Tucker Tries to Fix Catholic Music

In the most recent edition of Dappled Things, Jeffrey Tucker — a regular, lively InsideCatholic contributor and a must-read on all things related to Catholic liturgical music — has a piece entitled simply “A Fix for Catholic Music.” In it, he identifies the three “crucial” components he believes are missing in efforts to reform the musical selections and liturgical offerings at so many of our Catholic parishes — “inspiration, direction, and a practical plan for getting from here to there” — and proposes a handful of clear, comprehensive steps one could take to “fix” things for good:

The more a task demands of us, the more we are willing to put into it. If musicians knew what the Catholic liturgy truly demands of singers and organists, they might respond by devoting more time and energy to the task.

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To open this book is to discover a glorious thing: here is the template for music at Mass. It is not weekly hunt-and-pick process but rather a process of working toward singing the music of the Mass itself. To know this is to give direction and purpose to our efforts, and every bit of work that we do builds on previous efforts and points the direction toward more.

Each parish environment will have to customize this plan depending on the pastor and people and the culture of the parish. The director of music must be wise, clever, and pastorally sensitive. Objections along with the way can be met with polite catechesis. It must all occur within a setting of love and charity. Fights and arguments are no basis for progress in a parish. Peace is a hugely important value during the transition.

Tucker focuses primarily on what he calls “the discovery of the Gregorian tradition,” and on how pastors and parishioners could find inspiration and direction in the Gregorian chant that is such a part of our Church’s heritage. He also goes into quite a bit more much detail than I was expecting on the very issue that seems likely to attract the most attention in his “fix:” the practical plan part of things. As anyone who has taken steps towards reforming or revitalizing the musical culture of their own parish can surely attest, this is where diverse personalities and principles most often come into conflict. But, with patience, charity, and Tucker’s plan in one’s back pocket, the musical tedium of the present may eventually become a thing of the past.


  • Joseph Susanka

    Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming — “where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks” — he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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