I was struck by Cantor’s observation of Steven Warner’s address at NPM last week. I didn’t go (and I haven’t gone to an NPM convention in almost twenty years) but I couldn’t let this pass by without comment:
Ok, much of it was good, but at one point he glorified the guitar Mass (enh…), talked about how we need a full implementation of Vatican II (yes…), and then turned and stated, “We do not need a reform of the reform!” (Applause ensued.) Whoa there, Wilbur! Many of us were feeling a mite uncomfortable, even unwelcome, after that – and this at a convention whose theme ostensibly was, “that all may be one”.
As a composer and musician with one foot solidly in the monastic tradition, (his twenty-years collaboration with Chrysogonus Waddell and Gethsemani Abbey) Warner is far from the guy I would expect to glorify any music of less than the highest quality. If he’s advocating instrumental ensembles or the place of the guitar within them, we need go no further than Monteverdi to see the heights of what was accomplished in the era of polyphony.
I read a transcript of Warner’s talk . Maybe the translation to the printed page affects things, but I don’t grok a guitar glorification at all. Just a few stories and experiences. Cheering of conventioneers notwithstanding, I don’t see the connection with feeling welcome or unwelcome. I’m sure Cantor would not be insisting that strong opinions or even facts be sugarcoated. Cantor had to know that a large subset, if not a majority of NPM convention-goers, do not subscribe to the traditionalist-leaning groupspeak of “reform-of-the-reform.” Some of what’s wildly popular in St Blog’s circles is just not flying in mainstream Catholicism.
At worst, “reform-of-the-reform” is a weak expression of what many progressives and traditionalists share in common: the recognition that the modern Roman Catholic liturgy is not all it could or should be, that music and preaching could be better, and that more hard work is needed to effect a better reality.
What do the reform2 people give us? A contrary slogan that hides the congruence. An all too easy way to attack and insult the four decades of work many of us have done while some were pouting in exile with early music groups. Maybe it’s hard to be a signatory to the principle of liturgical reform, period, when ideological adversaries have already claimed the high ground on it. That’s not so hard to understand. But many of us raised in the 60’s and 70’s have readily embraced plainsong. If it’s possible for us …
I do realize that many young musicians have no history of pouting or avoiding hard work. They offer a refreshing perspective needed to improve Catholic liturgy. And their efforts are welcome. Very, very welcome. But I hope they will not buy into the embittered few who still nurse wounds three or four decades old.
Just say you want better liturgy. Just say you are willing to join with others who have worked hard to make improvements. Just say you want a soul-inspiring reformation. Then I’ll stand up and applaud you.