Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/721

This page needs to be proofread.




composers, and choir-directors, should famiUarize themselves with the spirit and regulations of the Church in regard to music by means of the numerous theoretical manuals. It is the spirit which vivifies; the form serves merely to give it expression. Without studying the liturgy (at least, that part of it directly connected with the music) and the texts in the original or an easily procured translation, it is impossible to penetrate into this spirit. The Church may claim our ready allegiance and respect for the laws and regula- tions which she, for grave reasons and to deal with existing conditions, has enacted.

In theoretical and artistic questions, however, everyone enjoys freedom. Thus the Congregation of Rites has declared in regard to the official chant (and this declaration is of course still in force): "While students of the chant always have enjoyed full free- dom, a privilege which they will not be deprived of in the future, to ascertain by scientific research what was the primitive form of the chant, and %vhat modifica- tions it has undergone in subsequent periods (a very laudable inquiry analogous to that being prosecuted by learned scholars into the primitive rites and other departments of the liturgy), only that form of the chant which His Holiness has proposed to us, and which has been approved by the Congregation of Sacred Rites, may to-day be considered as authorita- tive and legitimate" (Deer, auth., n. 3830). As for composers, they should never try to foist upon the faithful productions which do not conform to the in- tentions of the Church, even if the music in itself be beautiful, nor should they aim at a mere display of their own powers thereby to gain fame and merely delight their hearers. They should, on the contrary, endeavour to imitate in their compositions the sim- plicity and objectivity of the chant, and learn from it to accommodate themselves to the capacity of ordi- nary choirs. With these considerations before him, the choir-director has to choose his music, penetrate into its spirit so that he may be able to impart the same to his singers, who must sing not only correctly but also with devotion. Order and discipline among the performers are important factors in obtaining the desired results. According to the "Motu proprio", "only those are to be admitted to form part of the musical chapel of a church who are men of known purity and probity of life, and these should by their modest and devout bearing during the liturgical func- tions show that they are worthy of the holy office they exercise." Inasmuch as the impression produced by a performance depends greatly on the interpretation, it is incumbent upon the choir-master to insist upon distinct pronunciation of the words, a noble tone qual- ity, and a simple expression of the mood. Church music should be free from exaggerated and extrava- gant expression of joy or sorrow, sentimental yearning, and theatrical effects of every kind; it should be the utterance of fervent prayer springing from faith and charity. The good intention of the singers will not only find its eternal reward, it will also evoke grati- tude and respect.

The twofold aspect of the principle laid down by the Sacred Congregation for our guidance in the matter of singing in the vernacular is oxpressi'd as follows: "The Congregation urgcnlly admoni.shes that hymns in the vernacular no matter of what character, should gradu- ally and unostentatiously be eliminated from liturgical functions. On the other hand, pious hymns to ap- proved texts, which are extensively employed, particu- larly in Germany, during different devotions and be- fore the Blessed .SacraMieiit expo.sed, are by no means prohibited" (3 .\pril, 1S83; Krutscheck, 3rd ed., pp. 151, 177). Songs in the vernacular, alternating with prayer, are suitable during low Mass (within narrow limits, however), benediction, but especially during processions outside of the church. An excellent means for fostering this desirable practice is the care-

ful training of the school children, whose singing need not, however, be confined to hymns in unison, and who also may be allowed to perform occasionally more elab- orate compositions in two or more parts. The sing- ing, however, should not be permitted to gain preced- ence over prayer. The hymn-book should at the same time be a prayer-book, and praying aloud should alter- nate with the singing. It is important that the sense and spirit of the hymns be carefully explained to the children. The performance should be free from drag- ging and slurring, faults which should be strongly dis- couraged by the organist. Arbitrary, unindicated pauses should be avoided. The children, especially, should be taught to respond to the celebrant at the altar; this is the only way to educate the congregation gradually to do the same thing. No one exercises a greater influence in the reform of church music than the organist, provided he be animated by the spirit of the Church. His playing should be, like the chant of the Church, simple and grave, devotional and objec- tive. Song preludes and intermezzi during liturgical functions are forbidden. The organ must be subor- dinate to the singing, must support and not drown it. The purely vocal style is the ideal of the Church. The papal choir, the Sistine, has always excluded instru- mental music. The more humble and subordinate the role of the organist, the more faithful and conscien- tious he should be in filling it. He should never oc- cupy the front of the stage, scandalize the faithful by trashy improvizations, or keep the celebrant waiting. In extra-liturgical functions, however, he may move somewhat freely. It is decidedly preferable to play the works of good masters than to improvize. In pre- paring for a great liturgical function, he should aim at giving suitable and full expression to the spirit of the day, the feast, and circumstance. Unceasing practice is indispensable, especially to the musician of medio- cre talent, even though he alw.ays keep the text before him. He must be able to perform this with absolute sureness, mastery, and freedom. He must know how to modulate from one key into another, how to pro- ceed from one number to another, what key to choose for the hymns sung by the congregation, how to trans- pose the chant from one key into another, how to com- bine the organ stops, and (to a certain extent at least) how to improvize and to harmonize at sight. Under no circumstances must he permit himself to carry remi- niscences of the concert and opera into the church.

As to the use of instruments, other than the organ, we should remember that the special permission of the ordinary is necessary, and that their nature must al- ways be in keeping with the occasion and the place. The employment of a full orchestra forms an excep- tion (cf. Motu proprio, cited above). The wisdom of these restrictions has been cheerfully recognized by such unprejudiced authorities as Wagner and Beet- hoven — a fact which cannot be too often stated. The former maintained that "genuine church music should be produced only by voices, except a 'Gloria' or similar text." As early in his career as 1848 this master as- cribed the decadence of church music to the use of in- struments. "The first step toward the decadence of genuine Catholic church music was the introduction of orchestra instruments. Their character and inde- pendent use have imparted to religious expression a sensuous charm, which has proved very detrimental, and has affected unfavourably the art of singing itself. The virtuosity of instrumentalists provoked imitation on the i)art of singers, and soon a worldly and operatic taste held full sway in church. Certain parts of the .sacred text, e. g. the ' Kyrie Eleison', became a vehicle for operatic arias, and singers trained for Italian opera were engaged as church singers" (Gesammelte Werke, II, 335). Every reform has, in accordance with the will of the Church, to be carried out in such a manner that a greater evil may not result — that is, gradually and without causing unnecessary friction (sensi,m sine