Hymns and Whatnots

Damian Thompson * is very good today on the appalling quality of much new Catholic religious music.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI gave Catholics everywhere the right to ask their priests to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass, in effect suppressed 40 years ago.

Liberal bishops were aghast. The "director of liturgy" for the diocese of Portsmouth, Paul Inwood, prepared a set of guidelines for parishes (since withdrawn following a storm of protest) that totally misrepresented the Pope\’s wishes by suggesting that most Catholics were not entitled to request the older form of Mass.

Also, Inwood insisted that priests coming into the diocese to say the old form of Mass would need child protection clearance. Eh? What a weird thing to say.

Anyway, I Googled Paul Inwood and discovered that he is not only a layman, but also a successful composer of trendy Masses.

I listened to the extracts on his website and, as Victor Lewis-Smith would say, sent for my Turkish slippers: this is music to make your toes curl. (One of the numbers is called Alleluia Ch-Ch, the "Ch-Ch" being a sort of noise you make with your mouth or a tambourine.)

The music of Inwood and other "contemporary" Catholic composers sounds like nothing else on earth.

This isn\’t a new thing though. Most of the decent hymns (with some exceptions for pre-Reformation stuff) in English come from the Anglican or Protestant churches: most especially the Methodist one. There certainly was (being very out of touch with Church matters I don\’t know whether there still is) a reluctance on the part of the Catholic church to use these hymns, and so we were all left with whatever scrag ends had been stitched together by the adherents of what is, after all, a minority religion over the past century and a bit since Catholic Emancipation. So not many people over not much time writing songs gave us not many good ones.

As I say, a something of a long standing problem.

* Looking at Thompson\’s photo I have a vague suspicion that I know where he went to school and who with. Me, Briffa and Jonathan Petre…and the drummer from Echo and the Bunnymen.


8 thoughts on “Hymns and Whatnots”

  1. Exeunt omnes, to the strains of ‘Faith of Our Fathers’…

    Don’t know about the Benedictines, but one of the ironies of attending a Jesuit school was the local fetish for ‘To Be a Pilgrim’ – the work of a fanatical Baptist.

    What gets me is the Catholic addiction to acoustic guitar – it’s almost as if ’60’s rejects can’t pray without having Bob Dylan on in the background. I have made it clear that, as a last act of defiance against the acoustic guitar, I want Glasgow’s first Catholic Death Metal funeral, with my coffin being passed along the congregation’s heads, mosh-pit style.

    Don’t agree about the quality of new hymns, though of them are very good.

  2. Oh, I don’t think he’s a Downside boy. More like Ealing Abbey.

    Still, he’s spot on with the article. I can’t recall talking to a singlre person who actually likes the vapid drivel pumped out. The priests put it on because they are terrorised by deranged liturgists telling them it is relevant.

    I’ll have a word with the Abbot about your non-attendence after Lauds, boy.

  3. There’s one that starts:
    Immaculate Maid

    and ends:

    Mother of Christ
    Star of the sea
    pray for the sinner
    pray for me.

    Anyone who can supply the in-between bits, I will give a tenner to Cancer Research on your behalf.

    Hey, that could be a way of raising funds for good causes couldn’t it? ( Without involving the usual charity whores I mean…)

  4. Many of the contemporary Mass settings in the US are very good, although I don’t seem to be able to remember any composers’ names at the moment. They possess the bombast that seems to suit the Mass well, but there again, they use organ and piano, not the acoustic guitar…

  5. Monty, The hymn is “Hail Queen of Heaven, The Ocean Star” –

    “Hail, Queen of heaven, the Ocean Star,
    Guide of the wanderer here below,
    Thrown on life’s surge, we claim thy care.
    Save us from peril and from woe.
    Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea,
    Pray for the wanderer, pray for me.
    O gentle, chaste and spotless maid
    We sinners lift our prayers to thee.
    Remind thy Son that He has paid
    The price of our iniquity.
    Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea,
    Pray for the sinner, pray for me.”


    Tim adds: Also here:


    So that’s £20 so far Monty….anyone else want to find other sources before this offer to send money to charity is withdrawn?

    BTW, rhyming “iniquity” with “to me” rather proves the original point, doesn’t it?

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