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Church choirs: The good, the bad and the ugly


In Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Peter Kwasniewski on choirs in the Church today, we consider Benedict XVI’s contribution and the many benefits of children being raised singing sacred music.

Could you recommend some of those resources to our readers?

Gladly. First, check out the website of the CMAA itself, which is loaded with free music, especially chant, and downloadable books. By becoming a member of the CMAA, one receives their journal, Sacred Music, which features excellent articles on all the things we’ve been talking about. The CMAA Forum, too, is loaded with useful advice, in response to questions like: “I need easy polyphony for Lent—what do you all recommend?” It is painless to search for past threads along those lines.

Second, check out the Corpus Christi Watershed website, which offers a treasure-trove of free music, in Latin and English, monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic, at every level of difficulty, with an emphasis on pieces ideal for new choirs. An example would be the new SAB (soprano-alto-baritone) Latin motets by Kevin Allen being sold in the CCW shop. With just a few decent singers, you can quickly have these lovely pieces up and running for your Sunday Masses.

Third, explore the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL), which has thousands of scores of sacred music, for every type of ensemble and level of difficulty. Using the filters for liturgical seasons, ensembles, genres, and languages, you narrow down your choices—and then have fun looking at different pieces you could do with your choir.

Is it time for a renaissance of children’s choirs and good music in parochial schools?

Yes, absolutely! I know several children’s choirs across the country and the great work they are doing with and for their young people. One of the most incredible choir schools in the country is located not too far from my college—I’m referring to the Madeleine Choir School in Salt Lake City. Once you hear what those children can do, you will never say to yourself again: “This music is too difficult for us today and too remote from our times.” On the contrary, it sounds glorious and speaks to us profoundly.

The Ward Method is particularly effective in teaching music and deserves to become the standard feature of Catholic schools that it once was in healthier times. Children are unbelievably quick to absorb the music, to learn the scales, the solfege, the chant, and to memorize repertoire. They put us older folks to shame. They have an enormous capacity and a positive attitude that are, sadly, rarely utilized. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” said our Lord. Let the children sing His praises and in that way come to Him and bring others to Him.

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