Those who bristle at its popularity overlook many important factors (if not facts) as they dive in to criticize its shortcomings. To understand its role in post-conciliar worship, a little perspective is needed.
First, trained church musicians weren’t always doing their post-conciliar job in promoting quality, especially in Mass music. Organists such as Bob Batastini promoted hymnody. Mass settings were often an afterthought. I knew one organist who taught his choir new Masses each Christmas and each Easter. Then he never used them again. I can only imagine what the people in the pew gleaned from this experience.
Among the folk groups I was involved with in the 80’s, it was enough of a chore to develop psalmody and a common Mass setting across the parish. No “classical” composers were doing it: writing a Mass setting that could be used by organ choirs, guitar groups, and cantors all. Imagine the thought that one could have a parish celebration or even a diocesan one and everybody would know the Mass ordinary. The fact is that Haugen did it first, and GIA published it first. Yeah, too bad it wasn’t a better effort, blah, blah, blah.
For all the criticism heaped on Marty Haugen for the first Mass setting he ever published, I think there’s more scorn, perhaps, to be levelled on Proulx, Peloquin, and others who were entirely capable of doing a better job. But they didn’t bother.
My sense is that GIA saw contemporary ensemble music as an unmined gold field. Thanks to the failures of FEL, PAA, NALR, and others, the 80’s gave them a wide open field. That wide open field also allowed them to cut corners in editing, presentation, and in musical judgments. In every parish I’ve ever worked, I’ve had to edit, mark up, and adjust both words, music, and guitar chords on GIA material.
Sorry, but I have little sympathy for people who complain about “illicit” texts (“problematic” is a more accurate term) or poor part-writing in contemporary music. If you’re going to use it, change it. If you have better music, use it instead.
It’s wishful thinking to expect that a more slavish translation of the Ordo Missae will magically improve the quality of music. It won’t. For that you need effort in the actual composing of sacred music itself, not some warm fuzzy expectation that loyalty and obedience will breed quality. “Oh goody; faithful English words will rout out those guitar vermin.” Dream on, I reply.
I doubt GIA will be so eager to let go of the cash cow that is the Mass of Creation. It will be a far easier sell to re-engineer the setting than to actually sell a work from a straight-A composition major. And in a market-driven world of sacred music, what you can sell drives the show. Like you, that strikes me as being more grave a sin than illiceity. Funny how the curia and Rome seem to miss the important stuff, eh? But don’t bet any time soon they’ll be commissioning serious composers to do a better job than what Haugen achieved at his first crack.
RP and others often paint me as a Haugen apologist. That would be a matter of perspective. I think Mass of Creation was something of a rush job. Organ goo under the first half, but nothing after the memorial acclamation? Word changes to avoid the publisher from cutting in ICEL on royalties? It would have been sensible for somebody to sit down with Marty and work on the voice and instrument writing for the basic skeleton of the Mass. But you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me if nobody wanted to bother. GIA knew it wouldn’t help sales. Richard Proulx and many others have never understood the guitar nor wanted to be bothered by ensemble playing. How many organists do you know who play chamber music with other musicians?
Many conservatory musicians are cultured to be lone rangers. What classical musicians have ever been part of great songwriting teams? Oh sure, Stokowski waited two centuries to orchestrate Bach. Ravel dressed up a nice piano piece from Russia. Big whoop. Collaboration, despite the fact it worked so well for musical theatre and jazz and the great pop songs of the last century is simply not a value for many musicians, especially some church musicians.
I welcome people who want to continue to play the blame game in the comboxes here. Keep bashing Marty Haugen, too, for all I care, but don’t make it personal. Just be aware that there’s more criticism to be levelled, and precious few are immune from their own role in failing to promote the very best pastoral music.