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Musical Musings: Liturgy Page 2

The Snowbird Statement (Part 2)

7. While we believe that the process of dialogue between liturgy and its cultural context must be promoted and advanced, we challenge the indiscriminate incorporation of an entertainment or therapeutic ethos into liturgical music. We think that this development constitutes one of the most serious problems in the present moment of the church's liturgical life. Particular dangers inherent in the adoption of currently popular musical styles and idioms are sentimentality, consumerism, individualism, introversion and passivity. Means for evaluating various musical styles and expressions must be generated in order to avoid these particularly pervasive tendencies.

8. We believe that there exists a characteristic ethos of Catholic liturgical music, although we acknowledge that such is difficult to define. To identify the ethos narrowly with any specific period or genre in liturgical-musical history would be a mistake. The church is not intrinsically limited to any particular "sacred" style of music for the celebration of the liturgy. Still, we believe that a Catholic ethos is discernible, for instance, in music that elaborates the sacramental mysteries in a manner attentive to the public, cosmic and transcendent character of religion, rather than in styles of music that are overly personalized, introverted or privatized. Music employed by countless generations of Catholic Christians is the starting point for discerning the characteristics of a Catholic ethos in liturgical music. In response to the church's developing needs and the many new cultural contexts within which the church worships, the ethos of Catholic liturgical music will continue to find new expressions. This process of development, however, should consult pre-existing forms to a greater extent than has generally been the case in recent decades. We advocate that new forms and styles grow organically from extant forms which display a Catholic ethos. We seek to articulate more objectively the characteristics of the Catholic ethos which we intuitively believe to exist.

Education and Formation

9. Central to the church's musical education programs must be the continued development of the singing congregation as the principal and fundamental musical body. Congregational singing in Catholic worship has not yet generally achieved a desirable standard. While no shortcuts or easy solutions exist, pastors and musicians would do well to reflect together more systematically and regularly on this matter and to choose and promote repertoire in a manner conducive to increased congregational singing. Catholic musical life in this area might benefit from detailed study of successful patterns in other Christian churches.

10. We call for more adequate resources to improve the musical skills of parish musicians of all levels of competence. There exists a serious need for moral and financial support in this area from parishes, dioceses and episcopal conferences. The most important skill of the parish musician, apart from adequate understanding of the liturgy, is the actual ability to make music. When this is lacking, the song of the assembly cannot be actualized and the rites cannot be celebrated adequately. Basic musical skills to be fostered include, for example, keyboard playing which encourages congregational singing and vocal technique which enables proclamation of a psalm verse. We envision graded listings of necessary musical skills articulated by the national episcopal conference or by diocesan music offices. We regard the fostering of musical competence in liturgical musicians as a primary task of the diocesan music director and the obligation of every bishop.

11. The Catholic church's rich legacy of musical education of children and youth, extending back to early medieval times, needs to be rediscovered and promoted today. The musical formation of the young is critically important to the life of the church. Sound music education includes instruction in good vocal production and music reading skills, as well as exposure to a wide spectrum of musical literature. We advocate strong choral and other musical programs for young musicians, graded for various levels of ability, in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs. Such programs should be, as much as possible, founded on high standards and directed by competent music teachers. Music education should be part of the overall curriculum of the religious education of children, especially at a time when state schools in much of the English-speaking world have significantly reduced artistic formation. First among the benefits of such programs would be the stimulation of a more active participation in the music of the liturgy. Success in this area may not be immediate, but it will be seen and heard in the liturgy of the future. From the ranks of children's choirs and music programs, where love for both the arts and for participation in the liturgy is fostered, future musicians will come forth to serve the church and its worship.

Choir schools, of historically proven ability for high-quality musical training, remain important for the renewed liturgy. We regret the closure of many schools in recent decades, especially when impelled by the mistaken conviction that they are obsolete. We wish to state our high regard for choir schools and we call for continued moral and financial support of these institutions. Where possible, new schools should be established. In many situations, full-time choir schools are not feasible; in such circumstances, we encourage the adaptation of the choir school model to part-time programs.

12. The leadership of the parish clergy is the single most influential factor in the liturgical-musical life of the church; yet the formation of most seminarians in this area remains seriously inadequate. The experience provided in seminaries and seminary chapels forms the attitudes and musical values of future priests, often for the remainder of their ministry. Accordingly, for the good of the church's liturgy, seminarians need to participate in a liturgical music program which is well informed in principle and generative of sound liturgical practice something repeatedly called for in official church documents. Seminary formation requires a well-developed liturgical-musical curriculum which will allow future pastors to be good leaders in the worship life of their parishes and communities. Ongoing education for clergy after seminary also needs to be more adequately organized within dioceses and religious communities. The resources of diocesan liturgy offices or secretariats would be well spent in more intensive attention to the continuing formation of parish clergy in the area of liturgical music.

13. Graduate training for Catholic church musicians needs to be developed and improved. We have difficulty recommending many programs in the English-speaking world because they lack a well-rounded and excellent character. To be effective, a church musician must have a strong liturgical-musical education (including study of the history of liturgical music, of official church documents, and of the general role of music in worship), strong applied skills in music-making (including the study of organ, voice and conducting), a broad knowledge of the church's liturgical rites, and an ability to organize, lead and communicate in an effective and compelling manner. Hybrid liturgy-music programs all too often compromise adequate formation in either liturgy or music. We urge those responsible for graduate programs to address these imbalances and to work more assiduously toward creating education programs in which musical formation, the sciences of liturgy and theology, as well as pastoral skills, are more systematically integrated.

14. The church's liturgical presence at colleges and universities (whether church sponsored, private or state run) has a tremendous potential for forming students' habits and attitudes. It is important that liturgical music ministries in academic settings foster mature, adult participation in the liturgy, employ high-quality music competently rendered, make use of the often considerable musical talents in the student body, and provide visionary example for the entire church. We call for greater moral and financial support for liturgical music in such settings, as well as the development of leadership positions which ensure stability and competence.

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Part 3: The Practice of Liturgical Music

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