Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Blogger Father Pablo said...

There is a rich history of sacred music in Latin America, in particular in Mexico and Bolivia. Throughout the Spanish colonial era local composers wrote some of the most beautiful sacred works such as Manuel de Zumaya.

What tends to happen in the United States is that those in charge of the music ministry at Masses in Spanish are from the Caribbean and they have a very particular style of music which in my country (Peru) you would NEVER hear at Mass.

This is a constant problem within Hispanic communities in the USA, that the music at Mass does not match what folks are used to back in their home country (unless they're from the Caribbean).

Attempts to have song books like "Flor y Canto" are not very effective since they cannot capture the musical variety from Latin America. These books also have songs translated from English into Spanish which are awkward to sing.

I don't know if this link below will work, but it's an example of Zumaya's work, composed in Mexico by a Mexican musician with text in Spanish:

November 20, 2012 11:26 PM

Blogger Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fr. Pablo, that is my biggest concern if I ever am assigned to a parish with a significant number of Spanish speaking Catholics. What I have experienced in our diocese in both Anglo and Hispanic communities in terms of so-called liturgical music is simply abysmal and its seems that Anglo's have won the day in terms of imposing our godawful tradition of poor liturgical music that we invented after Vatican II upon the multi-cultural expressions of Latinos in our country. I would not know where to start in terms of leading Hispanic congregations, in terms of the Holy Mass, back to a more traditional model of Catholic chant and liturgical music.

Is there a move within the Hispanic community to recover chant both in Latin and Spanish and a higher quality of liturgical music and choral singing led by organ or no instrumentation. And with the Hispanic's love of more lively types of contemporary Catholic music, can't that be shifted to popular devotions and prayer services apart from the Holy Mass???? Just wondering!

Here is one such solution offered at the CHANT CAFE, PRESS HERE!

November 21, 2012 7:05 AM


rcg said...

The font of the bad music we hear in Spanish Language Masses today is through the social and political agendas of the Social Justice workers; by contrast the magnificent piece linked in you post is through the very under appreciated and highly developed cultures of Mexico, Central, and South America.

For starters, the population that is entering the USA is overwhelmingly from the less educated groups in all the Hispanic countries; the educated either have good jobs or can create them at home or in other Latin American countries. There are certainly a few highly educated persons who emmigrate here, but not enough to establish even a single parish or influence the musical tastes of a 'Music Minister'.

However, I will bet that you can find someone in respected music program of University or conservatory familiar with works such as you have linked here and they can help you set this music properly. And that it may very well be the first time anyone in the congregation from Latin America will have heard it.

Robert Kumpel said...

50 rvietiedCongratulations, Father. I don't know where this discussion will go, if it goes anywhere, but at least you have brought some awareness that there is a rich tradition of liturgical music from the Latin American countries that goes deeper than those folk tunes we hear at Spanish language Masses. Much of it is available on CD and would stun any listener with its beauty. A good place to start is a recording called Missa Mexicana by Andrew Lawrence-King and the Harp Consort (I can provide you with a copy if you like). PADILLA: Music of the Mexican Baroque by the Capella Rutenberg is another--actually there are numerous recordings too numerous to mention. All of them demonstrate beautiful writing for choral settings from the colonial period to the present. It also demonstrates that the composers who settled and those who grew up in these colonies didn't dumb-down their music for the natives.

Henry Edwards said...


I may be missing something here, never having attended one of these Hispanic Masses, and coming late to the issue. But one could ask, Why pick on them? Might not the scope of your statement be broadened:

"there is a rich tradition of liturgical music from the Catholic tradition that goes deeper than those folk tunes we hear at vernacular Masses. Much of it is available on CD and would stun any listener with its beauty."

Seriously, is the music at the typical Hispanic Mass worse than the music at a typical Anglo Mass?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I have heard that in our diocese and elsewhere that Hispanics love setting religious words to secular tunes that are quite noticeable as having a secular meaning. For example, there is a religious sung that has religious words in English set to "O Danny Boy" and another to Adel Vies from the Sound of Music--this is what American Hispanics sometimes do also.

Anonymous said...


Henry Edwards said...


Edelweiss in really bad Italian, obviously.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

My spell check liked my spelling so complain to him!

rcg said...

I love Danny Boy. I went to an Irish bar last night and we sang loads of tunes: Beech Spring; Will Ye Go, Lassie; The Lakes of Pontchartrain, and other tunes ancient and otherwise, but I do NOT think these sorts of tunes, even if one could shoe-horn in a Liturgically acceptable lyric, are appropriate for Mass. There will always be the temptation to use a word with lightly better metre or rhyme, or whatever, and risk loosing the meaning. And it is just distracting, making me think of needing a beer or something.

Unless you want me and my buddies showing up with our banjos, bagpipes, mandolins, and tin whistles.

rcg said...

And Adel has a great voice, just limited range.

Father Pablo said...

What a nice surprise to find my comment as a post!

I find that Spanish sounds great in chant since Spanish is closer to Latin in its structure and sounds than English is. I enjoyed reading the post in Chant Cafe.

I was discussing with some priests recently that everyone learning the ordinary in Latin would be a great way to make bilingual liturgies a happier moment for everyone present. After all, this is what the Pope has been asking, that all Catholics learn these in Latin.

It had never hit me that oftentimes the Our Father during Mass is sung to the tune of The Sound of Silence until as a teenager I attended Mass and was sitting next to an English speaker. In the middle of the Our Father he asked me, "why are we singing the Sound of Silence in Spanish?" As a priest, I never let the choir sing it!

Anonymous 2 said...

Warning: Very Bad Joke Ahead; Proceed with Caution – Father’s spell check clearly set a trapp for him.

ytc said...

mixed vernacular liturgies almost always=barf

Seriously, it is practically an absolute guarantor of a crappy liturgy, not by causation but by correlation.

Joseph Johnson said...

Father Pablo,
Thank you so much for the video shown on this post! With music like that I'd go to more Spanish Masses and might even develop a desire to learn some Spanish (at least what is used in the Mass parts as with Latin!). It is just too bad that the music that most of us experience in Spanish Masses is more of the pop/worker movement/liberation theology type music!

Ultimately, though, I am glad to see that you agree that more Latin use would be a positive thing in Masses where there is more than one language group present. If it were promoted in the right way, I think that it would go a long way in bringing the English speaking and Spanish speaking Catholics together in this country. And if that were to happen, maybe we could become more unified in working for Catholic moral principles, such as the pro-life movement. After the last election, it should be very apparent that we have a lot of work to do in educating all Catholics on these important issues and in bringing them together as a religious group (where they first identify as Catholics as secondarily as Anglo, Hispanic, Democrat or Republican).

A common liturgical language (at least as a second language as to the Mass ordinary) is (I believe) a part of this needed unification and self-identification process. We're all Roman Catholic first and foremost. The language of the Roman Rite (in either form) is still Latin! We need to stop trying to get around this fact.

Father Pablo said...


I believe part of the reason there is poor liturgical music in Spanish today is that very little vernacular music appropriate for the liturgy existed before the Second Vatican Council.

English speaking Catholics borrowed much of the rich tradition already present in England and Germany of liturgical hymns at Protestant services. The Spanish speaking world having remained Catholic did not have an already present vernacular-singing tradition, so almost all the songs for the Mass were written after the Second Vatican Council.

There has been a conscious effort to keep hidden colonial sacred music in most of Latin America which is a pity. Latin America could enter into a musical renaissance by looking into its own past.