Huffington Post on sacred music

Praying through music: the history of sacred notation” by Lorenzo Candalaria – on sacred music, Guido the monk, Julie Andrews, and the humanness of singing.


  1. An interesting and quite nice article. Odd fare for the HuffPo, but sometimes that happens.

    I find it odd that all of the references to Catholic Music are chant related (modes, Latin titles, Guido d’Arezzo, etc…). I’ve often wondered why also, in movies when a characters walks into a Catholic Church, there is always a schola practicing chant in the far corner, and a priest just standing in the center aisle with seemingly nothing to do… neither of which you’re very likely to find in a random catholic church. Oh yes… and there’s usually a Nun or two in full length black habits in the Schola. Gotta love it!

  2. Maybe Lorenzo Candalaria was inspired by

    … or not. (The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore did a musical notation exhibit in the 1980’s, complete with a “give him a hand” t-shirt!)

    In the article, he states

    “Singing is a natural response in times of joy or mourning, stress or relaxation — even in times of sheer boredom”

    a statement that I’m not sure can be made with such certitude in the surrounding culture, especially in Western and/or urbanized places. Singing was the natural response when you didn’t have other options; the instant and immediate access that very nearly every one of us has to some sort of technological re-presentation of somebody ELSE making the music or singing the song has called this sort of foundational statement into question, I’d think.

  3. Jeff H.:

    Nothing odd about chant music in Catholic worship. Chant is (nuns too) are equal to Catholic identity. In these days chant music is popular even among people of little faith or no faith at all because of its inherent beauty. People would like to sing more of it at Mass but the average music minister is not up to singing it or teaching it.

    John Molnar

    1. John;

      Apparently you do not know me! I was being a bit sarcastic… I am one of the (sometimes antagonistic) chant advocates on the web…I will be presenting a workshop – “Liturgical Chant and the New Translation” at the Musica Sacra Conference at Ave Maria University in April and direct a schola at my own parish.

      I am well aware that many, many people “out in the pews” would like to worship with chant. All the two of us need to do now is wait for the “most people don’t want chant” comments to roll in. I would encourage you to visit my site

  4. John;

    I’m laughing a bit at the moment… you apparently are either new here or very carefully have missed my myriad posts here and on other blogs. I am one of the persistent and sometimes antagonistic chant advocates, often accused of being “uncharitable”, or whatever! I would certainly agree with you that MOST people out in the pews would like to worshiop with MORE CHANT.

    I would encourage you to vist me at

  5. John;

    I assure you I was being sarcastic here…

    I’m pretty well aware of the centrality of chant to Catholic identity, and I would only add to your commet that MOST Catholics would like to have more chant at Mass… I have been (as one commeter recently said about me) “chanting that neume for years now”, although I think he meant it in a negative way.

    Perhaps you could attend the Musica Sacra Florida conference in April. I will be presenting a session on Liturgical Chant and the New Translation. Should be good….

    1. I saw that comment too but it had nothing to do with wanting more chant at Mass which I think is something almost everyone who follows these blogs wants. I remember it as being directed at your uncritical cheerleading for the 2010 translation and wanting any comparisons to be only with the awful 1973 version and not with the better 2008 version. Or as you dismissed the whole controversy at that other blog while taking a slam at this one:

      “The orinal post at PT that spurred this article was so transparently made from the point of view of a discouraged progressive who sees the time of the NewChurch coming to an end, wishing with all her strength that her unlikely predictions might come true. The reasoning goes like this:
      If I think this translation is an abomination intended to solidify clerical power, surely EVERYONE must believe this.”

      That’s what it was all about. Anyway a friend who works for one of the major publishers of the new Missal told me they’ve just made it through the first batch of errata sent out by the BCDW and sent there own list of errata off to ICEL. How did the Church survive this long without the expertise of Vox Clara?

      1. Jeremy;

        Calm down… I meant that I had been “chanting the neume” of having more chant at Mass for years now… not that that was what was meant by the original authors statement. It was a clever metaphor that applied here as well, so I used it. You seem to have an awful lot of insight into what I think, and perhaps even more about what anonymous commenters think! And strangely, you always quote the exact same excerpts…

        Although my comment about the young woman who wrote that letter in question has been constantly extrapolated to mean a lot of things that I never intended it to mean, nobody has ever addressed the issue of how really off the mark she was with her predictions and fears of mass exodus and literal riots in the pews on the First Sunday of Advent. Places where the new texts have been introduced have had few such problems. Even the early-on darling of the New Translation Detractors, South Africa have not really followed up on the situation there, which has been reported recently as going well at this time. And although more anecdote than actual proof, Kevin Keil’s observation that nobody even noticed the new translation when he introduced the new Gloria is, I think, quite telling.

        So why are you (and the anonymous commenter) so hung up on what I think anyhow? Surely you are willing to be accepting of people with views different from yours. Surely I’m not the only person out there who thinks that the NewChurch advocates are frantically trying to save what’s left of their quickly deteriorating vision. That’s nothing really that controversial, and saying it isn’t really that controversial either unless it’s patently false.

        And I have never “insisted upon comparing the 2010 translation with the 1973 rather than the 2008”. I see no reason to compare the 2010 translation to either version, and I haven’t ever written any such comparisons of my own, nor have I ever commented about such comparisons. What would be the point…??

  6. Dr Candelaria published his dissertation work a couple of years ago. For a great read, try The Rosary Cantoral”. It’s a study of a manuscript, but it reads like a good detective novel that brings in shady art dealers, monasteries and even the Inquisition. Unlike the Da Vinci Code nonsense, this story is true and I commend him on his persistence to see it to the end.

  7. Dear Editors..

    I apologize for having to once again address comments about issues or topics unrelated to this post. For some reason, a “few people” here see the need to bring up a previous comment that must have really gotten to him, because “they” have re-posted and discussed the exact same pull-quote from my comment at least three times now on two different sites on three different threads unrelated to that pull-quote. I’m a bit tired of it, and it seems that others are as well.

  8. Jeffrey said Even the early-on darling of the New Translation Detractors, South Africa have not really followed up on the situation there, which has been reported recently as going well at this time.

    Actually this is not so. The situation is still chaotic out there. I was talking only a week ago to a South African friend, now living in England, who had just returned from travelling all over South Africa during the past three months, and who reports that things are still almost as bad as they were. This is confirmed by emails from other contacts on the ground.

    Some people are using the new texts; others are refusing to do so; yet others are using them but grumbling vociferously about them…… Things show no sign of settling down, several years on.

    1. Perhaps the comment by a parishioner in South Africa who said that things were going quite well there was a narrow view from a single parish then. It’s difficult to say exactly how accurate reports on the internet are sometimes.

      Perhaps you know… are the refuslas to use the texts coming from Priests, or are the priests inplementing them and the people in the pews are refusing to use them. This is an important distinction. I suspect it is the former.

  9. Paul;

    I found the comment that I was reacting to…

    In South Africa we have been using the new Mass texts but not the Collects etc for about two years as our bishops got the date wrong! Those who had made the change were allowed to continue. There was a lot of criticism at first, a lot of it quite virulent, but it has died down now.

    99% accepted the change without any problems and it has certainly had an effect on the music at my own particular church and a resurgence of Latin being sung. This is particularly interesting as we have a majority black congregation and many young people as the church is alongside the Wits University Campus. We have a Schola Cantorum of young students who sing plainsong and polyphony in English and Latin as well as the vernacular. I find this fascinating as I would have thought that the congregation would have preferred the Student Mass but not so.

    The church has always maintained good liturgy, has never dropped the use of incense at the main Mass and it is served by the Jesuits.

    Another effect is that simple things have been much more participatory…striking the breast three times during the Confiteor….the full Biblical Domine non sum dignus. Nearly everyone is involved where as before they were not.

    The word consubstantial seemed to be the biggest cause of ire in correspondence but nobody notices it! I suppose the Nicene Creed is a bit of a mantra really though some churches changed to the Apostles Creed possibly in protest.

    I will certainly admit that there may be quite a lot of variance from parish to parish, but this commenter certainly appears to be “on the ground” there, and gives a rather detailed view.

  10. Jeffrey,

    I think the objections are coming as much from lay people as from clergy.

    And I suspect that your correspondent is already of your persuasion, and his/her views are not representative of anything more than his/her own parish and his/her own views on what should be taking place.

    I think we need a much broader spread of reports, and my friend and my email contacts certainly provide that.

    1. Paul;

      A serious question.

      Why are the views of what might be called “liturgical progressives” generally seen (here) as “broader” and “balanced” or even “mainstream”, while the views of people who might be called “traditional” or even “conservative” are referred to as being of “your (my) persuasion” and aren’t representative of anyone else but their own views.

      Given that there is such a huge (supposed) controversy over this issue, I am going to guess that the opinions about it run pretty close to 50-50 in support or opposed. If that weren’t true, there’d be much less of a controversy, wouldn’t there? I’d like to see some real, RANDOM sampled polls of Catholics in a variety of areas, countries, states, etc… rather than polls taken at the FDLC or NPM conferences or at various other assemblages of groups that are probably given to holding a characteristic opinion on the issue.

      1. Jeffrey,

        I was simply reacting to your correspondent’s “At my own particular church”, which does imply a less than broad coverage of what is going on at grass roots level.

        It’s the same problem as we have with Rome, where one isolated instance of an abuse is interpreted to mean that absolutely everyone is doing it! Here, “my parish” is not a paradigm for a more widespread reality.

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