Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Notes on the news

Just a few random things that caught my eye as I've been catching up on the news over the last day or two.

Penola's tornado

The site of Blessed Mary McKillop's first school, in Penola, South Australia, was severely damaged on the weekend, inviting questions as to whether it might be a response to the questionable nature of some of the spin being put on her life by her estwhile Order, or to some of the preparations for her canonisation. Cooees from the cloister have an example of exactly what I'm talking about...

The state of the election campaign

The current, farcical, largely policy-free, Australian election campaign is a very sad commentary on the nature of our nation.  For an amusing assessment of what the leaders would really like to say, take a look at Annabel Crabb's latest commentary.

The debate over chant

The upcoming release of the new Le Barroux CD highlights an ongoing debate about the role of chant in the Church.  On the one hand you have a commercial recording company once more marketing gregorian chant to the mass market; on the other the total absence of virtually any gregorian chant in our parish (and Cathedral) churches.  The Glorificamus Society blog reproduces an interesting older commentary on just why people hate chant (in the Church).

And that other debate within the fold of chant lovers is raging hot too: the virtues of (nineteenth century origin) Solesmes style ("do we need another Solesmes-style recording"), with its solemn beauty and relatively straightforward rules, versus attempts to recover more authentic medieval versions of the chant. 

I'm not personally convinced it has to be an either-or situation.  Whatever its rights and wrongs, for most purposes, Solesmes style is the most practical for amateur singers (though semiological approaches are certainly possible with effort).  It has to be said though, that the work done to recover medieval practice produces some very alluring results.  Have a listen to this one of Kyrie Orbis Factor, from Ensemble Organum and see what I mean.


Mutinous rumblings

And once you have been lulled by that beautiful music into a state of mind where you can let the horrors of what is happening in the Church today just wash over you, have a read of the account of some of the events at the recent Australian National Council of Catholic Priests meeting over at Sentire cum Ecclesia.

The Council, he points out, was attended by around 250 mostly older, clearly liberal priests.  Unfortunately, they are still the majority, though the much younger demographic of the rival Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy can only increase in influence.

But do read the account of the meeting - full of nonsensical conspiracy theories being disseminated, blatant disobedience being encouraged, and continuing encouragement of dissent. 

One shouldn't be surprised by this of course - even in the Cathedral Church of a bishop with an orthodox reputation like Archbishop Mark Coleridge I was treated to an illicit institution of a group of female lectors (still not permitted by canon law) a couple of weeks ago (and no, it wasn't just the commissioning of extraordinary ministers;  the priest talked about calling the women to the 'ministry of lector' and used the full ceremonial prescribed for that ministry).

No wonder people ignore what the Church says, and stay away from Mass in droves.


darryn said...

Yes, as alluded to here, that version of the Orbis Factor is musically interesting, but completely impractical liturgically (the average congregation could never get through it). It highlights the fact some consider the semiological approaches too virtuoso and concert-like, rather than prayerful for the liturgy. The far more important issue is just getting chant into our parishes, rather than quibbling about intepretation.

Terra said...

I agree on practicalities (though actually this kind of thing isn't really quite as hard as it sounds to do), but as to which is more prayerful? I think that is far more debatable. Personally I find the Ensemble Organum and similar recordings very prayerful, and not in the least concert-like.

And not everything has to be sung by all, and if this style gets more people in, worth considering for a special occasion, or for propers/filler motet pieces where there is a skilled choir perhaps.

In any case, regardless of style, the new Le Barroux new recording featuring women's voices will surely be very worthwhile in raising the profile of chant again and particularly useful given the predominance of chant recordings by men - amongst other things, it might highlight some possibilities for parishes without an adequate supply of male singers....

darryn said...

I agree but the Ordinary is usually meant to be sung by all - that's very clear from any documents on church music. On special occasions however, I see no reason why a choir couldn't sing this. I'm not so sure if it will bring people in though - all we really know is CD's of these things sell well, and that most people aren't prepared to take the extra step and listen to such music in its proper context.

It really gets down to personal preference like most of these issues do. The difficulty is this: if the chant (whatever style) is not elevating people's ability to pray the Mass, then there is a inherent problem. The church can certainly say it SHOULD elevate your ability to pray the Mass, but whether it actually does in practice depends very much on the interior and exterior disposition of the individual. That doesn't mean dumbing down the music to suit the people, but actually asking all of us to make genuine efforts here to appreciate the chant and incorporate it into our praying the Mass.

Terra said...

Darryn - You might find the additional selections and commentary over at Fr Finigan (Hermaneutic of Continuity) blog of interest on this subject.