The song continues… The vision evolves…

And all the work of the National Liturgical Music Board goes down the gurgler. I’m sorry, but someone has to put a stop to this.

The Willow Connection (aka Willow Publishing – I could find no information on the internet about who this crowd is) are the publishers of the As One Voice series of song books. The first two volumes are in broad use in the Catholic parishes of Australia, and a third has just been released (“The Next Generation”). To promote this series of books, the Willow Conection is planning and promoting a three day conference 24-26 September in Sydney called “As One Voice National Christian Music Conference”. The full program can be downloaded from here.

Now I have nothing against people holding Christian music conferences. I’m all for it. I am a bit more cagey when that conference is explicitly designed by a particular publishing company to sell a particular product. And I am definitely and particularly opposed when a publishing company, without the authority or approval of our Catholic Bishops Conference, directly targets Catholic parish music teams to press upon them products and directions that run completely counter to the Bishops own Liturgical Music Board.

For this is what this planned conference amounts to.

Anyone who has taken the time to look at the National Liturgical Music Board’s Bishops approved Recommended List of Liturgical Music for use in Australia will see that the “As One Voice” books do not (as a whole) have the imprimatur of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. In fact, only 55% of the first volume and 34% of the second volumes contents made the recommended list. (The new volume was not published yet when the list was drawn up). The fact is that Australia’s Catholic bishops have, as a body, decided that more than half of the contents of “As One Voice” (Vols I & II) are unsuitable for use in Catholic parishes.

The Press release for this Conference lists “Australia’s best Catholic [musical] artists” – including Kevin Bates, Monica Brown, Peter Kearney, Michael Mangan and Trisha Watts. Now I confess that I do not find all that these artists have written problematic, but again, anyone who has looked at the NLMB’s list will see that there are few of their works that make the list.

Amid all the hard work that the Church has done around the world to address the accuracy of the language used in our liturgy, if this sort of thing is allowed go ahead unchecked, we are, in effect, plugging the leak while leaving the tap running.

A few excerpts from the brochure promoting the As One Voice Conference [my comments in bold italics]:

* The As One Voice National Conference is a celebration of Australia – the people and the music that have shaped our worship over the past 20 years. [Of course, this is all that matters - the "next generation" - the past 2000 years of Church music and hymnody is dismissed as insignificant - and doubly so if it isn't "Australian".]

* In this time of change and transition within the church it is opportune for all involved in the important role of music ministry to become familiar with the latest developments and guidelines offered by the Church and to gain support and encouragement as we continue to confidently sing and worship into the 21st century. This conference provides such an opportunity. [Does it? It flies in the face of the NLMB's list for a start.]

* The exciting music and educational program has been specifically designed to address the needs and interests of youth and adults involved in music ministry within the Catholic community. [Note that this is not just a "Christian Music" conference - they are targeting Catholic parishes]

* Come along ready to sing through some exciting new repertoire for use in school and parish celebrations. [There is nowhere in the program for the "exciting OLD repertoire" that has sustained the Church for centuries - the focus is on "new" - a word that appears twenty five times on the brochure]

* Are you unsure about what music is appropriate for liturgy? How do you select contemporary music that will speak to young people who are exploring issues of faith and life? Are you looking for new, contemporary music to expand your repertoire that will touch the hearts of young people? [Is there not already the assumption here than anything that is not "new" or "contemporary" is not "appropriate"?]

* Drawing on the huge selection of new, contemporary music from As One Voice – The Next Generation, participants will have the chance to learn, sing, play and pray songs by Australian and International songwriters. [New, contemporary - etc. etc. Just make sure it comes from "As One Voice" since they're paying for this, you know]

The Plenary Session, in which “All delegates are invited to participate” is called “New Challenges in Liturgical Music Leadership”, and is described thus:

World Youth Day 2008 seemed to herald the acceptance of the contemporary music genre in Australian Catholic churches. Before and since, drum kits have been appearing on the Catholic liturgical landscape, and ‘praise and worship’ songs have become a regular feature of youth-oriented masses. At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI has expressed his desire that Gregorian Chant be the primary genre of music used in Catholic liturgy, and the National Liturgical Commission has prepared a list of approved songs for liturgy. How are we to make sense of these different currents flowing in liturgical music today? How do we grasp the opportunities and face the challenges that new styles of music and new performance modes bring to liturgy? What is needed to help music ministers do this?

What indeed? Not another book from the Willow Connection. Not more “new” stuff sold to us by publishers who have a vested interest in getting us addicted to the “ever new”. Not a wider use of the (largely unapproved) “As One Voice” series. And can the expressed desire of the Holy Father and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference be simply dismissed as a “current” in the make up of the music we use in the Roman Rite of the Mass?

There is indeed much to be done in encouraging the liturgical singing and music in our parishes, and I urge those with oversight of this area to do it. But someone has to blow the whistle on this conference, which has absolutely no (= zilch, zip, zero) authority or approval from the Australian Catholic Bishops Confernce or the Liturgical Music Board and which – far from leading us forward – will undo all the good work that our Holy Father and the Bishops of the English speaking Churches throughout the world and here in Australia have done to this point to make our parish liturgies more faithful to the Liturgy of the Church.

PS. And, as a footnote, anything that Catholica recommends…

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39 responses to “The song continues… The vision evolves…

  1. Peregrinus

    Just a thought: isn’t it the case that a hymn is unlikely to make it onto the NLB recommended list unless it has been published, and has had at least some use in parishes? I mean, the NLB isn’t going to commission hymns, and I presume they are not requiring anyone who composes a hymn to seek their imprimatur before unleashing it on the world, and I also presume they are not holding themselves out as willing to scrutinise and assess any doggerel that anyone cares to e-mail to them?

    Unless the Canon Of Truly Catholic Hymns is to be definitively closed, I don’t see any alternative to musicians and publishers putting their hymns out there and encouraging people to sing them, and letting the NLB say what it will about them.

    • I realise this point, Perry. There is indeed a difficulty here that could be overcome if we had a procedure (which we don’t) in which new songs could be submitted to the NLMB (as the ACBC’s authoritative arm for dealing with matters of liturgical music and song) for assessment for provisional use. I myself am a writer of hymns, and would appreciate such a system. I do offer the opinion that it makes little sense to require the entire liturgical rite to be thoroughly investigated and approved before use, but to allow texts to be sung during the liturgy that have no such approval. What people sing often affects their faith far more than what they say. But we cannot allow to continue a system which popularises hymns and songs in the Church and THEN seeks approval for their use. As the old saying has it “the horse has bolted” before this happens. It will be very difficult to “kill off” songs that have already become entrenched in local usage just by excluding them from a list of “approved” hymns and songs. So I don’t think we should be encouraging NEW material (as this confrence seems to intend) until we have a clear process by which this material can be judged.

      As an afterthought, perhaps the solution would be best at a local level first: ie. those proposing new songs could get the approval of the local ordinary to use the song in their parish to “field test it”. I am sure this could be easily done with the minimum of fuss. I may take this up with those I know who are on the NLMB.

      • Peregrinus

        Gee, I dunno. Historically, the church has been far more successful in influencing artistic creativity (and in fostering great art) by sponsoring and commissioning, not by attempting to suppress creative endeavours that didn’t have the approval of some well-intentioned committee.

        No offence, but to speak plainly I think what you propose would be a disaster for Catholic hymnody.

        • What? A greater disaster than that which we are currently facing?

          Yes, the Church does once again need to become a true patron of the musical arts. No argument there. It would be totally irresponsible to hand this important matter over to the free market economy.

  2. Tony

    David,

    I have no problem with you offering a word of caution about a conference that has a commercial underpinning (not that unusual in the commercial world BTW) or reminding readers about the NLMB list in the context, but I find your assessment of the conference and the company quite curiously provocative.

    It’s as if there is something you’re not telling us about Willow or AOV that has tainted your view of them.

    For example:

    – The NLMB list was published well after the common AOV books were published and distrubuted.
    – There is no evidence that the conference or company will make a point of promoting those particlar hymns.
    – The conference or the company make no claim about ‘authority’ and I can see no problem with ‘targetting’ Catholic parishes if that’s where they feel their market is.
    – I don’t think it would be too hard to judge ‘Sing Lustily and with Good Courage!’ uncharitably if you had a mind to in the way you’ve judged the conference. For example, I could assert that you don’t like modern church music and that you have an ‘agenda’ for not promoting modern hymns (on the list).

    • On my “Sing Lustily Blog” I give a list of the criteria by which I personally would judge the fitness of music for liturgical use. I gave these lists before the NLMB gave its own criteria and before Litugiam Authenticam required Bishops Conferences around the world to take in hand the authorisation of lists of specific hymns.

      That being said:

      - The NLMB list was published well after the common AOV books were published and distrubuted.

      Of course. Since then, however, the list has been published, and in fact may be even further narrowed following the response from Rome. This means that no book currently in use in the Australian Churches carries full authority for the use of every hymn contained therein (although the contents of Catholic Worship Book, New Living Parish and – in the main – Gather have been fairly broadly approved). There is a clear need here, and one towards which the NLMB is working via the construction of such a list.

      - There is no evidence that the conference or company will make a point of promoting those particlar hymns.

      Nor any evidence that they will make clear the necessity for the approval of new songs and hymns prior to use in the liturgy. On the contrary, the fact that they are using the Conference to promote an entirely new volume of songs that have not been considered by the Bishops Conference rather proves that this necessity will not be a focus of the Conference.

      - The conference or the company make no claim about ‘authority’ and I can see no problem with ‘targetting’ Catholic parishes if that’s where they feel their market is.

      This is precisely what bothers me. If they were truly wishing to serve the Church, would they not seek the blessing and approval of the Episcopal Conference for their material and projects? This idea that you can simply go to the parishes and give them stuff to use in their Eucharistic liturgies completely bypassing those who have authority over this important area of ecclesial life – ie. the Bishops – shows contempt for the Church and those who have authority in this area.

      - I don’t think it would be too hard to judge ‘Sing Lustily and with Good Courage!’ uncharitably if you had a mind to in the way you’ve judged the conference. For example, I could assert that you don’t like modern church music and that you have an ‘agenda’ for not promoting modern hymns (on the list).

      No, I am not against modern Church music and songs. Nor am I against many other good things that such a music conference can promote – such as the skills, knowledge and competance of the musicians. I simply believe (as the Church seems to) that before something is given to people to sing on Sunday mornings at Mass, that something should be approved by the competant authorities.

      No publishing company, no musician or writer, not even any priest or parish music minstry team has the competance to decide what we sing at Mass.

      I personally resent being presented with material to sing slammed up on the powerpoint screen which is doctrinally and liturgically and musically questionable. How many times have I been asked to sing names for God which are simply wrong? How often have I been asked to sing songs “in the voice of God”? How often have I been asked to sing stuff that is contrary to the Catholic faith? How often have I been asked to sing songs that simply unsingable by congregations? More often than I care to name and I am sick of it. So, it seems, are the competant authorities.

      • Peregrinus

        Minor quibble: this is your area, not mine, so I’ll be happy to be corrected, but I think you may be overstating the case when you talk about “the necessity for the approval of new songs and hymns prior to use in the liturgy”. [i]Liturgiam Authenticam[/i] calls for “he publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing”, but I don’t think it says that only those texts are to be used in liturgies, and I’m not aware if that is authoritatively stated anywhere else. Is it?

        • You could be right. I might be overstating it. But what could be their point for putting together a “directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgcal singing” if it was just going to continue to be open slather?

          • Peregrinus

            We are not faced with a simple binary between “open slather” on the one hand, and “unlisted hymns verboten” on the other. The significance of the list could be to set standards of excellence, to influence taste, to shape the programming of liturgical music, to provide a core of hymns that would be become familiar to congregations, to guide composition and/or publishing decisions . . .

  3. Tony

    Crikey David, I really can’t believe the venom coming from you on this!

    This means that no book currently in use in the Australian Churches carries full authority for the use of every hymn contained therein …

    Does that mean the books in question shouldn’t be used? If that’s the case, on who’s authority? Do those in authority condemn these books and the conference in tones similar to yours? If so, where? If not, isn’t it you who are the one with the issue about authority?

    Nor any evidence that they will make clear the necessity for the approval of new songs and hymns prior to use in the liturgy.

    So you’re attacking them on evidence that you don’t see? … !

    On the contrary, the fact that they are using the Conference to promote an entirely new volume of songs that have not been considered by the Bishops Conference rather proves that this necessity will not be a focus of the Conference.

    How so? Has the Bishops Conference requested that they see songs before they’re published? Blimey, talk about jump to uncharitable conclusions!

    If they were truly wishing to serve the Church, would they not seek the blessing and approval of the Episcopal Conference for their material and projects?

    I don’t know. Is that what the Episcopal Conference expects or asks for?

    This idea that you can simply go to the parishes and give them stuff to use in their Eucharistic liturgies completely bypassing those who have authority over this important area of ecclesial life – ie. the Bishops – shows contempt for the Church and those who have authority in this area.

    If that were the case I’d expect the Bishops to have said something. Have they?

    No, I am not against modern Church music and songs.

    Well maybe you should assume the opposite of others?

    I personally resent being presented with material to sing slammed up on the powerpoint screen which is doctrinally and liturgically and musically questionable.

    OK then. Don’t go!

    But, it seems to me that unless there is some sort of authoritative reason for Catholics not to go you’re in no position to imply such negativity about the conference or the company.

    It seems to me that you are the one claiming, by your condemnatory tone, an authority you don’t have.

    • Does that mean the books in question shouldn’t be used?

      No, it means that there are songs in these books that should not be used. Even Catholic Worship Book still has “I will be Yahweh who walks with you”. By Rome’s standards, that song strikes out on at least two counts: The use of the name “Yahweh” and the use of the “voice of God” in the mouth of the singers.

      Has the Bishops Conference requested that they see songs before they’re published?

      No, and this is the irony, Tony. Why all this fuss about what we say in the liturgy if equal attention is not given to what we sing? Why put together a list of “recommended” songs, if you don’t also put together a way for songs to get on the recommended list?

      Me: I personally resent being presented with material to sing slammed up on the powerpoint screen which is doctrinally and liturgically and musically questionable.

      Tony: OK then. Don’t go!

      Don’t go? Don’t go to Mass? Or don’t go to my local parish? Both are, as I understand it, my Christian obligation. My “personal preferences” are not an issue on whether or where I go to Mass.

      It seems to me that you are the one claiming, by your condemnatory tone, an authority you don’t have.

      The only authority that I have is the “authority of victimhood”. I and many others have been the victim of liturgical music such as nightmares are made of. As a member of the Church, I have a right to ask that what happens in Mass on Sunday – all that I am asked to say, sing and pray – is in accordance with the teaching of the Church and is of a standard that is fit for the public liturgy of the Church.

      • Tony

        David,

        When I said ‘Don’t go’ I meant to the conference.

        You’ve directed your hostility to the conference and the publisher and present no convincing evidence that they are in any sort of conflict with the authorities.

        You seem to have a problem with the way church music is at the moment, but seem reluctant to blame those who run the show.

        If a publisher or a conference operates without objection from authority and you have a problem with that, why get all cranky at the publisher or conference?

  4. Kyle

    Seriously, anything is better than singing the Gloria to the tune of Beethoven’s 9th — which is a very peculiar habit my parish has taken to.

    • Peregrinus

      If I’m not mistaken, Kyle, that particular setting is on the NLMB Approved List. Expect more of the same!

      • It is on the NLMB list to be sung as a hymn, not to be sung as a liturgical Gloria. It is against the liturgical rules of the Church to replace any text of the liturgy with a paraphrase.

        • Kyle

          Yes, that is another issue. This version of the Gloria is only a paraphrase. It goes something like “Glory be to God the Father, peace to those who love Him well.” But then again, my parish priest also once changed the creed for Australia day, with lines like ‘We believe in Aboriginal beauty’.

    • Louise

      Are you *sure* you want to hear it sung to “Kumbaya”?

      • Kyle

        No. But I think even that would be better than, say, a song from Shrek or the theme song of Titanic, which we have had in the past.

  5. Christine

    I personally resent being presented with material to sing slammed up on the powerpoint screen which is doctrinally and liturgically and musically questionable

    On the powerpoint screen??

    Well, I have to suffer with Oregon Catholic Press here in the good old U.S.A. I keep praying for deliverance :)

    Meanwhile, on EWTN last week the choir (which is very, very good) sang a magnificent rendition of Palestrina’s “The Strife Is O’er.” During Advent they even sang “Wake, Awake The Night Is Flying.”

    Somehow, Marty Haugen just doesn’t compare.

    Christine

    • Do you guys still sing from hymnbooks? We have computers that use MS Powerpoint to project the words onto overhead screens. We don’t even have (besides “As One Voice”) any Australian Catholic hymnal currently in publication.

  6. Amanda McKenna

    You’re jumping the gun here a bit I’m afraid, David.

    You are making a number of erroneous assumptions about the upcoming conference – some of which I would like to address.

    This will be an ecumenical conference. People of all Christian faiths are welcome, and will be, attending the conference. And whilst Catholic liturgical music will certainly be a feature of the conference, many other catechetical areas are also being featured: music for use in school settings, retreats, youth groups, Christian meditation and Lenten groups among others.

    Parish musicians – for the most part, volunteers – seem to always be on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism. They give their best week after week with little or no resources or formation of any kind; two things they would dearly love to have, in my experience. It is in response to these and other deficiencies that we composers and liturgical musicians have called the conference in the first place. Once upon a time the Church was the biggest patron of the arts, but those times a long past. I agree that something does need to be done – but wonder why you would wish to denigrate our efforts?

    You assume that any liturgical material being used at the conference has no approval – and you would be wrong. For instance, all of the music I compose for use in Catholic liturgy is vetted by our liturgy office and given approval before it is presented to any parish or school.

    Not all the music I compose is intended for use in liturgy however, and that is made abundantly clear in every presentation I give. I spend most of my time in schools and parishes running workshops and teaching people about the function of music in the liturgy, breaking open the GIRM and relevant Vatican documents pertaining to use of music in liturgy. I find by and large that people are hungry for this knowledge and genuinely want to do the right thing…if they just knew what ‘the right thing’ was!

    I am a composer of contemporary music and make absolutely no apology for that. The people in the pews deserve good, theologically sound music that gives expression to their worship in this modern world. But you err if you think I and other composers are haters of traditional repertoire and Gregorian chant when nothing could be further from the truth. We have such a rich musical tradition and a diverse cycle of Seasons that there is room for it all at different times and in different circumstances. One need not be at the expense of the other.

    “Sing a new song to the Lord” scripture tells us – and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit calls me and other contemporary composers to do. Remember: even Mozart was a ‘contemporary composer’ once upon a time!

    I am grateful to Willow for sponsoring an endeavour like this….I don’t see anybody else putting their money where their mouths are, do you?

    • Thank you, Amanda, for this important contribution, and for addressing my assumptions.

      This will be an ecumenical conference. People of all Christian faiths are welcome, and will be, attending the conference.

      I am certain that the Conference will be well attended by Christians from many different Churches – but the brochure does specifically use the word “Catholic” 9 times and doesn’t once mention Anglicans, Lutherans, Unitings, Presbyterians, Orthodox or any other kind of Chrsitian. Nor does it use the word “ecumenical”. What are we supposed to think? In fact, were Willow Connection to have marketed this as an Ecumenical Christian Music Conference, I wouldn’t have had any complaint what soever. In fact, I probably would have registered to go.

      And whilst Catholic liturgical music will certainly be a feature of the conference, many other catechetical areas are also being featured: music for use in school settings, retreats, youth groups, Christian meditation and Lenten groups among others.

      Actually, that is a good point. I was assuming that the music presented would all be about the Mass, but you are right, there are many more opportunities for the use of music and song in the Church. In fact, it is in the non-Eucharistic devotions that Catholic hymnody traditionally found a home. And of course, if the songs are not being used in the official liturgy of the Church, there is a much greater degree of freedom as to what is used. Opportunities such as Eucharistic Adoration are very beneficial for this. I think we should be more careful about using our schools as an musical laboratory, however. We should be forming our school students to know the repetoire of approved by the Church. We should be equipping them with music and song that will last them their whole life through so that they will remember these verses on their death bead.

      Parish musicians – for the most part, volunteers – seem to always be on the receiving end of all sorts of criticism. They give their best week after week with little or no resources or formation of any kind; two things they would dearly love to have, in my experience.

      Tell me about it. Been there. I am a parish “musician” (or at least cantor in charge of preparing and presenting music once a month), and it is a labour of love. The reward (as the Gospels say) will be in heaven.

      It is in response to these and other deficiencies that we composers and liturgical musicians have called the conference in the first place. Once upon a time the Church was the biggest patron of the arts, but those times a long past. I agree that something does need to be done – but wonder why you would wish to denigrate our efforts?

      Don’t get me wrong. I think that Church Music conferences are a great idea. When I belonged to the Australian Lutheran Worship Commission, we (the Worship Commission of the Church) sponsored regular biennial national music conferences. So kudos to “As One Voice” for taking the initiative, but as soon as you get a publishing company involved in a music conference as the major organiser, you get agendas that are not always 100% those of the Church. So the real responsibility for providing this kind of patronage and learning opportunity is, as you say, the Church herself. I am not complaining on behalf of the Church. I am certainly not saying that the Church has done anywhere near enough in this area. As so often happens, commercial interests are far quicker on the uptake to fill vacuums of need in the Church than the Church herself is. Think what might have been possible if the organisers of this conference had proposed a joint sponsorship of the conference by both the ACBC and Willow Connection?

      You assume that any liturgical material being used at the conference has no approval – and you would be wrong. For instance, all of the music I compose for use in Catholic liturgy is vetted by our liturgy office and given approval before it is presented to any parish or school.

      That’s great. I assume you must be in Brisbane? Few dioceses have functioning worship commissions or liturgy offices. But I agree with you about getting material locally vetted (as I said in another comment). We need easy and simple ways for new music to get such approval at a local level (like and imprimatur and nihil obstat for a book). Still, many composers and text writers don’t take the time to get their material checked before launching it on unsuspecting parishes.

      Not all the music I compose is intended for use in liturgy however, and that is made abundantly clear in every presentation I give. I spend most of my time in schools and parishes running workshops and teaching people about the function of music in the liturgy, breaking open the GIRM and relevant Vatican documents pertaining to use of music in liturgy. I find by and large that people are hungry for this knowledge and genuinely want to do the right thing…if they just knew what ‘the right thing’ was!

      Again, I am glad to hear it. It is a fact that there is actually a dirth of official direction on the matter of Church music, either from Rome or locally. It is no wonder that confusion reigns. Keep up the good work!

      I am a composer of contemporary music and make absolutely no apology for that. The people in the pews deserve good, theologically sound music that gives expression to their worship in this modern world. But you err if you think I and other composers are haters of traditional repertoire and Gregorian chant when nothing could be further from the truth. We have such a rich musical tradition and a diverse cycle of Seasons that there is room for it all at different times and in different circumstances. One need not be at the expense of the other. “Sing a new song to the Lord” scripture tells us – and that is exactly what the Holy Spirit calls me and other contemporary composers to do. Remember: even Mozart was a ‘contemporary composer’ once upon a time!

      I have absolutely nothing against new music. The fact is, however, that new music is so often in competition with old music. Many (not I) oppose having both in the same service. We need a balanced approach that values the entire history of the Church’s musical tradition. At the same time the huge amount of new music has (ironically) compromised the ability of the Church to sing “with one voice”. There is just no shared repertoire of music in the Catholic Church in Australia (let alone throughout the English speaking world) today. That spells disaster for the future unity of the Church. On top of that, only a small percentage of all the liturgical music and song – either old or new – that has been written is actually doctrinally sound. Today, most new texts are written by musicians: the tune comes first, the text next. Unfortunately there are a number of modern composers of new texts who are simply incapable of or completely opposed to writing “theologically sound” texts.

      I am grateful to Willow for sponsoring an endeavour like this….I don’t see anybody else putting their money where their mouths are, do you?

      No, I don’t. That’s the pity of it. Nature – and the market – hates a vacuum, and so Willow Connection has come to the party. But the music of the Church’s liturgy is the Church’s responsibility. The liturgy is the single most important facet of the Church’s life, yet we put so few resources into it. What you sow, so you will reap.

      • Tony

        Ah Amanda, like music itself, soothes the savage beast!
        ;-)

      • Amanda McKenna

        The reason why the brochure only mentions Catholics is in relation to liturgy specifically: I know nothing of Anglican, Lutheran or any other denominational liturgy, so will be speaking specifically to Catholic liturgy. Other presenters will be focussing on a wider range of music for use in other settings.

        Composing for liturgy is an art unto itself. I can’t speak for other composers, but I always start with the lyrics – most of which come straight from the Roman Missal in order to marry seamlessly with the liturgy. I also keep the needs of the community uppermost in my mind when writing: putting things in a key that everybody can sing (something which is rarely taken into account in more traditional pieces composed originally for boy sopranos), writing music that is easily appropriated by the average non-professional musician in the parish or school, using language that is both edifying and sensible to the modern ear, among other considerations.

        I take the call of Vatican II for ‘full, conscious and active participation’ of the people seriously and have been endeavouring to use my talents to give voice to the assembly. I agree with you that liturgy is “the single most important facet of the Church’s life” and know that music, good or bad, makes all the difference.

        The Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Body of the Faithful and I, and the other presenters, look forward with great eagerness to meeting and working with musicians, cantors, religious education coordinators, priests and others at the upcoming conference. I know well the people at Willow and can say unequivocally that they are faith-filled people doing their best to bring particularly Australian composers to the faith communities of Australia and the world. Good on them, I say!

        • The reason why the brochure only mentions Catholics is in relation to liturgy specifically: I know nothing of Anglican, Lutheran or any other denominational liturgy, so will be speaking specifically to Catholic liturgy. Other presenters will be focussing on a wider range of music for use in other settings.

          I don’t buy it, Amanda. It isn’t just your programs that only and explicitly mention “Catholic”. None of the other programs say anything about being aimed at an ecumenical audience or at any ecclesial body except Catholics. And if you know nothing of the Anglican, Lutheran or other denominational liturgy – can I suggest you get out and experience it a bit – if only out of professional interest. You would be amazed at the degree of cross pollination between Catholic and Protestant worship in the last forty years.

          Thank you for you description of how you go about composing for the Liturgy. When you say that you use texts “straight from the Roman Missal”, what do you mean? I checked out some of your music here on your website and that doesn’t seem quite right: http://www.amandamckenna.com.au/music.php . I can’t say that I am exactly blown away by the Catholic doctrine contained in this selection of songs. It seems more or less the style and content that I would expect at Hillsong. That is, it is skillful, bright and quite nice to listen to, but suitable for the liturgy? Easy to sing by congregations not trained in singing? I don’t think so.

          I do find that often composers of modern liturgical song are far to focused on personal performance. They give concerts of their music “gigs” and “tours” and then sell their CD’s and music books. The music is designed for solo singing and audience listening – precisely the thing that DOESN’T promote “full, conscious and active participation” but rather the “audience” mode where congregations end up listening to your song played during the entrance hymn, perhaps tapping their feet or perhaps just sullenly standing with their arms folded.

          BTW, if you “know well the people at Willow”, can you tell us who they are and what their history is? I can’t find a webpage or any information about them. Is “As One Voice” their only publication? Are they Catholics? What are their goals and aims? Where does the money paid for the books and material go?

          • Amanda McKenna

            What a rich imagination you have, David! I don’t know who these ‘composers of modern liturgical’ who are focused on personal performance might be, but wherever I go I find communities who not only welcome the new material, but sing it with great gusto. This happens in schools and parishes who don’t stand by with folded arms listening, but lift the roof off the church in song.

            I don’t know what pieces you listened to on my website (keeping in mind that not all pieces I write are intended for use in liturgy), but the songs that are for use in liturgy utilise entrance and communion antiphons straight from the Roman Missal. They are vetted by the diocesan liturgy office for suitability and are ‘road tested’ quite extensively before being released for general consumption.

            I don’t give many concerts, but spend the vast majority of my time conducting workshops and teaching communities about the liturgy as well as new songs for use in liturgy. It is contemporary Christian music and I am unapologetic about that. There are those who feel that there is no place for contemporary music in Catholic liturgy, but I and the vast majority of communities I visit disagree.

            I have visited many other denominations and joined with them at worship, but have no expertise in their liturgies. I agree that they have much to share with us, as we do with them, and hope that opportunities will be found to foster that cross-fertilisation.

            If you or your readers would like to read more, please feel free to visit Catholica to read the commentary I posted today at

            http://www.catholica.com.au/gc3/am/015_am_070510.php

            Many thanks for an opportunity to respond.

  7. Christine

    Do you guys still sing from hymnbooks? We have computers that use MS Powerpoint to project the words onto overhead screens. We don’t even have (besides “As One Voice”) any Australian Catholic hymnal currently in publication.

    Yes, some parishes still actually use hymnals. My parish uses the “Gather” hymnal from GIA and the Music Issue supplement for OCP.

    Haven’t seen any screens in parishes around here — yet :)

    My choice would be the Adoremus Hymnal.

    • Amazing! What is it about Australians that we have so readily and universally adopted the new technology? Perhaps it is a combination of a lack of good printed resources and a certain “libertarianism” offered by not using a single hymnal.

      I can hardly imagine, but I can dream, of what it would be like to belong to a parish where the Adoremus Hymnal was the sole musical resource used…

  8. Personally I plan on never using their … music. Simply because you have to pay royalties. And it is not cheap.

    Basically their music is atrocious and theologically incorrect or bland at best. There are enough hymns out there and if there are some really good new hymns I am happy to use them, however I have no intention of paying someone to praise God when I can do it for free and better!

    I am not closed to supplying money for hardwork for a beautiful song, but it is so rare nowadays.

    • There is some good music in this series: according to the NLMB, 55% of the first volume and 34% of the second volume is deemed suitable for singing in the liturgy. AOV don’t write the stuff, they just edit and publish and sell it (although I rather suspect that behind the venture are a few musicians who have found this the best way to get their stuff “out there”).

  9. Justin

    Dear David,

    I am pleased to see that your approach to this subject has become a little less belligerent and more conciliatory after Amanda’s reply. I had penned a rather different response until I read your reply to her and now offer you this one in its stead.

    I too am one of the presenters at the upcoming conference. Your original post caused me much concern and disappointment for it is typical of the attitude I have witnessed and experienced first hand, and all too often, in the church, and not just against contemporary music. I find the strong language in your original post inconsistent with the guidelines you have posted for your own blog.

    Firstly I should say that I am a moderate. I cherish both the old and embrace the new. Over twelve years I have ministered at two of Sydney’s Cathedrals, firstly as an organist at one and then as a Director of Music at the other. Those who know my work know me to explore vast depth of the churches treasures. I also served for a short time on the Music Board’s 4th Sub-Committee.

    Let me say that I heartily agree with your comment “reap what you sow”. For much too long now the church, at least from my experience, and it would seem your own, in Australia and particularly the dioceses in and around Sydney, have paid little if any attention to the importance of music in the liturgy. The have left the fields barren. There is little or no training of liturgical musicians. Even when we tried a few years ago to start a group in our own diocese to support parish musicians and help educate them it was met with nods of approval by the diocese but offered little concrete or practical support. I am please to say this is changing. As far as I am aware this is the only group of its kind in Australia at the moment. Compare this to say the situation in America. I cannot speak about the UK of Canada.

    That said, I have also observed (at least in Sydney until recently) there has been little training provided to clergy on this subject. Too often current clergy reject the treasures of the middle of the last millennium and do not condone its use in our liturgies. The say it is irrelevant to and isolating the average person in the pew. They are not taught to appreciate what is good or what is bad music in the music itself or its text or its performance (and I use this word advisedly) to be able to guide their musicians. I don’t expect them to become musicians but a basic understanding might be helpful. Don’t even get me started on the liturgy. Without this training what hope do we have of clergy being able to comply with paragraph 28 of Musicam Sacram.

    I also find it odd that musicians who take arguably a more conservative stance use some of the treasures of the church such as say a mass setting by Mozart in complete disregard of section 34 of Musicam Sacram which is clear on ensuring that the people should be involved in the singing of these parts. They also often use contemporary classical compositions of the ordinary of the Mass. For example to a recent visit in NZ, I noticed one parish had scheduled Parts Berliner Mass. But I digress.

    I think an organisation such as Willow is to be commended and not condemned for taking a significant financial risk in putting on an event of this kind particularly on a national scale. I certainly don’t believe this to be a money making event. I know from both my professional work and liturgical work that events such as this are very expensive. And as for it being a commercial venture I ask why does the church, at least of late, expect musicians to work for the church with no wage? (this of course is a whole other discussion.) Our local forum has clearly demonstrated the need for such a conference and the thirst out there for a greater understanding of what the church expects. If the church is serious about this issue then let them show the way but supporting activities such as this or even presenting them. People are less willing these days to just blindly accept things; however when it is explained and taught it often readily embraced.

    Let me turn to Willow as a publisher. Firstly I’m not sure how hard you tried to find out who is “behind” Willow Publishing. There was an article listed in the first entry of a simple Google search I tried and it is spelt out very clearly in the first few pages of AOV 1. Your post implies that it is a clandestine organisation. That is far from accurate. I can also tell you that the people “behind” Willow are well known here in Sydney. They are, as far as I am aware, the only mainstream publisher actively supporting Australian composers and compositions. Many of the composers you cite and others are represented in both the Catholic Worship Book and Gather Australia hymnals both which carry the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Melbourne none the less! If the church has moved the goal posts, which of course is its right to do, then composers cannot be held accountable for their past works not being compliant. I know Tony made this point. I am sure that they will actively embrace the new guidelines in their ongoing work composing music for the liturgy.

    If you take a good look at least at the main books AOV1 and AOV2, you will see that they cover a wide range of works from the traditional to that of the 70’s and more contemporary work. Why must we rely on old dead white European male composers for our hymnody? Australian’s are proving themselves on many fronts and becoming world leaders. The arts included. Why assume that we cannot write works worthy of the liturgy?

    All of our composers have unique styles, some even in a more traditional style such as the work of Br Colin Smith or Richard Connolly. Again what is the church doing to promote Australian composition and culture?

    If we were to stop in the age of chant, we would not know the beauty of polyphony. If we stopped at polyphony we would never have come to know the magnificence of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, the Bach St. Matthew passion or the enduring Mozart or Haydn masses. So why stop now. A well executed rendition of the Mass of Light or Mass of Creation can also be inspiring. (I hasten to add I do not imply equality in the musical merits of these works). Equally a poorly executed rendition of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervis can be equally soul destroying. The Gospels do not exist in a vacuum. They are understood in the context of what is happening in the world around us today as well has what happened in the past. Hymnody, though the language used, provides us a way of understanding the scriptures in our current human condition

    Many young people I have worked with often embrace the old works. One particular hymn that always comes to mind it “Be though my vision (Slane)” and there are others. I know in the forum that I mentioned earlier there have been other opportunities that explore the older repertoire including chant.

    To say that this conference flies in the face of NLMB’s list and destroys their work is inflammatory at best and defamatory at worst. Firstly, as I understand it, the list has not been ratified by Rome at this time. Secondly I’m not sure how you infer this from the information in the brochure. As you state by your own admission there are approved hymns for liturgical use in the book. As Amanda mentioned it is also about catechesis and other activities. I note your comments to Amanda on this. If one were to seek approval from the Bishops based on my experience I suspect one might be waiting a very very long time. All I can say is thank God that someone is stepping up to help the average person on the organ bench especially as we approach this great time of transition. I fear however that our foundations are week and the transition will be that much harder for it.

    Contemporary hymnody/songs are easily digestible and thus appealing to the congregation at large. Traditional music such as Polyphony and Gregorian Chant more difficult. I would suggest most parish choirs would struggle reading neumes let alone negotiating the complexities of polyphony (lord knows I’ve tried, and it’s not to say we should not continue trying). What time, in this modern day an age is there to teach them. All too often choir rehearses for perhaps an hour a week They have many other commitments. What is the church doing to help them? What are we doing to help educate our musicians in matters, theological, liturgical and practical? How many times have you stepped in to a church and heard appalling music which is uninspiring. I suggest we don’t blame the musicians but look to the church to address the lack of guidance and support they receive. How can we expect them to make judgment that are pastorally, musically, and liturgically sounds if we have not provided them with this knowledge? Publishing a list of approved hymns and songs is only a small part of the story. How to present them, where and when to use them is something else all together. Music, perhaps more than any other lay ministry is more demanding on the minister’s time. It takes years to learn your instrument properly let alone all the issues surrounding theology and liturgy.

    So I for one am proud to be a part of this conference. I hope that through my presentation, I can help improve the confidence and understanding of our musicians, just a little. Personally though, I am getting just a little tiered of bashing my head against a brick wall on this issue. It’s starting to hurt. If others feel so strongly about this then let them come forward and put their money on the table to help make the church through it’s liturgy more inspiring for and lead us to the heavenly father.

    • Dear Justin,

      Thank you for taking the time to make such a full submission to this discussion.

      I am pleased to see that your approach to this subject has become a little less belligerent and more conciliatory after Amanda’s reply.

      I adopted a tone of belligerance because in one sense I do believe we have a war to wage (I think that is what belligerant means in latin). That war is not against “As One Voice” or “Willow Connection”, but against every negative factor affecting the state of liturgical music in the Australian Church. I wanted to get people’s attention. I seem to have succeeded. Once I have your attention, we can settle down and discuss things a bit more amicably. But unfortunately very few people seem to be acknowledging that there is any crisis at all.

      I find the strong language in your original post inconsistent with the guidelines you have posted for your own blog.

      Well, that charge might stick. Perhaps I wasn’t being “nice”. Sorry. (Nb. that was an apology)

      Firstly I should say that I am a moderate. I cherish both the old and embrace the new.

      Hey, me too. Some people seem to have gotten the idea that I am against contemporary music. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am against music that is unsingable or unsuitable for the liturgy, and against texts that banal or false or disfunctional. A lot of old stuff was unsingable, unsuitable, banal, false, and disfunctional too, which is why it isn’t sung anymore. Most of the liturgical music written in the past deservedly never made it into the hymnals and ritual books, and so was consigned to the dustbin of history. The fact is that an equal percentage of the new stuff is also unsingable, unsuitable, banal, false, and disfunctional also. The reason why so many people praise the “old stuff” is that the “old stuff” which we have has been through the process of discernment, and mostly only the singable, suitable, beautiful, true and functional has survived. The new stuff still has to go through this process. On their own, “old” and “new” are not criteria by which we can judge the merit of any piece of liturgical music.

      For much too long now the church, at least from my experience, and it would seem your own, in Australia and particularly the dioceses in and around Sydney, have paid little if any attention to the importance of music in the liturgy. The have left the fields barren. There is little or no training of liturgical musicians. That said, I have also observed (at least in Sydney until recently) there has been little training provided to clergy on this subject…Without this training what hope do we have of clergy being able to comply with paragraph 28 of Musicam Sacram.

      Quite correct. As I said in my original post: “There is indeed much to be done in encouraging the liturgical singing and music in our parishes, and I urge those with oversight of this area to do it.” Any strategy for changing the situation will have to include an urgent and speedy injection of financial and human resources to fill the vacuum. I am saying, however, that this is the Church’s job, and should be conducted by the Church within the Church for the Church. AOV has arisen because a vacuum exists. I entirely understand that.

      I think an organisation such as Willow is to be commended and not condemned for taking a significant financial risk in putting on an event of this kind particularly on a national scale.

      But what I want to know is: Why didn’t they offer themselves to the proper authorities in the Church and say: “We want to hold a music conference to resource parish musicians in the Catholic Church. You are in charge of this and have oversight over this aspect of the Church’s life. How can we work together to achieve the goal of improved music in our parishes?” To convince me that the aims of Willow are entirely for the benefit of the Church, you have to explain to me why Willow has not sought to act with the proper approval of the Church. Why have they never submitted their resources for imprimatur or nihil obstat? Why have they not sought to work with the NLMB? We know that the NLMB is under resourced. Willow has demonstrated that it has the get up and go to put on a conference like this. Why not work together? THAT’s my question. WHAT’s the answer? I am afraid the answer is that Willow does not wish to work under the restrictions that authoritative oversight from the Bishops would place upon them – which is precisely my point. IF I am wrong on this point, I am happy to retract and apologise for this supposition. But I want to know: WHY NOT COOPERATE WITH THE CHURCH AND WORK UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE BISHOPS?

      And as for it being a commercial venture I ask why does the church, at least of late, expect musicians to work for the church with no wage? (this of course is a whole other discussion.)

      There are two issues here. The first is an issue of performance. I do believe we should give our musicians some remuneration for the time they give in providing accompanying music at mass – although some musicians see this as their apostolate rather than their job and offer their time freely. But with regard to the composition music and texts for use in the liturgy, I have a different opinion. If you are offering your compositions and texts to be used by the Church for public worship, I think you should be offering it freely as a sacrificial gift. You should be saying to the Church: here is something I wrote which I am giving to you. Make it yours and offer it to God. It is no longer mine, but yours. Make your offering to God not to me. There is entirely too much “me” in the business of contemporary music. Do you think the great hymnwriters of the past ever got paid a cent for the hymns they wrote for the Church? Were the hymns of the Church’s heritage written by “full time Church musicians”? Of course not. Bach was paid to be Kapellmeister but Wesley was not paid for his hymns. You can pay a person to write an icon, but he doesn’t ever sign his name on it. Let us pay our musicians to play the Church’s music, but let composers and poets offer their material freely as a gift to the Church.

      Let me turn to Willow as a publisher. Firstly I’m not sure how hard you tried to find out who is “behind” Willow Publishing. There was an article listed in the first entry of a simple Google search I tried and it is spelt out very clearly in the first few pages of AOV 1. Your post implies that it is a clandestine organisation.

      What I was wondering was whether Willow was actually an organisation or company of some kind which did anything else. It appears it isn’t and that it exists only to produce AOV. Righto, that’s that suspicion in the rubbish bin. But I still find myself asking why these people decided to go it alone with their venture, rather than to work within the Church and under her direction.

      Many of the composers you cite and others are represented in both the Catholic Worship Book and Gather Australia hymnals both which carry the imprimatur of the Archdiocese of Melbourne none the less! If the church has moved the goal posts, which of course is its right to do, then composers cannot be held accountable for their past works not being compliant.

      Quite right. But what about this new book “Next Generation”? Has that been submitted for imprimatur from anyone? If not, why not?

      If you take a good look at least at the main books AOV1 and AOV2, you will see that they cover a wide range of works from the traditional to that of the 70’s and more contemporary work. Why must we rely on old dead white European male composers for our hymnody? Australian’s are proving themselves on many fronts and becoming world leaders. The arts included. Why assume that we cannot write works worthy of the liturgy? …Again what is the church doing to promote Australian composition and culture?

      I judge a work on its musical and textual merit, not on the race or origin or sex of the composer. As I said, “far too much ‘me’ in this” for my taste. A text and composition for liturgical use should stand apart from the composer and the writer. This insistence on “Australian” content has too much cultural cringe in it for my rather more “catholic” tastes. I do not see that the Church has a divine mandate to promote “Australian composition and culture”. The mandate is to promote the Gospel, not “Australiana”.

      If we were to stop in the age of chant, we would not know the beauty of polyphony. If we stopped at polyphony we would never have come to know the magnificence of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, the Bach St. Matthew passion or the enduring Mozart or Haydn masses. So why stop now.

      I never said “stop now”. This is not about “old” or “new” as I said. It IS about whether something has been tested and authorised before it is foisted upon the Church.

      To say that this conference flies in the face of NLMB’s list and destroys their work is inflammatory at best and defamatory at worst.

      What the NLMB list (and indeed the original Liturgiam Authenticam request for such a list) represents is an attempt to bring some order and stability to the liturgical music and song in our Churches. What the publication of YET ANOTHER collection of new material in “Next Generation” represents is continued instability. The Conference represents a continued encouragement of the “ever new”. My question is whether such a conference, at such a time, working apart from the authorisation of the Bishops, is really appropriate. It is like putting to sea in a boat that is half built and still at the experimental stage.

      Firstly, as I understand it, the list has not been ratified by Rome at this time.

      I suspect that Rome’s response would probably be more restrictive than the NLMB anyway, but you are corrrect, as I understand it. Nevertheless, the NLMB Recommended List has been ratified by the ACBC, which is what counts at this point.

      If one were to seek approval from the Bishops based on my experience I suspect one might be waiting a very very long time.

      Clearly the solution is to press for a simple and speedy process by which new material can be vetted for trial use. The solution is not to say “bugger it, I’ll do what I like then, and just go it on my own”.

      Contemporary hymnody/songs are easily digestible and thus appealing to the congregation at large.

      Not always. Or even the majority of the time.

      Traditional music such as Polyphony and Gregorian Chant more difficult.

      Polyphany clearly is not for congregational singing, but there are many simple Gregorian Chants. In any case, I am not in the slightest arguing that our music should be limited to only these styles.

      I suggest we don’t blame the musicians but look to the church to address the lack of guidance and support they receive.

      I’m not blaming musicians. I do look to the Church to provide. But I don’t think the answer is by-passing the Church’s authority and going it alone, as Willow is doing. Why is it impossible for cooperation to produce the results we are seeking?

      If others feel so strongly about this then let them come forward and put their money on the table to help make the church through it’s liturgy more inspiring for and lead us to the heavenly father.

      But why, Justin, WHY didn’t Willow go to the NLMB and the Bishops Commission on Liturgy and “put their money on the table” and say “we want to help make the Church thorugh its liturgy more inspiring etc.” Why didn’t they think to work together with the Church instead of outside of it and against its aims and objectives? Why could there be no cooperation? Why must they frustrate the Church’s goals rather than offer the Church the expertise they clearly have?

      • Justin

        Thank-you for publishing my reply and your comments in turn. I think you may find that there are many people passionate about this subject out there who would be willing to discuss and debate the issue. It’s a great shame we don’t have such a forum, and as you would well appreciate it’s difficult to conduct such a debate effectively on a blog page. I don’t agree that belligerent posts are the best way to get things going. It only serves to further polarize people. That said, speaking only for myself, I note your apology and say thank-you. Hopefully we have come a step closer.

        Firstly a quick sidebar; I note that you did not comment on my reference to Musicam Sacram para 34 and it’s observance in the church today.

        I think people don’t acknowledge a crisis because it would seem, as I inferred in my post, the church does not seem to think there is a crisis. That said I think you and I have different views on what the nature of the crisis may be. Interestingly tonight in Sydney at least (not sure if elsewhere) there will be a segment on a channel 7 program about the “rock and roll church” Hillsong. The music of Hillsong is used within the Catholic church and it will be interesting to see what role the music has played in the recruitment of new members to Hillsong. Let me just say there is Hillsong music on the approved list. What I am trying to point out is the effect of good music in our celebration can have, whatever that might sound like.

        I agree with you about the test of time. How much of the liturgical music we sang in the 70’s post VII has already gone by the wayside. And so it will be with this generation of music. That which is good will survive the test of time as it should. This of course has not only been the case with sacred music.

        As to why Willow is not presenting this conference with the authority of the church. Firstly, as we have already discussed this is not exclusively a Catholic event. I note you comments on this.

        I have stated, I have been invited to be a presenter at this conference. I have not been involved with its implementation. I think it is unreasonable to assume that a) they have not had any discussions with the church or irrespective of that point b) that they are not willing to work with the church. I certainly cannot speak authoritatively to either point. I’m not sure on what you base your information specially as by your own admission you are not familiar with the individuals within the company. Thus I later claim especially disturbing. A

        That said, I can only speak from my own experience with respect to seeking the approval or support of the church. When I have tried to organize similar events, albeit much much smaller in scale, I received little guidance, direction or support from the authorities. Nor have they asked that I did not proceed. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this is now changing, but only after much hard work. Again this comes back to the “crisis”. So until the “authorities” recognize this as an issue and priority, nothing will change.

        As to why Williow has not sought imprimatur or nihil obstat, again I am not in a position to comment authoritatively. That said, I have not done a detailed comparison, but many of the works contained in AOV1 and AOV2 are also in books such Catholic Worship and Gather Australia both of which carry imprimatur so I’m not sure what the issue is? Especially as there works in these books which have not made it through the NLMB’s assessment even though they carry the imprimaturs of the church.

        I am utterly bemused as to your views on payment of musicians be they composers or performers. There is a history in the church of arts patronage That history did not discriminate between performers and composers. I would suggest that there are many composers who also work as performers in their local parishes without payment and thus they make their living through their compositions. Failing that we would have no new compositions.

        Again I’m not sure about the New Generation collection and if it is being considered by the NLMB. Irrespective, this brings be back to Hillsong. Aside from the American material of OCP and GIA there has been little new material available in Australia and hence young people who remain in the church now often look to Hillsong as a source of new material. Whilst some of the Hillsong material is suitable there is much that isn’t. Much of their material is devotional rather than liturgical, however in the absence of anything else young people turn to this material.

        If you are not opposed to new material than as you have also stated the NLMB is arguably under resourced, how can they possibly keep up with new material in this global world. Let alone considering cross-cultural needs? So why not educate people on what is appropriate and what is not? In this way not only young people, but all musicians might be in a better position to help ensure the quality of music in our churches. Surely this would be less demanding on resources also.

        As I discussed before, I’m not sure that the church is seeking stability at a time when it’s about to embark on a major change to our liturgy. You seem to contradict yourself when on one hand you say it’s not about old vs new and then on the other hand you say the church is seeking stability. Nobody for a single minute is suggesting lest replace every hymn book in Australia with “New Generation”. It is simply another resource. If you truly believe it’s not about old and new then how can you argue that this frustrates the efforts of the Bishops.

        So I’m really not clear why you perceive that this conference actively and maliciously sets out to frustrate the goals of the Bishops. Why do you continue to assume that this is one sided? Too often I see the church saying “come to us” rather than the church going to the people where they are. After all is not this the example that Christ himself gave us. He did not condone what people were doing but met them where they were and then invited them to follow him and change.

  10. Tony

    A comprehensive response Justin!

    Contemporary hymnody/songs are easily digestible and thus appealing to the congregation at large. Traditional music such as Polyphony and Gregorian Chant more difficult … All too often choir rehearses for perhaps an hour a week They have many other commitments.

    This very much accords with my experience. Our choir has been blessed with gifted, committed amateur leaders who push us out of the comfort zone of the ‘digestible’ and ‘appealing’ but don’t abandon it because ‘ordinary folk’ like it.

    A good leader needs to be knowlegable, technically competant, enthusiastic, thick-skinned and a good teacher. The fact is, this kind of individual is not thick on the ground so parishes are, one way or another, stuck with the ‘digestible’ and ‘appealing’ (if anything at all).

    I hope the conference is a great success!

  11. Tony

    Just getting back to a theme of this post — that of ‘evolution’ — you might be interested in this ‘virtual choir’.

    I know, it’s on the dreaded Catholica, but it is fascinating.

    I couldn’t imagine a choir without the feedback of other singers right next to you and hearing how the sound fills the space and the energy that is more than the sum of the parts and the real mystery of how unity comes out of the many …

    But, the bottom line is that they’ve created something beautiful.

  12. I just attended Mass for Ascension-on-Sunday.

    Not one single hymn mentioned the Ascension or associated concepts; the bland selection of music could have fitted equally well on a Sunday in Ordinary Time.

    There is such poverty!

    • This was my experience yesterday also. In fact, I don’t know any “modern” song in the current Catholic repetoire that has intentionally been written for the Ascension or which even bothers to mention it. Does anyone else?

      • Justin

        Is not the Feast of the Ascension about more than just the Ascension itself. Surely the commissioning is an important theme on this day for which there is much written.

        • Yes, Justin, but we would still like to sing about the wonderful mystery of the Ascension itself! Christmas is about more than the Incarnation, and Easter about more than the resurrection, but the beauty of having particular feasts for particular mysteries that each gets its moment in the sun when we can look at them more closely. The calendar of the Church’s Year provides the context into which each of these mysteries take their broader perspective.