Tag Archives: John Rutter

Can even the music of Lent divide Catholics?

March 23, 2012


A wonderfully interesting online discussion has been going on all day today about people’s favorite music for Lent.

Simcha Fisher in her regular blog for NCRegister.com noted that Lenten music doesn’t get the props that Christmas music does. She named some of her favorites, and offered an opinion, which all good commentary should: She refuses to even call “Ashes” a hymn.

Eventually she asked, “What Lenten music do you hope to hear this year?” What a great way to get people engaged in things spiritual.

Comments keep coming

Fisher’s post went up at 7 a.m., and by 8:07 “Christina” had chimed in with her favorites, including “Were You There” and “Calvary,” noting that the Negro spirituals seemed especially appropriate for the season. She add a couple other hymns as well.

Now by 5 p.m. CDT there are an additional 30 comments — including one by your humble servant — and a disappointing flavor has tainted the cyber-discussion for me.

Please noted the language. I wrote “tainted” — not “ruined.” It’s still a good, engaging activity.

But when we’re talking about sacred music, do we have to take sides?

Our church is divided enough; do we have to paint our musical taste red or blue, too?

Here’s what I mean.

Many of the favorites early on mirrored blogger Fisher in leaning to the classical or serious music genre, so much so that a relatively early commenter wrote:

I know it’s not politically correct to say this on the NC Register, but I love listening to the Godspell soundtrack during Lent.  Flame away!  I’ll bonk you over the head with the singing nun’s big acoustic guitar.  😉

Really? Do one’s hymns of choice now have to be PC? Later that same hour, that writer got some support:

I was going to say Godspell too! *ducks*

I don’t know why…but I like it. I try to go all deep and pretend to be moved by the solemn old hymns of yore, but the truth is, I like showtunes!

Not at Mass, of course. But at home or in the car…Godspell it is!

Love the way this commenter admits to pretending to like old hymns, by the way.

Choosing sides?

Later in the day another comment share the opinion that Negro spiritual’s seemed less than authentic in a suburban setting, while still another seemed ashamed to write, ”

Does liking “Were you there?” put (me) in with the Thomas Kincaid fans?

And yet another noted, after suggesting a work by a modern composer,

“I approach all modern hymns & religious music with a grand dose of cynicism and disdain, but this knocked me flat.”

So there. Everybody has an opinion, and this is a great way to share it.

But am I the only one who sees some holier-musically-than-thou airs leaking into a non-verbal chat session?

Fisher asked what puts YOU in the right spiritual mood for Lent — it was not an invitation for anyone to judge what is or isn’t appropriate for someone else to appreciate.

And no one should feel embarrassed about what music they like, especially not sacred music.

Personally, I’ve got a shelves full of both classical cds and rock ‘n’ roll, and I’ve just recently discovered John Rutter. But one of the best ways I pray is singing a Michael Joncas’ setting of the “Our Father” — when I’m alone in the car, of course! That way nobody can hear me when I don’t hit the key change exactly right.

New music versus old music isn’t something Catholics should be taking sides on. American Public Media’s “Composers Datebook” has a great tagline to that effect: “Reminding you that all music was once new.”


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