CNS has an interesting feature on Msgr Joseph W. James, mentor to a few key American church musicians of the sixties.
Each night, the volunteers would gather for Mass before dinner. After the first evening of what Ray Repp remembers as a “ho-hum,” quiet Mass, he asked the celebrant, “Do you mind if we have some music tomorrow?”
The priest — Msgr. John May, later to become archbishop of St. Louis — agreed, and Repp began introducing his “folk Mass” music to the other volunteers, leading them in familiar songs and creating more along the way.
“It was somewhere around this particular period of time that Joe James must have come to some of these things, and he said, ‘You know, I think we should put some of this on tape,’” said Repp. “So we recorded this tape, and Joe made this tape available to a lot of people, so when we were commissioned and went out, everybody not only had a physical copy of the music we’d been singing, they also had Joe’s tapes.”
Father James asked for an endorsement of the music from Bishop Victor Reed of Oklahoma City, who happened to be in Chicago at the time. The bishop agreed, so a label was attached to each tape reading “This has been approved by the bishop of Oklahoma City.”
“I took one of (Repp’s) tapes to Dennis Fitzpatrick, who had an office there in Chicago, Friends of the English Liturgy, FEL,” Msgr. James told the South Plains Catholic, Lubbock‘s diocesan newspaper. “I gave him the tape and said, ‘I think it’s pretty good stuff, and the bishop of Oklahoma City approved of it.”
Within three months, Fitzpatrick called Repp, asking him to come back to Chicago to record an album.
He recorded “Mass for Young Americans,” the first album of its kind and the inspiration for an entirely new genre of Catholic music.