Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four Hymns at Mass, and Only the One by a Protestant was Unobjectionable

This evening I attended the vigil Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish. As usual, the hymns were a mini lesson in what is wrong with the music in American Catholic churches.

We started with "Now We Gather" by Eugene Castillo in which the congregation congratulates itself for being saved. God does manage to make a cameo appearance -- in fact he shows up 15 times in the four verses plus refrain -- but is no match for the congregation, with the first person pronoun employed 39 times. The best that can be said of "Now We Gather" is that the tune is so unsingable that there is little risk that hymn will ever become anyone's favorite.

At the offertory we were assaulted with Dan Schutte, whose work can always be counted on to offer a memorably unpleasant musical experience. The hymn, "You Are Near," was an adaptation of the psalm Domine, probasti (Ps. 139; Ps 138 in the Vulgate, and, coincidentally, one of the Psalms at Evening Prayer today in the Book of Divine Worship) and the words, being true to the original, cannot be disparaged. As for the tune, if one can call it that, it is typical Schutte, in otherwords, the congregation has long since learnt that there is no point in even trying to actually sing this musical abortion.

The post-communion hymn, "Come, Worship the Lord," was also a paraphrase of a psalm, in this case the psalm Venite, exultemus (Ps. 95; Ps 94 in the Vulgate). Again the words, being faithful to the original cannot be objected to. As for actually singing, well, the irregular meter assured that there was no risk of congregational participation.

Thank God for Protestant clergyman Henry Van Dyke and for his 1907 hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," which, set as is customary to the "Ode to Joy" of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, offered us one hymn that could be sung with gusto, feeling, and joy.

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