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Fond of Gregorian chant? Good times are coming back again!


Are you Catholic and fond of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony? Good news at last! Something can help
you stay in high spirits: good times are coming back again. But let’s try to be methodical.

Benedict XVI, who is highly competent in the area of sacred music, is also known as severely critical of what he considers the degradation of music following the Second Vatican Council. The Pope has written on a number of occasions that he wants to restore to the Catholic liturgy the great music that “from Gregorian chant passes through the music of the cathedrals and polyphony, the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque, to Bruckner and beyond.”

In a message to the participants at the congress of the Vatican Congregation for Worship, hold  on December 5 2005, he encouraged them “to reflect upon and evaluate the relationship between music and the liturgy, always keeping close watch over practice and experimentation.” In turn, in the same occasion, cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation for Worship, criticized the musical fashions found in many churches, which he characterized as “chaotic, excessively simplistic, and unsuitable for the liturgy.”
 
As Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magister reported, during that congress

  
[m]usicians and liturgists of the postconciliar “new direction” found themselves constrained to justify themselves before an audience mostly oriented toward reviving traditional liturgical music, and Gregorian chant in the first place.

One could gather this from the strong and confident applause that greeted the addresses delivered by Dom Philippe Dupont, abbot of Solesmes and a great cultivator of Gregorian chant, by Martin Baker, choirmaster of the cathedral of Westminster, and by Jean-Marie Bodo, from Cameroon, “where we sing Gregorian chant every Sunday at Mass, because it is the song of the Church.”

But one could gather this above all from the applause that punctuated and concluded the address by monsignor Valentino Miserachs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, the liturgical-musical “conservatory” of the Holy See, which has the task of training Church musicians from all over the world.

With concise and concentrated arguments, Miserachs argued forcefully on behalf of the revival of Gregorian chant, beginning with the cathedrals and monasteries, which ought to take the lead in this rebirth.

And he called upon the Church of Rome finally to act “with authority” in the area of liturgical music, not simply with documents and exhortations, but by establishing an office with competency in this regard, as it did for example with the pontifical commission dedicated to the Church’s cultural heritage.

“This is the opportune moment, and there is no time to waste,” Miserachs concluded, clearly referring to the reigning pope.

 
Ok, this happened six months ago. Where are the good news? Here:
 
the concert conducted in the Sistine Chapel, on Saturday, June 24, by maestro monsignor Domenico Bartolucci.
With this concert, Benedict XVI has symbolically restored the Sistine Chapel to its true maestro. Because the famous chapel is not only the sacred place decorated with the frescoes of Michelangelo, it also gives the name to the choir that for centuries has accompanied the pontifical liturgies.
Maestro Bartolucci was named the “perpetual” director, the director for life, of the Sistine Chapel by Pius XII in 1959. Under this and later popes, he was an outstanding interpreter of the liturgical music founded upon Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. But after a long period of opposition, in 1997 he was dismissed and replaced by a choirmaster thought to be more fitting for the “popular” music dear to John Paul II.
Bartolucci’s replacement was the finishing stroke of the almost complete elimination of Gregorian chant and polyphony as desired by the authors of the postconciliar liturgical reform.
At the time, the only significant figure in the Roman curia who came to Bartolucci’s defense was Ratzinger, for reasons that were both musical and liturgical, as he explained in essays and books.
His positions then were isolated. But with his election as pope, Ratzinger immediately indicated his intention to proceed, in the liturgical and musical field, with what he calls “the reform of the reform.”
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