Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Holy Angels, Bez Valley and Music, Music, Music.....

As you may have realised I have been busy exploring the churches in my area as opposed to Holy Trinity, Braamfontein, the Jesuit church I have attended since I have been in Johannesburg and which has a fine musical tradition.

Holy Angels, Bezuidenhout Valley was where I was at Mass last Sunday.  It's a small church built in 1913 and he has recently been tastefully restored.  A delightful building, light, airy with exposed woodwork, a sanded floor and minus the hideous dark green marble behind the altar.  Even the rather kitsch mosaics of the Sacred Heart & Our Lady of Perpetual Succour are much improved by being framed.  

Another innovation is the screen, that partly obscures the top of the Crucifix on the East Wall, and an overhead projector.  The music was worse than Blessed Sacrament, Malvern.  It was Mothers' Day so we were treated to "Mother of Mine" accompanied by electric guitars...and we all held hands during the Lord's Prayer.

The controversy stirred up by Fr Chris Townsend of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in an article in the Southern Cross about how awful the music is in Catholic Churches has interestingly enough been reflected obliquely by those who have joined the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham as they see music (and liturgical practise) as aspects of the Anglican patrimony they bring into the Catholic Church.

Here is an article on the blog of Fr Edwin Barnes, former Anglican Bishop of Richborough, who was received  into the Ordinariate and ordained a priest in the Catholic Church this year.  His blog is called Ancient Richborough but I am reprinting it in full here.  Allen Hall is the seminary where most of the former Anglican priests are being prepared for ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Pentecost.  The Ed Tomlinson he mentions is the former Vicar of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells where 72 members of his congregation left and joined him in the Ordinariate.

Great mirth at Allen Hall this week when, to the question "any difficulties you've met?", came the answer "the music". Why is it that the Catholic Church is so prescriptive about its liturgy, yet seems to allow any hymns/songs/ditties at Mass? I have been coopted to the little group in my local catholic parish which selects hymns for Sunday worship. The problems seems to be (1) the available hymn book and (2) the congregation's small familiar repertoire. Perhaps Ed Tomlinson has the answer; appeal for copies of English Hymnal. That could be right if you are setting up an Ordinariate church. But many of us will be trying to bring something of our Patrimony into an existing Catholic congregation. There seems to be genuine goodwill among many of those congregations to improve their standard of music - and the answer cannot be Gregorian Chant all round. Yet when on Easter Day the best anyone can come up with is "This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made that the Lord has made" ... and so on ad nauseam, there really must be something better.

Will the rite eventually approved for groups of former Anglicans include any help over the matter of Hymnody? Surely it is part of our Patrimony; not just because there are good tunes and decent verse, but because we have learned the faith from our treasury of hymns almost as much as from Sacred Scripture. Perhaps the Ordinary could make a start by banning all hymn books which contain more by Estelle M White than by Charles Wesley?

Today, though, great encouragement; the Organist at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Southbourne, where our local Ordinariate Group will make its home, has written in our parish newsletter "God gave you the voice you've got. Use it to praise Him! It doesn't matter if you don't think you can sing.. if you are still singing a hymn on the way home after Mass, you are carrying on with your prayer." My only addendum would be "provided the Hymn you are still singing is addressed to God, about God, not focussed on 'me' and 'I'".

PS does anyone else hate "here I am, Lord - Look at me, Lord..."?

A comment was made that the intention of Vatican II was that we should sing the Mass but instead Catholics tend to sing at Mass.  Mainly meaningless stuff like "Shine, Jesus, shine..."

Where I have a real problem is when parts of the liturgy, such as the Gloria, are replaced by chorus-like hymns.  I find I'm grinding my teeth with irritation!

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