By Damian Thompson from the Telegraph.co.uk
A ghastly discovery today: plans to subject Pope Benedict XVI to trendy musical tripe when he celebrates the Beatification Mass for Cardinal Newman at Coventry Airport on September 19. According to Nick Baty, a supporter of the little gang of composers who have liturgical commissions sewn up in this country, the music for the Mass will include:
• Eucharistic acclamations by Fr Peter Jones, who wrote the tiresome Coventry Gloria for John Paul II’s visit in 1982. Yes, he’s still going strong;
• Christ be our Light by Bernadette Farrell, one of the inner circle of old trendies whose work is forced on Massgoers by cloth-eared PPs every week;
• Salisbury Alleluia by Christopher Walker, another of the inner circle;
• A Gloria by Alan Smith (you can hear a taste of it here: not trendy but utterly banal) and a psalm by Paul Wellicome. According to this document, both men are members of the relevant Birmingham diocesan committee;
• One of the most hideous of all folk hymns, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace;
• Some Taizé. You would have thought we’d heard enough Taizé over the years, but apparently not.
Oh, and there’s a brief motet by Elgar and a couple of rousing Newman-based hymns; but basically it’s game set and match to the Society of St Gregory (SSG), the mafia of the mediocre who ensure that most music at Mass in most dioceses reeks of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. This stuff didn’t sound either beautiful or cutting-edge when it was performed for Pope John Paul; how will it sound to the ears of a genuine music lover, Pope Benedict XVI? And young Catholics, especially, loathe it.
I’m confused. I thought that the Bishops of England and Wales had helped to commission the setting of the Mass by James MacMillan that will be heard at the papal ceremony in Glasgow. That is a lovely piece: fresh, original, full of unexpected modulations but also majestic traditional harmonies that will appeal to our Bruckner-loving Pontiff. Why not also perform the MacMillan Mass at the Newman beatification?
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham is a former student of the Royal Northern College of Music. Your Grace, how can you justify forcing the Holy Father to listen to music that he will not like – indeed, that no one much likes, apart from a few elderly Tabletistas and the SSG (some of whose members make far too much money out of their cosy arrangements with dioceses)?
It’s not too late to put things right, I hope. Does Mgr Guido Marini, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, know of these depressing plans? Also, if the music is going to be this corny, that doesn’t augur well for the rest of the liturgy, does it? The Coventry Mass should be one that makes the heart soar, not the toes curl.