Wednesday, May 31, 2017

From Graduale to Godspell

I was born as Vatican II ended and received little catechesis in my schooling, even though the majority of my time was spent in Catholic schools. I barely even knew what Gregorian chant was, although our parish choir did sing some polyphony. But our "folk group" played "One Tin Soldier," "Blowin' In The Wind," and their own composition "It's Fine Today." I sobbed in my pew when I heard "Day By Day" from Godspell [1] played for Communion, but I wonder whether I was having a Jesus moment or just a purely emotional reaction.

Most Masses these days have no one my age in the congregation; I don't think that's a coincidence. You won't either when you read this from CrisisAbandoning Latin Changed Liturgical Music...for the Worse.

Note how the author refers to Tra le Sollecitudini, Pope St. Pius X's attempt to put chant and polyphony back into prominence a century ago when profane masses and other music were seeping into the Liturgy. I discussed that a bit here.

I'll spoil the money quote from the article:
Mass is not supposed to make me musically comfortable—it’s supposed to make me more holy. [2]

[1] If you can handle seeing the 1973 film version of Godspell, you won't be able to watch it as you did pre-9/11. For one thing, in the above photo the ensemble is performing the closing part of "All For The Best" atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center, 1,350 feet above street level. It's impossible not to notice the Towers, still under construction at the time, throughout the film.

Some other quick Godspell trivia:

  • I once met Victor Garber ("Jesus"), who went on to have a prominent role in Titanic
  • Lynne Thigpen, who belted out "Bless The Lord," became better known as "Chief" on Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, but passed away way too soon in 2003.
  • Playing the piano in many of the movie numbers was a young keyboardist named Paul Shaffer, who later became David Letterman's bandleader and sidekick.

[2] Emphasis as in the original.

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