Catholic church music in the United States: 1903 to the present day
Pepin, Maurice Rodolphe
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I. The apparent lack of good Church Music in our American churches makes this type of research interesting and useful. All the integral parts of music literature that have to do directly with the Roman Liturgy have to be touched upon here. The Church and the Theatre--each has its own type of music and it is upon this statement that much of the discussion is based. Sacred Music and its ability to lift up the hearts and souls of the faithful to prayer--in short this thesis briefly outlines the state and progress of Church Music through the first half of this century, using as a guide, the Motu Proprio of Pope Pius X. II. The Cathedrals, centers of diocesan life in this country, are used as a focal point for discussion. With the help of the Library of Congress and the two major music publishers of the U.S., McLaughlin & Reilly Co., Boston, Mass. and J. Fisher Bro., New York, N.Y., general conclusions as to the state of music about 1903 are reached. Gounod-Mozart-Haydn-Battman-Leonard were popular at this time. The Masses by these composers contain all those elements which are against true principles of Catholic Church Music--must, therefore, be considered quite unliturgical. The fiery, dramatic style, which seemed to please the populace so much, dominated the church music scene at this time. The addition of new composers up to the year 1910 shows little or no progress towards liturgical purity. The foremost leader in true Church Music art at this time was John Singenberger (1848-1934). He became the Director of Niusic at St. Francis Normal School, Wisconsin. During the fifty odd years he remained in this position, he composed hundreds of Masses, Motets , Vespers and Hymns still in use today. His music was generally simple in its outline, stately, dignified and in the true spirit of the Liturgy. He represents the bridge between the un-liturgical attempts of the late nineteenth century composers and the new era which was soon to follow the publication of the Motu Proprio in 1903. The hymnals in use at this time left much to be desired. I have limited my discussion to the largest selling publication, the St. Basil's Hymnal-- first and revised editions. From a purely musical and literary standpoint, it contains the poorest and most wretched specimens of hymns with which the Catholic Church had been afflicted for many generations. The hymnal seems to emphasize those typical Traditional hymn-tunes, insinuating that Tradition (usually of 25 years duration) and Good Taste are synonymous. Even as late as 1949, this particular publication ranked high on the list of best-selling Catholic Hymn Books. III. The Motu Proprio, the most recent, complete and authoritative document on Church Music was given by Pope Pius X from the Vatican, November 22, 1903, the feast of St. Caecilia, Virgin and Martyr. This document is a resume of all the ecclesiastical laws on the matter of music that have been written since the time of St. Paul. This document is the source and foundation of all the criticism made in the thesis. There follows an outline that covers these main points: 1. General Principles; 2. The different kinds of Church Music; 3. The Liturgical Text; 4. The external form of the Sacred Composition; 5. The Singers; 6. The use of the Organ and Orchestral Instruments; 7. The length of the Liturgical Chant; 8. Principle Means. The Motu Proprio emphasizes the point that concert music is not allowed in the Church. It also brings out the ever-important fact that the closer Church Music resembles Gregorian Chant, the more Liturgical and acceptable it becomes. The task of building a new standard of Church Music or rather of returning to the basis of pure Gregorian Chant and its style was a matter of years and years of work. Where musical groundwork had been accomplished, the task was simpler (as was the case in Canada). Where no such preparations had been taken, the task was yet to be started. IV. The Motu Proprio gave a sudden surge to diocesan control and necessitated some form of a national organization that would encourage and promote the cause of acceptable Church Music in this country. The first of these organizations was founded in Baltimore, Md. in 1912. The St. Gregory Society of America was organized to foster fraternal assistance and encouragement among the members in their endeaver to promote the cause of Sacred Music Reform according to the provisions of the Motu Proprio. The Pius X School of Liturgical Music, New York, N.Y., The Gregorian Institute of America, Toledo, Ohio, and similar organizations followed the edict of Pope Pius X in a reasonably successful attempt to rectify the condition of music in our American Churches. The progress of Hymnology was given a sudden surge by the publication in 1920 of the St. Gregory Hymnal by the St. Gregory Society of Mnerica, previously mentioned. This reliable hymnal contains nothing objectionable, having been compiled by legitimate authorities and is listed in the catalogues of approved Church Music. V. The survey of present-day Church Music conditions reveals a definite progress towards the ideals set forth in the Motu Proprio. Gregorian Chant is slowly becoming a part of the choir repertoire and in some sections of the country, particularly in the mid-west, the congregations are actively participating in the Sung Service by chanting the Ordinary of the Mass (in Gregorian Chant) in a body. The Church in her official way does not approve or condemn any specific work of Sacred Music, but the line between the secular style and the Liturgical style is clearly drawn. Any musical idiom can be turned to sacred use. The main problem is not the means but the attitude towards the means. Only when all the necessary requirements are met, can any form of Church Music be considered suitable to church use. Modern Church Music suited to its purpose is quite important to a modern people that must, like past generations, lift up its voice to God in prayer and praise.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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