Friday, September 4, 2020


It seems to me that this Celtic rendition of "Jerusalem, My Happy Home" is a very app application of the theology of liturgical "inculturation" as it concerns music in the liturgy. It is a sort of polyphonic chant in harmony with Latin Rite's Gregorian Chant and Polyphony (no pun intended). Yet it clearly has a Celtic feel or sound, a cultural sound. What say you? 

Anne's execution Chant (Jerusalem my happy Home)


ByzRus said...

Agree. The liturgy should preserve the chant tradition of the Church. That aside, inculturation from the perspective of being para-liturgical (before and after liturgy e.g. entrance/exit) seems perfectly fine and has been done in those parishes that are "personal". In the Byzantine Church, para-liturgical hymns are sung before and after liturgy and, sometimes, during communion. The Liturgy itself is only comprised of traditional chant; which, in the case of the Ruthenian Church, is prostopinije - Carpatho-Rusyn plain chant.

rcg said...

It is pretty. Sounds more Welsh, maybe. Is that Paolo and Francesca on the cover?

Anonymous said...

Why is the bishop in the lower left picture saying mass on a coffee table. He should get rid of all those extra chalices.

Anonymous said...

Well, the liturgy started with and developed further the Jewish traditions of worship, including the sung Psalms morning/noon/night with Nocturns and Matins type hours for the priestly class leading up into holy day worship/sacrifice.

And the melodies started in the Hebrew tradition, constantly morphed locally including Roman/Latin/Byzantine/Syriac/Egyptian/etc and which intermediate hymns/chants between Psalms also under constant change and "Gregorian" chant/hymns may have some hymn texts and music dating back to Gregory, but most actual music dating from 1000AD to 1500AD, and this all apart from Celtic liturgy and music as well as Gallican and too many others to bother listing.

If done in the holiest method of which a culture is capable, where each person in each culture would individually know, "THIS is what the music sounds as between the stars, holding it all together, sung by all life and being in all of time in one enternal NOW, the ultimate adoration and love, and unceasing even when time and space grow tired and fade away," then it likely is appropriate for any of the formal worship, be it from keening Aztec inspired or Shogunate of Japan or 1000yr old Roman or Celtic.

What IS important is that it ALL be preserved even if newer ideas take as to what the music between the stars and the innumerable hosts of heaven must be like.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I loved that particular chant at the funeral and the choir sounded just like the recording I provide. I don’t know, though, if it was my ears and developing hearing disorder, but I could not understand the words either in the cathedral or this recording. In fact at the cathedral i was wondering if it was sung in Gaelic?

The other problem with inculturation be it music or something else, is that it is for the culture in which it is celebrate and may be “meaningful” to people of that culture, but to others it is a “curiosity” and an introduction as an observer to the inculturation aspects into the liturgy of that culture.

Thus, as I heard it at the Cathedral, it was like observing something that would be meaningful to Fr. McCarthy, his family and friends watching via livestream in Ireland and other parts of the world and to the Irish priests and bishop and others of Irish descent in the congregation. In other words it wasn’t universal.

In the Latin Rite, where Gregorian Chant and Polyphony should have the first place of pride in the Liturgy (which it no longer has universally) is a part of every Latin Rite’s religious culture, transcends a particular culture of a particular person or groups of person in the same liturgy and is universal, not an oddity to which one enjoys experiencing.

Anonymous said...

Father Allan,

If it helps any, I could not understand the words at the Cathedral either. I actually did look up the words to the hymn, and then went back to listen at the Cathedral again and lo and behold, yes, I was able to make out some of the words I had just read. Also....the acoustics made it difficult to understand. So rest assured you are not developing a hearing disorder.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Just as a humorous aside, after the funeral I ran into the choir director in the kitchen of the cathedral rectory and in all honesty, I asked him if that piece was sung in Gaelic. He thought I was being funny. I realized it after I asked him as it might have been taken as an insult by him, so I was glad he thought I was being funny when in fact I was seriously asking!

rcg said...

Fr M Donald, I usually ask that question like this,”Whut laingwidge did y’all sang that ee-yun.?”

They always spot the issue right away.

John Nolan said...

What would make a piece of music sound 'Celtic' to our ears? The mode? The shape of the melody? The instrumentation? The ornamentation of the melody by singers and players? Probably a combination of the above. But how authentically Celtic is it? The answer has to be 'not very'.

One of the best-known Irish songs is the haunting 'She moved through the fair'. It is in the Mixolydian mode (Gregorian mode 7). If one compares it with the mode 7 Gloria from Mass IX (cum jubilo), one can spot some melodic similarities, although the Gloria is a more complex through-composed piece dating from the 11th century and transcends the 'folk' idiom. In the case of the song the melody is unlikely to be more than 200 years old and the words are even more recent. Folk songs tend to be modal rather than tonal and similar melodies crop up in different parts of the British Isles - a 'traditional Scottish air' might well be 'traditional' to England, Wales and Ireland. What we know as 'folk music' is essentially a twentieth-century realization of a largely manufactured culture.

The piece of music we heard at the beginning of this thread does not set a liturgical text (in fact it is difficult to make out the text at all). It's a clever composition, but really a pastiche of a pastiche. It's as genuinely Celtic as Ossian.

rcg said...

John, a modern ‘Celtic’ melody may be in scale or mode that appeals to modern sensibilities and laid on a rhythm that the modern ear associates with the common portrayal of Celtic music. You mention Mixolydian, that the average ear may hear as G Major or even C Major when the composer or performer throws in a key shift. I have noticed that many NO hymnals that claim Celtic or traditional folk melodies are written in D. Maybe that is easy to sing and play for the average pew-sitter and it matches nicely to the Ionian and Dorian modes so common in real Celtic tunes. The actual modes and scales in Celtic and other traditional ethnic and folk music can be an acquired taste and can be irksome to many people.

John Nolan said...


Indeed. The popularity of Kyrie, Gloria of Mass VIII and Credo III is because they are in a mode (mode 5 with flattened leading note) which equates to the F major scale in modern music. But they are all late compositions. Since there is no fixed pitch in Gregorian chant then it could be in any major key.

The main corpus of what we call Gregorian chant was complete by the end of the 8th century. It is a fusion of old Roman and Gallican chant. How it would have actually sounded a thousand years ago is a matter of scholarly speculation.

A lot of Gregorian chant is in mode 1 which would sound odd to modern ears since the octave D-D has two sharps in the major scale.