The choir at my parish contributes twice a year to enrich the devotional life of our church by producing choral pieces for the seasons of Lent and Advent. During Lent, we perform “Song of the Shadows,” a “tenebrae” style service, and for Advent we perform “Canticle of Joy”, a Christmas piece. They are both lovely selections and I really do hope we can do them justice. But I have some criticism of “Canticle of Joy” and I’d like to hear other opinions on it.
Our Director of Religious Education was heard to complain that the pieces are too “Protestant.” While it seems that they arose from a Protestant tradition, I have observed nothing in the pieces that contradicts Catholic teaching. There is no reason to throw out perfectly good music, just because a Protestant wrote it. If someone honestly knows of a wrong teaching in the music then I would be interested to hear it.
My personal criticism of “Canticle of Joy” is with the timing of the performance. We will be performing this piece on Tuesday, December 14th. While “Song of the Shadows” is specifically a tenebrae service, and therefore well-suited to Lent and Holy Week, “Canticle of Joy” encompasses the entirety of the Christmas season, from Isaiah’s “prepare ye the way of the Lord” right up to “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” and even a generous helping of “Alleluias!” Now this is a great piece to use while the Christmas season is in full swing. But for Catholics, Christmas begins at Midnight Mass on the 24th and no sooner! (It also continues well past the New Year, when the protestants have tossed their trees into the mulch pit.) The season of Advent has a sacred anticipatory nature, one that should not, IMHO, be spoiled by a celebration of joy when we are still clinging to the edge of our seats, longing for Our Lord to come among us. Sing to the Lord says: "At other times, the liturgical season calls for a certain musical restraint. In Advent, for example, musical instruments should be used with moderation and should not anticipate the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord."
I have brought up the subject, albeit timidly, with our director, but I’m afraid that the performance date for this year is a fait accompli, and the best I can hope for is to implant a seed of doubt in his mind that will effect some change next year, and place this performance sometime AFTER December 25th, when we can freely celebrate the Birth of Our Lord in the true liturgical Christmas season. The pastor likes me, and I have once had to go over my director’s head in order to make a point about the music selection. But I’m not sure that this is a big enough deal to spend my “political capital” on. So what do you think? Would you attend such a performance in Advent, especially with your family, or would you boycott it, to be liturgically correct?