Florence Foster Jenkins

Friday, August 19, AD 2016

 

One of the more curious cultural artifacts in the history of this country is the very odd musical career of Florence Foster Jenkins.  A rich heiress, she loved music.  She was a talented pianist in her youth but stopped taking lessons when she married in 1885 at age 18 Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins.  The marriage was a rocky one, characterized by her contracting syphilis from him.  They parted after three years.  He passed away in 1917, but she retained her married name for the remainder of her life.  Moving to New York with her mother in 1900, she founded the Verdi Club in 1917, to share her love of music.  It was through this venue that she embarked upon her career as a singer, giving recitals to small groups of fans, with musical critics carefully excluded.  Jenkins was convinced she was a great singer.  In truth she was an an appallingly bad singer, with virtually no sense of rhythm or pitch.  She was a generous patron of various causes, most of them musical, and her audiences treated her with kindness, any titters being drowned by applause.

She would be forgotten today but for a memorable concert she gave for charity at Carnegie Hall on October 25, 1944.  The tickets for the event sold out immediately and about 2000 people were turned away the night of the performance.  Ticket prices were $20.00, the equivalent of $274.00 today.  (Privates in the US Army, with combat pay, earned $50.00 per month in 1944.)  Many celebrities attended.  As in her past outings, her fans covered over laughter during her performance with applause.  Alas music critics were among the crowd and their reviews were scathing.  She passed away a month and a day later of a heart attack.  She had been crushed by the bad reviews but, considering that she was in the tertiary stages of syphilis her death may well have had nothing to do with her reaction to the reviews.

Remarkably, in the past two years there have been two films about Jenkins, one in French and the other in English, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep in the title role.  I saw this film last Saturday with my family and the Godmother of my children and my review is below the fold.  The usual caveat as to spoilers is in full effect.

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2 Responses to Florence Foster Jenkins

  • She was a great singer because she sang with the gift of the voice that God gave her, God Don’t Make No Junk, and she shared His gift with many people; as we are all called to share the gifts He has given each of us to help Him bring others to Him forever, happy in Heaven. God bless all in this house, eveyone. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

  • Guy your comment is wonderful.
    I am touched and lifted to hear those earnest people singing near me who have no musical ear, but obviously a heart for God.
    I think of a saying – “how silent the woods would be if only the best birds sang”

One Response to Simple Gifts

Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

Saturday, December 6, AD 2014

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

 

 

Something for the weekend.  Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming.  Written by the ever prolific composer Anonymous in 16th century Germany, it quickly became a favorite hymn of both Catholics and Protestants in that time and land of religious strife, and that is a good message for Christmas.

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5 Responses to Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming

  • One of my favorites!

  • This is a great way to evangelize the LDS.

  • Several years ago I had joined a (Catholic) Church choir.Choir singing was much different to me than what I had been doing [folksinging] and part of the challenge was that I do not read music – I basically play/sing “by ear”, so I sat between 2 excellent singers and listened to them to learn my parts. It was a very good experience and one of my favorite memories was during our Christmas program one year, one of the singers that I sat next to had the solo on “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” – and it was beautifully sung by him & the choir.Love this hymn.

  • PC lyrics printed for the unisex world. Always disrupting.

  • The soul of the female, a woman, is different from the soul of the male, a man. The soul of a man starts and gives life. The soul of a woman nurtures and continues life.
    .
    Without the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin Mary could not have brought forth the Son of God; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
    .
    Jesus gave us His Mother to be our Mother. All mankind is the children of Mary, our Mother. We must behave as the children of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
    .
    Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, brings us Jesus Christ according to the design of God and the instruction of Jesus. Anyone who comes to the Church other than by our Blessed Mother is a marauder and an interloper.

One Term More!

Wednesday, August 15, AD 2012

This is one of the greatest spoofs of the left that I have ever seen.

Wait a second, that’s not a spoof. These people are deadly serious, as their website would indicate. Although the video is not nearly as unintentionally hilarious as the open letter attached to the video.

Amazingly, they aren’t even up to the standards of the previous time this was tried four years ago (h/t: Blackadder).

Anyway, my deepest apologies for inflicting those videos upon you. Here’s a classic rock song to cleanse the palate. 

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23 Responses to One Term More!

  • “Raise the flag of FREEDOM”. If only Barack Obama would say the word: FREEDOM, we the people might hold Barack to his promise of FREEDOM.

  • All three videos were rather cruel….

  • Two thoughts:

    “‘Getting Gay With Kids’ is here!”

    and:

    You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at that.

  • Here’s a real palete cleanser.

  • The “Stand Your Ground -Trayvon” reference is bewildering. I assume the point is that the GOP is ultimately responsible for the actions of a wanna-be-cop who jumped out of his car looking for trouble and got more than he bargained for. I’m guessing that, by supporting a less restrictive reading of the Second Amendment, we created the conditions for Athe shooting and, therefore, are responsible for the outcome.

    That is as far into the video as I could stand so I can’t say if it gets better or worse.

  • I had to stop at “contraception’s now a sin.”

    Yeah, we just invented that one, just to stick it to women. We used to be fine with it until we decided, recently and arbitrarily, that we weren’t.

  • With supporters like these, who needs opponents?

  • When they’re not lying, they’re citing the wrong facts.

    Public schools! I love it when a plan comes together.

  • The “Stand Your Ground -Trayvon” reference is bewildering. I assume the point is that the GOP is ultimately responsible for the actions of a wanna-be-cop who jumped out of his car looking for trouble and got more than he bargained for.

    The man worked in an insurance office. He got out of his car to keep track of a local youth behaving peculiarly and to check an address. He was not demonstrably looking for trouble, just walking around his own neighborhood. Eyewitnesses and his injuries demonstrate he was attacked by said youth. You don’t know what you are talking about.

  • With respect, the facts suggest, as they often do, that there is plenty of blame to go around.

    From what I see, it looks like it was a good shoot – hence his defense shift from “hold your ground” to self defense. However, if he had followed the 911 dispatcher’s instructions, he would have stayed in the car and would never have been assaulted. My guess is that he asks himself dozens of times a day why he didn’t stay in the car.

    The drive to be a cop, for those who think of being cops, can be quite strong and can lead to dumb hero stunts. I think this was one of those that went awry.

    I understand your visceral reaction to my comments. I was responding to the misuse of a tragedy to score cheep political points and my flippedness about the tragedy was uncalled for. For that I am sorry.

  • I think this was one of those that went awry.

    You are not doing much informed thinking. He got out of his truck, went down a walkway, checked an address on the next block, walked around a bit, and was headed back to his truck. The recording of his entire conversation with the police dispatcher is available online. It is perfectly banal. Nothing heroic in either his acts or his conversation.

  • I went back and re-read the timelines and reviewed the articles. I do not agree and it is unfair to suggest that my views of the matter is unreasonable.

    There is insufficient information released to state anything with certainty.

    It is clear that the first 911 call includes specific instructions by the didpatcher to stay in the car and that he decided to strike out on his own and follow the boy. The girlfriend’s testimony suggests that Martin knew he was being followed immediately before the shooting.

    My analysis is as reasonable as yours.

    We’ll know more when we have all of the evidence. I’m willing to be proved wrong with evidence.

  • Well, the seas stopped rising, a trillion jobs were saved and the most transparent administration in history is in power, so why not four more years…?

    I think the parallels are enlightening considering that the June Rebellion that Les Mis was based upon was caused by by harvest failures, food shortages, and increases in the cost of living which created malcontent through all classes.

    Missed by these bright academic types in this “parody” is that the June rebellion was a rebellion against those in power, by the “Republicans…”

  • It is clear that the first 911 call includes specific instructions by the didpatcher to stay in the car and that he decided to strike out on his own and follow the boy

    No, that is not clear, and you have not listened to the recording properly. He was given no instruction to remain in his vehicle, and, in any case, the dispatcher had no authority to instruct him to do anything. He was advised while jogging along a particular pathway attempting to get Martin back in eyeshot that “we don’t need you to do that”, to which he replied “OK”. The call concluded with a discussion of how the police officer dispatched to the complex was to make contact with Zimmerman at the time he arrived. He never caught site of Martin again during the duration of the call.

    And you are forgetting the context. The geography of the complex was such that Martin had ample time to return home at an ordinary loping pace during the interval in which Zimmerman was conversing with the dispatcher. Martin had abruptly run out of sight a propos of nothing in particular and could have arrived at the back door of where he was staying in an interval measured in seconds. That he was wandering around the complex several minutes later suggests he had other objects in mind than returning home from the convenience store, but what these objects were has not been properly identified.

  • Well, I’m not sure how to respond.

    I have conceeded that your analysis may be proved right and have stated that I am willing to be persuaded by the evidence when it is released. What will satisfy you in this discussion?

    I maintain that my analysis is reasonable, given the facts available. Yours is too. The dispute between us, as I see it, is not about which analysis is right but about whether my analysis is unreasonable. I maintain that it is not, that there are enough facts to demonstrate my view of the affair is reasonable.

    You offer an analysis of the calls and seem to suggest that there is no other reasonable view. Were that true, the State would be violating the rules of ehics in prosecuting him. Now prosecutors ave one such foolish things on high profile cases in the past – the Duke rape case comes immediately to mind – but I see nothing here to suggest that the charges are groundless.

    If you are looking for an admission that you are right and that I am wrong, you will have to wit for the evidence to be released and then make our case. I promise that I will humbly admit my error if you call me on it then. Perhaps we can kick the can down the street until then?

  • Okay, this thread just took an even greater detour. Let’s try to keep things on track.

  • Were that true, the State would be violating the rules of ehics in prosecuting him.

    It has been remarked by Alan Dershowitz, Jerilyn Merritt, and others.

    Your analysis is not reasonable.

  • We shall see. Call me on it when we have evidence. In the meantime, God Bless.

  • “Okay, this thread just took an even greater detour.”

    Good thing that’s never happened before. 🙂

  • We shall see. Call me on it when we have evidence. In the meantime, God Bless.

    Just about all the salient evidence has been released to the public – recordings of the phone calls, witness statements, Zimmerman’s interrogation, Martin’s autopsy report, photographs and treatment records documenting Zimmerman’s injuries, the security camera footage at the convenience store Martin patronized, &c. Maps of the complex are also available online. There have been some redactions so the names of local residents who called the police and gave statements were not published.

  • And thus is the unity of we who oppose tyranny solidified and brought to bear.

    Or not.

  • I really hoped we could just let this rest until we knew more but, since you called me out:

    The most readable summary that I was able to find is here:

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/05/18/new-trayvon-martin-evidence-10-things-you-should-know/

    This is a sample of the kind of documented behavior that suggests to me that George Zimmerman behaved unreasonably in his conduct that night. (Note what I am not saying. I am NOT saying that he intended to shoot Trayvon Martin or that there was any other motive than self defense for his shooting Mr. Martin. I have said before that it seems like it was a good shoot.)

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-07-12/zimmerman-trayvon-martin-shooting/56166884/1

    It is merely my opinion that the most likely explanation for Mr. Zimmerman’s behavior that night was a latent desire to act like a cop. He certainly took his neighborhood watch duties quite seriously and, without any training or authority, followed Mr. Martin that night. It may be that Mr. Zimmerman is just a good guy out to help his community. If so, I’m sorry that it ended as it did. However, it is reasonable to question the propriety and the ethics of his actions that night. I offer this:

    http://thegrio.com/2012/03/21/zimmerman-not-a-member-of-recognized-neighborhood-watch-organization/

    as some evidence that neighborhood watches are not some willy-nilly, do as you please, kind of thing. George Zimmerman took this burden on himself and he got burned. Again, had he done as the 911 dispatcher advised – stayed in the car and waited for the police – he wouldn’t be facing a trial for killing Trayvon Martin and that messed-up youth would be alive.

    I don’t claim any expertise in these matters. I am not a prosecutor and have no coursework in crime scene investigation but the lead investigator, Chris Serino, spared no kind words for Mr. Zimmerman’s behavior.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/05/17/2804442/law-officers-set-to-release-evidence.html

    One last thing: I listened to the tapes and viewed the video. Nothing there does more than flesh out the matter. We see a youth buying stuff from a store, nothing more. We hear a neighborhood watchman being told that he ought to stop following a kid and refusing to do so. We then hear cries for help.

    There are no known witnesses of the moments leading up to the altercation. There is no evidence I can see that supports or refutes Mr. Zimmerman’s version of the story. His story is “reasonable.” I concede the point. However, I maintain that the prosecution’s case is substantial and am unable to share your confidence that this was an entirely one-sided affair in which George Zimmerman behaved like a good citizen should have and that Trayvon Martin was wholly responsible for what happened.

    Trayvon Martin may have caused George Zimmerman to shoot him but Zimmerman should have stayed in the car. This was an avoidable tragedy.

  • “HUSH!” YEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!! (please visualize rock horns)

    There, Paul; is that back enough on track?

Some Music for your Epiphany

Friday, January 6, AD 2012

In honor of the day, however, I thought I’d repost the video I put together for Epiphany a couple years ago. I first encountered this classic orchestration of We Three Kings by Eugene Ormandy when I was a child, watching my dad give the annual Christmas Star Show up at the Griffith Observatory. Since the recording is hard to find, and there too it the music provided background to a montage of artistic representations of the Three Kings, I took the liberty of putting together a YouTube video for the occasion.

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3 Responses to Some Music for your Epiphany

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  • Oh, it is so beautiful. God bless you, Darwin

Fred Steiner, Requiescat in Pace

Thursday, June 30, AD 2011

Fred Steiner died today.  Not a household name, but you have probably heard his music, as he composed the music for many hit TV shows, perhaps most notably for Perry Mason.  A very young Don McClarey loved the Perry Mason show.  It had no influence on my decision to become an attorney, that option didn’t occur to me until my Senior year in college when I decided that I would rather not work for a living, but it was enjoyable and memorable entertainment. 

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6 Responses to Fred Steiner, Requiescat in Pace

Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

A reader writes into Fr. Z to ask why Gregorian Chant is to be preferred at Mass to hymns like “Gather Us In” which the reader, a newly minted Catholic, happens to like.  Fr. Z responds here, and the commenters also chime in with responses that hit the mark.

Fr. Z writes:

As a preamble, music for liturgical worship is not a mere add on or decoration.  It is liturgical worship.  Therefore the texts used should be sacred texts.  The texts of those ditties mentioned in the question are not sacred, liturgical texts.  They are not the prayer of the Church.

He then discusses the quality of the hymns under discussion.  This is a more subjective argument.  After all, there are people who think the hymns located in the Gather hymnal are quite extraordinary.  I question the sanity of such people, but that’s neither here nor there.  This is a country that consistently puts American Idol at the top of the ratings, so I’m obviously a bit out of the loop with my musical tastes.

Besides, even non banal hymns seem out of place in our liturgy.  On Holy Thursday I attended Mass at St. Mathew’s Cathedral.  As always, it was a beautiful, reverent, and yes, Novus Ordo liturgy.  I don’t remember the entrance hymn.  It was a nice hymn – something more fitting than one of the turds from the Gather hymnal.  And yet there was something a bit off.  It was a fairly upbeat hymn, and as Cardinal Wuerl incensed the altar it just felt jarring.  Here is this solemn moment marking the beginning of the Triduum, and the accompanying music just does not fit what is happening up there in the sanctuary.  It’s the sort of thing that just snaps you out of the moment, and that’s the problem.

The liturgy is prayer, not entertainment.  The reason that these hymns are generally inappropriate, no matter the quality, is that they simply don’t fit in with what’s supposed to be happening.  Instead of amplifying our prayers they drown them out.  That’s why I find the incessant need to have some kind of music playing at all times whenever there is more than five seconds of silence so frustrating.  You’ve all probably heard organists vamp when the hymn ends before the Priest has reached the sanctuary, or after Communion when not all have returned to their places.  Why can’t he or she just let silence reign for a few minutes?  Why is there such a need for constant noise, especially when it does not fit in appropriately with that moment in the liturgy?

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44 Responses to Gather Us In, A Bad Song Is Playing

  • Thanks a lot, Paul. Now I’ve got Gather Us In stuck in my head. “The lame”, indeed.

  • @Pinky,

    It’s even worse for me. I despise that “hymn” (and I think it’s granting it too much to call it that) so much that I only know the melody and the first few lines. Now I find myself mentally composing inappropriate hokey lyrics that better fit the message of that song! And all while I should be studying for final exams, which begin tomorrow!

  • The worst one for me is a hymn (I don’t know the name of it) which is set to the music of Holst’s Jupiter. Now, Holst wrote some great music, and I enjoy The Planets, and he even wrote hymns…but “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” is about the god Jupiter. It really messes me up. It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

  • Shame of place for me in the worst hymn category will always be: “Sing a New Song”. Shudder !

  • The real issue here is a complete and deliberate ignoring of church teaching. The rubrics in the GIRM clearly indicate a preference given to the Gregorian Propers for the Mass. These are ancient chant pieces that have been passed down, most over a thousand years. True, the GIRM leaves room for “a suitable hymn” but lists it as the very last option. Why, then, are we such minimalists in our liturgy so as to make the last option the standard? Eliminating official Mass texts across the board in virtually every parish in the country is nothing short of a tragedy. It would be like deciding to get rid of Collect (Opening Prayer) and replace it with an off-the-cuff prayer.

    My apologies for the abruptness of this, but this really gets me fired up. Why can we not simply do what the Church asks? “Sing a New Song”? Please, God, let’s.

  • No apologies needed, Jake. You are absolutely on the money here and in your post as well.

  • May be at work is Neuhaus’ Law: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

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  • @ Pinky and Kevin: If you can forgive the singer his shaky voice (it’s not me), then you might appreciate this parody of the Gather Hymnal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwFJv-kmaCc. Especially you, Kevin, since you find yourself composing inappropriate lyrics for it — well, it’s already been done for you! (I died when I heard what he’d done to “Here I Am, Lord”.)

  • Anthony – Great video. The same analysis (no spoilers) of “Here I Am, Lord” is in the book, Why Catholics Can’t Sing. You’ll never hear that hymn the same way again.

  • I especially dislike “Take and Eat.” For some reason it makes me think of cannibalism instead of the Eucharist. There are some hymns I enjoy from my school days at an Episcopal school. I really like this one for children, and the Catholics I know don’t seem to know it. Not appropriate for mass, but maybe for religious education classes.
    http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh712.sht

  • I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be? In my former Episcopal church, shallow theology reigned, but we sang some deeply meaningful, historical and lovely hymns. Oh, well, clearly converts are not here for the music, but for the Eucharist!

    But a main concern I have is that when this subject is discussed, the fallback position seems to be Gregorian Chant. Everything would be better if we had Gregorian Chant back! GC may be beautiful and profound, but for the convert, it is incomprehensible. I know, I know, we can learn. But I am overwhelmed with learning, and I may not have time to learn another language in the time I’ve got left. Could the church not unleash a creative and profound new form of hymnody/chant combining music AND Theology – maybe a whole new form that feeds our prayer through use of the vernacular. Isn’t that what Gregorian Chant did in it’s day?

  • You have named the leader on my most despised hymns list – not so much because of the words as the terrible “melody.”
    The nastiest of all Communion songs, though, has got to be “There is plenty of bread at the feast of life………” It’s appropriate for dancing in to a bacchanalia – not receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion!

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    The short answer Dawn is that the Church in this country and much of the West has undergone a musical “Babylonian Captivity” by some Catholics who came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies and are intent on their banal gibberish being almost the only music heard at Mass. Time will take care of this problem. (Since I came of age in the Sixties and the Seventies I may not live to see it, but I assume if, by the grace of God, I reach Purgatory there will be magnificent hymns, not to mention the beatific sounds of Heaven. In Hell I suspect the musical taste will reflect…best not to go there in both senses of that phrase!)

  • Oh Thank you Fr Z…THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!! I so much long for sacred silence during Mass and after Mass as well when currently the second miracle is performed and the sanctuary is miraculously turned into a social hall. As for the music…I truly miss the sacred liturgical music now only heard either during Tridentine Masses or when listening to Masses on TV usually celebrated by the Holy Father. I am a revert…six years now having been away for 45 years and now near 64y/o. I long for reverence in Mass and in Church generally. I long for the space to encounter Christ that sacred silence affords. I long to forget myself and relish in the person of Christ before me. But my question to you is ‘How or what can anyone do to bring this back? Our pastors seem disinterested and more influenced by what is perceived as the will of the congregation. It is not enough to just complain or say only if.. What concretely can we do?

  • Volunteer for the choir and begin exercising an influence over song choices. I truly believe that a lot of the atrocious hymns are deeply unpopular but too many Catholics are content to stay in the pews and do a slow burn as they hear a hymn they hate endlessly recycled Mass after Mass.

  • Pinky

    It’s like starting a Mass with a Hare Krishna song.

    you neveer heard of the Christmas Caroll
    “We wish you a hare Krishna”

  • George Weigel on bad Catholic hymns:

    “For classic Lutheran theology, hymns are a theological “source:” not up there with Scripture, of course, but ranking not-so-far below Luther’s “Small Catechism.” Hymns, in this tradition, are not liturgical filler. Hymns are distinct forms of confessing the Church’s faith. Old school Lutherans take their hymns very seriously.

    Most Catholics don’t. Instead, we settle for hymns musically indistinguishable from “Les Mis” and hymns of saccharine textual sentimentality. Moreover, some hymn texts in today’s Catholic “worship resources” are, to put it bluntly, heretical. Yet Catholics once knew how to write great hymns; and there are great hymns to be borrowed, with gratitude, from Anglican, Lutheran, and other Christian sources. There being a finite amount of material that can fit into a hymnal, however, the first thing to do is clean the stables of today’s hymnals.

    Thus, with tongue only half in cheek, I propose the Index Canticorum Prohibitorum, the “Index of Forbidden Hymns.” Herewith, some examples.”

    http://catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0288.htm

  • An excellent discussion on bad Catholic hymns:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/07/06/are-these-the-ten-worst-hymns-of-all-time/

    I love this comment:

    “The problem with these hymns is that they date very badly: they may have been passible in the 60?s or 70?s (though even as a kid in the 70?s, I remembered these hymns as sounding pretty “dorky”), but they sound even more pathetic today – sort of like the aging hippy trying to “get down” with the kids. Really good hymns, like those of Gregorian chant, are timeless. But if one were making a list of the best Catholic hymns, I’d probably put “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” near the top of the list along with hymns I remember singing in my childhood during Benediction service, “O Saving Victim,” and “Tantum Ergo.” They still send shivers up my spine!”

  • Way up there on my list for worst hymn would have to be the “We come to tell our story, we come to break the bread” one. Ack.

    I’d put that down as significantly worse than Gather Us In.

  • Unfortunately, “Taste and See” seems to be a popular Communion song in these parts.

    I am not proud of having been a lapsed Catholic for many years, but after a long absence you do notice changes in liturgical fashion. “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word” – named the worst hymn by the FT writer – was a ’70’s staple at my parent’s old parish. I haven’t heard it since then. But to my mind, it’s far from being the worst. I haven’t heard “Lord of the Dance” in at least 30 years and for that I heartily thank God. Like a FT commenter said, I used to hear versions which sounded like Michael Flatley and crew were going to run out of the sacristy any second and start line dancing.

  • Dawn: “I am new at being Catholic, having come into the church 4 years ago from a protestant background. I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    I am a convert myself and wondered the same. Most of my favorite hymns of youth seem far more substantial and reflective than what I typically grew up with. Thomas Day’s Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste was helpful reading.

  • “I have been and continue to be puzzled by the shallow nature of the hymns I find in this profound church – how can that be?”

    It’s even more puzzling when you consider the legacy of fantastic classical music inspired by — and written for — the liturgy by the greatest masters of the Western hemisphere. Not only a triumph of bad taste but also the victory of historical short-sightedness and an absurd worshipping at the Altar of the Trendy. … Or, at least, what was trendy almost fifty years ago.

  • My earlier post was written before I scrolled up and saw Mrs. Zummo’s. So it’s “Take and Eat,” not “Taste and See,” I guess. My bad. I confess to trying to block the song out of my brain whenever I hear it and to focus all my attention on the Real Presence. I suppose I’ve been successful, since I couldn’t even recall the actual name of the hymn – only that I dislike it for exactly the same reason Mrs. Zummo does.

    I’ve never heard “Anthem.” From all accounts I should consider myself lucky.

  • Even at Churches which otherwise have good music, most Communion hymns are quite awful. Are there any good Communion hymns? And I second my wife’s take on “Take and Eat.”

  • That is indeed a beautiful hymn. Unfortunately I rarely if ever hear it as a Communion hymn.

  • We have a volunteer cantor who loves singing it at communion. The advantage of being in a small parish: no budget for “professional” songsters.

  • I have to wonder – is the problem of terrible hymns an issue throughout the Catholic world, or just the Anglosphere part of it? Are churchgoers in Rome, Paris, Manila and Rio suffering through tripe produced by their own versions of Marty Haugen? Somehow it’s difficult to imagine parishioners in, say, Munich or Vienna droning along to the Germanic equivalent of “On Eagle’s Wings.” I doubt that the Holy Father distributes Communion to the strains of “Take and Eat.”

    It would be nice to have a reader from or familiar with the liturgy in a non-English speaking country enlighten us. Mundabor?

  • @Donna V:

    I’ve lived in Spain for some years and spent some time in Mexico and Argentina, as well. I can assure you that bad liturgical music is also widely present in Hispanic countries’ Masses, as well. There are always parishes with excellent music, of course, and perhaps even more than we have here in the States (percentage-wise), but I’ve heard a number of these awful “hymns” by Haugen, et al translated into Spanish and accompanied by guitars and poor singers–UGH! “Pescador de hombres” (“Fishers of men”) is an especially egregious and insipid hymn, which I believe was actually composed in Spanish first, then translated into English some time ago. But I’ve heard “Gather Us In” and “On Eagle’s Wings” in Spanish masses in those countries, as well.

  • Thanks for the reply, Kevin. Yuck, how depressing to think of “On Eagle’s Wings” spreading into the non-English-speaking Catholic world as well.

  • I am in my early 60’s and have little hope that this will change in my lifetime or even soon thereafter. So much has been undermined by my generation in our Church, it would take a revolutionary Pope to fix this mess or a lengthy series of Popes gradually changing so many things that need to be changed. Sadly, I seriously doubt such changes could come from below. The laity is too weak (and this is not necessarily a bad thing) and much of the clergy is wrong headed and still trained to be. The so-called music ministers seem hopeless and/or impotent. The entire abolition of singing at Mass would be preferable to the current situation, in my view. A (short) list of the only songs permitted would be an alternative but, even at that, I can only shudder to think what the US bishops’ bureaucracy would put on that list. Sigh! When the end comes closer, I will put together my list for my funeral and that gives me some comfort but must leave it to my wonderful wife to make sure nothing weird gets in.

  • Dear Pinky: You’ve got it backwards, I think. Holst wrote the hymn tune “Thaxted” first and then incorporated it into The Planets as Jupiter. In my diocese we sing it as “O God, Beyond all Praising” and the words are actually pretty good – “we worship you today, and sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.” Try learning the words to a decent version and singing along with Jupiter.

  • …and to the lady in her 60’s – so am I – how do you like “Taste and see” sung to a slow version of the Wyatt Earp TV Theme? yggg.

  • The hymns I remember from my youth were different in two respects. First, they were more theological (even though some of them were written by the Wesley brothers). They were hymns about the Trinity and Mary. I think half of them rhymed “Son” and “one”. The other thing that stands out about them, I don’t know exactly how to describe. Musically, they were more baroque than romantic. They were 3/4 or 4/4 time, solidly built. They weren’t written for impassioned songleaders to interpret.

  • I am an organist/accompanist in a local parish. It seems like due to circumstances beyond my control, my task not to help facilitate a good liturgy, but to try and make it the least horrible as possible. That’s very hard to do. Can anyone relate to the following?

    1. The Gather hymnal reigns supreme. Why are we required to sing the awful stuff within its pages, just because GIA publishes it?

    2. I do not make the musical selections. They are given to me by the others…liturgy planners…etc. Because of the wide array of options in Gather, any liturgy can and often does have a mix of: a song by Marty and company, maybe an African American style piece, a tradional hymn (protestant or Catholic) and maybe something scored for drums/bass/keyboard that sounds more like happy hour at the Leopard Lounge than church. The result is that there is no continuity, no unified sound. What is the music supposed to sound like…who knows?? Proponents of this would say it represents “diversity” but I would say it represents the church having lost a musical identity.

    3. The songs are always “lead” by a cantor at a microphone, creating a very artificial sound. Why is this necessary? Why is the organ not deemed suitable to lead the singing? What’s even better is when there is a deacon who is very zealous for singing, but somewhat off pitch and always behind the beat, who has a very hot lapel mic. Then it becomes a contest between the deacon and cantor for who to follow.

    4. The insipid, banal and borderline blasphemous lyrics of some of the songs. Last week, being Mothers Day, we had to sing “Hail Mary…Gentle Woman.” Ugh. What about the part that references Mary as “morning star” and “gentle dove”…um, the last time I checked, Jesus is the Morning Star and the Holy Spirit is the Dove. Does anyone ever read these lyrics?
    What do they even mean sometimes? Usually they just mean some lame brain is trying to come up with some stupid rhyme that matches the equally lame line that just preceded it. As long as were talking “worst songs”, “All that we Have, and all that we offer…” really ranks up there.
    Ugh. But it is a favorite for the presentation of gifts….simply because it has the word “offer”. BUT, the congregation squaks out a few of the insipid lines, and so boom…”active participation” is achieved…therefore…SUCCESS! No matter if everything is horrible musically, stylistically, and theologically.

    I could go on and on but I’ve probably said far too much already. Initially, back in my naive days, I wanted to be a force for creating a better liturgy, but across the boards in US parishes, I think that goal is beyond hope.

  • Very well said James. Your comment hits the nail right on the songbook of so much that is wrong with the truly bad music prevalent in Catholic parishes today.

  • I left the church specifically because the Masses are simply not uplifting and the music is dreadfully depressing. I call it dying cow music. My daughter has changed to a Zion church and I’m considering a Baptist church. Just can’t sit through another unmotivating, soul sucking Mass. White, old men in charge, you’re not going to make very much progress in change.

  • Gee, Helen — I can’t help being white, and I can’t help being in my fifties. It’s puzzling and sad that you’d give up Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament because of songs sung by old white priests. If your pastor apologized for his age, skin color, and musical taste would that keep you from leaving the Church founded by Jesus? Almost as importantly, does being judged “by the content of your character rather than by he color of your skin” include everybody, or only for folks that aren’t old white men?

  • Well this while old man agrees with Helen insomuch as the music of so many Masses really is depressingly bad. But I suppose that is where our agreement ends. First, leaving the Church because the Mass is insufficiently uplifting is unthinkable. Even I’m not that ego-centric — and I’m a lawyer! Second, I sort of doubt that Helen and I would be moved by the same tunes. I like jazz ok and blues a lot, but not for Mass sorry. I’m not there to be entertained really, but I realize I’m odd that way.

    Now for some goodies:

    Now Thank We All Our God
    Holy Holy Holy
    Holy God We Praise Thy Name
    Come Holy Ghost
    How Great Thou Art (ok not strictly Catholic, but orthodox anyway)
    Immaculate Mary
    Faith of Our Fathers
    Oh God Almighty Father

    My final semi-rant: I have no problem with a choir reserving one song which they offer as a gift to God and his people, but I really do wish choir directors would choose hymns that are singable by normal folks — you know with normal octave ranges and with recognizable melodies. Even some outstanding choir directors are so intent on choosing the most perfect song for that day’s readings, we end up hearing it at most once every three years — in which case it is unrecognizable and therefore unsingable. End of semi-rant.

  • And I forgot to add: Oh God Beyond All Praising. Disagree with Pink on that — Agree with MEW. When properly done, very powerful hymn.

  • Hate Hate Hate the Taize music. As a 20 year member of several choirs, I dread singing that insipid “We have come to share our story…” ad nauseum. I would not, however, leave the sanctuary of the Blessed Church and the Holy Eucharist, for a church with a better playlist.

    At masses where we sing some of the classics hymns as well as spectacular choral peices (Ave Verum, Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus), the parishoners take notice. Sometimes I wish that the choir directors would take more notice, and change.

    PS – I don’t want to “Sing a New Church Into Being”, I like the one Jesus created, thank you very much.

One Response to Lament of the Three Marys

Something Big Is On The Move At The Houston Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

Friday, January 22, AD 2010

[Updates at the bottom of this article]

Parishioners and friends are helping history arrive at the Galveston-Houston Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The arrival of the long awaited Pasi Organ Builders Opus 19 organ marks the commencement of its installation.

This past Monday morning, the first of two large moving trucks rode into downtown Houston and pulled onto the driveway of the Co-Cathedral. Soon thereafter, members of the parish and friends began offloading thousands of pounds of handmade organ components into the magnificent Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of the Archdiocese of Galveston Houston.

Since its consecration and Mass of Dedication on April 2, 2008, the Co-Cathedral community has been worshiping accompanied by a digital organ, piano and other instruments. Beginning in the Fall of 2010, the Co-Cathedral will begin offering and expressing praise, thanks, contrition, and petition to God with this magnificent new organ.

Martin Pasi and his team at Pasi Organ Builders of Roy, Washington, have been constructing this grand organ since Fall 2006. Thousands of custom, hand-made wood and metal parts will be installed and tuned over the next nine months for an estimated in-service date of mid October 2010.

With one of two trucks unloaded, the Parish celebrated the regular daily mass at 12:10, offered by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Rector of the Cathedral, The Very Reverend Lawrence Jozwiak. After Mass, the Cardinal officiated at a special blessing ceremony for the organ pipes and their installers.

The Pasi installers will have the important job of installing 5499 hand made pipes, 25,000 linear feet of lumber and 11 tons of tin, lead, pipeworks and mechanical action within two 45 foot tall cabinets aside the grand Resurrection Window in the Choir Loft.

The complete specifications for this grand organ list 75 different stops, 4 manuals or keyboards, and 104 different sets of pipes or ranks, varying in size from as small as ½ inch and as long as 32 feet. A rarity today, the Opus 19 Organ also features a free reed stop Clarinette.

The second truck was unloaded Tuesday.

Story written by Greg Haas, Mosaicist & Founder, Studio D’Oro LLC, Houston.

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For more information visit www.studiodoro.com

Cross-posted over at CVSTOS FIDEI.

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4 Responses to Something Big Is On The Move At The Houston Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

  • Totally cool – can’t wait to hear it played. Hopefully it will be ready in time for the Red Mass.

  • C Matt,

    That would be a treat for everyone.

    Just got back from an activity at St. Vincent De Paul and the statue of Jesus in the narthex still cracks me up.

  • Just think of all the people, children, families you could help to live in a home. God would rather all the money you spent on that fancy cathedral and organ help children have home and food. When are we going to realize that we are building these things for ourselves not God. He knows it, and we had better learn to stop waisting all that money for show. God is just as happy with a modest church that spends its money building a parish center for the people to gather in for community and to help others. When will we learn…

  • Karen,
    Christ left us two commandments, not one. And they are in the order he preferred. The notion that we satisfy the first by fulfilling the second is not a Catholic notion.

Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on the Theme by Thomas Tallis

Saturday, January 9, AD 2010

Many of my favorite pieces of music I associate with the night sky. This is because my father, who was throughout my life a planetarium director, often used his favorite pieces of music as background during planetarium shows. Being the oldest, I frequently had the chance to tag along to planetarium shows, and sit under the dome, listening to my father’s voice. And so now, when I hear something like Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on the Theme by Thomas Tallis I find myself thinking of the constellations, and I also find myself oddly misty about the eyes.

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Celtic Woman Singing Little Drummer Boy

Thursday, December 24, AD 2009

Little Drummer Boy is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time and I surprisingly stumbled across the Celtic Woman version of this song.  Celtic Woman is an all-female musical ensemble which I came across on YouTube earlier this year and they are delightfully good!

This version of the popular Christmas song has Gregorian chant in it, I’m not sure who scored this, but it works very well with Celtic Woman’s version of Little Drummer Boy.

Here is the original music by the Harry Simeone Chorale:

And finally here is the Vienna Boys Choir rendition of this song:

My favorite line of the song is “then He smiled at me“.

Gets me every time.

Long live Christ the King!

Have a blessed Christmas.

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Pange Lingua Gloriosi

Thursday, September 3, AD 2009

Composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas for the Office of Corpus Christi (see CORPUS CHRISTI, FEAST OF). Including the last stanza (which borrows the words “Genitori Genitoque”—Procedenti ab utroque, Compar ” from the first two strophes of the second sequence of Adam of St. Victor for Pentecost ) the hymn comprises six stanzas appearing in the manuscripts

Pange, lingua, gloriosi corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi quem in mundi pretium
Fructus ventris generosi Rex effudit gentium.

Written in accentual rhythm, it imitates the triumphant march of the hymn of Fortunatus, and like it is divided in the Roman Breviary into stanzas of six lines whose alternating triple rhyming is declared by Pimont to be a new feature in medieval hymnody. In the  Roman Breviary the hymn is assigned to both Vespers, but of old the Church of Salisbury placed it in Matins, that of Toulouse in First Vespers only, that of Saint-Germain- des-Prés at Second Vespers only, and that of Strasburg at Compline. It is sung in the procession to the repository on Holy Thursday and also in the procession of Corpus Christi and in that of the Forty Hours’ Adoration.[1]

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[1] Henry, H. (1911). Pange Lingua Gloriosi. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 3, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11441c.htm

Note: For more information click here.

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Christ Jesus Victor

Saturday, April 11, AD 2009

christ-victorious

hitler-dead

Something for the weekend.  To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King.  The hymn was written by a German-American priest, Father Martin Hellriegel, in 1941, specifically to rebut the claims of the Third Reich with the eternal message of Christ.  Here is a great essay with the story behind the hymn.  I find this comforting.  Evil often has its hour in the sun, to strut and parade, but, inevitably, Christ is always the final victor.

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