The Sistine Chapel Choirmaster’s opinion on the new liturgy

Source: FSSPX News


The Italian weekly L’Espresso has published an exclusive interview given by the former choirmaster of the Sistine Chapel, Fr. Domenico Bartolucci, with the music critic Riccardo Lenzi. Here are some excerpts in which the master gives his opinion on the place of music in the new liturgy:

- The great repertory of sacred music which we have inherited from the past consists in Masses, offertories, responses: before, none of these existed in the liturgy without music. Today, there is no place for this repertory in the new liturgy, which is lamentable – and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. It is as if Michelangelo had been asked to paint the Last Judgment on a postage stamp! Tell me, if you please, how do you sing a Credo or even a Gloria today… At least for solemnities and feasts, we need a liturgy which gives music its rightful place, and is expressed in the universal language of the Church, namely Latin. In the Sistine Chapel, after the liturgical reform, I managed to keep the traditional repertory of the Chapel only during concerts. Can you imagine that the Palestrina’s Missa Papa Marcelli has not been sung in St Peter’s since John XXIII! They very kindly allowed us to have it on the occasion of the commemoration of Palestrina, but they did not want the Credo, but I did not give in, and we were able to sing the whole work. (…)

Q. Do you think that the traditions of the past are disappearing?

- This seems obvious: if there is no continuity enabling them to remain alive, they are bound to fall into oblivion, and the present liturgy certainly does not favor them. I am optimistic by nature, but I judge the present situation with realism, and I think that a Napoleon without generals cannot achieve much. Today the motto is: ‘go to the people, look them in the eyes’, but these are no more than empty words. When we do this, we only celebrate ourselves, and the mystery and beauty of God remain hidden from us. As a matter of fact, we are witnessing the decline of the West. An African bishop said to me once: “We hope that the Council will not take Latin out of the liturgy, otherwise my country, which is a Babel tower of dialects, will implode.”

Q. Did John Paul II bring about any progress on these issues?

- In spite of numerous appeals, the liturgical crisis became more deeply rooted during his pontificate. Sometimes, the very papal celebrations contributed to this new trend with dances and drums. Once, I walked out and said: ‘call me back when the show is over.’ You can understand that if these examples come from Saint Peter, appeals or complaints are useless. I always disapproved of these things. And even if they have sent me away, essentially because I am over 80, I do not regret anything. (…)

Q. Do you envy the Eastern Churches?

- They did not change anything and they were right. The Catholic Church renounced her own identity, a little like these women who have recourse to plastic surgery: they become unrecognizable, and sometimes there are serious consequences. (…)

Music is Art, with a capital A. Sculpture has marble, architecture has a building. Music is seen only with the eyes of the soul, it goes inside you. And the Church has the merit of having cultivated music in choir schools, of having given it its grammar and syntax. Music is the soul of the word which becomes art. It completely disposes you to discover the beauty of God. For this reason, the Church must learn to find it again, now more than ever.