May 21

Thursday Letter May 21st

Good morning, Good morning,

“Me Gusta.” From the Spanish and means, “I like.”  When anyone speaks of music, especially liturgical music, he stands in the center of an arena filled with bulls or gladiators.  Critics who can be awkward or quite lethal by design.  I dedicate this letter to Mr. Michael Galdo, parish choir director and the three wonderful choirs of the parish.  Pardon this lengthy letter that has held my attention this entire day.

As I have mentioned in past letters, the tendency of the Shanty Irish is to offer the bad news last but once in a while, for the sake of context, the reverse should be made.  Today’s letter is about liturgical music and the various perceptions that present it.

The source for this dedication is none other than Fr. John Heisler and his many references to the documents that flowed from the Second Vatican Council, 1962-65.  One of the immediate points of reflection dealt with ecclesial music and its fundamental purpose.


5 March, 1967

“It is to be hoped that pastors of souls, musicians and the faithful will gladly accept these norms and put them into practice, uniting their efforts to attain the true purpose of sacred music, ‘which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.’

(a) By sacred music is understood that which, being created for the celebration of divine worship, is endowed with a certain holy sincerity of form.

(b) The following come under the title of sacred music here: Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony in its various forms both ancient and modern, sacred music for the organ and other approved instruments, and sacred popular music, be it liturgical or simply religious.”

“Indeed, through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem.

In selecting the kind of sacred music to be used, whether it be for the choir or for the people, the capacities of those who are to sing the music must be taken into account. No kind of sacred music is prohibited from liturgical actions by the Church as long as it corresponds to the spirit of the liturgical celebration itself…”

Some of the great hits for Mass at Sacred Heart Grammar School Masses in the year of our Lord, 1969, were:

Where have all the Flowers Gone?…

Red Red Wine…

I am a Rock…

Turn Turn Turn…

It was a different world where Faith was addressed more as a fad than a belief.  A world that would host, by necessity, further developments from the St. Louis Jesuits and other organizations developing a new Catholic identity in liturgical music. But that would take time.  Hmm, let’s consider the beginning of music programs in America.

The earliest music programs in America focused on the Protestant Churches and their initiative to teach people how to sing the psalms.  There was no formal program taught at some institution of higher learning but all was left to music instructors, who like their ministerial counterparts, the circuit riders, moved from one barn to the next teaching folks how to sing.

It was in Boston where music programs were codified as an addition to the public school system. They were set for the health of the common man.

Public education in the United States first offered music as part of the curriculum in Boston in the 1830s, and it spread through the help of singing teacher Lowell Mason, after he successfully advocated it to the Boston School Committee in 1838. The committee ultimately decided to include music as a curricular subject because it was of a moral, physical, and intellectual nature. Music was considered moral because it played such a part in religion, as well as the fact that it had been documented to produce “happiness, contentment, cheerfulness, and tranquility.” It was of a physical nature because singing was exercise for the lungs. The committee justified music’s intellectual nature by stating that it had been studied as a part of the quadrivium in the Middle Ages, and that it “contributes to memory, comparison, attention, and intellectual faculties.”

The songs in the public schools were often religious but some developed with an interest in patriotic songs.  They were composed to motivate the folks going off to battle.  Does anyone recall the song that was belted out in the front yard of the White House the night General Robert E. Lee surrendered?  “I Wish I Was In Dixie Land.”

Glenn Miller would move his Army Band away from the strict military songs and add a number of new ones reflecting the life back home.  “In the Mood.”   Be sure and listen for the German areal bomb in the background.

Some of the hymns in Church may have been more profane rather than pious, with roots in bar songs.  A favorite for weddings, “Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms,”   The lyrics are from a poem written by Thomas Moore, to his wife who fell to small pox.  Her lovely beauty was scarred by the pox and she refused to leave her home and go out into the public places.  For her the poem was written and some romantic attached the song.

Some of the classics from our past.

Holy God We Praise the Name…

To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King… /

For All the Saints…

Immaculate Mary…

Hail Holy Queen.,.–E8suls

And now a curve in the space time continuum of music.  From the 70’s and 80’s.

On Eagles Wings…

Be Not Afraid….   /

Here I am Lord…

And now the Millennial generation weighs in with their own recapturing the love of the Latin, without having to know what it means in English.  Uhmmm, just kidding.

Salve Regina…

English Translation of the Salve Regina

Queen, mother of mercy:
our life, sweetness, and hope, hail.
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To you we sigh, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears.
Turn then, our advocate,
those merciful eyes
toward us.
And Jesus, the blessed fruit of thy womb,
after our exile, show us.
O clement, O loving, O sweet
Virgin Mary.

Regina Caeli…

English Translation of the Regina Caeli

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son you merited to bear, alleluia,
Has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Sicut Cervus…

English Translation:  Psalm 42: 1

As a hart (Deer) longs for the flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.

It has been a long day and as I began with a comment from Fr. Heisler I end with his reference to the great Hungarian… Lawrence Welk and his license plate.

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