Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scottish Academy of Sacred Music

`There has been some pretty lousy music sung in Catholic churches and that is where things have gone wrong, why congregations are shrinking.`

I`d agree although I don`t think it`s the only reason people stop coming to church. The above quote is from an interview with  Joan Dillon, a Masters graduate of RSAMD (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Scotland`s Academy of Sacred Music was launched on 23rd November. James MacMillan is the patron. It all looks very good and hopeful. I hope its influence reaches over the border!

Joan Dillon adds:

As a parent myself it seems to me young people are being brought up immersed in the negative messages of modern music via MTV, a lot of which is demeaning.

They need the transformative power of sacred music to balance that, but instead they are getting banal, happy-clappy stuff at Mass. Sacred music can lift young people up and help them embrace more noble ideas, yet it is not sung in many Catholic churches in Scotland."

James MacMillan says:

If modernism has also brought in its wake a desecration of the human spirit, we must penetrate the mists of contemporary banality to restore the idea of the sacred, in which our true and fullest freedom resides. Without it our lives will become meaningless. I believe it is God’s divine spark which kindles the musical imagination now, as it has always done, and reminds us, in an increasingly dehumanised world, of what it means to be human.

We are reminded that Pope Benedict has said:

the world needs beauty in order not to sink into despair and music is the most spiritual of the arts. 



Anonymous said...

I like the story of the person who went to Confession and said she had been laughing during Mass.
"What were you laughing at?" asked the priest.
"At the singing of the priest last Sunday at 11.00am Mass. He hadn't a note in his head".

"I was the priest on the 11.00 am Mass last Sunday",

"Yes, I know Father."

"Tell me" said the priest "how much did you put in the collection?"

"One pound, Father."

And what did you expect for a pound? The Hallelujah Chorus?"

Anonymous said...

Many of the hymns sound dishearteningly cheap indeed. But at least hymns are not actually part of the Mass and you can always choose to pray instead. It is much more painful when similar music is pushed for the Gloria (and other parts of the Mass), music so random and difficult that even the choir struggles with it week on week. Gloria is part of the Mass and such attempts deprive people of the level of participation which is the very point of the OF.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Anonymous, I thought the point of the OF is the same as the EF: the glory of God. However I agree that participation in singing the ordainary of the Mass is not always that great at the OF. Many of the congregation make no attempt even to sing the hymns let alone the ordinary. The most rousing singing of the ordinary of the Mass I have ever heard was in a packed St Patrick`s church in Consett in the 90`s when we had an EF Mass and the Missa de Angelis.

Leo Darroch said...

Father Michael,
After reading your comment about the Mass in Consett I looked out my papers and found that it took place on 29th September 1995. I had forgotten how long ago it was. I also arranged a traditional Mass in Our Lady of the Rosary, Shotley Bridge, on Wednesday 18th September 2002 as part of the parish celebrations for its Golden Jubilee. It was a re-creation of the opening Mass which took place on 8th September 1952 and was celebrated by Canon Francis Kearney, a former parishioner. The attendance was the largest for all the various services and the singing - Missa de Angelis and various Latin hymns - nearly lifted the roof. A number commented that it was the most impressive of the various services - including the concelebrated Mass with Bishop Ambrose Geriffiths.
What was done in the past can be done in the future. It will not be easy but if the bishops and senior clergy implemented the decrees of the Liturgy Consitution of Vatican II, and respected the clear directives of Popes Blessed John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, then the present sorry state of Church music could be rectified.

Lorna said...

I am actually a member of the Academy of Sacred Music, and would like to firstly point out that the article in the Herald misquoted Joan Dillon, and is inaccurate as to her views, and the focus of the Academy. For one, I myself am not a Catholic, I am Church Of Scotland. The Academy is there for young people who have a passion for music and who want to make a difference in the world - many of our proceeds go to charity. I believe the positive impact we can make on the perception of sacred music among young people is tremendous, and personally, I am more than happy to sing anything, so long as I can sing.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Thanks for taking time to comment Lorna.If the focus of the Academy is sacred music I still hope it will have the effect of raising the standards in Catholic as well as other churches.

Tom Blades said...

While the Academy can only be a good thing, I am not alone in being irritated by James Macmillan's constant lectures about the state of Catholic music in Scotland: despite his wonderful orchestral and choral works, Macmillan's own settings of the Ordinary of the Mass are at least as bad as the rest - one of his Sanctus settings is a dreary "Pride of Erin".