Wow! This is really, really beautiful.
And occasion for some questions.
It’s from a documentary, not at all made on the cheap, about the summer colloquium of the Church Music Association of America. CMAA is more or less the US successor, through many hills and dales, to the 19th century German Cecilian reform movement. They promote traditional music, much of it in Latin. I’m sure many of them are in the “reform of the reform” camp. Wanna see what it looks like? Here’s the real thing – birettas and chapel veils and black vestments…and lots of young faces.
I’m sure you have your own questions about all this. Here are a few of mine.
Q. Why is this movement growing? Why has the CMAA colloquium expanded by leaps and bounds in the last five years? What draws young people to this?
Q. What about inculturation? What should sacred music for the liturgy look like in the U.S.? Can we let obedience to (one interpretation of) the Roman documents mean simply preserving European treasures?
Q. Is the ethos of this movement (culturally on the high side, a bit exotic) a good leaven to improve the (not so hot) state of music in the rest of the church? Or is it more of an escape from all that for a few like-minded souls?
Q. How much of this is a positive response to the vision of the Second Vatican Council? How much of it is a negative reaction to bad experiences of the reformed liturgy? Or to the bad experiences of the complexities and ambiguities of life in today’s world?
Q. No one loves art music of this sort more than I. (I’m tempted to quote Harold C. Schonberg, “Elitism, in the arts, is good,” but I know better than to use the word “elitism” positively and expect to be taken seriously.) When you have the forces, it’s great to do all this. What do we do for the other about 90% of the communities who don’t have the forces?
Q. How can the rest of the church most benefit from the good zeal of the CMAA folks? How can we all best work together and avoid divisions and factions?
These aren’t leading questions meant to imply a particular answer. They’re real questions of the sort I’ve asked myself more than once. It used to be quite clear to me that we should do great music in church. It hadn’t yet occurred to me that my kind of music was made possible by a very particular set of historical cultural conditions – e.g., one where only the tastes of the (aristocratic, ordained, literate, educated) upper crust counted in a highly stratified, utterly non-democratic culture. Well, God put me in this culture, and I didn’t get any say in the matter. Now I wonder a lot about what God is calling me to do, here and now. How can I (we) make things a bit better, joyfully, hopefully, and charitably?
And what are your questions? Better yet, what are your answers?