• The noble accessibilty that needs to characterize all Catholic sacred music, is important both in congregational and choral music, each of which has an important place in the Liturgy.
• Whereas music composed for the congregation needs to be “singable”, music composed for choirs needs to be accessible to the minds and hearts of the congregation as they hear it! It needs to communicate in a musical language that the faithful can readily receive, and which through its beauty and sacred character lifts hearts to the transcendent.
• Yes, there might be some formation needed here, as those unaccustomed to the tradition of Sacred Music adjust to its contemplative nature. However, one should not be required to undergo extensive musical training in order to appreciate music in the Liturgy! The formation required will be more theological and spiritual, rather than musical.
• The choral music of Roman Hurko, composed for choirs singing the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Eastern Catholic Rite), is an eminent example of this noble accessibility in choral music. His melodies, harmonies and rhythms are composed in such a way as to communicate to the common man, a profound beauty that lifts the heart and mind to prayer.
• This aspect of listening as well as singing is important in the liturgy. Some settings or parts emphasize the vocal participation of the congregation; others, such as polyphonic settings in the Western tradition, call forth the more meditative participation of the congregation. Antiphonal singing, an important aspect of both Eastern and Western liturgical traditions, engages us in both ways. Sometimes this involves having the congregation divided into two groups, while at other times the antiphonal principle is manifested through the choir alternating with congregation. In the latter case, it is appropriate for the choir to sing more ornately beautiful and challenging settings, corresponding to their musical abilities, while the congregation sings simpler arrangements.'
As an artist I am always thinking about the parallels between sacred art and music. In the case of art participation is not a requirement - we don't expect everybody to be painting in church, that would be art therapy! But the other aspect of accessibility does apply. It is down to artists to work within the traditional forms in such a way that ordinary church goers will respond easily and willingly so that it raises their hearts and minds to God.
Roman Hurko's website is www.romanhurko.com; and a link through to his iTunes page, for anyone who would like to download his music, is here.
Paul Jernberg is Composer-in-Residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Merrimack, NH.