19 August 2010

Why I (a young practicing Catholic) don´t think Pope´s Hyde Park entertainment reflects the young Church

Ask me for a selection of my favourite hymns, and I'd name one or two of those on the list to be performed at Hyde Park. That's it! One or two. 

Who on earth chose the liturgical music? It's important to question if we have any right to express our preferences, because seriously... did any of us Catholic youth have any say?

Yesterday the line-up was shared online here.

I ask, because I have a gut feeling that we'll all be hearing and seeing at Hyde Park, something reminiscent of Sunday's 'Songs of Praise' - which is far from what the youth of the Catholic Church actually enjoy and/or engage with. As much as I appreciate the BBC bringing God to peoples' homes with this program, I'm sorry, but... quite frankly the music bores me!

Please don't get me wrong - I'm a classically trained singer, with an ability to sing R'n'B, Gospel, and contemporary styles (yeah, we do exist), so with all my heart, I love organ and orchestral arrangements that one may find at some Catholic Masses. But in reality, those aren't usually the Masses us young peepz go to. Most of the time, you'll find Catholic youths in attendance at Mass where music is shared by a small group accompanied very simply with a guitar and if lucky, a keyboard too. But the stuff sung, more often than not, comes straight from the heart in praise to our God, and becomes one with the Mass. Not a performance. This makes all the difference to me, and explains why I love attending a Catholic African Mass, with its earthly rhythms and rich voicing. OK... the music isn't so technical, but it´s delivered from the heart.

It has always been a worry if mine that too much emphasis is directed on the technicality of music for events such as this, that heartfelt messages are lost to the musicians/singers performing them. I can imagine this happening with the Rutter piece that will be performed in part two. Possibly the only pieces I can predict young people relating to, are Foley's 'one Bread, one Body', the Taize chants, and Tantum Ergo. Oh, and lol... I have no idea who Dudley-Smith is. Do you? What about bringing in a little Matt Redman (whose material is often sung pre or post-Communion, and us young Catholics just love his music)? The Hallelujah chorus version I want to hear is this one:
And 'Shine, Jesus shine' is so old-skool, and so overplayed back in the early 90's that we try our hardest to avoid that one! Is this really meant to be Catholic entertainment for young people? All I can say is that it certainly doesn't reflect the majority or style of what us young Catholics sing at Mass.

Believe it or not, Catholics of all ages do enjoy the evangelical sounding versions of traditional hymns, and young people do enjoy singing traditional pieces like Salve Regina... and we so aren't 'happy-clappy'! In fact, I think the term ´happy-clappy worship´ belongs more to the CofE and Methodist sides of Christianity in the UK.

Congregations are truly affected by music that is so clearly from the heart. Music could be an instrument for bringing us young people closer to God, because it is a major part of our everyday lives, and it is ususally the first thing a young person relates to during a Mass. I certainly wouldn´t have that  many of that list on my mp3 player (exception of Rutter, Tantum Ergo and some Taize). According to these studies, 78% of Britons agree that Christians and the Churches are doing a poor job in reaching out to young people, and 83% of Roman Catholic Youth in England and Wales (practising and non-practising) describe the Catholic Church as boring (among other things). Our Church must then realise that music can really help to bring more young people back to Sunday Masses. Get it right, and we´ll attract young interest. This Papal Visit is the Catholic Church's opportunity to achieve this, and also show the young outside our faith that our Church is very much alive, and full of hope. Us Catholics like to praise our God in different styles, and from the heart: and young people dig this! If what they´re about to see on TV is a live version of ´Songs of Praise´, then I´m afraid they´ll get the wrong impression.

Need I also remind people of how multi-cultural the Catholic Church is in England and Wales. I hope that these lively and loving communities get an opportunity to represent themselves, and offer some sort of entertainment to the Pope and the Great British people. My parish has groups from all continents contributing so much to the Church, and have their little traditional dance classes and choirs that practice in our parish centre. I´m not just talking about our friends from Ireland. I´m talking about the representation of hundreds of West African, South Asian, far-East Asian and South American Catholic communities, showing the world how proud we are of our global and unified Church in the UK. We love our faith, and young practicing Catholics will profess that with all our hearts between 16th and 19th September 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI, a successor of Jesus´disciple Peter, comes to our lands.

Despite all that, music and entertainment isn´t as important as the strength of my faith, and so I think young people will have to rely more on our visual  and personal representation, than our aural one! No matter what impression people walk away with regarding the Catholic young after Hyde Park, my own witness is lived out in my everyday life, and hope that those who know me can relate to that. The theme being 'cor ad cor loquitur' (heart speaks unto heart) means that the music and entertainment too must come from our hearts. And whilst I pray that this will be the case, unfortunately, I just do not feel the selection of music is a true reflection of what the faithful and vibrant Catholic youth of today have to offer His Holiness.

I´d love to hear what you´ve got to say! Leave a comment if you agree or disagree.


Anonymous said...

Hi Claz, your general sentiments make sense to me but I do not quite agree with all. Yes, I don't think it should be Songs of Praise and Shine Jesus Shine is somewhat tacky, both so far so good, but then I listened to your suggestion of the Hallelujah chorus above and to me it sounds like something out of a musical! The Catholic Church has such a rich choral tradition without having to modernise traditional hymns or have such jazzy numbers.

Having said that, I really do think that OUTSIDE the liturgy, such music can be great e.g. jazzy numbers, Delirious-like rock pieces etc. This would be most appropriate in the build up to the Vigil. So, I think young people can 'dig' both without the liturgy being compromised.

Also, you quite rightly acknowledge different cultures in your parish but crucially they demonstrate their culture in the parish centre not by amendment of the liturgy. Parishes in the UK have a Western heritage and that is why we e.g. don't dance in church... but such movement is more natural in some of the African churches in Africa itself. Have a listen to Cardinal Arinze for an eloquent and entertaining exposition of this subject:



Francesco said...

As a young practising Catholic myself I am shocked and appalled that you seem to think that you speak for your whole generation!

There are many young people, some of the highest concentrations I have seen in London in fact, who regularly go to Mass at: Westminster Cathedral, the Oratory, St James (Spanish Place), St Etheldreda's etc., where the music is anything but how you describe what 'young people' like.

I shudder too at 'Shine, Jesus, Shine' as an example par excellence of ill-thought out attempt to be 'down the da kidz'; myself and most of my peer group also shudder at the foreign Foley, dreadful Dudley-Smith, and terrible Taize.

Where is the gregorian chant and polyphony? The album produced by the monks of Stift Heilegenkreuz reached #7 in the charts last year, and Benedictine nuns in France have just signed a record deal with Decca. This is the music which Sacrosanctum concilium said was to have 'pride of place' in the Roman liturgy.

This music represents nothing but the personal predelictions of the Ecclestone Sq. Mafia; I just hope these are there death throes.

red dooobeee said...

I have to agree with you Claz. You clearly state that this is your opinion, and as a result, what you say is not saying that ALL young Catholics feel this way. I for one am a traditionalist when it comes to the celebration of mass. However, there are songs and bands which are not traditional, and not happy clappy, or updated versions of songs which have been over played. For instance, Student Cross Oxford Leg have a latin version of 'Shine Jesus Shine'.

Domine, lux amoris tuae fulget,
In mediis tenebris fulget;
Jesu, Mundi Lux, nobis adfulge,
Libera nos per veritatem quam nunc nobis adfers.
Adfulge mihi, adfulge mihi.

Fulge, Jesu, fulge! -
Terram hanc Patris gloria imple.
Arde, Spiritus, arde! -
Corda nostra accende.
Flue, Flumen, flue! -
Gratia et misericordia gentes inunda.
Domine, emitte verbum tuum et fiat lux.

Considering this entertainment is not during the liturgy of the trip, as is also mention by a previous respondent, there is a wider scope, not just for less traditional music, and would some ecumenical music be out of the question too? or how about embrace the whole Catholic church and look at the cultural makeup within the UK.

Pilgrim.Claz said...

1) I refer to the 'entertainment' part of the Hyde Park event. I do not, for one moment, insist that a Mass with the Pope should be all youthful entertainment or Matt Mayer-esque!

2) If the event is going to provide 'entertainment' to the young Catholics in Britain, then I believe there should be a balance of the styles within that entertainment that appeals to all young people.

3) I never once attacked Latin music - choral, orchestral or otherwise. And opposers to my motion should also realise that everyone has different taste. Choral isn't entertainment to some young people.

4) The title of my post was 'Why I (a young practicing Catholic) don't think Pope's Hyde Park entertainment reflects the young Church'. Not 'Why Pope's Hyde Park entertainment does not reflect the young Church'.

5) Love the Latin 'Shine Jesus Shine'! Haha... thanks for that red doobee!