More on Glory & Praise

I’ve begun writing for InsideCatholic, and added the site to the blogroll. You can surf to this link, where I’ve been asked to make a positive case for Glory & Praise. The comments are a-rollin’ in already. You can go there to join the discussion, if you wish.

I note the tired old arguments are getting trotted out: voice of God, unsingable music, Thomas Day disliked it, G&P bumped chant out of the picture, yada yada yada. JP the G has already been called a “goofball” in the combox.

For a resource that was so bad, as we hear it, it’s amazing it sold so well from the late 70’s for at least a decade and a half, isn’t it? At least people haven’t been explicit about that poor, dumb laity argument Amy and others so often trash.

OCP publishes four versions of the series. I wonder, though, if G&P hasn’t jumped the shark at least ten years ago. The big debate in the 80’s was throwaway versus permanent hymnals. The sifting of G&P material has led to much of the contemporary repertoire to be housed in hardcover. Now the SLJ’s rub shoulders with plainsong, hymnody, and world music. Or is that clothing just sheepskin for the wolf?

If any InsideCatholic visitors have any decent arguments, I’m looking forward to reading them.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to More on Glory & Praise

  1. Dale Price says:

    Which version has plainsong, hymnody and world music?

  2. Randolph Nichols says:

    I admit to having grown weary by the time I reached the end of the comments. After over a quarter century of wrestling with the “music problem,” I sometimes envy the Society of Friends (Quakers) who sensibly dispense with music altogether.

    Perhaps my favorite comment ran “If I want to read about Modernist music, there are plenty of leftist publications out there.” Somehow I don’t think we’re dealing with the same conception of “modernist” as that which has characterized the recent programming of James Levine at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (For the curious, the spotty attendance at these concerts has generated concern with those managing the budget.) It is also obvious that the author of the comment has not been reading leftist publicatiions. Substantive articles about liturgical music in journals like America and Commonweal are rare. Perhaps wisely, they seem determined to stay clear from the fray.

    Most of us from the classically trained music camp tend, of course, to be dismissive of Glory & Praise and its offshoots – mainly it must be said for its technical lapses (e.g., poor bass lines, weak harmonic rhythms, and simplistic chord structures. Nonetheless, I thought your presentation was measured and I admire InsideCatholic for opening up the forum. Nothing is to be gained by pretending our differences about music aren’t serious and wide.

  3. Todd, it escaped me while we were doing the interview segment with Jeffrey Tucker, but in the interest of full disclosure, I used Glory and Praise when I played (the profane) guitar in “folk groups” at my parish and Jesuit high school in the early-to-mid 1980s. Other than a few older hymns like “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” or “Holy, Holy, Holy,” this was all I knew.

    Looking back now, it may not have been the best choice, but when the opportunity arose to create liturgical music deemed to be more accessible, the St. Louis Jesuits very sincerely reached for the musical model closest to them: Peter, Paul, and Mary. Most of the songs are rooted in sacred scripture.

    Does it seem today like they fit in with the solemnity of what we know to be the action of the Mass? I think not, but in the context of the times, when everything else about the Mass seemed to be in flux, these songs did fit in. And they were an improvement over “I’ll Never Find Another You” or “Day by Day”, each of which were among the first examples of hymnody I heard at age 6.

  4. Todd says:

    Well, the SLJ’s have made it to GIA hymnals where they have plainsong, hymnody, and world music. I think OCP’s G&P comprehensive does mix the repertoire a bit, too.

    I confess my admiration for the InsideCatholic staff. Very good people in our conversations and e-mails.

    It has been suggested that SLJ’s were inspired more by pre-conciliar hymnody. Elaine Rendler, for one, has noted similiarities between their harmonizations and what one would find in 50’s church music.

    John Foley recorded a secular folk album with another Jesuit in 1973. Simon & Garfunkel comes to mind if I were to call a pop influence into the mix. But there’s something more there. These guys wrote tons of songs, and the fact there were six of them (at various times) tells you there were a lot of influences to be found.

  5. Liam says:

    While I do think that G&P in its day represented a measure of progress in certain respects, much of its oeuvre fails in formal compositional terms by the sheer fact that it sounds awkward without accompaniment. Lots of sustained notes that go nowhere melodically but cover multiple chord progressions. Lots of rests to allow more chord progressions. Et cet. That’s very weak for liturgical music. Liturgical music should avoid making it sound like the singers are the canvas against which an accompaniment is set, but it’s a common weakness in contemporary settings, sad to say. (It’s certainly not unknown in pre-contemporary liturgical music, but it was far less common.)

  6. Todd says:

    Good point, Liam.

    In general, great songs work well in a variety of styles, including a cappella. My wife often sings show tunes around the house: a mark that these popular songs work pretty well whether as home entertainment, in a jazz club, in the theatre, or accompanied by piano, guitar, or just a bright, happy mood.

    American folk music, especially the white and black spirituals also work unaccompanied and accompanied in various style and with various instruments.

    I think it’s also a mark of how good a rock song is if it can be performed full-out electric, unplugged, or even a cappella–and some rock music does work well in all of those things.

  7. Liam says:

    Todd

    You and I think alike on this point.

    I participated a couple of times in Norumbega Harmony’s semi-monthly Sacred Harp sings when they were at Old Cambridge Baptist Church (a block from my current church in Harvard Square). Having been exposed to shape note music in college courtesy of a great nun who was an experienced chant conductor and helped us form the first “traditional” choir at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Charlottesville VA – I still remember the awed looks on the congregation’s faces when we broke into “What Wondrous Love Is This?” (at an urgent tempo, please! not the reflective ballad tempo you often hear elsewhere) during the Easter Vigil after the Rites of Initiation (which included the wife of RFK Jr).

  8. Liam says:

    Btw, the roots of the shape note singing are not, of course, Southern but right here in New England. Where shape note singing replaced the fearsome noise that passed for music in Congregational churches in the 17th century….

    I’ve never managed to go to the OLd Stoughton (MA) Musical Society, America’s oldest choral society, with roots in the work of William Billings.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoughton_Musical_Society

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