A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

And We All See How Well That Worked Out

The same August 29 1966 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel that carried the stories on the picketing at Judge Cannon's house had a story in Part 2, p. 11, quoted the new leader of the Church Music Association of America regarding a papal commission that had proposed banning "imitation folk songs," "hootenanny masses," etc. from Catholic rites.  "Let the musicians themselves outlaw the music."  The Church's top musicians know good from bad and, like a doctor, should have the final say.  If musical experimentation is given a chance, he said, the good music will eventually win out over the bad. He was supported in this by the outgoing president Archabbot Rembert G. Weakland OSB, whom some may remember as the later-disgraced Archbishop of Milwaukee, so perhaps his tastes in music were no better than his tastes in other matters. 

TOF's Rule for Church Music:
If you can imagine the hymn being sung by a Disney Princess (Pocahontas, Ariel, et al.) then it is not a good hymn.
Corollary: if you can imagine it being sung on a Broadway stage, likewise.  
One song:

An older song:

And.... an even older song:


  1. Andy, Bad PersonJuly 25, 2013 at 7:49 AM

    Weakland was replaced by one Theodore Marier, who was one of the best advocates for preserving quality liturgical music in the US. His hymnal from the Boston Choir School (Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles) stands this day as one of the best vernacular hymnals I've ever seen.

  2. Don't even get me started on the even more noxious practice of casually inserting the name of God into those "hymns".

  3. I've had a very similar rule for Church Music which I posted some years ago. Mine involves though a particular purple singing dinosaur. Unfortunately that rule works quite well with the majority of typical Haugen/Daas "hymns".

    Oddly I once had Marty Haugen comment on my blog defending himself in regard to the music used when Pope Benedict XVI visited the U.S.

  4. Not necessarily contradicting TOF's rule, but...

    The _Dies Irae_ leads in to one of the scariest movie scenes ever:

    This one is fairly old, but is performed as popular music:

    And what thinks TOF of this one?

  5. How about this one?

  6. TOF didn't say anything about movies in general, just about Disney movies. A lot of good music is used in films and this doesn't (usually) have a negative impact on future reception of the music. There are a few cases in which movies forever color how people listen to the pieces (most people these days will have associations with "Ride of the Valkyries" that have nothing to do with Wagner's opera), but it doesn't happen often. Usually, we hear a piece in a film, and it recedes from our consciousness and we don't think about the film when we hear the work again.

    I think "Morning Has Broken" would fall into the category of "sung by a Disney princess." The words are from 1931 and the tune is from 1900, but not everything that is older is better. Over time, a lot of the awful music gets weeded out and forgotten, but there are a few that hang on. Unfortunately, "Morning has Broken" and "Bring Flowers of the Rarest" are still well-known in American Roman Catholic parishes, while much better fare from, say, Vaughan Williams, is exotic.

  7. The "Morning Has Broken" example is interesting. It goes way prior to 1900. It was first published in the 1880's, but likely that was the first time the melody was in print. It strikes me as similar to Brother James' Air and other "traditional" tunes from the 19th century.

    Amateur musicians can botch good music and make it sound like Disney tunes. It could happen to Mozart. And it has. Many times.

    V-W exotic? Every parish I've been in since 1988 has sung a few of his tunes. I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, The Call, his arrangements of British folk tunes.

    1. IIRC "Morning Has Broken" was a song for 19th cent. British schoolboys.

      A good point about the rendition over and above the music itself. Consider the various renditions of the Star Spangled Banner at games which overcome its proper presentation as a rousing drinking song!

  8. The text of "Morning Has Broken" was written by Eleanor Farjeon, who was born in 1881. Every hymnal in which I've seen it published attributes authorship to her and says "copyright 1957, Eleanor Farjeon," so unless she was a plagiarist it probably wasn't published in the 1880s. You are right (and I was wrong) about the tune Bunessan being from the 1880s rather than 1900, though.

    You are lucky that you haven't been in any parishes that consider Vaughan Williams to be exotic. I've been in two parishes and a (supposedly) Catholic high school in the last three years where "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" was totally unknown.


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