The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Only 10?

posted by jmcgee

That crafty Elizabeth Scalia has drawn our attention to a list of “The Ten Worst Hymns”, which has some real doozies — some of which I’d all but forgotten. One particularly awful one — so bad, it’s good — is “Sons of God,” which seems to have disappeared from the popular canon. (God is merciful.)

They couldn’t find a recording of it anywhere, but the lyrics speak for themselves:

Sons of God: Hear His Holy word,

Gather around the table of the Lord

Eat His Body, drink His Blood

And we’ll sing a song of love

Allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia.

And that’s just the refrain. But you get the idea. Anyway, check out the list and see what you think.  I’m sure they missed a few.   

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posted July 7, 2010 at 9:12 am

Wow! Eight of the ten songs (all but numbers 10 and 1) are songs that we regularly use…and how they got on the list is beyond me. “Here I Am, Lord” was the “theme song” at my ordination!

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richard kuebbing

posted July 7, 2010 at 9:31 am

40+ yr old memory. If you have never heard it, it has the bouncy rhythm of a camp song. The verse is
Brothers, sisters, we are one (?)
And our life has just begun
In the Spirit we are ???
We shall live forever.

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posted July 7, 2010 at 9:38 am

This is brilliant! So bad, they’re good.
One time I took my Lutheran buddy with me to Mass when he was visiting me from the Midwest. We sang a couple of these bad boys that Sunday. I remember he turned to me and said, “You left Lutheranism for this? Really, Nate? Really?”
How could I respond?
Ha ha!

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richard kuebbing

posted July 7, 2010 at 9:45 am

I read the list.
The person who did this obviously is biased against a certain genre of music. “On Eagle’s Wings” has been one of the gold standard funeral hymns for decades.
I have a number of CD w/StLJesuit music. As with all collections they are uneven. “City of God” is an acquired taste. Like many hymns, sung too slow and without enthusiasm it is dreadful.
On the other hand the best aspect of StLJ music is its scriptural basis. Too much music today, esp. “praise” music, is too shallow w/o scriptural and/or Catholic traditional basis.
One of the weekend Masses at the Atl Cathedral (5:30 pm) has a composer in the music ensemble. His wife directs. One of the instrumentalists plays reed instruments, incl the oboe and clarinet.
While I don’t always agree with the choice of music, no one executes better than they do.
As for the Spanish hymns on the list, at least one is used because it has mixed English/Spanish words. For parishes like my prior one w/ 2k non-Spanish speaking families and 4k Spanish speaking families, bilingual music is a must.

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richard kuebbing

posted July 7, 2010 at 9:50 am

One of the issues that divides parishes today is “Should the music be uniform each weekend at all the Masses?”
In multilingual parishes, this is usually means for each language group.
Having seen various attempts in the last two decades, the best results seem to be obtained by treating each Mass as a separate community. Targeting the music to the demographic results in the best engagement of the people of God assembled.

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Deacon Bill

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

Dear Greg,
I think we should cut Ray Repp (who wrote “Sons of God”) just a little slack. Back in those days immediately following Vatican II, people have to remember that there was NO English-language repertoire of hymns for use in Catholic churches. The English language hymns that were around (“Rock of Ages”, for example) were considered “Protestant” hymns and there was initial resistance to using them.
As a high school/college seminarian at that time, I can remember when “Sons of God” came out, along with other music from Ray and the other early composers. RAY WAS A SEMINARIAN WRITING FOR SEMINARIANS initially (hence, the “SONS of God”), and when we all went home to help out in our parishes, we found that there was no music there, either, and so we brought what we had.
Is it great music? Oh, God, no!! But it was never intended to become a classic; it was designed to fill an immediate need.
God bless,

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posted July 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

Biases are grossly apparent in this individual’s choice of music he doesn’t like. These are standards that have been well recieved with a few exceptions (Sons of God).
I have heard the majority used in funneral liturgies as well as pastoral visits from our bishop.
This is one of the few posting on this blog that is simply a bad choice!!!!!!!!!!

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Marilyn H

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:07 am

Some of the hymns had word changes over the years that I find troubling. Eagle’s Wings used to read, “and He will raise you up on Eagle’s wings…” Now we sing, “I will raise you up…” Putting ourselves in the place of God seems to be a big reason for the trouble we’re finding ourselves in as a society these days. While, I personally don’t mind some of the music as appropriate for a prayer group or outside of Mass, one can see the move toward self centeredness in the lyrics of many of these songs.

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Dana MacKenzie

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:21 am

I think many problems with parish music would be solved if we would just go back to the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which made it clear that the inclusion of more “modern” hymns was not supposed to be to the exclusion of our traditional hymns or our chant. Also, the organ was still recommended to be the “first” among the instruments. Typically, we threw babies out with bathwater after VCII. Some did not read past “inclusion of modern music” and here we are. There is really no reason why a mass cannot have both a “We Will Rise Again” and a Panis Anglicus, except that (at least around here) the musicians are not capable of doing much more than strumming three chords.

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Dana MacKenzie

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

Marilyn: “Eagle’s Wings used to read, “and He will raise you up on Eagle’s wings…” Now we sing, “I will raise you up…” Putting ourselves in the place of God seems to be a big reason for the trouble we’re finding ourselves in as a society these days.”
This is also true of “I am the Bread of Life” which used to be “and I will raise him up” and is now “and I will raise you up.”
Those changes are all about removing the troubling gender pronoun. We’re not permitted to use the word, “he” you know. A local parish has changed the words of the Gloria to “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to God’s people on earth,” because a sister was bothered by the “His people,” line. NEver mind that the Gloria goes on to talk about God the Father, His Son, etc…that “his people” really bothered her, so it was changed.

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:42 am

I agree with Deacon Bill and Paulo. Most of the songs were written to fill the gap in English songs after Vatican II.
The music that I find difficult to listen to are songs like “Step by Step”, “Go Make a Diff’rence”, “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), and any number of others so dear to the heart of some individuals. Lots of “Jesus and Me” music – catchy, but not liturgical. The music listed in the post, with the exception of “Sons of God” are mostly scripture based, and speak to the Paschal Mystery. I notice that “Oh Lord, At Thy First Eucharist” (a dreary hymn at best) wasn’t included…

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted July 7, 2010 at 10:48 am

By the way, Dana, I have sung both “We Will Rise Again”, AND Panis Angelicus (not at the same liturgy), and as a liturgical musician for over 25 years, was quite prepared to sing accompanied by a piano or organ, or the strumming of my own guitar (and most liturgical musicians who play guitar know more than three chords). Being a guitar player does not make one a musically uneducated yokel. The tremendous woman who plays the guitar at our 11:00 Mass is also an opera singer (when she’s not putting in HOURS of volunteer time coordinating liturgical music).

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Your NameBetty

posted July 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

“Sons of God” is certainly not high church, but remember it’s far too politically incorrect to make it today, being insensitive to women “sons”, and embarrassingly literal “eat His Body, drink His Blood” to make it as a modern song. I remember the words of another verse that also is in discord with our so modern sensibilities:
If we want to live with Him
We must also die with Him
Die to selfishness and sin
And we’ll live forever!

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posted July 7, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I’ve seen few topics that create more division than what is “good” or “appropriate” music for mass, and I’ve often pondered why this topic is so divisive.
Music is highly cultural an emotional. The style of a music itself produces different feelings and attitudes in different generations and groups of people. I don’t propose this at all, but why not have “rap” music at a church service? You can sacred scripture as rap in pure a cappella (unquestionable lyrics; no instruments.) Why does this sound offensive? (It sounds offensive to me!) Is it the tones themselves? The beat? What? I don’t know how to answer this other than cultural associations with music; it is not “conductive” to prayer.
I’ve also found that certain mediocre songs, that were played during eventful times in my life also resonate spiritually with me.
We have a huge famous protestant megachurch near us, with enough money to do whatever they want. How do they solve this problem? They have 4 different “tents”, each playing it’s own genre of music, and live-video in the pastor from the main tent. And they must have a dozen different genre’s of music going on over the weekend. “Want to attend the Hawaiian service?” I don’t propose we do this at all! But, even those who are extremely free to do whatever they want can’t make everyone happy.
The best I’ve been able to come up with is this:
People get upset because they care about the Mass; this is a good thing. I think culture gets confused with Tradition sometimes.
The Eucharist consecrates the music, not the other way around.

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Paul Snatchko

posted July 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm

As someone who was raised in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I grew up with a lot of the songs on that list — both at my hometown parish and in the campus ministry setting.
And, I like many of them. They were part of a Church experience that was (and is) very meaningful to me.
I especially object to the inclusion of “City of God” on the list. It was the recessional hymn of the Papal Mass in Central Park in October, 1995. It is forever tied to my memories of that wonderful morning and Pope John Paul II’s inspiring message to us.
P.S. Matt Maher has an awesome take on “Here, I Am Lord.”

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted July 7, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I’m reminded of my pastor’s least-favorite song, also from this era: “Whatsoever You Do.”
Which is another one that suffered a sudden castration when “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers…” became “…least of my people.”

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posted July 8, 2010 at 4:39 am

Every time that we sing City of God, I can’t help but think “ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI! ALL COVERED WITH CHEESE…..”

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posted July 8, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I remember Ray Repp’s music and we were grateful to have anything to sing in English as so few knew or cared about the Latin. As we used to say, Latin is a dead language. First it killed the Romans, now it’s killing me. Music is God’s language, I’ve heard said. Thank God, God’s multilingual! I guess I’m a both/and kind of person in music and in life. ;-) What I dislike is changing the words in a known song. Imagine if after years of saying the Hail Mary, the words were changed to “Jesus is with you” or “God is with you”? Heck, most of us still struggle over “Ghost” and “Spirit” or among and amongst. It’s a good thing God is patient with us humans!

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