Sensitive Topic

The Grail for $ale thread on PrayTell heated up quite a bit today. 1,000 characters is a tough limit to adhere to, I see. Sad, but not surprising, that someone had to toss their personal tastes into the discussion and start yet another mindless criticism of contemporary music.

Like Fr Ruff, I don’t know that the current situation is the best we can get. There seem to be lots of embittered (and unpublished!) composers out there who seem to think they deserve a share of the Eagles’ Wings Gold Mine. Maybe there’s a sense that the internet (especially the reform2 chant sites) will overhaul mainstream publishers. I might harp on the inattentive blunders with contemporary music by the big publishers, but I know for sure that when I start playing or reading homegrown resources (and I’ve seen some of their “big” sellers) I know that a third-party editor would have been a really good idea. Even if she or he would have to be paid.

I think a lot of people in the discussion have good points that deserve to be heard. But let’s also recognize that most everybody has scars, too. The scars drive the energy of this chat, not the productive points.

Publishers were very badly treated by parishes and by the Church in the 70’s. I have a copy of the “official” Missouri Catholic Hymnal on my office shelf. The traditional tunes and texts are carefully attributed, even with metrical designations. But the last section of the hymnal? Titles and words. No composers. No sources. No copyright notices. and this, a production by professional church musicians.

So if some people today are a little leery about Joe Reform2 Composer setting up a web site and using other people’s work, I can appreciate the concern.

Parish musicians are notoriously unpaid. Few of us will be granted a retirement pension like Bernard Huijbers for decades of service. So if a few people get published and it helps make end meet, I’m not inclined to begrudge them a little moonlighting income. My royalty check paid the dentist bill one year. Back in 2006, it gave my family a day pass at the major attractions at Niagara Falls. That’s not going to cut it when I turn 75. But that day is still a long way off.

And most of us feel a combination of apprehension, frustration, and concern that a sub-standard translation is being foisted on all us English-speakers. So when people appear positioned to rake in bonus income from it, there too I can appreciate that some serious resentment might surface.

I don’t have the answer, other than to note that strong feelings are still running hot. And in this climate, there’s probably not a lot of constructive discussion that can take place.

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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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2 Responses to Sensitive Topic

  1. Liam says:

    Here’s a hint about the limit: just enter some initial text, submit and then edit in the editing mode – no cap then.

    I happened upon this (as I assume others have) because I found typing in the initial submission mode is maddening because the viewable field only covers 75% of the real field (maybe it’s my browser – I use Mozilla or Safari).

  2. Tony Barr says:

    ‘Few of us will be granted a retirement pension like Bernard Huijbers for decades of service.’ I think a correction needs to be made here re. Bernard’s situation. As a wallk-out Jesuit, he did receive pensions both from the Jesuists and from the Dominicans for his work in the Amsredam Dominicuskerk. Furthermore, according to the wisdom and inisght of the Dutch liturgical publishers, he received a performing royalties payment for every piece of his music used each year throughout the Netherlands. Imagine that!

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