EWTN show on Gregorian chant

Last night Prof. William Mahrt was on EWTN Live speaking about Gregorian chant. I thought it was an excellent show, and recommend the repeat broadcast to anybody interested in the history and place of chant in the liturgy. If I’m reading the schedule right it will be rebroadcast today (Thursday) at 9AM and then on Sunday at 4AM (Eastern times), but double-check those times.

I’m watching it right now. I heard about it from The New Liturgical Movement.

I’d like to hear somebody talk about the value of gregorian chant, and not talk around the issue like the preceding posts.

When I used to sing it in the choir, its value was that it was like music for dummies, just a couple notes.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t hear the words of almost anything that’s sung on EWTN. The producers seem to settle for the “effect” of the music, rather than making sure the words are clearly understood.

Evangelical TV programs vary on how they present the scripture, even on EWTN itself.

Sometimes, they put up the words to give us a better chance of understanding what they’re saying (good).

ButwithgregorianchanteverythingrunstogetherlikethisandIhaveahardtimemakingitout. (bad)

Huh? I don’t see anybody talking around any issue.

When I used to sing it in the choir, its value was that it was like music for dummies, just a couple notes.

That’s ironic, since so many people don’t want to try it because they claim it’s too hard.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I can’t hear the words of almost anything that’s sung on EWTN. The producers seem to settle for the “effect” of the music, rather than making sure the words are clearly understood.

Evangelical TV programs vary on how they present the scripture, even on EWTN itself.

Sometimes, they put up the words to give us a better chance of understanding what they’re saying (good).

ButwithgregorianchanteverythingrunstogetherlikethisandIhaveahardtimemakingitout. (bad)

Actually, when Gregorian chant is sung right, the words should be more intelligible than in other sung music. That’s because in chant the ideal is that the music is in the service of the text, rather than the text being pushed and pulled to align with the music.

I saw the show last night, and really enjoyed it. I hope Fr. Mitch does more shows on Gregorian Chant…maybe from some people that have been successful getting it back into their parishes.

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Ouch! Sounds like you have a very low opinion of Gregorian chant. The truth is, if done properly, it is the most sacred and beautiful liturgical music there is. That’s why the Church gives Gregorian chant “pride of place,” meaning it is the best suited music style, above all others, for the Roman rite (funny how most parishes completely blow that off). It’s tradition also ties us to the way the mass has been celebrated for centuries. I think the hippies took over church music in America in the 60’s and 70’s and we’ve been wallowing around there ever since. Gosh I can’t wait until the hippies retire from various music and other church ministries so we can return to some of the church’s beautiful, and sadly forgotten, traditions. As a gen-X-er, I so desire for the church to be traditionally Catholic and not swept to and fro by the personal whims of the church’s own hippie generation.

Here are a few things I think characterize their mentality:

  1. They prefer secular music for mass rather than chant or organ.
  2. They think women should be priests.
  3. They are sadly pro-choice in large numbers.
  4. They willfully and publicly mock the church’s teaching on contraception.
  5. They get mad at the Pope whenever he speaks on any subject.
  6. They are anti-authority (especially church authority).
  7. They don’t believe in confession.
  8. They think they can change the liturgy to suit their own personal whims, regardless of what church documents stipulate.

Here-in lies the some of the ‘problem’ with Gregorian chant. (Not a problem with chant per se, but rather with the chanters/listeners.)

It’s foreign sounding to most singers and listeners alike. From a singing perspective, it’s not easy for an untrained chanter to maintain pitch and to ennunciate clearly. (It’s hard enough for many choir members to sing anything on pitch, ennunciate clearly, and attempt to convey the meaning of the words.) From the listening perspective, at best it’s like listening to an accent which is unfamilar. At it’s worst, chant sounds like something out of a bad horror movie. (Some of us can tell audio-horror stories of listening to a priest with a nasally, monotone, off pitch voice trying to chant.)

Now obviously the solution is to use chant more frequently rather than less. Clergy, choir members, and other congregants need exposure to chant in order to improve vocalization and listening. But I think it’s counter productive to ignore the problems because otherwise they won’t go away.

I love chant and am in a schola that chants at a Latin Mass down the road. I also still attend my local NO Mass occasionally where, praise be to God, we sing the Agnus, Sanctus, and Pater Noster in Latin.

I don’t want to complain or be fussy; but…

the music minister has the correct traditional Latin chants set to an accompaniment of guitars, drums, piano, bass, and congas; you know-- Psalm 150; “Praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!”

Of course, these ‘chants’ become ‘hymns’ without the proper inflections of rhythm and dynamics.

I guess it just shows us that we have a long way to go before chant is restored in the Mass.

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