'Danny Boy' Discord Rings in Catholic Churches
Catholic diocese to enforce rules against singing secular songs at funerals.
BY: Jennifer Levitz
"It's becoming more and more of a question as far as what's appropriate," said Father Andrews, who once had a request for a song from Phantom of the Opera at a funeral. "It's moving us to say, we need to address this in a more public and educational perspective...we need to get the message across more clearly than we have in the past."
Requests for popular, secular music in Catholic ceremonies is troublesome for clergy and music directors throughout the nation. In an online Catholic forum, they speak with disdain of polka Masses, and "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain" at Communion.
"Barber shop, rap, and hip hop are also part of our culture, but we would not use those genres at liturgy," said one posting on www.catholic-forum.com.
Music directors of Rhode Island Catholic churches have written to The Visitor to offer a solution: a song, based on "In Paradisum," but set to the tune of "Danny Boy." World Library Publications of Chicago has published the song as "Celtic Song of Farewell."
Some in the church worry, however, that it might inspire impure thoughts of the musical kind.
"I personally think that when people hear the tune they're thinking 'Danny Boy,'" the Rev. Anthony Mancini, musical director of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, in Providence, said last week. "I mean, I could take 'Wind Beneath My Wings' and put (the lyrics) to the tune of 'Holy God We Praise Thy Name,' but people are still hearing 'Wind Beneath My Wings.'"
Mancini tells parishioners that a funeral is not only a celebration of a person's life, and his "favorite tune," but also a celebration of his faith as he tried to follow Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Kevin Fisette, of Providence's Holy Name of Jesus Church, also thinks using a sacred text to the tune of Danny Boy is a bit sneaky.
"That's cheating as far as I'm concerned," he said.
The Rev. William O'Neill, at St. Mark Church, in Jamestown, R.I., is from County Donegal, on the northern tip of Ireland. He rarely heard "Danny Boy" there. But here, his Irish-American parishioners request it, especially if the funeral is for someone named Daniel.
He allows it. It's a song about love, and the Irish are a loving people, he said. Previous generations did not express their love in words, he said. The song allows them to do that.
"I think that it says for them, a father who never said to his son, 'I love you,'" O'Neill said in his Irish brogue. "Now, he's saying, 'Tell me you love me and even though I'm dead, I'll hear it.'"
Lynch, the man who started the local "Danny Boy" discussion, said last week that he does see the diocese's point. Yes, the church does sometimes have to draw the line.
He assures his "fantastic" pastor that he won't request "Danny Boy." Lynch says he's got another song up his sleeve, "Our Lady of Knock." An Irish song.