Dear St. Cecilia,

I am concerned that so few new choral & hymn compositions written for worship use these days draw upon the Holy Scriptures for their text. Historically, this kind of music has relied upon the Bible as a primary source for texts, with special attention to the Psalms and the Gospels. I don’t know exactly when and why the picture changed so radically, but I wonder if anyone else is concerned about returning to the Scriptures more often for the literary component of contemporary liturgical compositions. Neither do I know how such a question could practically be explored. Any ideas?

Dear Concerned,

Thanks for writing.  Maybe one of the ways this issue can be explored would be by inviting our own ALCM composers to review their last 12 compositions for reliance on the Bible as the primary source for the text. If we can get 12 to respond, and each of the 12 reviews 12 compositions, we’d have a valid sample. Once we have that, we can see if your perception is accurate, and if so, engage in some give and take discussion as to why this is so, and if it is a good or bad or indifferent thing.

So, ALCM composers, you are invited to weigh in.

St. Cecilia remembers a class in Counseling Psychology on Social Learning Theory at grad school. The issue was behavior modification.  I was annoyed by what I perceived to be the many times my 10 year old daughter would get up from the table during family meals.  I had to do a base-line count in order to determine if any behavior modification would be successful. If she got up ten times, I would see success if I could modify her behavior to less than ten. So I counted. She got up twice!  My perception was off.

Maybe, Concerned, your perception is off. That would be good news if we find that many compositions are based on Biblical texts. However, if your perception is borne out by responses that indicate little use of the Biblical texts, just asking the question may cause composers to take a second look at basing their compositions on Biblical texts.

It looks like a “win – win” to me.  The issue for the immediate moment is getting busy composers to review and respond.

St. Cecilia