Choristers' Challenge

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Tag: Bruce Hornsby

Bruce Hornsby is to Bill Evans what Fr. Weber is to the Graduale Romanum

A great example of the New Evangelization in Catholic music is found in Fr. Samuel Weber. Just as Bruce Hornsby (see previous post) mastered the music of Bill Evans and then re-shaped it so that his friends would be attracted to it, Fr. Weber mastered the Graduale Romanum and re-shaped it to attract English speaking Catholics.

The Graduale Romanum is the Catholic Church’s song book. In Latin, in Gregorian Chant notation, this book contains the chants of the Roman Rite sung at Mass. Here is a youtube of one of my favorite cantors, Giovanni Vianini, singing an example from the Graduale. The second Vatican Council promoted Gregorian chant so much that the Council Fathers called for an updating of the Graduale to match the new conciliar liturgical calendar, and published it in 1974.

Fr. Weber, possessing a thorough understanding of Gregorian chant, and aware of how few English speaking Catholic parishes are singing from the Graduale Romanum, composed an English gradual (The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities) to help Catholic musicians discover the music of the Roman Rite.

It would be difficult to overstate what this collection does for English speaking Catholic musicians. Fr. Weber sets each proper antiphon in four versions from complex (inspired by the Latin original) to simple (psalm tones) so that any musician can successfully sing the propers. Before, one had the option of struggling and failing to pull off the challenging original Latin chant (which requires sustained study from dedicated singers) or singing simple psalm tone English adaptations.

Here is a recording of the 3rd option for the Communion proper for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Bruce Hornsby and the New Evangelization

My wife and I became Bruce Hornsby fans soon after we were married. What I like about Bruce is that he has great piano chops and can demonstrate stunning hand independence. At the same time, Bruce is a grand story teller. His lyrics evoke longing and nostalgia, tapping deep human memories and core experiences.

In an interview with Marian McPartland on Piano Jazz, Bruce described how he studied jazz in school and loved the music of Bill Evans. However, Bruce realized that his friends didn’t find Bill Evans cool. Evans’ music was too difficult to listen too. Thus, Bruce endeavored to make Bill Evans relevant, again, by arranging Bill’s music in a style that his friends would like.

Isn’t this what we need for the New Evangelization? Disciples who study and love the Truths of the Catholic faith and who endeavor to find new ways to share this Treasure with their friends.