Day by Day....
Welcome, and remember the purpose of this space. I hope that you have stories to share. I’m not so much interested in discussion of theories, but more simply – stories: stories related to that first decade and a half after the Council.
I really wish I could embed this video - but I can’t. I’ve linked to it before on my regular blog, and it fits here. It’s Irish, from 1968, and captures a fascinating moment - a folk choir singing a hymn to the tune of Blowin’ in the Wind and Sing from the Highest Mountain - with the priest celebrating ad orientem. Go take a look.
What are your memories of liturgical music in that period after the Second Vatican Council? Here are mine.
First, understand this about my background: I was born in 1960, but was not taken to Mass until I was five years old. My mother was a faithful Catholic, my father was, as he would put it, a “lapsed Methodist.” I evidently didn’t behave well in Mass, so early on, my mother decided, why bother, when she can stay with David? - so I did.
That said, I don’t remember a thing – a thing – about liturgical music during my childhood when she did start allowing me to accompany her. Those first couple of years we went to a university Newman Center – I remember the look of the building and even the interior space, I remember being dropped off for CCD one morning when it wasn’t in session - but nothing about actually going to Mass. For much of my childhood, we were in your basic midwestern parish – I looked it up today, an it’s still there – and again, I remember nothing about Mass.
But then – high school. A Catholic diocesan high school in the south, from 1974-78. That I remember.
It was all of the music that Canedo features, and boy did it stick. As I mentioned, I’m really surprised how much I can sing, still. Challenge me to a sing-off? I may not win, but I’ll finish strong. However, I don’t recall specific Mass song moments from high school Masses, except for cringy feelings related to certain songs that we resoundly mocked before and after – what I do remember though, is this:
First, the use of secular music, not so much during Mass (although that might have occurred), but in reconciliation and prayer services and retreat days, and as prayer prompts and mood-setters in religion class. All the time, and nothing but. Except for Hosea at reconciliation services, natch. I think it was in canon law, the use of Hosea. Most popular? Bridge over Troubled Waters, You’ve Got a Friend (James Taylor), Blowin’ in the Wind (of course), for some reason, If and Diary (Bread), and Lonely People by America.
Also: (I’m adding these after a reader mentioned them on Facebook - headsmacking moment: how could I forget?!) Turn, Turn, Turn (that was very popular in school services), Morning Has Broken (not surprisingly) and yes, Let it Be.
Now, of course, this was the era of Jesus Christ, Superstar and Godspell. JCS was waay too daring for consideration for any use in my school, but even though the lack-of-resurrection was problematic, Godspell was approved. We sang Day by Day a lot at Mass, and, of course, Prepare Ye went Advent rolled around.
Waiting for that descant to kick in…Day by Day - Day-by-Daaaaay-
Also: wow, is Godspell awful. Fun music but, yikes.
My other memory of this era has centers on the parish. A city parish, with a sweet, dedicated, talented organist, but struggling, as were many parishes at the time, to figure out what to sing and how to sing it. It was mostly the standards – Praise to the Lord, Holy, Holy, Holy, etc, but one moment does stand out for me, with all due respect to those involved:
One of the cantors, a big man in his 50’s with a pseudo-Irish tenor type voice, standing at the lectern in his plaid sports jacket and tie, warbling his way plaintively through Kris Kristofferson’s Why me Lord? - organ accompaniment and everything.
Yes, that was…. unforgettable.
So that’s high school. Catholic music in our experience in that place and time? Routine, a little lame at times, absolutely mock-worthy at others, because of course, teenagers, and occasionally appreciated. Occasionally.
Then came college.
This is one of those moments I actually remember. August 1978, my first Mass at the college Catholic center. Several guitars, tambourine, maybe a flute, definitely a bass fiddle (played by the head of the campus Women’s Center) – opening song? Lord of Glory. Closing song? Blest be the Lord.
What a jolt. I loved it. We all did. I mean, that measure or two between verse and refrain of Lord of Glory where the rhythm is building and the punch to Leaping the mountains! Bounding the hills! The descant in Blest Be the Lord? Yes, it had an impact on 18-year old me, definitely.
So that was college: From 1978-82 - no secular music in Mass, unless you want to count Hosanna from Jesus Christ Superstar as “secular.” But it was, by that point, St. Louis Jesuits, for the most part, with a big heap of charismatic-rooted music as well.
There was a large charismatic contingent at my university student center, centered on several faculty members and their families with students drifting in and out. At least one of them ended up joining one of the big covenant communities in the Midwest not long after. It was also, in fact, through one guy who was very active in the charismatic group that I first heard of Mother Angelica. A lot of people today aren’t aware that this was her first audience – Catholic charismatics who passed around the small pamphlets she wrote and published.
Anyway, that was not my thing, although even then as now, I was interested in it just because I’m always interest in groups and subgroups. I went to one charismatic prayer meeting – and that was it. However, many of the same older adult charismatic leaders were key to the music ministry there, so besides the increasingly canonical St. Louis Jesuits, we sang a lot of music that came from the charismatic movement, and looky here at what I still have:
Leafing through it, again, I was surprised at the number of songs I can still sing from memory. I was also surprised at how many songs were absolute standards, and we sang all the time, but have, it seemed, just disappeared. Or not? You tell me.
Aw, look at Amy’s noting the Scripture reference and the date it’d be used. I don’t know for what purpose, though – I learned to play guitar the summer after my freshman year (while doing a summer mission thing in Harlan, Kentucky), but I don’t think I ever played at Mass during college – there were far more competent musicians. I did sing, though, so perhaps it’s related to that.
Anyway, all through this, I never thought that things could or should be any different. This was a given, and while it was sometimes cringey, it was just..the Mass. This was how it was done and this - along with the traditional hymns - was the music. No thought at all of any other way that was about, say, singing the Mass rather than singing at Mass.
My least favorite hymns/songs? Even then, I had strong opinions. I tend to hate whiny – anything – so the music I disdained, I’d probably characterize as..having that quality. I Will Never Forget You (Isaiah 49) – Carey Landry, of course, Hosea, Turn to Me, Of my Hands, Be Not Afraid, oh, and this one.
I have vivid memories of us mocking that refrain – it’s such a strange, pseudo-martial, dirdgy thing, which then pops up into that high register, kind of a reverse On Eagle’s Wings.
I’ll end this post with my choice for Song-That-Should-Be-Banned-Forever – one that I’ve hated probably since I first started hearing and singing it in the late 60’s. Followed by my Not-So-Guilty-Pleasure-Favorite.
The syrupy, sentimental lyrics, the clichéd buildup and painfully soaring end. I really can’t stand it, even knowing the origin story, which is powerful.
And here we get to my point.
Long ago, in young adulthood, past the folk era, even past the St. Louis Jesuits, well into the Haugen-Haas era about which I was increasingly doubtful, I was borderline seething, nourishing my contemptuous side as I saw that this was coming up as the recessional during a Mass. I had to put a pause on my disdain, though, as the music progressed. I listened.
People were singing. Boy were they singing. I mean, belting this one out like I’d not heard them sing all during Mass, like I’d not heard a congregation sing in a while. They were all in.
Oh, I didn’t stop having my views. Obviously, if you read my blog. And it’s not only my views, it’s a commitment to support, in whatever way I can, sacred music. But I can never forget how that congregation raised the roof with to take each moment and live each moment in peace etern-a-leeee! and just one more time…..
And who am I to talk?
Because this is my fave from the era. It was the specialty of our charismatic-heavy college music group, led by a woman with a soaring, gorgeous, clear voice. They did this so well - much better than this group here, especially the guy, but perhaps you can still get the idea. This is the only recording I could find. Sorry, not sorry that I’ve always liked “A Voice Cries Out in the Wilderness” by James Berlucchi and Charles Christmas and will gladly rock out to it at any time.
In the desert of Judea, lived a prophet of God. Camel's hair was his clothes, locust and honey were his food. From his mouth came the news, "God's kingdom is at hand."
O Jerusalem, you must prepare for Him. If, then, you would learn, repent, yes, and turn. Wash your sins away. Be cleansed on this day.
Jordan waters flow. People come and go. "What's the meaning of all this? Who will bring us righteousness? Fulfill our hearts' desire? COULD IT BE THE MESSIAH?"
Now you’re ready for Advent. You’re welcome.
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