You Think Chant is Too Hard for You?

#21

[quote="Usige, post:18, topic:304520"]
. When that appeal to popularity of the music in Protestant communities is brought up all I can think is "well they also like rejecting the sacraments so should we follow them down that path too?".

[/quote]

:confused: These two are hardly the same. I shouldn't have to explain why they are not analogous.

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#22

[quote="pnewton, post:20, topic:304520"]
I would say the answer is yes and no. If I am being taught chant in the traditional manner, then I find it simple to learn. Unfortunately, this simply is not an option for me. We have no one to teach, and I am the one who currently has to teach new music. It takes greater mastery of a piece to teach it than it does to just sing it. Add to this the dearth of those willing to sing or practice in my parish, chant becomes untenable as a regular staple, as do many other musical options. New music has to been incorporated slowy, for example. This same problem makes chant well suited for the Psalm. Chanting the Psalm does not take any coordination to practice.

On a practical note, that chant is written in an unfamiliar clef, with a whole new set of notations, it is quite a learning curve for those who have been reading music for a long time to switch over. Our hymnal has some chant written in standard notation, and this is much easier to read.

In no case is chant "too hard." That's a silly as a grade school dare. I would hope dealing with adults we could get beyond such things and go to the true issues. Chanting takes time to learn, especially at first. Most of us have lives and jobs outside of singing at Mass. The cost of time learning chant must be factored to our real lives. Against this, we have to factor the time that is spent preparing for Mass and practicing current selections.

I have chosen to take a middle path. I have gone to one seminar and am attempting to learn as time permits chant notation. In Mass, we have learned some, Jubilate Dei in English and Latin, and a few other specialized pieces. A little more, and I think I will be at the balance that works well for us. I will not go strictly to chant for the same reasons Cat outlined. People love the old hymns too much. Others receive spiritual benefit from some of the newer selection, the stuff that always gets blasted here.

[/quote]

This is an excellent, very balanced response. Especially the point that people have other things to do than learn a new form of music. Most people these days don't read music and many grew up without any kind of music education other than just listening to music. If you didn't play an instrument in school, you probably have no real music education (in choral programs - especially at the beginning levels, you can get away without much real knowledge in reading music). And in many elementary schools now there is no general music education.

We are very fortunate in my parish that one of our priests is an extremely good, well-trained musician and that all our priests can sing and read music. In preparation for the new translations last year, our parish hired a new full-time music director and 3 professional singers to act as cantors. Since they were all familiar with chant, they could train the rest of the choir members, and with that support the parish now sings all the propers in chant.

However, we only sing one setting. I would never say that any regular parishioner (or even all the choir members) have learned to read and sing chant - we have simply learned the "tunes" for the setting we use. The same as the child in the video.

If someone from this parish were to attend Mass somewhere else where they used a different setting, they would perhaps be able to follow along if the music was written in standard notation otherwise probably not. If they attended Mass at the other parish regularly, they would eventually learn the other setting just as they have learned the one we use - through simple memorization.

My family (other than me) all has had a strong music education. We love the sound of chant and are very happy to have it as part of our Masses. I know that there are others who like it, some who tolerate it, and others for whom it is nails on a chalkboard. I don't know anyone who would consider not going to Mass because of the music, but I do know folks who attend Mass at other parishes semi-regularly because they don't use as much chant. Who knows, there may be people from those parishes coming to my church becasue we do use chant. :D

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#23

[quote="pnewton, post:20, topic:304520"]
I would say the answer is yes and no.

In no case is chant "too hard." That's a silly as a grade school dare. I would hope dealing with adults we could get beyond such things and go to the true issues. Chanting takes time to learn, especially at first. Most of us have lives and jobs outside of singing at Mass. The cost of time learning chant must be factored to our real lives. Against this, we have to factor the time that is spent preparing for Mass and practicing current selections.

I have chosen to take a middle path. I have gone to one seminar and am attempting to learn as time permits chant notation. In Mass, we have learned some, Jubilate Dei in English and Latin, and a few other specialized pieces. A little more, and I think I will be at the balance that works well for us. I will not go strictly to chant for the same reasons Cat outlined. People love the old hymns too much. Others receive spiritual benefit from some of the newer selection, the stuff that always gets blasted here.

[/quote]

Thank you for your dignified and fair response. It is easy to jump to an either/or polar discussion, and I appreciate your assessment of the challenges of chant and how you have endeavored to provide a tenable solution. One of the things that I love about the Catholic Church is that is preserves and honors the 'old' and gives fair evaluation to the 'new.' Also, it is not a democracy, swaying with the whims and fancies of every generation.

Think on the Mass...is it really about Jesus, or is it about me? How do I approach God? Is he there for me or am I here to worship Him? God sees the heart of worship regardless of meter, mode, or music.

'Til we have faces...thank you for this discussion.

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#24

[quote="pnewton, post:21, topic:304520"]
:confused: These two are hardly the same. I shouldn't have to explain why they are not analogous.

[/quote]

Sorry, I intended to say "sacramentals" not "the sacraments." In other words the external signs of the interior reality.

My point was that proposing something is good because thousands of Protestants do it irks me because the liturgy used to have a distinctly Catholic flavor and someone want to make it more like the Protestants do it. Why?

In the end I would rather musicians just be honest and say; I hate latin; I hate chant; I hate xyz; and admit that their choices are often their preferences and not always about the feelings of the people in the pew.

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#25

That’s with many subjects in life. As we get older, learning things for the first time like reading music, playing an instrument, languages… reading your own language… can be difficult, even in the elementary stages. You sometimes have to be very determined, willing and wanting to learn. If a person doesn’t have the time, the inclination or an incentive to pursue it, it just won’t happen. This is true even when a person loves the actual subject because it can be hard to break through the barriers. It’s not a requirement to know chant or Latin to be Catholic, so it can be understandable why people who can’t learn as quickly or doesn’t like it would have no incentive or drive to learn as an adult. I think how some of the parishes have balanced out the chant, is a good thing. It introduces chant slowly and makes it palatable to those who may not like it or think they don’t like it.

In regards to chant, I personally love it. I don’t know how true this is in general, but I personally think it is spiritually conducive to introverted natures due to the meditative, quiet qualities chant has. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I rarely ever heard it at mass… let alone anything in Latin, with the exception of “Adeste Fideles” at Christmas. So, I had no background or any particular nostalgic feelings towards chant or Latin. I’d only hear it in movies whenever they were trying to represent something Catholic, religious… or demonic. I remember asking teachers why we no longer did chant or other works by some of the great composers at mass and the response almost always was that it was old, no one did it anymore and why would I want do “that stuff”. Kids aren’t supposed to like “that stuff”. (One of the barriers instilled into us as children and if it is not broken young enough, that become a hard wall to push through when trying to “re-teach”.) Being a musician and focusing on classical singing, as well as a lover of history and tradition, AND an introvert, I was naturally drawn to it in college once I discovered that it was still done in Catholic churches while studying abroad and then finding a parish which did it back in the States. I wanted to learn and was determined to learn. Seeing non-musicians doing it so easily at that parish choir I joined, encouraged me that I could do it as well. Of course, we didn’t do very difficult chant (although we did some really difficult polyphony and motets) since the congregation also sang the chants.

Part of this is true, having worked with people who said they “tried” to introduce it to their parish, but never worked out, only discovering that they, themselves, hated/disliked it and actually put in a half-hearted effort. Another part is that sometimes the pastors don’t want it and will either say “No.” without any effort, or will allow it, but not do anything to really encourage it. These things don’t inspire congregations to learn it, love it or at least appreciate it as part of our Catholic heritage. Then, we do have to be honest and realistic with ourselves that there are people in the pews who absolutely don’t like it and will complain to the pastor or the music director, even when the pastor and music director are completely on board. The ones with the loudest voices or fastest feet will be listened to and accommodated. Whether we like it or not, it’s the reality. I’ve experienced it, have seen it and I think there are many who have seen this as well… for good and bad. When you freelance as a musician all over multiple dioceses, you often learn what is going on in different parishes, especially music-wise. Musicians don’t have many people to speak with or commiserate with in parishes, so they will confide in other musicians who do understand the dynamics, the stresses, the politics, etc. of what goes on in parishes.

So, after that long paragraph, it is important to see how an individual parish works to figure out how to successfully introduce something like chant or Latin and show how “simple” it is. You need supportive pastors, music directors completely on board and gung-ho about it and singing musicians who can help introduce and support the congregation, especially in the beginning stages, which could be months or a few years until a congregation gets it. Oh… and starting with the kids can really help for future generations.

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#26

[quote="Sarabande, post:25, topic:304520"]
That's with many subjects in life. As we get older, learning things for the first time like reading music, playing an instrument, languages.... reading your own language.... can be difficult, even in the elementary stages. You sometimes have to be very determined, willing and wanting to learn. If a person doesn't have the time, the inclination or an incentive to pursue it, it just won't happen. This is true even when a person loves the actual subject because it can be hard to break through the barriers. It's not a requirement to know chant or Latin to be Catholic, so it can be understandable why people who can't learn as quickly or doesn't like it would have no incentive or drive to learn as an adult. I think how some of the parishes have balanced out the chant, is a good thing. It introduces chant slowly and makes it palatable to those who may not like it or think they don't like it.

In regards to chant, I personally love it. I don't know how true this is in general, but I personally think it is spiritually conducive to introverted natures due to the meditative, quiet qualities chant has. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I rarely ever heard it at mass... let alone anything in Latin, with the exception of "Adeste Fideles" at Christmas. So, I had no background or any particular nostalgic feelings towards chant or Latin. I'd only hear it in movies whenever they were trying to represent something Catholic, religious... or demonic. I remember asking teachers why we no longer did chant or other works by some of the great composers at mass and the response almost always was that it was old, no one did it anymore and why would I want do "that stuff". Kids aren't supposed to like "that stuff". (One of the barriers instilled into us as children and if it is not broken young enough, that become a hard wall to push through when trying to "re-teach".) Being a musician and focusing on classical singing, as well as a lover of history and tradition, AND an introvert, I was naturally drawn to it in college once I discovered that it was still done in Catholic churches while studying abroad and then finding a parish which did it back in the States. I wanted to learn and was determined to learn. Seeing non-musicians doing it so easily at that parish choir I joined, encouraged me that I could do it as well. Of course, we didn't do very difficult chant (although we did some really difficult polyphony and motets) since the congregation also sang the chants.

Part of this is true, having worked with people who said they "tried" to introduce it to their parish, but never worked out, only discovering that they, themselves, hated/disliked it and actually put in a half-hearted effort. Another part is that sometimes the pastors don't want it and will either say "No." without any effort, or will allow it, but not do anything to really encourage it. These things don't inspire congregations to learn it, love it or at least appreciate it as part of our Catholic heritage. Then, we do have to be honest and realistic with ourselves that there are people in the pews who absolutely don't like it and will complain to the pastor or the music director, even when the pastor and music director are completely on board. The ones with the loudest voices or fastest feet will be listened to and accommodated. Whether we like it or not, it's the reality. I've experienced it, have seen it and I think there are many who have seen this as well.. for good and bad. When you freelance as a musician all over multiple dioceses, you often learn what is going on in different parishes, especially music-wise. Musicians don't have many people to speak with or commiserate with in parishes, so they will confide in other musicians who do understand the dynamics, the stresses, the politics, etc. of what goes on in parishes.

So, after that long paragraph, it is important to see how an individual parish works to figure out how to successfully introduce something like chant or Latin and show how "simple" it is. You need supportive pastors, music directors completely on board and gung-ho about it and singing musicians who can help introduce and support the congregation, especially in the beginning stages, which could be months or a few years until a congregation gets it. Oh... and starting with the kids can really help for future generations.

[/quote]

Good post Sarabande.

I started singing chant with the choir this last May. I'm still learning, but I am enjoying the journey.

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#27

There’s one very pivotal problem with this point of view: it is more or less the point of view of liturgical music relativism. The church has said time and time again, including in vatican II, that gregorian chant is the ideal and principal music for the liturgy. Frankly, “not liking it” is not enough of a reason to abandon it.

Would you speak in this same way about someone who says they don’t like vestments at Mass? Of course not (or at least I’d hope not).

Believe it or not, I used to not like chant. I used to think guitars at Mass were great. Even a month or two after being exposed to chant on a weekly basis, I didn’t really like the sound. But since I knew in my head that it was truly the ideal, I hung in there, and my heart eventually followed.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. At worst, those people need to suck it up, and at best, they can learn to love it, like I did.

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#28

[quote="superamazingman, post:27, topic:304520"]

Frankly, it doesn't matter if you don't like it. At worst, those people need to suck it up, and at best, they can learn to love it, like I did.

[/quote]

I don't think "suck it up" will work well, especially since chant is not required, only preferred. I think it can be made more palatable. I think it is more important that those who do not like it understand that their music, be it guitars or hymns, may not be what others like either. Variety is a good start, then after chant becomes more familiar, it is easier to determine a good plan to incorporate chant.

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#29

[quote="pnewton, post:28, topic:304520"]
I don't think "suck it up" will work well, especially since chant is not required, only preferred. I think it can be made more palatable. I think it is more important that those who do not like it understand that their music, be it guitars or hymns, may not be what others like either. Variety is a good start, then after chant becomes more familiar, it is easier to determine a good plan to incorporate chant.

[/quote]

Obviously, it must be phrased more gently when actually talking to people. I was just giving general concepts and ideas without watering them down...

But you're still advocating the idea that the only thing that matters is what people like. If that were true, the church would not go out of her way to say things like this:

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded s the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule:the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, ** the more sacred and liturgical it becomes*; and the more out of harmony it is with **that supreme model, the *less worthy** it is of the temple.

Tra le Sollecitudini, no. 3

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#30

[quote="superamazingman, post:29, topic:304520"]
Obviously, it must be phrased more gently when actually talking to people. I was just giving general concepts and ideas without watering them down...

But you're still advocating the idea that the only thing that matters is what people like. If that were true, the church would not go out of her way to say things like this:

On these grounds Gregorian Chant has always been regarded s the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule:the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, ** the more sacred and liturgical it becomes*; and the more out of harmony it is with **that supreme model, the *less worthy** it is of the temple.

Tra le Sollecitudini, no. 3

[/quote]

I can't speak for pnewton, but I'm not sure if that is what he is advocating. I think most of us on here know that it shouldn't be about what people like, especially if this is what the Church prefers. But, depending on the individual parishes, you need to be able to plan a system to implement chant or any kind of music, that will help make it more acceptable or palatable to those in the parish. This is to lessen a huge push-back, drop in numbers, drop in monetary offerings (and yes, I have personal experience where people have either given or stopped offerings based on music), etc.

Because every parish is different, it can't be a cookie-cutter plan. Some parishes will be completely open to it and so it won't be as hard to promote. On the other end of the spectrum, other parishes may need to have their hands held and stroked and be told that everything will be ok. A hard-handed approach may not work, but push them away. They might be the ones who need the "variety" pnewton is talking about in order to promote it and make sure that chant stays for the long term. Ideally, we shouldn't have to do that, but the reality is we do for some, if not many people, at least for the current generations. Once it is implemented, you no longer have to do that.

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#31

[quote="superamazingman, post:29, topic:304520"]
But you're still advocating the idea that the only thing that matters is what people like. If that were true, the church would not go out of her way to say things like this:

[/quote]

[quote="Sarabande, post:30, topic:304520"]
I think most of us on here know that it shouldn't be about what people like, especially if this is what the Church prefers.

[/quote]

Actually, I believe somewhere in between. What people like, or more to the point, what is conducive to worship for people, is one factor that I like to consider. It is neither the only or is it the most important factor. I would say the most important factor is doctrinal compatability. Then I consider other things, including what people like and, of course, the musical tradition of the Church which we need to preserve in our liturgy, as pointed out in the document from the time of St Pius X quoted above.

I believe it is in line with the teaching of the Church to consider pastoral considerations. No, we are not all cookie-cutter and a strict European model of liturgy does not work everywhere. The Church has always operated on a principle of subsidiarity specifically because it wishes to be pastoral. The spiritual needs of the people are the priority. In the end, the Church wants to help people get to Heaven. Our perfect worship is not found in the perfection of the liturgy, but in the perfection of the soul, as St. Paul pointed out.

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." - 2 Cor. 12:1-2

Yet in the meeting of the needs of the majority, we must also not forget the principle of the one lost sheep out of 99. That is why I also believe in extraordinary means of ministering, be it on one hand the Extraordinary Form of Mass, or on the other hand a LifeTeen Mass.

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#32

[quote="pnewton, post:31, topic:304520"]
Actually, I believe somewhere in between. What people like, or more to the point, what is conducive to worship for people, is *one* factor that I like to consider. It is neither the only or is it the most important factor. I would say the most important factor is doctrinal compatability. Then I consider other things, including what people like and, of course, the musical tradition of the Church which we need to preserve in our liturgy, as pointed out in the document from the time of St Pius X quoted above.

[/quote]

I should have been more clear. I was referring to the statement:

[quote="superamazingman, post:29, topic:304520"]

But you're still advocating the idea that the only thing that matters is what people like. If that were true, the church would not go out of her way to say things like this:

[/quote]

I didn't think you were advocating that, and I was right in my assumption. I do believe most of us on here knows that what the people likes is NOT the **only thing **that matters. But if we didn't believe that chant had "pride of place" at the mass, neither you, me, superamazingman, any of the other music ministers on these threads, priests, nor any of my colleagues in real life would be working towards either bolstering or re-introducing it into the parishes. Why would we want to go through learning something or dealing with potential further criticism or negative pushback if it really isn't preferred? It would just be considered an equal option to hymns, for instance, if it wasn't mentioned that it should have "pride of place". If that was the case, there wouldn't even be a discussion about it.

As mentioned in my previous post, we can't have cookie-cutter plans with teaching/introducing chant. If we really want to have it in our parishes, pastors and music ministers/directors need to see what will work best in their parishes to implement it.

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#33

Amen to all of this, and to pnewton’s posts, too.

I must be writing very badly in this thread, as somehow people have the impression that I believe that Mass music should be chosen according to the preferences of the people. I wish to say that I do NOT believe that at all and never have believed this!

I believe that Mass music should be chosen according to the liturgical rubrics, and at this point, the rubrics allow for many different styles to be used in Mass, although it is clear that chant, specifically Gregorian chant, is supposed to be included in our Masses.

I hope that this clears up any misconceptions about what I believe about Mass music, and I apologize for confusing people and making them think that I believe Mass music should be selected according to the preferences of the congregation. :slight_smile: That’s not what I believe or advocate at all.

Our parish does some chant in all the Masses (the Psalm is always chanted as long as we have a cantor or a choir, and the priests chant many of their prayers, and the congregation returns the response using chant). Also, our weekly Benediction services feature the traditional Latin Benediction chants (Tantum Ergo, etc.), but unfortunately, as I have mentioned, the English alongside of these chants is not a direct translation, but an alternative English version.

We don’t do any Gregorian chant at all in our parish. I realize that I could be wrong, but I don’t think…I honestly don’t think we have the chops to do it. You can’t get blood out of a stone no matter how hard you squeeze it. Sorry, all. If there are people in the parish with the education and knowledge, they aren’t stepping forward.

I actually mentioned the idea of incorporating Gregorian chant to our pastor–yes, I, Cat, brought this up. He didn’t seem too enamored of the idea, but who knows–maybe I planted a seed. But before that seed can even begin to grow, there has to be someone in the parish with the chops.

It’s my opinion that the best way to bring Gregorian chant into any parish is to teach the children in the parish school. No one will criticize little children singing in the Mass! As they grow up, they will have the knowledge and experience to continue singing G. Chant, and this will make it more likely to continue in the Masses over the years. Don’t start with the grownups–start with the little ones. We do have an excellent music teacher who is teaching the children the traditional Latin hymns. But I’m not sure of how much knowledge of G. Chant is there. It’s not like you can just lift this stuff off the internet and become a expert enough to teach others.

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#34

[quote="Cat, post:33, topic:304520"]
I actually mentioned the idea of incorporating Gregorian chant to our pastor--yes, I, Cat, brought this up.

[/quote]

:bigyikes:
Say it ain't so! Really! This is the most shocking thing I have read sense that thing in grade school about Algernon.

:D

It's my opinion that the best way to bring Gregorian chant into any parish is to teach the children in the parish school. No one will criticize little children singing in the Mass!

On another thread about Christmas Carols, I mentioned Puer Natus in Bethlehem. I first heard it at the school Christmas program. After that, we learned it as a men's thing and sang it at the parish. It is too cool.

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#35

Is there any chance it’s a metrical paraphrase, or is it really completely different? Just curious.

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#36

I do agree that if a parish doesn’t feel up to the task of GC, having the children do it is an extremely good idea. In fact, I feel that if a parish is to have a perpetually surviving schola of any considerable quality, there needs to generally be a children’s schola.

My cathedral, St. John the Baptist in Charleston, has recently started two children’s choirs under the directorship of Mr. Scott Turkington, semi-famous in the chantcafe/CMAA world. They will sing Gregorian, among other things.

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#37

Ah! What is conducive to worship! Excellent point.

As I said in my previous post, we do sing chant in my parish, and I happen to love chant, but not everyone does. And if large sections of the congregation are sighing and squinting during the Gloria because they can't stand chant, then perhaps it could be a pastoral decision to not incorporate even more chant.

Teaching the children's choir or parish schoolkids to sing chant is an excellent idea. As we all said earlier, children usually learn quickly and if Gregorian chant is taught alongside other music, they will not see one style as 'foreign', but as just another type of music.

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#38

[quote="Mrs_Sally, post:37, topic:304520"]
Ah! What is conducive to worship! Excellent point.

As I said in my previous post, we do sing chant in my parish, and I happen to love chant, but not everyone does. And if large sections of the congregation are sighing and squinting during the Gloria because they can't stand chant, then perhaps it could be a pastoral decision to not incorporate even more chant.

[/quote]

Like I said before, would you do the same if people sighed that the priest had to wear all those vestments, or that he didn't ad-lib any of the texts? Would you say that he shouldn't wear vestments, or should toy with the text?

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#39

[quote="superamazingman, post:38, topic:304520"]
Like I said before, would you do the same if people sighed that the priest had to wear all those vestments, or that he didn't ad-lib any of the texts? Would you say that he shouldn't wear vestments, or should toy with the text?

[/quote]

But certain vestments are required (although variations are allowed). The texts are required, and no one is allowed to mess with them.

Gregorian chant is NOT required, although it is recommended. There are other totally legitimate options for Mass music in the OF Mass; e.g., the "four hymns" option.

And with the "four hymns" option, the various approved Catholic hymnals include all kinds of styles of music.

So it is not wrong for a pastor and his music director to select music that will be uplifting to a majority of the people.

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#40

[quote="Cat, post:39, topic:304520"]
But certain vestments are required (although variations are allowed). The texts are required, and no one is allowed to mess with them.

Gregorian chant is NOT required, although it is recommended. There are other totally legitimate options for Mass music in the OF Mass; e.g., the "four hymns" option.

And with the "four hymns" option, the various approved Catholic hymnals include all kinds of styles of music.

So it is not wrong for a pastor and his music director to select music that will be uplifting to a majority of the people.

[/quote]

Yes, but you see, it is really not acceptable that we have gotten to the point where we are where chant is rarely used. you can argue that it is not strictly required, but can we really say that we're following the liturgical law if we are ignoring the very model of **all** liturgical music, the most supreme model, which should have the principal place in liturgical celebrations?

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