The Hero of the Mighty Musical Struggle

Several years ago, I received a note from an older man who had been battling much of his life for good Church music, particularly Gregorian chant. He did this in terrible times following the Second Vatican Council when the cultural ethos warred against any settled liturgical forms. He had plenty of scars to show for his work, but not much progress emerged until recent days.

He wasn’t writing to congratulate me on my more recent work for chant. Instead, he wanted me to know that my writing generally got on his nerves. He noted my own optimism about the progress we were making to restore chant to its proper place in Mass, to publish vernacular settings of sacred music, to train up choirs.

And all this bubbly optimism from my writing he generally found annoying simply because I don’t  seem terribly aware of the contribution that an earlier generation made to even make this moment possible. Was I ungrateful for what he and others did? Was I completely blind to the terrible conditions that his generation faced in the 1960s and 1970s to make it possible for us to hear and sing great sacred music today?

I was obviously taken aback by his comments. And yet, in some ways, he was right. We are too quick to forget the past. Every generation just imagines that the world it inherits is as it should be and could not be any other. I see progress because I know how far gone we were and therefore how much improvement could be made. He lived through nothing but disaster from the 1950s through the 2000s. His world collapsed. It’s all a matter of perspective.

And yet there had to be a bridge between the depths and the recovery. He and his generation served that role. They kept the chant going during the worst of times. They trained whomever was willing. They maintained the handful of choirs that kept singing. They kept the faith as others lost it. And today, we are beneficiaries of their efforts. The flame was never extinguished and now it is growing again.

We are prone to forget the sacrifices others made to make our present moment better than it would otherwise be. This tendency to forget—to take all things given to us as some kind of birthright—is why Catholicism has made the study and reflection on history extremely important in education. This is a facet of the lives of the martyrs and saints. They allow us to broaden our minds and learn to have a more intense appreciation of the sacrifices of those who have gone before.

So let me do propitiation for my smug optimism by discussing a man who did extraordinary things to bridge the gigantic gulf between the dark and the light. His name is Msgr. Richard J. Schuler, and he is most known as the man who persisted in building and running the nation’s most famous sacred music program following Vatican II. He was pastor of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota and the head of the Church Music Association of America. Even today the entire congregation knows the complete Kyriale music book of the Roman Rite. Even today, this is a parish where you can go to hear and experience the music that was recommended by the Council.

It was not easy for him. It’s hard for us to imagine the scene in 1969 when he took over as pastor of St. Agnes when he implemented his program. This was the Age of Aquarius. Chants books were being tossed in the garbage. Children’s choir programs had been dismantled. Churches were being “wreckovated” with high altars between torn down. Anyone with a guitar and a groovy spirit was considered more qualified for providing music at Mass than a conservatory-trained organist. As for well-trained choirs, they nearly melted in a matter of a few years simply because good musicians could hardly bear the dreck that was being trotted out as “ritual song.”

It took incredible conviction and courage in those days to continue singing Gregorian chant, Palestrina, William Byrd, Mozart, Haydn, and Schubert—Mass in the Roman and Viennese tradition at the same time that the world was slogging in the mud at Woodstock and the folk Mass was sweeping all before it. They laughed at him. They called him a relic. They said he was a dying breed. They regarded him as the last holdout, the very embodiment of everything that the post-conciliar revolution was supposed to destroy.

Still, he marched onward. He took the helm of the Church Music Association of America and kept publishing its journal Sacred Music. He trained young men in the seminary. He mentored musicians. He traveled to speak and teach. He would write for any publication that would print his words, and never seemed to doubt that people would someday come to their sense.

The core of his claim really came down to the assertion that there is something called “sacred music” that is particularly suitable for liturgy, and there is another kind of music that we might call profane music that is certainly unsuitable. Sacred music is marked by its use of the liturgical text, it’s seriousness of purpose, its universal appeal, and its holiness. Profane music is marked by its non-liturgical, non-religious character.

These may be simple distinctions but they are hugely important. Msgr. Schuler argued that no music is either sacred or profane in an inherent way. They take on the connotation by virtue of the time and place. Hence, a music can be profane in one era and sacralized in another. He demonstrated with deep scholarship that in times of profound faith, Christian communities had greater confidence in their capacity to absorb certain styles from the secular world, but that in times of loss of faith, this was guarded against and even heavily condemned.

And yet, given all this borrowing, there are certain styles that are bound up with the sacred and unmistakably so. Those styles are mentioned specifically by the Council as being chant and polyphony in the Renaissance style. This is not a matter of doctrine, so to speak, but of pastoral practice. And we all know this from experience. I could grab anyone off the street right now, play either style to the first person I see and ask: what does this music signal? The answer: Church.

In a time of widespread nihilism, doubts about the truth of Christianity, cultural despair that any form of art could actually be considered uniquely holy, he maintained his position. What’s more striking, he had the confidence that the truth he believed would eventually be widely embraced—even if it was long after he left this earth.

So far as he was concerned, the Church had spoken on the matter and that was all he needed to know. As Rev. William E. Sanderson said in a homily given at St. Agnes a year after his death, Msgr. Schuler actually believed the words of the Council:

  • “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy” (n. 112).
  • “The treasury of sacred music is to be preserved and cultivated with great care. Choirs must be assiduously developed, especially in cathedral churches. Bishops and other pastors of souls must take great care to ensure that whenever the sacred action is to be accompanied by chant, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs” (n. 114).
  • “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (n. 116)

Perhaps it was the time in which he was ordained and trained in music. From his years in seminary and after, he had learned the chant and experienced its glories in the liturgical context. He knew a time when musicians aspired to write for and perform in the Catholic liturgy. He was there when musicians of the highest caliber were drawn to her service, and when the Church celebrated musical excellence as an example of the highest praise she could offer God.

And he was there during the Council and saw that it raised the cause of sacred music to the forefront of liturgical reform. He knew that the goal was to push the liturgical text to the forefront and move away from the “low Mass” culture of non-engagement. He loved the Latin Mass but embraced the move to the vernacular, calling English a gift from the Church to everyone.

He knew all of this and this surely animated his decision to depart from the crowd and go the way he knew to be true. But there was more. It also took personal courage. Clarence Darrow once said that “A thousand men will march to the mouth of the cannon where one man will dare espouse an unpopular cause.” And it’s true that the social pressures must have been incredibly intense. But he persisted.

Now we look around the Church today and see that scholas are being formed everywhere. The chant is heard again. New books of vernacular propers are being published. It is possible now to move to any medium or large population center and have several major music programs to choose from—and this is after nearly all were gutted in the 1960s and 70s. Schuler made a gigantic difference because he kept the vision and the dream alive when few others had the stamina.

We don’t think of ourselves as the beneficiaries of his labors but we are. He died in 2007, just as the new sacred music was getting going. It had to wait for 40 years but in those years, he was leading people out of the desert into the promised land. We aren’t there yet but we are headed in the right direction.

This is why I’m so pleased to be a speaker at a conference honoring the memory of the great Msgr. Richard Schuler. It takes place October 13–15, 2013, at the Church of Saint Agnes and Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The conference marks the 40th anniversary of the residence of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, founded by Msgr. Schuler, at the Church of Saint Agnes in Saint Paul. The conference seeks to explore, through critical analysis, former and present efforts to revive the Church’s sacred liturgy and music, particularly as exemplified by Msgr. Schuler’s work.

Let us remember and appreciate, and never take for granted, the gifts our generation has been given. We are here today only because of many battles and sacrifices of the past. Sacred music lives today because we are blessed by brilliant workers in the vineyard that have come before.

Editor’s note: The photograph above depicts Msgr. Richard J. Schuler conducting the Minnesota Orchestra and Chorale during an Easter celebration of the 10:00am Latin High Mass at St. Agnes Church in Saint Paul, MN.

Jeffrey Tucker


Jeffrey Tucker is managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America. He writes a bi-weekly column on sacred music and liturgy for Crisis Magazine and also runs the Chant Cafe Blog.

  • Dorothy Cummings McLean

    Beautifully written. And I am struck by how you described the complaint and responded to it so graciously, in a way that honoured the sufferings of the man who made it.

  • the gardener

    reading this and the time and effort required to hold on to music of appropriate beauty in the church I wonder if surviving the onslaught of laws forcing Catholics to accept “Same-Sex Marriage” Will it be another fifty years?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “[I]in times of profound faith, Christian communities had greater confidence in their capacity to absorb certain styles from the secular world…”

    That is certainly true. In France, there has been a revival of interest in the music of the early polyphonic composer, Josquin des Prez. His Missa Fortuna desperate and his Missa Malheur me bat are both based on popular songs of the period.

    One wonders, too, if the division of sacred and secular music was as clear to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven as it is to us and, yet, Haydn’s Nelson Mass is often considered one of the greatest ever written. Would he have got away with his use of trumpets and timpani today?

    • just sayin’

      When Pius X began this whole reform thing in the 19th century and promulgated the use of chant as restored by Solesmes, it was for the purpose of congregational participation. He abhorred the “performances” of masses by Haydn and Mozart not because they weren’t great music but because they weren’t (and aren’t) sacred liturgical music. He banned trumpets and tympani.
      Like good film music, true liturgical music might have some appeal outside of its orignal context, but really doesn’t make sense when it’s “performed” and not prayed.

      • Charles Culbreth

        It’s difficult to assess when so-called performance Masses completely overwhelmed the true piety of the Mass and its rites. I tend to think that the impetus for St. Pio X’s motu proprio circa 1903 was reactive more to the operatic settings of Puccini, Verdi, Rossini et al, primarily of the 19th century Romantic period. Many Haydn (Michael and Josef) and Mozart Masses are extremely reverent, no matter that for some in Salzburg and Vienna they proved more a source of entertainment on a Sunday. But we have to remember that performance Masses per se can consist of certain polyphonic and early baroque era composer’s idioms. It’s no accident that Monteverdi Masses, Vespers and operas were idiomatically quite similar, and in the Venetian tradition with St. Marks having four architectural choirs, his successors used stretto (mutliple choirs in alternation) in many Mass settings, presumably to imitate (foreshadow) heavenly hosts of angelic choirs.
        Jeffrey’s article at the Chant Cafe outlining some of the thoughts of Dr. Wm. Mahrt addresses this point of what is a performance Mass versus the noble simplicity of the Gregorian Masses. Good reading.

    • Sam Schmitt

      It’s true that Josquin des Prez based some of his masses on secular songs – and this often cited as evidence that earlier ages weren’t so uptight about the distinction between sacred and secular music.

      But it was really more like an inside joke – the overall style was definitely in line with most sacred music of the time, and you would probably never recognize the song since it was so skillfully embedded in the music. Often the rhythm, mode, and even the pitches of the song were changed to make it even more unrecognizable.

      So it’s not as if the people in the pews were tapping their toes to a secular-style song during mass – as we do today!

    • roxwyfe

      I don’t think it’s purely the instruments involved. It’s more of the attitude behind the music selected. There is true, transcendent beauty in an orchestral piece of classical liturgical music. However, no amount of instrumentation could make the dreck played in most churches today sound holy or beautiful.

  • Peter Freeman

    I hope this piece inspires any pastors reading it! “Contemporary” Church music drives me bonkers (it makes Mass at least 30% longer, while making it feel three times as long).
    I drive to a Church twice as far as my local parish on Sunday mornings just to escape the “music ministry.”

    • Mary

      I see you’re not the only one with the horrible “music ministry.” Shall we add to the pain, the obnoxious people who are a bunch of show-off’s about their faith?! Don’t tell me you haven’t witnessed them bragging about their relationship with Christ. I used to feel inadequate to them until I spoke to my mother and she said that those people are showing off.

    • musicacre

      I drive 4x as far, to avoid the “Nervous” Ordo, and hear a respectful, Latin Mass c/w real liturgical music. Last week was Monteverdi, what can I say? One is transported to Heaven, briefly……The Sunday before, Palestrina, directed by someone who has a degree in voice. (my daughter…)

    • roxwyfe

      We recently left a parish mainly because of all the crap they have been adding to the “new mess” served there. The choir doesn’t dress any different than the parishoners (short and tank tops in the summer) and the music selected is enough to make you want to stab your eardrums out with any convenient sharp implement. They have a “handbell choir” that would set my teeth on edge. Not to mention the “guest” musicians with the squeaky violins, off-key trumpets and the guitar and bass thrown in for good measure. The entire thing reminds one more of a cocktail party than of a worshiping of God.

      We’re lucky enough to have found a parish that serves traditional Tridentine Masses and have been attending there. We have found peaceful serenity, wonderful music, vibrant preaching and a beautiful setting. Too bad they don’t have either air conditioning or a sound system. Unless you’re setting in the front pew, it’s difficult to hear the priest. But those are small points given the rest.

  • John O’Neill

    Indeed a great man has passed; but his legacy of sacred music hopefully lives. I too lived through the terrible post Vatican II times and saw the destruction wrought on the beauty of our prayer life. The arrogant and rude bishops who took it upon themselves to ban the ancient rite and replace it with modern American garbage. Even today it is hard to sit still when the modern Americanized church sings out in choir. At a funeral mass I still cringe when I hear what they did to the exquisite beauty of the “In Paradisum”; a hymn that evoked the beauty of the beatific vision and is now replaced by a banal sing song which evokes nothing. I will always believe that lex orandi, lex credenda is the standard for all public worship.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      For me, there is only one “In Paradisum” and that is Fauré’s

      Again, as Camille Saint-Saëns said of this mass, “Just as Mozart’s is the only Ave verum corpus, this is the only Pie Jesu.”

      • John O’Neill

        It is Faure’s Requiem I had in mind when I referred to the “In Paradisum”; it is indeed the most beautiful hymn in the entire Requiem. Too bad that the culture that now predominates could never in a million years produce a Gabriel Faure but it can produces millions of Michael Jacksons. O Tempora, O Mores!

  • Charles Culbreth

    Jeffrey, you might have notice over at the Musica Sacra Forum I started a topic about “Life Stages and our Sacred Music Professions.” Some readers there got the impetus of it, others not so much. But its intent you even mention in this article, and that is about perspective. Perspective is very much a “de gustibus” filled thing. To illustrate, you write here:
    “Several years ago, I received a note from an older man who had been battling much of his life for good Church music, particularly Gregorian chant. He did this in terrible times following the Second Vatican Council when the cultural ethos warred against any settled liturgical forms.” And then you portray that his ire was over your ebullient optimism. You then continue:
    ” Every generation just imagines that the world it inherits is as it should be and could not be any other. I see progress because I have seen the worst and it couldn’t but improved, and I’ve lived through that improvement. He lived through nothing but disaster from the 1950s through the 2000s. His world collapsed. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
    As I perceive things, Jeffrey, you err and weaken an otherwise totally commendable point about these “suffering servants” by your propensity to use global descriptors to sum up complexities that occur over time. Not everyone, nor should they, ought to agree with your assessment of this last half century amounts to “terrible times.” You then speak of a pervasive cultural ethos as if it just happened. In other essays the hermaneutic of disruption was conspiratorally manufactored from Bugnini, Diekmann, Weakland et al onwards. Well, that’s just reductio ad absurdem, and does not address the very opposite notion that “wha’ happened” post VII EVERYWHERE had some measurable and laudible effects both in liturgy and ecclesiology, despite whatever statistical litany of disasters one wants to ascribe to the period in the Church. Where I’m happy with the article is that the older gentleman got your attention. You did not live through those changes, you experienced the well-ensconsed effect of them with the hodge podge, sacro pop, Johnny Carson-style clericalism era that caricatured the Mass poorly quite pervasively. But at 62, I lived, worked and led music through the dialectic of shifts, and have now arrived at a place of peace with all of it centered upon the same convictions about the Mass and sacred music that you have.
    But your zeal sometimes is off-putting to (obviously) the more eclectic minds prominent on the scene, but apparently to those souls who’ve gone through the curve of time and have never abandoned chant, polyphony, fine strophic and other hymnody in Latin and vernaculars, etc.
    I would like to live long enough to have this same conversation with you in twenty years.

    • Jeffrey Tucker

      Charles, when i read you and your comments along these lines, I always have a sense that you are right. I truly do defer to your experience and I sometimes feel ridiculous for having described things that I didn’t personally experience. My template is drawn from what I’ve read and the picture I’ve put together — and as such it will necessarily be more simple and caricatured than the reality on the ground. Just please know that I have the highest admiration for your accomplishments and persistence through these years and your sincerity and hard work at every step along the way. In addition, I completely defer to your more complex understanding of time and place.

      • Charles Culbreth

        And I should have been more clear, Jeffrey, to have given more attention to your subject, Msgr. Schuler, as well as my choral heroes Roger Wagner and Paul Salamunovich in Hollywood (St. Charles) who, like Mahrt, also never lost true North regarding sacred music at Mass. You and your generation and subsequent kids are going to re-center praxis as this century progresses. But as others have noted, the issues facing the Church are myriad and severely onerous. We need to save the priesthood first and foremost. Liturgical formation is indeed integral in the equation.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      I also lived through the changes – I’m 64 – and I’m afraid I’d also characterize the era as “terrible times.”
      Worst of all was the fact that the changes were relentless and imposed by clerical fiat – there was no option for anyone who wanted to stick with the Mass as it had been Gregorian chant – which you might have expected to become more widespread in light of what the Council’s document actually prescribed – quickly disappeared from the few places where it was used regularly. I really had hoped that our parish level music would broaden beyond the saccharine 19th century genre that prevailed pretty widely, but no such luck. Things simply got unimaginably worse.
      I’m heartened to read that someone, somewhere, experienced “measurable and laudable effects.” But while I don’t have any hard data at hand, I think the “statistical litany of disasters” was far more characteristic than you seem to think.

    • athelstane

      “wha’ happened” post VII EVERYWHERE had some measurable and laudible effects both in liturgy and ecclesiology…

      Such as?

  • Mary

    I live in Florida, the southern churches play that awful Christian pop style music. I hate it and so does my mother. For the Divine Mercy service this past spring and the following springs, it was Christian pop. It was horrible what they did to the beautiful service. I would complain, but I would be told that I need to get with the times and embrace the change. So, I won’t attend any more Divine Mercy services until they start doing it right!

    • musicacre

      You should complain anyways, and offer it up….the ensuing insults. Otherwise, they will say everyone likes it, when good people are afraid to voice an opinion. Pop music belongs to the realm of pop culture, and Liturgical music rightfully belongs to the Liturgy. It can be returned in our lifetime if we all do something about it. There is so much info around, there is no excuse to not slowly educate people around us; someone did with me, and I appreciate being lifted from the ignorance…. So many resources available on the internet, Chant Cafe for one example, which the writer of this article is involved in.

  • CharlesOConnell

    I’m not annoyed with Mr. Tucker, but in every other way I’m still an exile in cultural Siberia. And this in an on-fire parish with a vibrant, young pastor who teaches the orthodox Catholic faith, served by on-fire sisters who themselves are on their second

  • WSquared

    Mr. Tucker, thank you for another excellent essay challenging us to rethink what sacred music is about.

    Sacred music is marked by its use of the liturgical text, it’s seriousness of purpose, its universal appeal, and its holiness. Profane music is marked by its non-liturgical, non-religious character.

    These may be simple distinctions but they are hugely important. Msgr. Schuler argued that no music is either sacred or profane in an inherent way. They take on the connotation by virtue of the time and place. Hence, a music can be profane in one era and sacralized in another. He demonstrated with deep scholarship that in times of profound faith, Christian communities had greater confidence in their capacity to absorb certain styles from the secular world, but that in times of loss of faith, this was guarded against and even heavily condemned.

    This is key, because the inherent questions pertain to what time, what place, and what takes place. In terms of sacred or profane music taking on the connotation by virtue of the time and place, this is what Benedict XVI discussed in his Spirit of the Liturgy, and it’s what Archbishop Sample has recently reiterated: at Mass, where are we, and what spiritual reality takes place? So the “and yet” part that comes right after this paragraph ties back to everything we’ve been talking about in your posts. That some music is best suited to the liturgy, because it is written especially for the liturgy. It is actually formed by the liturgy.

    As Scott Hahn has said in The Lamb’s Supper, Heaven touches down on earth at Mass. In the words of Archbishop Sample, we attend the Heavenly liturgy. We also partake in Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary re-presented in our now (whereby it is then perpetuated through time and space unto the end of time), and we look forward to His coming in glory. Past, present, and future are in communion for being lifted up into eternity at Mass, where we step out of worldly time. Christ makes all things new; He is alpha and omega, beginning and end, and all time belongs to Him.

    I think the time and place part also applies to Christian pop music and Praise and Worship music: I think I can concede that there is a place for Praise and Worship or Christian pop music in the Church. But is that place necessarily at Mass? And what do we even mean by “Church”? We seem to restrict our understanding of “Church” either to the institutional structure or our parishes, but we’ve lost a sense of the Church being the mystical Body of Christ. Just as we’ve almost squished what it means to be Catholic into one hour for one day a week, it’s as though we’ve tried to then cram everything into the Mass, whereby being active in the Church has been reduced to doing “churchy” things. On the contrary, the power of the Mass, which is at the crux of being Catholic, should pulsate outward; it is meant to form disciples. …but it won’t and can’t if we don’t even know what it is.

  • davend

    Like everything else in the Church, this takes energy, funding and properly educated musical leadership. Unless the bishops are willing to pay for appropriate training for church musicians, I’m afraid we will continue to wander through this (mostly) musical wasteland. After all, the USCCB can’t seem to drum up enough enthusiasm to publish a simple hymnal–something even relatively small denominations pull off.

  • Mark V.

    He indeed he was a good person and did much to preserve chant and sacred music for sure. We do need to continue to teach about great writers of the past and to learn and sing these beautiful works. We must reach in to the store house of gems as well as NEW songs that inspire GOD’s flock. I believe their is room for all styles of sung prayer. We all must keep open minds and quit spinning energy on Music WARS of the Right + Left and to direct that energy to postive results from the pews.

  • DonnaRuth

    I understand the sincerity of both parties here, but I wonder if this is a delicate teaching moment. When we fight the good fight, we must try to remember (and it IS hard to do so) that we are God’s children responding to His sacred call with His Holy Spirit. We are fighting the fight for Him … for His glory. Pats on the back are always welcome and appreciated, but, as Catholics, we are always reminded we should not seek them: Oh my Jesus, I offer Thee all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings …

    Bless the dear soul who fought the Gregorian Chant fight through thick and thin, but God knows the sacrifices that were made – and that is enough.

    Having said that, while I love GC and attend the TLM on occasion (distance problems), I truly cannot see a full return to Trad music. I listen to opinions of friends, as well as parish and choir members in NO parishes, and I know that we have fully enculturated congregations across North America: they live in a toe-tappy world of secular and church music. They actually like what they hear from the loft. Perhaps a smattering of GC might make it back to sections of the Mass, but at this stage, given the opinions I have gathered over the years, I feel sure it won’t fly. Just sayin’ …

    • Sam Schmitt

      You never know until you try . . .

      • DonnaRuth

        Try what? How? I’m a gal who likes to sing in choirs, but I am not a musician. And I know I could scour my entire city and not find one Catholic musician who knows GC or Palestrina compositions, let alone be able to teach a choir, or learn to love the music. It is a fine and noble goal, but I am just saying that in my neck of the woods I don’t see it flying for decades – or at all. May I be proved wrong.

    • musicacre

      I think you have to consider a bigger picture if you’re saying that a delicate teaching moment is to give up not an ornament of centuries of proper worship, but a STAPLE. The music is part of the prayer. That popes were at Avignon for a much longer time than we’ve had the vulgar, physical music in our sanctuaries. Does that mean that if you interviewed people in the pews in those days and they said they were fine with the Pope not being in Rome, that he should have stayed in France? Think of how different the Church would be if the Pope had not returned to Rome, even IF the people were used to it, inculturated in it, born with the situation that way?

      So, if we’ve had that music for just two generations, that is not a justification for keeping it. It certainly hasn’t caused multitudes to flock to the true Church. A bad experiment that will have future generations shaking their heads I’m sure. We all know by having lived it and having read numerous articles, that the Church imitating secular life does not work. Music included. All things being equal, it is actually NOT equal to compare what was secular 400 years ago, (to now) since being Christian in the Western society was assumed then and most music was dedicated to God.

      So we come to delicacies and manners; why is it people who say unequivocally that abortion is wrong are always reminded not to offend anyone, (by being truthful, of course,) and the same goes for being upbraided by the well-intentioned to shush about stating what true Liturgical music is and what the role of music is during the Mass? Certainly, the average Catholic was not consulted when the new music was foisted on them. I know for sure what my grandparents, uncles and aunts and parents would have said, given the chance. Which they were not. The music was dramatically changed from sublime, ordered, uplifting, to brash, dumb-down campfire music overnight. This was not an organic, gradual, or by any means, logical progression of music. It was top- down and as many people know, heavily used peer pressure and shame to make people accept it. Why are they not being up-braided in the same kindergartenish way we are, of being uncharitable and un-gentle, and un-Christian?? Catholics who are graced with understanding have a larger moral obligation to speak out than people who have not bothered to truly investigate and think about and pray about these issues. And quite often, do not care. I’m not referring to anyone who has taken the time to write on this site, or comments thread.

      • DonnaRuth

        Oh my, did I write the first two paragraphs so badly? The “teaching moment” is the reminder to all of us that we are to do all our works for the glory of God, seeking no human appreciation or consolation. If we receive the pat on the back from confreres, it is a bonus. Yes, the dear musician was faithful in helping to preserve the music through the decades, but with ideal Godly sentiments, he would not have taken issue with the author whom he suggested was not grateful for the hard work of many to preserve Trad music. Instead, the hardworking soul, like most of us, got caught up in seeking kudos. That is all I was trying to say in those paragraphs. Mea culpa if it was misconstrued.

        • musicacre

          I’m fine with your comment the people shouldn’t seek pats on backs; I see that more in my experience with Catholics going on various councils and committees for the wrong reasons and are grandstanding….I was reacting to your conclusion that modern, toe-tapping music is here to stay, (ominously, it has no real form; it keeps evolving…) because what I see is totally different. There are many Traditional Masses popping up and the demand keeps growing. People that want to be entertained tap their toes, but people who are looking for inspiration are running after Gregorian, wherever they can find it! My daughter, who is a professionally trained classical musician, has no problem welcoming non- musicians to the Latin choir and helping them learn to sing; after all she’s a voice teacher. The whole choir doesn’t need to be pro, as long as there is a leader who knows what they’re doing.

  • Tina In Ashburn

    Yup. Tragedies for all the musicians, musicologists, all the trained and experienced whose jobs vanished overnight. The heartbreak was worldwide. A betrayal of unimaginable effect, shock and disbelief.
    My aunt/cousin taught children chant using the Ward Method at the Institute Catholique in Paris. Odette was a committed pupil of Justine Ward and would see us here in the States when visiting Justine. Odette played an expert violin, wrote music, quoted theory – and was thoroughly committed to the Ward method as an integral way of musical Church life.
    Then one day, chant was out, and Odette was reduced to teaching these children French folk songs for the liturgy. Everything she knew and believed in was gutted.

    -Tina in Ashburn

    • musicacre

      So many heartbreaking stories, of people cast aside who truly helped enrich the Mass.

  • Glenn M. RIcketts

    All of this makes for very edifying reading, and at times I find myself mildly encouraged.
    In my experience, however, one of the most significant obstacles to the kind of restoration many of us posting here long for has been the vehement, not to say bitter, hostility of many clerics to anything even remotely resembling traditional liturgy. Have you ever tried to reason with authoritarian Philistines? That may not be terribly charitable, but I’m sad to say that it’s often been accurate.
    We don’t even need to go as far Latin or chant. I remember requesting that my pastor use the Roman Canon – in the inelegant English version in use until the new version was adopted – with mention of the entire roster of Roman martyrs remembered. NOOO, came the swift and unpleasant response: that’s simply too “pre-Vatican II.” You won’t get anywhere by citing the enthusiasm of a significant number of younger for the TLM in various settings, since that can also elicit purple rage, especially in some senior clergy. Young people need gee-tars, and that’s the end of it.
    I wish I could understand this strange phenomenon – no doubt an interesting project for some future psychologist. In the meantime, although it’s not the whole story, it seems to be a significant part of it.

    • musicacre

      Not psychologists, just the targeted training at the seminaries which trained certain priests to be hostile to those who love to be reverent. My husband had a whole homily dedicated to how evil he is because he wanted to kneel for the consecration and entire canon. Seriously, the church was full and he stared at my husband and said he was being proud, and some worse words than that. He wanted to shame him into not kneeling. My hubby is kind of choleric so it didn’t bother him in the least and he still attends even daily Mass, but I try to make it to the next city to the TM so I am allowed to kneel!! The beautiful music is just icing on the cake! And a wonderful priest ….etc. The parishioners from all parts of the city, all ages, seem to have this quality about them when you see them downstairs after, it’s like being welcomed in from the cold after a nuclear disaster…’s like, they KNOW why you’re there! Seeking traditional worship of God!

  • hombre111

    Keep up the good fight, Jeffrey. But isn’t this just a battle in the English speaking part of the world. It certainly does not exist among the Spanish speakers among whom I often celibate wonderful, joyful liturgies. Anybody know if they have the same squabbles in Italy, France, and Germany?

  • SLD

    You people are insane fundamentalistic bullies. Thankfully, you largely talk to yourselves, nobody else listens. Nobody. Music has slowly but surely improved over the last few decades, no thanks to you zealots. You’re basically cultic, broken, mean-spirited, extremists. Gradually things will continue to get better despite your zealotry and ugliness. What would be good is for you bitter souls to spend some extended time working with the poor instead of constantly complaining to each other. Try it.

    • Glenn M. Ricketts

      I hope your charity towards the poor is better than a remark like that one. Uncalled for.

    • Valentin

      Excuse but which part of the article is “mean-spirited” as you call it?

    • Valentin

      Noboby else listens? Why did you bother taking the effort to write such an endearing comment?

    • Valentin

      The one priest who I know personally who has spent a lot of time with the poor both because he was a trolley driver in Phillie and lived in Wilmington would probably agree with most of us.

    • Valentin

      When has zealotry been proclaimed a vice? As far as I can tell zeal is the reebar of the faith.

  • The_Monk

    Thank you, Jeffrey Tucker, for a ray of sunshine in the gloom. Much of my concern with the current music as practised here in our parish stems from the very attitude of the Mass of the Novus Ordo Missal. The attitude of the previous liturgy, what is now dismissively and quaintly branded as the “Extraordinary Form”, was of unity of purpose in devotion to the Divine Mystery of the Last Supper and the Death and Resurrection of our necessary Redeemer. The congregation, led by the Alter Christus, faced towards the east, and quietly and reverently offered worship to our infinitely generous and forgiving Redeemer. The new form of the Mass promoted to the forefront the secondary nature of the Community as Body of Christ. Unfortunately, this adjustment of perspective and attitude seems to have legitimized the self-aggrandizing music that turns the worship from God, the Holy Trinity, to “My, aren’t we a fine bunch of people? Yes, yes! Of course we are! {clap, clap, happy, happy}” We seem to have lost sight of the reality of suffering as a necessary condition of our journey with the Lord. Or, maybe that is the point of the new music?…

  • Susanne

    As a graduate of a conservatory in the early 80’s, I can attest to the fact that trained musicians were cruelly disenfranchised during that time. My voice teacher would advise us to “get a church job” to supplement our fledgeling careers. The only church jobs I could get which implemented my gifts, didn’t mock my classically trained voice, and payed any kind of stipend to singers were at the Christian Science church. I wanted to sing in my own church, but there was and still is no place for me. I sit through liturgies with music that is banal, superficial and presented in a mediocre fashion. I sing sotto voce when I can stomach the selections, and as you can tell by the era in which I graduated, the days of my musical prime are numbered. I can only hope that I will have a spot in the celestial choir someday.

  • John son of John

    leave room for the sacred in the beautiful sacredness.
    Thank God

    God bless