Saturday, June 03, 2006

Liturgy Periodicals and Expectations
Mrs Darwin asked about the ones I read. You probably can't go wrong with Rite, which now includes Art/Environment material which previously would have been included in the now defunct Environment & Art Letter. I think the publication has somewhat of a stuffier tone than in the Bernardin days, but maybe that's a good thing for some of the readers here. Resource Publications has a good amount of material in its periodicals and books. Jill Knuth has been promoting "banners without words" since the 70's, I'm sure. Last time I checked her book is out of print. There are some other banner books on their site. The one I looked at seemed more to do with quilting than letters on felt. Nancy Chinn, for one, does outstanding work. She has one book published by LTP which illustrates her work. Sampled over here on the right: banners of paper sculpture. Like any of the arts, aural or visual, you can aspire to get a genius like Michelangelo or Monteverdi working for you. If you can't afford the upper echelon of the major leagues, you can still aim high if you have good leadership and a strong sense of artistry. Mrs Darwin's pastor, while no doubt a well-intentioned man, is probably no artist. If you're gluing felt letters on a banner the week before Pentecost, you're probably not expecting great liturgical art (sights or sounds) coming from your midst. You're just filling in the spaces. And doing it almost as an afterthought. In no particular order, my suggestions for a parish serious about art (be it aural or visual) include: - Get a budget. Even if it's chump change, at least you have something to work with. If people are donating time and materials, that should also be put into the budget. Parish beancounters should be accountable and aware of the resources and effort that go into making music and art. Even if it becomes a meaningless (from the accountant's view) pass-through on the way to the bottom line, what goes into liturgy needs to be more in people's faces. - Set priorities. Assuming you even have to negotiate for a budget, the odds are you don't have professional leadership. And sorry, but a conservative pastor isn't what I would call artistic leadership. Not every parish needs a full-time music director or art consultant. But having good ones will help a lot, especially if they can inspire others to artistry. Then start small and move on from there. Set a new group up for early and easy successes, then move on to more challenging territory. (In other words, don't try a Sunday Mass chant schola or painting your ceiling until you've mastered the steps that can get you there.) - Keep an artist's perspective. As an artist, I can tell you that setting the Catechism to music does nothing whatsoever for my sense of awe and wonder in God's presence. It might be politically correct in today's church climate, and doctrinally dead-on, but it would be deadly in the inspiration department. Many of the best artists, even including Michelangelo, Palestrina, Monteverdi, and the like, have worked at the fringes of conventional orthodoxy. If that makes you uneasy, sorry. That's the way great art often works: not by painting within the lines. Gothic architecture, for example, was inspiring in its heyday because it opened up a new expression in the worship setting. Every Gothic revival following has had less and less impact in the inspiration department. The only way it can sell today is with additions, augmentations, and other baubles. - I think a parish should have high long-term expectations. This month, this year: start easy and achievable, of course. But there's no reason not to dream that in ten or twenty years you'll be setting the standard for your deanery or diocese. Time to get to work, so I'll leave off at this point. Commenters, take over, please.

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