Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Church Needs Beauty

 From Maggie Gallagher at First Things:

Since Vatican II, the Church has largely ceased to play its historic role as commissioner of liturgical music. Sacred music composers have thus found that they are mostly asked to write for the concert stage. We risk losing something when two generations of composers are never given the opportunity to master the craft of writing for the liturgy, for the worship of God. What Archbishop Cordileone has accomplished is thus no small thing. He recognized that beauty’s power to shape our souls—to remind us that we have souls—is missing in the Catholic effort to evangelize. The archbishop of San Francisco understood that more needed to be done to energize “a Catholic culture of the arts.”

The Church responded to the Reformation by investing in new works of art, including sacred music for the Mass, which won over audiences in the great cathedrals. In today's classical music world, holding a successful premiere for a new work by a relatively unknown composer is difficult. To get a second performance is almost impossible. The Mass of the Americas, by contrast, has been performed in less than four years in San Francisco, Tijuana, Houston, New Jersey, D.C., New York, and, most recently, Rome. Frank La Rocca’s second commission from Archbishop Cordileone, a Requiem Mass for the Homeless, is following a similar path. It premiered first in San Francisco, before being repurposed as a fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees in New Jersey. It is scheduled for celebration in Dallas next year.

Cappella Records reports brisk sales both here and abroad: “We are seeing signs of a great deal of interest in the Mass of the Americas from Spanish-speaking countries as well, as befits a unity Mass,” Mark Powell, executive director of the company, told me. 

Numbers are one thing. But Mass of the Americas is also touching souls. “As a Mexican-American Catholic who is entrenched in the world of choral music, I never imagined my spheres coming together so closely,” one young musician wrote to Frank La Rocca. “I couldn't believe I would ever listen to such a powerful piece of music that was also laced with the hymn that my late grandmother used to sing to me as a child.” (Read more.)


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