First Communion at Holy Cross College, Dhaka,
run by the Congregation of Holy Cross
HH Benedict XVI’s call to reform the practice of the liturgy takes root in Bangladesh. I am personally pleased to see that Holy Cross is taking a leading role in liturgical reform.
DHAKA (UCAN) — Bangladeshi Catholic hymns are “out of control,” sometimes sung too loudly or performed by pop-style bands, so much so that some claim the deep spirituality the music is meant to inspire gets lost.The Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and Prayer (ECLP) has responded to the problem by trying to bring order to the chaos and restore a level of uniformity and a proper atmosphere for Bangla-language hymns. It did so in a six-day training program for liturgical music experts and performers that was conducted July 13-18 at the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Dhaka.
The program assembled 71 liturgical singers in charge of leading choirs, and parish liturgy committee representatives from the country’s five dioceses and one archdiocese to learn the correct musical notes to be played and sung in the hymns, as well as how loudly they should be sung.
Dora D’Rozario, an ECLP member, explained to UCA News, “This training program was initiated because, in terms of the tunes, nowadays the liturgical hymns are out of control, and they need to be controlled.”
According to D’Rozario, the problem is lack of proper tone for the spiritual occasion. It is not just a matter of “belting out the lyrics,” she stressed, but the need to restore depth and beauty in the liturgy and Holy Eucharist.
Father Francis Gomes Sima, a former ECLP member, pointed out to UCA News that the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) opened the door to composing and singing hymns in the vernacular rather than Latin. As a result, he said, hymns were composed in the Bangla language amongst Bengali Catholics in Bangladesh and India, but choirs have drifted away from the correct practice.
Over the decades, Father Sima further noted, there have been developments such as using the harmonium to accompany hymns, and the recent seminar included instruction on the correct musical notes to be sung for those hymns.
Different music suits different times, he said, and for religious occasions, two types of music, traditional and band, or pop-style, songs are available, “but band songs destroy the beauty, depth and spirituality of liturgy.”
The priest did concede, however, that band music could be used on certain occasions, “but not in liturgical celebrations.”
Auxiliary Bishop Thetonious Gomez of Dhaka agrees there is “need to control the use of musical instruments in the liturgical celebration.” The Holy Cross bishop, who chairs the Episcopal Commission for Christian Education, told UCA News, “There will be no more loud tunes, but union and harmony in tunes is a must to express the depth of spirituality.”
Father Ashes Dio, another ECLP member, told UCA News, “The liturgical hymns must express that the Eucharist is the mystery and the center of our life.”
To rectify the incongruence identified by ECLP members, the participants were taught the correct musical notation and volume for the singing of hymns. But Father Patrick Gomes, ECLP’s secretary, told UCA News that choir leaders also need help to choose the right sequence of hymns and to select hymns suitable for a particular theme. New hymns are not being composed, he added, but ECLP is now thinking of doing something to change that.
The training program was useful, said several participants, including Prianka Mollah, a choir leader and college student. She told UCA News it was good to get help for the traditional hymns, and she hopes to implement what she learned when she returns to her parish.
ECLP member D’Rozario expects all participants to practice properly and arrange musical training in the dioceses when they go back home. “Only then will the devotion grow and eyes will open to feel in their hearts the meaning of the liturgy,” she said. “This process will help them be closer to God.”
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