Beauty is a necessity, not a luxury. …without beauty, the duties prove too hard and, eventually, seem pointless.
Why is it that we feel happier when we’re in the presence of beauty? And why do drab or utilitarian surroundings make us feel sort of listless or depressed, or even agitated? We instinctively respond to beauty, just as we keenly, if unconsciously, sense it’s absence.
Understanding this difference between objective and subjective judgment is crucial to our understanding of beauty and indeed reality.
Is it possible to speak objectively about what’s beautiful and what isn’t? Joseph Pearce argues that we can, though we will first need to be open to the truth that there is such a thing as an objective standard for beauty. That’s a tough sell today, and requires a large dose of humility.
Sacred Music is the indispensable instrument of the Holy Spirit in leading souls in their march toward Heaven…
Fr. John A. Perricone
Authentic sacred music isn’t a luxury or a mere affectation—it is a necessary element in right worship. As Fr. John Perricone sets out in the article linked below (h/t Crisis Magazine), our souls are moved in profound ways by the music we encounter, and this is especially true in the liturgy. He writes:
This music transforms him and pierces man’s soul to the core of his being. Often, it produces a contrition so profound that a man’s life can take a wholly different course.
This basic understanding is what guides our music program at St. Mark. Music for Mass isn’t about “filling in the gaps” or giving people something to do. It is an expression of our love for God, which in turn lifts and transforms our souls. But for this dynamic to truly work, the music must be fitting. Not necessarily complicated or expensive to produce, but fitting.
Happily, we have available to us a long tradition of music that is well-suited to the worship of the Most Holy Trinity. Some of this music ornate and difficult, and some is quite simple and accessible, but all of it has been proved over the course of centuries to both render right praise to God as well as “pierce man’s soul.”
There’s a lot of weird stuff on YouTube, but every once in a while you stumble across something that makes you think, “Wow—why have I never seen this before?” That’s what I thought when I came across this video (below) by the Catholic musical group Harpa Dei.
In order for sacred music to reach its full stature, composers and musicians need to exercise true artistry, in which knowledge, inspiration, and skill all play a vital role in creating works of dignity and beauty.
You may not have noticed, but the past 30 years have seen the beginnings of a kind of renaissance in Catholic sacred music. It has been very slow and has largely gone unnoticed at the parish level, but it’s real and it’s bearing fruit.
Today, our music spotlight comes courtesy of our excellent music director, Diana Corliss:
This weekend, we will be singing two beautiful pieces on Mother’s Day in honor of our Blessed Mother.
At the 10:00 am Mass, the choir will be singing a setting of the “Ave Maria” by Michael John Trotta. It has a soaring and tender soprano solo that reminds me of the Blessed Mother hearing our prayers and interceding for us with her motherly love.
We will also be singing the “Salve Regina” at the end of every Mass this weekend.
Links to recorded versions of these pieces are included below. Better yet, come to the 10:00 Mass this weekend and hear our superb choir!
Today, I thought I’d share one of my all-time favorite pieces of sacred music: a setting of In manus tuas by English composer John Sheppard (ca. 1515—1558). For what it’s worth, I actually consider this one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
One of our goals at St. Mark has been to gradually restore Gregorian chant to its rightful place in the sacred liturgy. This is specifically in response to the call of Vatican II: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specifically suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sancrosanctum concilium, 116).
One might be tempted to think that there was an unbroken tradition of Gregorian chant in the Roman liturgy right up until the 1960’s, when “everything changed.” But that’s not quite right. It turns out that Gregorian chant fell on hard times from the about the end of the Middle Ages up until the mid-19th century. It’s ironic that it was that other venerable liturgical musical form, polyphony, that worked to undermine the purity of chant and initiate its decline.
The Communion meditation sung by our choir this Sunday was the motet Ave Verum Corpus by English composer William Byrd. This is a Eucharistic hymn that is also very fitting for the Transfiguration and the season of Lent. Listen to a recorded version below.