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Monday, June 20, 2011

The weeds outweigh the flowers

When I was much younger and working in Austin, I used to go to an old-fashioned honky-tonk called "The Broken Spoke" once a month to listen to local River City group, the Geezinslaw Brothers.  One of their early hits was a song called "The Weeds Outlived the Roses".  While I was reviewing the second half of the Flor y Canto preview CD, that song popped up in my head.

As charitable as I am trying to be, unfortunately, to borrow the phrase from the Geezinslaws, the weeds here outweigh the flowers.  In some cases, they overshadow them.

OCP tries to market itself to everyone, encouraging parishes to use their material to "create" engaging liturgies.  However, whatever happened to fostering a sense of the solemn, the beautiful, the majestic and the dignified?  Whatever happened to offering fitting worship to the Triune God?

Instead, this third edition of Flor y Canto gives us what the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus called, a multi-cultural mish-mash that, in the end, sounds more secular than sacred and really does not achieve its end, suitability for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Sadly, the notion of the Mass as a sacrifice is noticeably and painfully absent in most, if not all, of the songs in the sampler CD.   El Reino de la Vida, which is meant as the recessional, focuses solely on the meal aspect of the Mass and is centered on our own lives, as opposed to the sacred mysteries that have just unfolded before our eyes.

Si la Gente Dejara Sus Odios does not even mention God at all.  It centers on what we should be doing.  Granted, we should engage in the corporal works of mercy, but, the liturgy is not about us and what we are doing.  It is about God and what He is doing.  Felices, based on the Beatitudes, is only slightly better.  However, the setting just does not cut it.

Hagamos una Casa suffers from a really bad setting.  The lyrics are not problematic; however, musically, this song sounds more like a Ranchera or a Corrida ballad, than sacred music.   If I were to remove the singing from this piece, the music alone would probably be something I would hear playing as background at local restaurant or on a secular radio station instead of during the Mass.

The song that is perhaps the most perplexing is Llevanos al Senor, el Vino y el Pan.  The vocal arrangement is beautiful as it almost sounds medieval; however, the drum beats, the guitars and the flutes, along with the lyrics, probably rule this song out as a possible piece for the Mass.  Even the soundtrack from the Robert  De Niro film The Mission had better music It seems to me that this is a misapplication of inculturation.  Maybe this song (with better lyrics) might have worked in an indigenous setting, where inculturation is meant to be used, but, not in the American heartland.  Perhaps the most confusing part of the song is that it has a very strange break in the middle.  I thought that the song was over and then, about 20 seconds later, the drum beats started up again.  This may work for a secular piece, but, not for something that is supposedly meant for liturgical use.  If we could divorce the drum beats and the guitars from the song, and had better, more liturgically appropriate lyrics, this could have worked with an organ.  The melody is pretty, but the song suffers from unsuitable instruments and bad lyrics.

OCP evidently invested a lot of money in marketing this third version of Flor y Canto.  From mailing out CDs and sample booklets to the actual production of the materials themselves, that is quite an expenditure.  However, where I believe OCP erred was in the actual production.  If OCP meant for its music to be used for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, why not use the instrument that the Church strongly recommends:  the organ?  Why not write music that is meant for the organ? 

In part one, I noted that OCP claims to have followed the Church documents on music.  Again, I ask:  which "church" and which "documents" were  used? Incidentally, OCP's promotional materials tout the fact that it has Latin chants and settings.  Why were these not included in the sampler CD? 

Furthermore, was there a need to have 740 songs?  Just this past week, the USCCB approved the Spanish-language propers for the Mass.  Why can we not have these set to suitable music instead?  The Church already gives us the texts to use for singing the Mass.  We do not need additional music to merely sing at Mass.

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