Friday, September 16, 2011

Novel Evaluation Tools

If you have read this blog, you know that I have great appreciation for the hymnody of the Church -- the Church's song or soundtrack, so to speak.  In LSB is a small smattering of the millions of hymns written over the years.  Any hymnal offers the Church only a glimpse of the total.  It is most certainly not enough but sometimes it can be too much.  One blogger has taken to critiquing the hymns in the current edition of the Roman Catholic hymnal Gather and OCP Music Issue.  He has a code he uses to mark the distasteful ones, (followed by my own comments).

C=Castrated  -- meaning a butchered version of the original in which words have been watered down
DO= Dubious Orthodoxy -- meaning that the words allow both an orthodox and a heterdox meaning
DMWP=Don't Mess With Perfection -- do I need to explain this?
DS=Dan Schutte -- a popular author and composer of way too popular music for the mass
DTD=Done To Death -- like the dozen or so hymns repeated so often that they lose their meaning
EP=Ex-Priest -- questionable authorship -- shouldn't faith and life in the Church be presumed of those who write or compose music for the Church
G=Germanophobic -- I can't comment on this; I might be taking it too personally
H=Heretical -- not just trite, trivial or mundane but down right opposed to the faith
HH=Haugen&Haas, -- the twin towers of Roman Catholic music who have a few good pieces but compose far too much and without much discretion to what they publish
HL=Hella Lame -- well....
LC=Leftist Crap -- music with an agenda that is not the Church's
NAU=Not About Us -- not addressing the faith or the faithful
SIGV=Singing In God's Voice (i. e. we are not God) -- be careful about singing with God's voice
SWTR= Stick With The Rite -- when paraphrases of the parts of the mass are less than accurate
TMV=Too Many Verses -- what, can there be too many verses?  Not for a Lutheran!
WIG=Where is God? -- it might be a good idea for the music of the Church to at least mention the Lord

The whole reason I post this is because too many folks shrug their shoulders and suggest that it is no big deal.  Why get all excited about the Church's Song?  The problem is that the it IS the Church's Song -- not the arena of personal taste or feelings.  The music of the service should reflect the faith of the Church and the lection for the day and the season of the Church Year.  The sad truth is that we too often approach the Church's Song with less seriousness than the director of a movie approaches the sound track to his film.  He knows what we sometimes forget -- it counts.  The music of the worship service is not a thing indifferent nor neutral (without values).  We cannot afford to be cavalier about the Church's Song.

This brings up another point.  What is the deal with so many "worship ministers" or "worship and music directors" who plan and put together the music for the Divine Service?  The Pastor is the one responsible.  A responsible Pastor will work in partnership with the parish musicians but the Pastor is responsible.  He cannot and should not delegate this important responsibility.  He can and should seek out assistance and expertise from the assisting ministers of the liturgy but he should not duck what is his responsibility.

Too many Pastors do not have a clue how to start in picking out the hymns for the Divine Service.  Never mind that we have very effective helps available -- Lutheran Service Builder, the book LSB Hymn Selection Guide.  In fact, the best place to begin is by growing in familiarity with the hymnal -- Pastors using the hymns of the Church in their own devotional lives.  What a concept!

While I will admit there are a few things of varying quality or usefulness in Lutheran Service Book, I believe that we have one of the finest collections of hymnody ever assembled for the Lutheran congregation (heck for any Christian congregation).  No less than Carlos Messerli believes that the hymn section of LSB is not only superior it is far superior than to any other Lutheran hymnal in print today!  I concur.  Even so, I have to laugh and sigh at what the priest did with his musical review and its critical code.  I only wish no church body had to look at the hymns of the faith with such a discerning eye.  Would that all had the confidence in their worship books that we have in Lutheran Service Book!  While I might have done things different, I was not charged with the responsibility of putting together this hymnal and in the hymn portion of LSB there is a great wealth of good hymns -- no, make that great ones!  It is not the end of all hymnals -- hymns are living things and new ones are always being written.  As Nagel and LW put it:

We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day-the living heritage and something new.

In its hymnody each age of the Church reflects what it returns to God for the great blessings it has received from him. Some of the Church's song is always derived from a previous era.
The early Church developed its music from the psalmody of the synagog, to which it added the strophic hymns of Greek and Roman converts. When the liturgy became the sole property of the clergy, there arose a need for hymns in the language of the people. Thus there came into being the great body of Latin hymns introduced and promoted by Bishop Ambrose of Milan and his followers. In time these again became the property of the clergy and hierarchy. The Lutheran Reformation once more restored the Church's song to the people in their native tongue. From then on the Lutheran Church became known as the "singing Church." The song of this Church has weathered and withstood such influences as pietism, rationalism, modernism, and universalism in one form or another.

The hymns in Lutheran Worship
[or Lutheran Service Book] draw on the vast treasury of Christian hymnody old and new, with words that speak God's law and Gospel and express our faith's response and with music that nourishes both memory and heart.


Anonymous said...

Pastor, that blogger's list and your descriptions are right on the mark. But the Catholic laity have their own way of dealing with it --they just don't sing it. Especially for Catholics raised back in the day, hymns are still a bit of an anomaly because they were never seen as an integral part of the Mass, unlike in Lutheran worship.

With the new missal translation these campfire songs will sound even more ridiculous, but there may be some hope on the horizon. Just as many new Catholic church buildings are being constructed according to more traditional standards some parishes are relearning Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony and forming scholas.

There will also be new settings for the Gloria, etc. at Mass.

I do agree with Carlos Messerli's assessment of the LSB.


Terry Maher said...

Marty Haugen is a former Lutheran (ALC which is now ELCA) and now United Church of Christ member whose liturgical music continues the contemporary tradition of the "St Louis Jesuits", St Louis U being a host institution of Seminex, and is now standard fare in the Roman Catholic church and the ELCA.

While I am tempted to launch a full scale Past Elder rant, perhaps all but the most mentally blind can understand what those facts indicate.

Thus I will only further mention that neither of his degrees are in music. The BA is in psychology from Luther College (IA) and the MA in pastoral studies from the University of St Thomas (MN).

And, being the winsome, irenic and placid sort that I am, I will also forgo any mention that once again an RC thing is the springboard for a Lutheran post, and offer for everyone's entertainment that both of the these institutions were two of the four I seriously considered attending for university. Luther because of its strong music department and my competition in its Dorian Music Festivals, St Thomas because it was St Thomas. The third was Notre Dame, but in the end I stuck my head firmly up my RC butt and headed to die Abtei, where the recessional hymn at the graduation Mass was A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

Gott hilf mir seitlich.

My first Lutheran pastor said the reason I grew up there and in that way was so that I would be able to rant in German as a Lutheran when later the grace to confess the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered would come.

Anonymous said...

St Louis U being a host institution of Seminex, and is now standard fare in the Roman Catholic church and the ELCA.

With a minor exception: some RC parishes use the fine "Adoremus" Hymnal which is chock full of historic catholic hymns (would be recognized by Lutherans and Catholics alike), even containing "Wake, Awake the Night is Flying". And decidedly does not contain "This Is the Feast" which amazingly IS included in the OCP repetoire.

As far as "ranting in German", Past Elder is to be commended for his fine execution thereof :) It ain't easy!

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons LCMS pastors do
not pick the hymns for worship is
laziness. It is easier to delegate
the task to a "worship committee"
which usually polls the parish for
their "favorite" hymns. As a result
the same few hymns are sung over and
over again regardless of the church
year emphasis on a given Sunday.
Most pastors have the ability to
pick hymns, but they do not have the
desire to do it.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

Amen, and Amen to "DTD" and "H-H," (got a laugh out of that one). There are a few hymns in Lutheran circles that have been done to death and deserve a decent burial. Or at least a moratorium declared. Too many verses? How about short attention span? Not about us indeed. My RC family have been lamenting for years about having the insufferable works of Messrs Haugen and Haas inflicted upon their churches. I was given a copy of 'Gather' by them (perhaps in the hope that if they absconded enough of them from the pews they might not be replaced) and found little to commend. It is like paging through a High School yearbook but instead of photos you have page after page of songs attempting to be hip cool and clever, and presuming to be something they are not, which is grown up hymns that have stood the test of time and theological scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, compare that OCP dreck to the Advent hymns alone in the Adoremus Hymnal:

"Come, thou long expected Jesus

Conditor alme siderum

Creator of the stars of night

Lo, He comes with clouds descending

O come, O come, Emmanuel

O Word, that goest forth on high

Of the Father’s love begotten

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Rorate caeli

Savior of the nations, come

Veni, veni, Emmanuel

Wake, awake, for night is flying

These are hymns that all orthodox Christians could sing.

Terry Maher said...

Oh for God's sake, just about everything but chant was at one time regarded as too worldly, too banal, unsuited for worship of God before it became spiritual, profound, fitting and reverent.

Adding voices above the voice that held the chant, the source of Western polyphony itself, was at first regarded as a show-off worldly novelty that distracted from the chant text. Later on you get des Prez and Palestrina.

Anything in duple metre was at first regarded as totally unsuited for the worship of God since it did not reflect the perfection of the Trinity, up to an including a papal bull against it in church music. Later on you get pretty much all hymns and chorales in 4/4 or some duple time.

To put it another way, the stuff regarded now as a churchy and spiritual and traditional at one time would have sounded worldly and unsuitable for the house of God.

Even Bach -- after his death, he was regarded more as a performer and the father of his not-so-old fashioned children, principally JC and CPE Bach. His present reputation came about over time, starting some decades after his death.

So relax. I don't like Häagen-Dazs/Haugen&Haas either, but it's hardly a matter of Law and Gospel.

Anonymous said...

"Why get all excited about the Church's Song?"

This is the tactic of accusing others of what one is himself doing.

The new music enthusiasts are the ones all excited to change the Church's Song. Then when folks don't think the new songs are better, they are criticized for getting all excited.