eric whitacreSurfing around while I was waiting for the timing to be right on running an errand for the young miss, I found this discussion thread aptly named. Back at the student center, I was exposed to young people who had gaga’ed over Eric Whitacre. High school experiences, mostly.

I do not earn a living from other people performing my compositions in quantity, if not in quality. But I feel no envy for a guy who succeeds at it. And I’m not unfamiliar with warhorses of vocal and instrumental music: individual pieces, composers, schools, and whatnot. When I worked as a classical music radio announcer, I developed my own opinions that were not always backed up by objective judgments. But they were usually backed up by my colleagues. As a younger man, I had more of those opinions than I do today. As I slide into old age, hopefully the trend to not-oppose so much will not reverse itself.

When I would ask one of my young friends about their experience of singing Mr Whitacre, I would be certain to listen carefully. Never was I conducting a class in music appreciation, so the analysis of another person’s music wasn’t exactly appropriate. Often the discussion would turn to how the school music director had mentored a young musician, or the connections made with friends, or school spirit, and such. Mostly all good things that enables a human being to construct a fruitful life.

pegasusIn liturgical music, when I meet with a family the discussion might turn to “On Eagles’ Wings,” a warhorse if the liturgical music firmament ever had such a Pegasus. Or Aquila. While another might ascend to soapbox to tout the superiority of “Qui Habitat,” the reality is that the discussion would again turn not to musical analysis, but to the connection of Exodus 19:4 and how mourners lean on the promise that sustained them in the past, and will again when the funeral is celebrated. And I make no apologies for it.

I had a problem with this statement, which, by the way, was totally off the topic of Easter (as a human, not a liturgical) joy:

There is, or should be, a wall between secular and sacred. The fact that often there is not a divide between the two may have helped lessen the effect of the sacred. I am “old school” on this, but going into the temple should be an entrance into heaven on earth with its own sights, sounds, and even smells – a completely different world.

I think this might illustrate a serious flaw with traditional Catholicism, and might indicate a lack of faith in the actual power of God. Somehow, God does not strike me as someone who can be diluted by mixing with common human beings. Simply put: I do not believe in this wall. Deacon Fritz had an apt comment:

Who would ever mistake what goes on at even the most banal NO Mass as everyday secular business as usual? I recall being at a baptism performed by the stereotype of the chatty Post-Vatican II priest who, to my mind, was about as ritually inept as possible. But the fairly large number of truly secular folks who happened to be there said that they were blown away by the ceremony and had never experienced anything like that before.

Indeed. God still works, even when we pout on the porch and refuse to enter. If there are walls, perhaps we can examine more closely if these edifices of our own construction have walled the sacred in, or ourselves out.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Liturgy, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Crankiness

  1. Mary says:

    Indeed. I see the suggestion that “There is, or should be, a wall between secular and sacred” as a clear example of dualism at work. Not compatible with Catholic thinking, AFAIK.

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