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Musical Musings: CNP Feedback

CNP Feedback - Laying Danny Boy to Rest

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

Is it permissible to have Danny Boy sung at the Mass of Christian Burial?


A. Dear Dan-no:

The only "official," "approved" and "recommended" music that the Church offers are the Gregorian chants of the Propers (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion) found in the Graduale Romanum, Graduale simplex and Gregorian Missal. These exist for the Mass of Christian Burial as well — in fact, the funeral Mass was often named for its Introit: Requiem æternam...

The difficulty we see in Church music circles today, is that, while the GIRM and other rubrics uphold and recommend these Proper chants, they do allow "loopholes" for other music to replace them, if necessary. So.... most parishes totally ignore all the Propers and substitute various hymns for Entrance, Offertory and Communion.

Whether any such "replacement" music is valid and can be used is a matter of judgment — hopefully by someone with legitimate background, knowledge and expertise to see music objectively.

Documents, councils, popes and bishops have stressed the validity — no, the pre-eminence — of Gregorian chant for worship. Other music is more valid and worthy in as much as it resembles chant.

In my opinion, music that leads the heart, mind and emotions away from worship of the Almighty has no place in liturgical worship. Broadway tunes, popular songs, radio & TV hits — or music that sounds like these — do not belong at Mass.

Hence, Danny Boy itself has no valid place in worship — it's not directed toward God and does nothing to further worship of Him. There are, in current disposable missalette-style worship aids, various "holy" texts that use the Irish tune for Danny Boy, particularly with the words, "May the angels lead you into paradise..." Here's where judgment comes into play. I would not use these settings any more than I would sing the Ave Maria to the "Notre Dame Football Fight Song." Leave the secular music and connotations outside Mass.

I hope this answers your timely question.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

See Graduale Romanum
Graduale simplex
Gregorian Missal
Booklets of Chant
Music for funerals

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