Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Songs from another generation. . .

While cleaning out some bookshelves, a couple of paper back song books produced by the Youth Ministry arm of the LCMS fell on the flood.  They were brown with age and were never printed on good paper to begin with.  It was that time in the life of the Church when things were a changin,  The songs were folk music set to guitar and it took the world by storm.  For Rome on the cusp of change through the Second Vatican Council, this music was in start contrast to the Latin and chant that had dominated the Latin Mass.  For a Missouri Synod Lutheran, this was very different than the setting from the then 25-30 year old hymnal.

The man whose name were attached to some of the more popular melodies was Ray Repp, a Roman Catholic musician whose music was so shocking to some dioceses that the music was banned.  I can understand and many in the LCMS were not too fond of it either.  Allelu, I Am the Resurrection, and many others were the first experiments of what would later flourish into an industry.  Repp died in 2020 after being lauded and condemned for his work.   Repp’s Mass for Young Americans, published by FEL (Friends of the English Liturgy) in 1966, became a best seller, literally.  Repp was certainly the father of the guitar mass and one of the first voices for the folk style that affected many in my Boomer Generation.

When I came to the parish I have now served for over 30 years, some asked when we were going to sing "Sons of God."  I wondered where they got this piece of music then already a generation old and it turned out that it had been pasted inside the front cover (but not mine since I brought my hymnal with me!).  It left with the last of the LWs in 2006.  In the end it was a good thing that these little song books were printed so quickly and cheaply because they did no good service to the Church except create the expectation that the songs heard on the radio must dictate what is heard and sung on Sunday morning.  The big hits of this era are now considered quaint and just as out of style with the modern ear as chant.  That was the other things this genre of music introduced -- an expiration date.  There was a reason why these worship songs were printed on cheap paper in booklets designed to be thrown away -- what was in them had a shelf life of several years (except in the minds and hearts of boomers).  This was also the day when new and different were the prime criteria for what happened in worship at least when it involved youth.  The lesson was not lost on the boomers -- they remembered and it has been the bane of music in the Church ever since. 

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