The first of a two-part interview with Father Samuel Weber, OSB is up at Zenit. He will head the Saint Louis archdiocese’s sacred music institute. I see a bit of the revisionist mindset that pervades the reform2 crowd well in place in the interview:
After the Second Vatican Council it was the pop and folk style music of the late 1960s and 1970s that dominated newly composed music for worship — Catholic and Protestant. Despite the Constitution on the Liturgy’s emphasis on the “pride of place” for Gregorian chant in the liturgy, the council’s teaching was ignored, and chant virtually disappeared.
I think secular styles caught a lot of attention in the post-conciliar period. And there’s no doubt that non-conservatory people: parish musicians, catechists, seminarians, and others were writing a ton of music. Campus parishes and schools were seeing a lot of it. But on the ground in parishes through the seventies, I don’t remember folk groups “dominating.” Far from it. Some groups were given a mid-morning Mass. Often they were relegated to less-attended liturgies. It wasn’t for nothing Ed Gutfreund got lots of laughs when he sang about the folk group getting the 3AM slot.
In my middle-class Rochester New York parish I heard lots of organ hymns. Music by Kreutz, Peloquin, and some old Protestant classics. I also knew a number of Catholic musicians in the 80’s serving Protestant parishes–where they were getting a decent wage.
Weber assumes chant “disappeared,” but the truth of it is that Catholics in the US never had that much of it anyway. I hope his new students set him straight in Saint Louis. If you can’t diagnose a problem accurately, you’re bound to fumble on the remedy.
When Weber spoke of a complexity of the Church situation, he did get that right:
But one major element was plain confusion and misunderstanding. The liturgical reform following the Council was astoundingly rapid, and serious upheavals in the secular world of those times also affected the anti-authoritarian mood within the Church. This was played out dramatically in the liturgy. Changes were made precipitously with too little consultation with the bishops.
Bishops and pastors concluded that the same people who had been doing church music or no or little pay for decades would continue to provide parish leadership. As women (and some men) left religious life (and the clergy), parishes lost a lot of relatively cheap labor. Some of that labor wasn’t really up to speed on liturgy and sacred music, but they did leave a vacuum that was filled by people who might have been, if anything, less prepared to render professional services to the Church.
Bishops, naturally, took little or no leadership. Archbishop Burke felt the love when he announced his sacred music institute, but the move was suggested in Sacrosanctum Concilium and other post-conciliar documents. In the US, it’s largely been left to higher education and the motivation of lay people to fill the gap. And naturally, such people bear the brunt of criticism from the reform2 section. It’s rather convenient to be the critic when one has been nearly absent from the sacred music scene for the past few decades.