Monday, September 17, 2007

Geriatric trendies in full retreat

Well, that's not quite true -- and I've never taken such reports without a large grain of salt; but I've always relished the triumphalist ironies of statements like those of Peter Kreeft that the Church isn't an embattled and besieged institution fighting for its life against all odds, but rather that it is the modern atheistic secular establishment that has dug in its heels, hanging on to its embattled orthodoxies for dear life, and feels in its bones that its days are numbered. Even if this isn't quite accurate, little victories in the renewal of the Church deserve celebrating.

On that note, Damian Thompson of the London Telegraph has written an article in his Holy Smoke column entitled “”Worrying times for ageing trendies”” (, September 13, 2007), which runs along the following lines:
The geriatric trendies who have controlled – and ruined – the music of the Catholic Church for 40 years must be feeling rather worried right now. Consider three recent developments:

1. Pope Benedict XVI boycotted a performance of “Christian pop music” in Loreto last week. The organisers of his pilgrimage had planned to subject him to it, just as they made John Paul II listen to Bob Dylan a decade ago. But Benedict stayed secluded in prayer at the shrine, missing all the groovy worship.

2. The Pope celebrated Mass in Vienna last Sunday to the accompaniment of a complete performance of Haydn’s Mariazeller Mass. John Paul (who was uninterested in music) presided at only one full liturgical performance of a polyphonic or classical Mass setting during his entire pontificate. Benedict intends to make a habit of it. That’s great news. Byrd, Palestrina, Haydn, Mozart, Bruckner – welcome back. You can find the details here, courtesy of Sandro Magister.

3. At long last, John Paul II’s master of ceremonies, Archbishop Piero Marini, is retiring. Hallelujah! In addition to encouraging the performance of elevator music at papal ceremonies, Marini is the man responsible for decking out the pontiff in draylon tents instead of fiddleback chasubles.
Thompson goes on to note that none of this means, alas, that the abysmal standards of Catholic music in England and Wales will automatically improve. "There’s a sickeningly cosy relationship between the Bishops’ Conference and the composers and publishers of 1960s-style dirges," he writes. Today’s cloth-eared prelates still think “Bind Us Together, Lord” is thrillingly 'hip'.

At the moment, all Thompson says he can do is to recommend a "protective measure":
Just tear up a copy of the Tablet, roll up the pieces and stuff them in your ears. I find that the woolliness of the prose blocks out even the most strident “folk hymn.”
[Hat tip to C.B.]

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