Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Sound And Shape Of Catholic Music

There’s no accounting for taste, but surely there is some answer to the mystery as to why Catholic music in America went the direction it did after the Second Vatican Council. 
Some insight arrives via a close look at the central players in this drama, a group that came to be called the St. Louis Jesuits—a phrase that alternatively inspires snickers and disdain in many Catholic observers, and deference and respect in others. One person credits them with wrecking the liturgy and the next person credits them with saving it. 
Neither side can begin to account for the perspective of the other. For all the talk of community and unity that is invoked on behalf of their simple, popular, folk-like style, this music remains some of the most divisive in the history of liturgical music.
Partisans of sacred music might argue that the whole period is best forgotten, the same way the fashion industry would like to forget the leisure suit or patchwork platform shoes for men. But this is not yet possible, for their music is still very much with us at liturgy. Their music continues to dominate contemporary songbooks. Of all the hymns in the mixed-repertoire, mainstream Heritage Missal published by Oregon Catholic Press, 24% are by a member of the St. Louis Jesuits, with 70% written in the style they pioneered. 
The 2000 edition of Glory & Praise, “the most popular Catholic hymnal ever published,” according to OCP[1] , contains 100 songs written by them. One member of the St. Louis Jesuits serves on the US Bishops’ Subcommittee on Music, which is working toward naming a common repertoire for parishes.
The St. Louis Jesuits have indeed succeeded in transforming the sound and shape of Catholic liturgy, so much so that the authentic sound of Catholicism has been largely relegated to the land of CDs and specialized liturgical settings. Their music does indeed constitute the “Catholic classics” of our age, as painful as it is to admit. 
To some extent, their music has penetrated beyond Catholicism: The Saint Louis Jesuit’s music was played at Ronald Reagan’s funeral and Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
Link (here) to the lengthy article entitled, The Mystery of the St. Louis Jesuits by Jeffrey Tucker

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