I was able to attend a pipe organ workshop recently, and although it was at a First Presbyterian church and led by an Episcopalian organist, I was able to realize something very important about Catholicism. I’d just like to say that I am not incredibly knowledgeable about pipe organ music (I’ve only been playing for about 2 1/2 years) or the official Catholic Church documents music on Vatican II and related documents on music in the liturgy.
Near the end of the organ workshop, the presenter spoke on Vatican II and I was incredibly impressed by his knowledge on it. He talked about how Gregorian chant and other traditional hymns were greatly used before Vatican II, and although Vatican II did not specifically say on the topic, those beautiful forms of music tend to have been forgotten after Vatican II in many places. At this moment, me, being the youngest person there and also being a Catholic thought to myself, “Wow, this guy has more respect for Pre-Vatican II church music than most Catholics do!” On a more serious note, that is a problem.
Many Catholics today have been embedded to think that the only music that should be played at mass is Praise and Worship or songs written by David Haas and Marty Haugen. My own parish has about one traditional hymn a month, and about 85% of our songs are modern songs. There is little to none of Gregorian chant and organ music at my parish and surrounding parishes. We’re so used to not having those beautiful types of music, that we now think they shouldn’t be at mass.
Now, I understand it’d be impossible for every Catholic church with NO around the world to immediately turn back on the P&W songs and other similar music, and begin to use correct Gregorian Chant and Latin at mass. But, in no way does that mean we shouldn’t try. It can be doing one more traditional hymn every month, but please liturgists, I beg you, show your parishes the beauty and reverence of Gregorian chant and the phenomenal capability of the pipe (or electric) organ. There is so much power and wonder in those two traditional ways of liturgical music.
Being an organist and pianist myself, I believe that other instruments such as piano, guitar, and drums should be used less at mass. The mass isn’t about trying to engage the congregation since the mass is in no way, a performance or a concert. I just wanted to say Gregorian chant and organ music can bring much more respect and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament than any other forms of music at mass.