Reform2 Dialogues OCP

A friend has posted communications to and fro with the West Coast’s big liturgical music publisher. The effort started here. The Chant Café ban is back in place for me, so I thought I’d engage Charles out of sight/site from his reform2 buds.

I’m a skeptic. To begin with, I think Charles overstates the case:

Well, the readership of the Café, MSForum, NLMovement, CCWatershed and other like minded sites, though maybe no more than 10-15% of the demographic size of NPM, comparing Colloquium to convention, is still a very powerful and influential voice in the RCC sacred music community.

It’s a loud voice, to be certain. If decibels equate with power, no argument here. Influential is a stretch. My sense of the Café and the CMAA is that they talk a good bit in circles. Politically, it’s what is referred to as “playing to the base.” Would I expect to hear any good news about the current President on Fox? The prior President on Mother Jones? Is the CDF influential because they dislike theologies of liberation and feminism? What would happen if the MLB World Series winner played the LLWS winner? The power and influence would be limited to a single very small ballpark, regardless of how many runs were scored.

When the stump speech is predictable, and the audience doesn’t change, that’s not influence. It’s narcissism.

I wonder if more chant these days isn’t due less to reform2 influence and just the natural course of a more popular and regarded Early Music. Heck, even Ray Repp was doing plainchant in the late 70’s, before most of the CMAA young lions were out of diapers, let alone conceived in a Psalm 139:13 way. My sense is that Columba Kelly and Chrysogonus Waddell were far more influential. The latter’s long collaboration with Steve Warner strikes me as the real way to go: honor the plainsong tradition, yet stretch things a bit and mix up some good influences.

I wonder how many of the reform2 influential people actually use Big Three materials. I think you would have to actually browse the product you’ve used, rather than rely on what Catholic Answers message boards or back issues of Antiphon have to say about particular songs they love to hate.

I can’t help but think that for people other than Charles, this is more about hate than love. I don’t think I’m offering a blanket condemnation here–I used to read these websites regularly. Once a person gets into a lather about All Things Wrong, it’s very hard to keep the froth under control.

From Charles’ letter:

I would suggest that a significant portion of the subscription volumes have not only stagnant and unused repertoire that escapes attention year to year, but also some material whose textual content is clearly at odds with the needs of authentic worship with the rites. There are likely a substantial number of songs, hymns and ordinaries whose musical content has seen its sunset realistically and take up valuable page space that other much more vital and necessary content could resuscitate OCP’s waning perception as a viable, all inclusive and orthodox service provider.

If I were an OCP subscriber, I might share most of my friend’s opinions and assessments on his list. There might be pieces that go unused by me.

But the funny thing is, I suspect a number of people take the annual survey OCP sends out very seriously. I might have qualms musically and maybe theologically about some pieces, but clearly, others do not. There’s a reason why OCP’s annual music issue has ballooned from a few hundred to nearly 1,000 numbered items over the years. It is very difficult to ax popular pieces. It’s hard when you’re a parish music director and you are open to input. I’m sure it’s hard for a publisher who wants to maximize either usability or the profit line.

And speaking of pastoral ministry, I have to take seriously the attachment many people have to music and lyrics I personally consider substandard. Why does weak music persist? I admit I do my very best with music I dislike. I make a point of it, on behalf of my own integrity and a sense of service. But I think it’s more than helping good musicians put lipstick on the you-know-what. There’s more to it.

From OCP:

I note that the 2014 edition of Breaking Bread includes more than 45 chant pieces and Latin hymns. We continue to consider chant pieces for inclusion in our missals and have added several in recent years. That said, I will also forward to our committee your suggestion that we increase the number of Latin chant pieces.

How much increase would be enough? And also, I mean how much subtraction of disliked songs would satisfy? Will a reform2 effort to Chinese water torture the Landry/Conry/Lynch/early Damean repertoire off the pages ever be satisfied. None of those folks ever had a website devoted to a moratorium on their music, to be sure.

If OCP and others do indeed “need” a shift in editing priorities, I don’t see the reform2 folks as being the ones to do it.

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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.
This entry was posted in Hermeneutic of Subtraction, Liturgical Music, The Blogosphere. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reform2 Dialogues OCP

  1. Thanks for the plug, Todd. Sorry about the Cafe. You did observe that someone hacked into the combox “like” protocols that gave every indication they sure liked what you had to say! Yahoo.
    I wouldn’t worry about OCP taking to heart even the smallest of admonitions or advice, especially from me. I suspect I’m as much a pariah to many of my own as others in the opposite corner. And the response, as I indicated, from “my own,” has been negligible. Joke’s on me.
    But I would give some credit where credit is due to the fullness of my suggestion. I didn’t offer that RotR folk should have a hand in editorial decisions. To the contrary, I just asked the publisher to mainstream stuff THEY own into the big gun product. Not only would that include Kelly’s stuff and Laus Tibi, but stuff by Hurd, Sullivan-Whitaker, Coghlan, Ridge, Bridge and others that OCP left by the highway full of the Chevy’s like Landry. I know whereof I speak.
    Finally, to me, it’s not a philosophical or political issue, much less the seeming popularity pageant that the Annual Survey might be. (I mean, Sr. Misetich’s “Holy Spirit!” Really, seriously?
    It is an issue of product worthiness and trust. And if OCP could think outside of their box, they’d own the landscape, I gosh darn guarantee it.
    Ain’t gonna happen, c’est la vie, que sera.

  2. PS. You and I must have been the two people that actually bought Repp’s BENDEDICAMUS in the late 70’s! And Ray didn’t plainchant in that, he actually did what the council asked for- newer expressions emulative or otherwise having obvious DNA of the chant strain. I rather thought it revolutionary at the time. The ironic thing is that it came out roughly the same time NEITHER SILVER NOR GOLD hit, and never got off the ground, shame really. Happily Hurd’s UBI didn’t suffer that confluence.

    • Todd says:

      Ray was in my neck of the woods ca 1978-80’s. He was burned by FEL and all that, I think. Benedicamus was self-published. His person talked to me about coming on board way back. In retrospect, I should have gone with it. Bob Hurd had 2 LP’s with FEL in the mid-70’s. Decent guitar work but no chant.

      OCP already has the corner on the disposable market. When you have a lot, you don’t go all-in against the short stacks.

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