. 1602). Therefore, don’t be surprised if you feel a bit of déjà vu. This notion of “staying grounded” is something I’ve pondered for many years, especially with regards to Justine Ward. Perhaps a brief story might help. I did all kinds of odd jobs while attending the university. I even worked construction (very briefly). I remember a potential worker talking to the foreman, explaining all his different skills. I’ll never forget the foreman’s response: “Why don’t you pick up a hammer? I’ll be able to determine what you know in about five seconds.”
Staying Grounded (2 of 3) • I probably sound like a broken record, but the phenomenon of musicians who have failed to “stay grounded” is seen often online. Certain people spend all day providing “hot takes” and advice when it comes to church music. Almost without exception, the advice given by such people is reprehensible. It shows they have never stood in front of a choir in real life. It shows they did not “stay grounded” by performing music in the real world. When you politely ask such people to provide a recording of their choir to “back up” or “support” or “demonstrate” or “bolster” their magisterial statements, suddenly they fall silent. Broadly speaking, successful choirmasters don’t have time to type on the internet all day because they’re too busy making music in the real world. They’re too busy staying grounded.
Staying Grounded (3 of 3) • Justine Ward has always struck me as an example of someone who “lost touch” with music making. From what I can tell, she never stood in front of a choir in real life. If she did, it was very early in her life. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but virtually nothing remains of her method. Circa 2004, I attended classes at the only authorized WARD CENTER in the United States. Only three students were in attendance, and I was one of them. I couldn’t help but wonder how such a thing was possible in a country containing 300 million people (in 2004).
Justine Ward (1 of 8) • When I looked up that 1949 quotation by Justine Ward, I was reconfirmed in my belief that she lost touch. I would like to share some reflections on Justine Ward’s 1949 tome. The official title is: A STUDY OF PHRASEOLOGICAL RHYTHM (1949). It reeks of somebody who sat in a room concocting pronouncements rather than standing in front of a choir of real singers. It’s an excellent example of a musician who failed to “stay grounded.” Verily, the statements she makes are beyond absurd. For the record, the front of her book bears ecclesiastical approbation by Russell Woollen (d. 1994), formerly a priest. This should come as no surprise, because a year later (2 January 1950) Justine Ward wrote to Dom Gajard claiming that Russell Woollen “is well imbued with your teaching.” [For years, Russell Woollen was either studying at or teaching at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC.]
Justine Ward (2 of 8) • In her 1949 tome, Justine Ward called organ accompaniment of Gregorian Chant an “artistic monstrosity.” She railed against [p. 167] “deforming harmonies” which “conceal the subtleties of the phrases under thick, muddling masses of sound.” She said to accompany plainsong constitutes “the meddling of incompetents who like worms on a lily, gnaw away the perfection of form of these liturgical flowers.” She says those who accompany “debase” Gregorian Chant and display their “uneducated taste.” In her opinion, the only people who would ever accompany Gregorian Chant are those too lazy to “become familiar with the character and the various forms of the Chant and with the aesthetic principles that animate it.” (Because certain offices were always accompanied at Solesmes Abbey under Dom Mocquereau, can we safely assume he was unfamiliar with plainsong?) Not content with such statements, Ms. Ward added: “It is inconceivable that men calling themselves musicians can possess so insensitive an ear as to tolerate such excruciating abominations.” Dom Pierre Combe, who along with Dom Agaësse on 10 June 1940 had been saved by Ms. Ward from the advance of German troops, wrote: “A striking detail: at Solesmes, we remember hearing Justine Ward criticize accompaniment sometimes or seeing her cover her ears, especially when the organ accompanied a soloist, which is something she could not accept.”
Justine Ward (3 of 8) • As everyone knows, Justine Ward believed deeply in Dom Mocquereau’s rhythmic signs. In her 1949 book she explicitly declared [p. 190] that without the rhythmic signs of Solesmes, “artistic interpretation” of the chant is “impossible.” (One wonders how monks in the middle ages sang, since Mocquereau’s rhythmic signs we’re not invented until the late 19th century.) In another section of the book, Ms. Ward—without any evidence whatsoever, and without providing even a footnote—claimed that “the Holy See ruled that these rhythmic signs should remain the exclusive property of the Benedictine monks of Solesmes.” Some have suggested Justine Ward suffered from “ictus on the brain.” In other words, it was almost as if she could think of nothing else. Indeed, when Dom Mocquereau died in 1930, Justine Ward published an article about him, using the example of (what else?) an “ictus, which falls light as a snowflake touching the earth” (!) to describe his dying breath.
Justine Ward (4 of 8) • Justine Ward seems to contradict herself. On page 73, she says: “Thanks to a half century or more of patient paleographical research, carried on, for the most part, by the monks of Solesmes, and thanks to the subsequent rulings of the Holy See, we have, today, a notation of the Gregorian Chants which is fairly clear and can be read easily even by young children.” Okay, that seems clear enough. She’s saying that Dom Mocquereau’s rhythmic symbols make Gregorian Chant so easy that even a child can sing it well. But on page 144 she says: “We cannot ignore the fact that much of the dislike which exists has been caused by poor interpretations of Gregorian Chant. Even among those who claim Solesmes as their model, lapses have occurred.”
Justine Ward (5 of 8) • Notice how Ms. Ward unashamedly refers to “subsequent rulings of the Holy See.” Is it possible that Justine Ward—who rails against “modern ignorance” and “musical ignoramuses” and “charlatans who distort”—is ignorant of the Vatican’s Statement on Chant Rhythm (18 February 1910), officially promulgated by Sebastiano Cardinal Martinelli, Prefect for the Congregation of Sacred Rites under Pope Saint Pius X? In another place, Ms. Ward wrote: “Superficial knowledge is a dangerous thing in music as in life. In Gregorian Chant it is fatal.” What are we to make of someone who has written so many books about Gregorian Chant, yet doesn’t even know about the 18 February 1910 statement? Furthermore, her letters reveal ignorance about even the most basic realities of plainsong. For example, even as late as 20 July 1952 she seems ignorant of the PREFACE to the official edition, which clearly states that singers are to pause at the “half bar” (and retain the option to pause at the “quarter bar”). Seemingly oblivious to this elementary reality, Justine Ward wrote:
“It is when they are practicing that large groups stop in order to sleep; they don’t give themselves a new impetus after a pause (even if it is minimal) and singers pause when they should not (quarter-bar, half-bar)—everything provides temptation to go to sleep! It is thus not a question of rhythm but of musical integrity.”
Justine Ward (6 of 8) • So much for her knowledge of the official edition. What about her knowledge of history? Justine Ward basically discards plainsong written after the year 1,000AD as garbage, writing on page 190:
“After the year 1000, baroque elements began to appear in the liturgical compositions in the form of excessive ornamentation and exaggerated range. (In this book we have selected models from the more ancient and typical chants). Finally, the growing popularity of polyphonic music in the 12th and 13th centuries hastened the decline of the true Gregorian style which was not recaptured until its restoration began in the nineteenth century under Solesmes.”
How unfortunate that Catholics for many centuries (!) were too stupid to understand the “true Gregorian style.” Perhaps they were not as enlightened as Justine Ward. In her book, she provides a series of “laws” and “rules” about Gregorian Chant. [Reminder: Ward considers plainsong written after the year 1,000AD basically fake or worthless.] Then, Justine Ward makes the following statement:
“It may have been natural to have made blunders at a time when the restoration of the original melodies was in its infancy. To make such blunders now would be inexcusable, since the underlying principles of composition exemplified in these melodies have been brought to light. Their basic form is now known and recognized by all well-informed church musicians.”
Imagine speaking like that! Imagine, pretending that her complicated, contradictory, subjective, and arbitrary rules are “known and recognized by all well-informed church musicians.” Does this not make it clear that Justine Ward had completely lost touch? But a truly competent musician stays grounded.
Justine Ward (7 of 8) • Monsignor Ronald Knox (d. 1957) wrote about every conceivable subject: theological, liturgical, philosophical, current events, detective mystery novels, and so forth. Toward the end of his life, Fulton J. Sheen said that “anything he had ever said of significance was taken from either Knox or Chesterton.” But how few Catholic writers imitate Knox! Oh, certainly we find innumerable Catholics today who think themselves witty and spend hours giving “hot takes” on social media and blogs about everything under the sun. Nevertheless, there’s a crucial difference. The writings of Monsignor Knox always drew men’s minds upward (to God). Moreover, one felt inspired after reading Knox. Contrariwise, too many “hot take” authors spend their time trying to convince readers how enlightened they are, how clairvoyant they are, how perfect they are, and how everyone else in the world (except them) is an ignorant Philistine. Knox must have been constantly tempted to misuse his monumental intellectual powers—to become what we now call a “troll” or “cyber-bully” or “provocateur”—yet he never did. Because I have today written some negative statements about Justine Ward, I guess I’m not as good as Knox. But I just couldn’t help myself. How could Justine Ward not know that Dom Pothier was a monk of Solesmes? How could she be so ignorant about his fabulous Gregorian restoration? Dom Pothier restored the authentic Gregorian rhythm, the authentic Gregorian melodies, and even the Gregorian fonts, which he invented with assistance from a Belgian printer. (Those fonts are still being used in the year 2023.) Dom Pothier while a monk at Solesmes created such masterpieces as: Les Mélodies Grégoriennes d’après la tradition (Pothier, 1880); Liber Gradualis (Pothier, 1883); Liber Responsorialis (this was published two years after Pothier became Prior of Ligugé, but was entirely the result of his research); Hymni de tempore et de sanctis (Pothier, 1885); Processionale Monasticum (Pothier, 1888); Liber antiphonarius (Pothier, 1891); and so forth.
Justine Ward (8 of 8) • Justine Ward attacked Dom Pothier publicly, declaring in 1930: “Dom Pothier had shown an instinct which had revealed certain fundamental truths but he lacked that plotting perseverance so essential if truth is to be established on a solid basis of science.” Justine Ward went on to speak of Dom Pothier’s “limitations as a musician.” I don’t have words to describe how brazen it for an amateur like Justine Ward to pretend to describe Abbat Pothier’s “limitations as a musician.” It’s also remarkable—and not in a good way—to see her speak in such a disgustingly patronizing way. There’s an old saying: “Even a blind pig can find an acorn once in a while.” Justine Ward acts as if Abbat Pothier—owing to “instinct” rather than hard work—blindly made fantastic discoveries and created unparalleled publications in spite of his “limitations as a musician.” Instead of denigrating Abbat Pothier, Justine Ward would have done well to sit down and do some research. Had she done that, she would have come across the words of Father Angelo De Santi, whom Pope Pius X relied upon when it came to his musical legislation. During the 1904 GREGORIAN CONGRESS, Father De Santi declared: “Here among us is the master of us all: the Very Reverend Father Dom Joseph Pothier.”
Who Was Father De Santi? • Father De Santi was the ghostwriter of the famous motu proprio on sacred music (“Inter pastoralis officii”) issued by Pope Pius X on 22 November 1903. This motu proprio was based upon a “votum” submitted by CARDINAL SARTO to the Congregation of Sacred Rites in 1893. It has been revealed that Father De Santi was (broadly speaking) the ghostwriter of that 1893 votum. [On this, see Monsignor Ernesto Moneta Caglio’s Dom André Mocquereau e la restaurazione del Canto gregoriano in “Musica Sacra” (1961). See also Dom Pierre Combe’s Aux sources du Motu Proprio in “Revue Grégorienne” 1953, pp. 234-235.] In 1892, Lorenzo Perosi—the famous composer—had studied Gregorian Chant with Father De Santi. In 1895, Perosi was ordained by his close friend, Giuseppe Cardinal Sarto (at that time, Patriarch of Venice). In 1898, Cardinal Sarto used his influence with Pope Leo XIII to get Perosi the post of “Perpetual Director of the Sistine Choir” in Rome.
Article Summary (1 of 3) • My desire is not to sow dissension, open old wounds, or stir the pot. I am painfully aware of the fact that music in the Catholic Church faces a severe crisis. Broadly speaking, we must do everything we can to build bridges among church musicians. On the other hand, Justine Ward (in my humble opinion) can serve as a powerful warning for the conscientious choirmaster. We must “stay grounded.” That is to say, our wisdom and strength comes from working with real Catholics in real parishes in the real world.
Article Summary (2 of 3) • I have argued that plainsong need not be excessively esoteric. In two enormously lengthy articles, I didn’t hold back. Anyone who wants to know my thoughts can read those articles. As I already said (see above), Justine Ward in 1949 made a statement that is totally absurd. She said that without Dom Mocquereau’s rhythmic signs “artistic interpretation” of the chant is “impossible.” Here’s an example of the type of charts Justine Ward was obsessed with:
For the record, I’ve recently come into possession of a massive article by Prior Mocquereau of Solesmes. In spite of years studying this subject, I had never come across this particular apologia (written by Dom Mocquereau himself). Assuming I can find the time, I intend to write an appraisal of that article because I believe it “reinforces” or “backs up” or “substantiates” the arguments I put forward in the Gregorian Rhythm Wars series. I have always tried to speak respectfully of Dom Mocquereau even though I believe he did irreparable harm by perpetrating a gigantic (and scandalous) fraud on the Catholic Church—as I’ve argued passionately. I hope my friends will show me respect, even if they disagree with arguments I have put forth. If anyone feels I’m being nasty, please realize that at the Abbey of Solesmes itself a highly placed monk has openly accused Dom Mocquereau of being “a lunatic and a criminal.” Nothing I have said approaches anything like that!
Article Summary (3 of 3) • Just before the outbreak of World War I, the friendship of Germans and English was particularly warm. More than 50,000 Germans were working in British cities, and Germany was Britain’s largest trading partner. KAISER WILHELM II (related to the English monarchs) had been present at the deathbed of his grandmother, QUEEN VICTORIA of England. On 30 June 1914, the English fleet was taking part in an annual boat race (“Elbe Regatta”) at Kiel. King George V of England visited with Kaiser Wilhelm II, who donned his uniform as an honorary British admiral. The festivities were cut short by the sad news of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. The senior German admirals sent a signal to the Royal Navy’s Second Battle Squadron, as they headed back to England, wishing them a safe voyage home. The English Vice-Admiral, Sir George Warrender—yes, his name really was “War-Render”—sent his German hosts this message: “Friends in the past, friends now, friends forever.” Yet, a few weeks later (!) the British and Germans were brutally slaughtering each other. My point is that words of friendship mean very little. On the other hand, actions mean a great deal. As president of CORPUS CHRISTI WATERSHED, I have always allowed alternate points of view to be published. I ask readers to take that into consideration if someone feels angry that I have presented my views so candidly today.
1 For those unaware: Justine Ward was the daughter of William Bayard Cutting, a wealthy lawyer and businessman who was also a founder of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Justine Ward was married briefly. She later became a fanatical supporter of Dom André Mocquereau. Some claim the Solesmes monks called her “Madame Mocquereau”—but I’ve never been able to verify this anecdote.