Last year I made the decision to get serious about not being an Episcopalian anymore, and [extensive edits for length] decided to become a Roman Catholic, which will finally happen in a couple of weeks. Anyway, in the process of educating myself about the Church I’ve come across the answer to a burning question: why does the music that is sung in mass suck really big eggs? Those of us who have been/are Prots are used to great hymns (Philo- am I right?) but the hymns in RC churches just stink. Oh, and a lot of RC types think so, too, although the vast majority of the hoy poloy are so music-numbed at this point, they don’t know what I’m talking about. Of course, I say that I now know the answer, but I bet nearly everyone I know already knew the answer and will say, “Yeah, duh!” but here goes: When Vatican II ‘modernized’ the mass by allowing it to be said in the vernacular, it also allowed for hymns to be sung, in the vernacular. Just one problem: there were no Catholic hymns in the vernacular. It was the Katrina of church music: suddenly, at what could arguably be described as the nadir of popular culture for religious music, there was great demand for hymns that could pass muster theology-wise in the Roman Catholic Church. Result: lotsa strummy strummy guitar, key of C namby-pamby music with alarmingly stupid/insipid/self-involved lyrics.
So what did the RC’s do before? They didn’t have HYMNS. They had liturgical music. To this day, most RC’s really are not comfortable really singing out, like you’d hear their Prot brethren do. I’m invariably the most enthusiastic hymn singer, when there’s a decent one on offer (there are some familiar tunes in the hymnal, although the arrangements are lowest common denominator.) I pieced this together by avidly reading a blog that has become my guilty pious pleasure. It’s called The New Liturgical Movement. I don’t know how much of a movement they are, but they are hell-bent, so to speak, on bringing back THE OLD WAYS, which are always in Latin. Yes, you really have to develop a taste for this blog and being a glutton for punishment helps. There is no aspect of the liturgy, the architecture, the vestments, the music that is too arcane for this site. And they are unsparing in their criticism of modern “accomodationist” practices. Christmas hymns? Big, big no-no. And this is what they call “pop music” (in a post entitled “Limited Praise for Pop Music”):
I’ll say this, if you want to increase your Scrabble score, this is the site for you. What is an “almuce,” you ask? It’s this furry little capelet, complete with the tails of the critter [content warning: PETA folks, don't go here.]
OK, there’s a lot of really obscure stuff here, but there is some rather inspiring stuff, too. Like this church that is being moved (as in transported) from Buffalo, New York to the ‘burbs of Atlanta, Georgia. Go to the links- you have to see the pictures.
And the world’s largest hanging organ- in Regensburg, B16’s stomping grounds. Awesome, huh?
Speaking of inspiring…