Tuesday, 13 February 2007

My 10 Commandments for Forming A Parish Repertoire

I always say that everyone is entitled to my own opinion. So here it is. How to form a truly Catholic parish repertoire. Just the ten rules for now to wet your appetite. I will elaborate later on.

First: Four rules for judging a good Catholic liturgical hymn or song

1) Is it focused on God?
Is it a song about or addressed to God rather than a song about or addressed to ourselves?

2) Is it true?
Does it express the Catholic faith? Is what it says about God true? Is what it says about us (and others) true? Does it name God truthfully? Does what it says agree with the Catholic faith?

3) Is it singable?
Can it be sung without accompaniment? Does it avoid difficult timing? (eg. strange or inconsistent rhythms, notes tied over bars etc.) Does it have a memorable melody?

4) If the text is not a scriptural or liturgical text, does it have dignity as poetry apart from the music?
Does is avoid trite or clichéd language, bad English, inverted word order? If the text is liturgical or scriptural, does it accurately represent the original text?

Second: Four Aims for building a good Parish repertoire

5) Aim to build up a broad range of theological / liturgical / ritual / seasonal themes suitable for all occasions.
Especially: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, Lent/Passion/Easter, Pentecost/Confirmation, Eucharist/First Communion, Penance/First Confession, Saints Days, Graduation, School festivals, Entrance, Offertory, Eucharist, Sending out, Asperges, etc.

6) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents examples from every stage of the historical heritage of the Church.
Eg. Gregorian/plainchant, Latin hymnody, German chorales, Victorian hymns, Twentieth Century song, Carols, etc.

7) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents broad geographical/cultural origins, but reflective of and faithful to our own cultural heritage.
Eg. English, Celtic, European, Local Australian material (if it meets the criteria for a good song); African, Latin, Asian, American, Islander depending on the local community. (nb. Can be a bit false to impose songs of a foreign culture or heritage.)

8) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents a broad range of styles
Eg. Chants, Responsorial, Hymns, Songs, Choruses, Rounds, Echos, etc.

Two footnotes before deciding to introduce or encourage the use of a song

9) Does the song have lasting merit?
Has it been in continual use and does it show every indication that it will continue to be used? Will teaching the song be a lasting investment? ie. will it be of use for their future spiritual/communal worship lives? Indicator: is the song often included in independently edited hymnbooks and collections of songs?

10) Is the song widely known?
Widely = in Catholic circles, ecumenically, nationally or internationally. Will teaching the song equip the people for worshipping elsewhere other than in our local Parish and School? Will it bind them in unity with other Catholics/Christians? Indicator is same as above: Is the song often included hymnbooks and collections of songs of other dioceses, denominations and countries?

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