Saturday, April 7, 2007

Musical Tradition

As most people who know me know, I am very big on music, especially when it comes to its use in Liturgy. Meanwhile it would probably shock the same people that I would be wondering what happened to some traditional music in the Triduum celebrations this year in my Parish. Holy Thursday went as much as one would think including Tanto Ergo for the procession of the Holy Eucharist to the chapel. Last night at Good Friday though, I was thinking when we were doing the Good Friday petitions(for non-Catholics these are normally done at Mass, but on Good Friday they are extended in length and importance) that something was just missing. Then it hit me, chant. Yes me the guy that's always turning his nose up at chant missed some Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy. I started thinking and remembered that growing up the petitions were intoned by a cantor and the congregation responded also in song. At this point I went thumbing through the Breaking Bread looking for the way I remembered it and found only the 10 petitions and a note about the Deacon or Cantor leading it in song, but none of the chant was there. Also missing was the break in each petition where the leader would call the congregation to kneel and then after a moment of silence stand to continue on with the other petitions.

Maybe I revere tradition and ritual more than I thought I did? Tonight is the Easter Vigil, the Holiest celebration of the liturgical year. Judging from last year I know that I'll be disappointed by another chant, the Exsultet, which is sung to conclude the Service of Light at the beginning of the Mass. Usually it is up to the Priest or Deacon to sing this chant, but they have the option to allow a cantor to sing it as well. The priest that will sing it tonight is a good singer so he is more than capable of singing it, but the unique chant in the Sacramentary written for the Exsultet was last year replaced with a rather boring generic chant mode last year that really didn't do justice to the text of the Exsultet. I had the privilege to sing the Exultet three years in a row for Fr. Bill Kottenstette's Parish in Memphis, MO and so maybe that is why it is so important to me.

Maybe too it's because I'm starting to see songs that were my favorites growing up disappearing from the common repertoire of the Catholic Church. For example, I am now in my 8th year of being in congregations where singing "On Eagle's Wings" is unofficially banned because "it's a funeral song". This pigeon holing of songs drives me nuts. Another song that has seemed to slowly disappear off the map is "Send us as Your Blessing Lord". Is this the curse that we as Catholics have brought on ourselves by using constantly changing soft bound hymnals? Yet at the same time I don't want to stagnate and never grow or change or add new songs.

Regardless of my frustrations, the Easter Vigil liturgy will still be the highlight of the year and I encourage all of you to find your closest Catholic Church and attend tonight.

No comments:

Post a Comment