Crap speaks to crap: Conjoined twins in liturgical music

As a bona fide music snob, I’ll open by sheepishly admitting that I kind of like the Dan Schutte’s “Gloria.” Yes, the My Little Pony one. It’s not very good music, but it’s fun to sing, and it’s cheerful, which, mysteriously, not all Glorias are.

If you missed the fun when it came out, here’s the Gloria side by side with the MLP song:

I feel pretty strongly about lousy church music, but I also feel pretty strongly that, when there’s nothing you can do about the music, that’s your signal to be glad the sacraments are efficacious no matter how many banjos are present.

However, I woke up this morning mit brennender sorge about “Shepherd Me, O God.” Specifically, in my head it kept merging in and out of a song which I believe to be its aesthetic equal: “I’m Moving On” by Yoko Ono. Have a listen:

and here’s its spiffy little twin:

EH? EH? And yes, this is the one where she makes that coughing bird noise at the end! Haugen, take note.

Speaking of moving on, here’s “Come Sail Away” by Styx:

and HERE is its soulmate, “We Are Called”:

But wait, there’s more! “Pure Imagination” sounds like this:

which, if you’re patient, melds seamlessly with this:

What else? How about “Gather Us In”

which is clearly keeping a secret “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” locked up in the attic?

Now we’ll switch things up a bit and start with a small little turd of a worship song: “Lord Reign In Me”

and here’s what happens when you write this same song, but not turdly:

In conclusion, I’d like to point out that “Go Make a Difference”

is almost indistinguishable from this:

and I would be happy to sing it at Mass. Because it speaks to me! Who are you to say that it doesn’t belong at Mass, if it speaks to me? Pbbbbbbt.

Image: Public Domain,

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37 thoughts on “Crap speaks to crap: Conjoined twins in liturgical music”

  1. People must be doing a terrible job with ‘Soon and Very Soon’ if so many of you hate it so much. I am pretty sure it has folk or African roots and when done well, with rhythm, I think it is great. However it could be sung anywhere, not necessarily in mass. I love a richly musical, ethnically authentic mass, though!

  2. So, unfortunately –

    1) We are Called
    2) Gather Us In
    3) Shephard Me O God

    Are all among the more pleasant songs I’ve heard at Mass. As such I like them more than I probably would otherwise. It’s strange how compulsory attendance and regular exposure warps your tastes and preferences. Almost like … brainwashing? Nah.


    1. Haven’t heard “We are Called”.

      “Gather Us In” sounds like a sea shanty, or the theme to Gilligan’s Island. And nothing in the lyrics to indicate we are worshiping God or are grateful for Him, just that we are diverse and apparently harder to herd than kittens.

      I have to say I like “Shepherd Me O God”. It actually has lyrics from the 23rd Psalm, and the melody is quite good. Not *all* the modern hymns are losers.

      I also really like “You Are Mine”, both the words and the tune.

  3. If I were queen, every parish would have the “Lumen Christi” hymnal. All Oregon Catholic Press missalettes (what a racket and waste of trees) would be burned.

  4. A few years ago I heard a new hymn at a parish – “We Belong to You.” This peppy tune reminded me of a fiddle piece my kids have played. Sure enough, it’s very similar (at a slower pace) to “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” I did a search and found the composer soulfully singing the hymn to the strum of his guitar. He also explained, of course, what inspired this deep hymn (which is about as deep as the Barney theme song). In his more disgruntled and impious moments, my husband sings a Kyrie to the tune of “Frost the Snowman.”

    I am beyond grateful that we moved and now belong to a Dominican parish with a great choir director who chooses reverent and beautiful music. My teenage son was inspired to join the choir and he practices (at his own volition) every day at home. He’s singing chant, polyphony, and traditional hymns.

    1. There is a Latin Mass in driving distance from us, and they do sing beautiful chant. Unfortunately, they’e also raging anti semites. So, we’ll stick with our mediocre music where no one wants to send my kids to the ovens.

      1. Not gonna argue with that–admittedly you get a lot of crazies at the Latin Mass, but unless this sort of disgusting attitude is in the sermons, and the sacraments are indeed valid, you could use the same rational you use to continue attending the “mediocre music” Mass. You go to Mass for the sacraments and to worship Our Lord, not because you agree or disagree with the sinners seated all around you. Also, is it possible that some, but not all, are anti-semites, the way there are probably some rabidly pro-abortion Mass-goers at most Masses?

  5. “Gift of Finest Wheat” sounds like a lounge singer song. I cannot hear it without thinking of someone in sequins in a dark smoky bar reclining on the end of a piano. I think I better avoid the clips you’ve proffered. I don’t need worse attitude to church music with new brain worms!

    And if I ever have to hear “Let there be peace on Earth” again it will be too soon. It is treacly and vacuous, and then to make it worse , the rotten lyrics were changed to be gender neutral. So much to despise.

    Just give me something staid and traditional (and in an easy range – 7:30 Sunday morning makes it hard to hit the high notes) and I’m fine.

    1. Agreed. May I add “Song of the Body of Christ”? The melody is dreadful, as are the lyrics – all about us, not about Jesus. Makes me want to bang my head into the pew.

    2. My husband was once at a family gathering where a mild argument/disagreement broke out, and one of his older brothers–who is allergic to confrontation–tried to solve it by standing up and passive-aggressively singing “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” I still think my husband should win some sort of award for not punching his lights out.

      1. hahahahahahaha! For some reason, I think this is a brilliant idea (the singing, not the punching, though I can see the latter side too).

        Brilliant not because singing about peace will make everyone feel all peaceful, but just because it’s so outrageous it just might make people like me fall over laughing and so end the argument. I’m lucky to have a sister-in-law who is a born devil’s advocate just like me, so we argue/debate everything, but with no heat at all, it’s just because we understand each other.

  6. Dang Simcha, you picked on some of my fav songs….but I get your point. I thought I was a music snob but apparently I need tutoring. I’d love to see your Top 40 List, or even your top 5 would help adjust my music snob standing.

  7. I grew up in the “folk music” era, too, and I like some of it just fine. I have an uncanny memory for song lyrics and I usually know all the verses. I like the songs that are taken straight from scripture–and there are a lot of them–because then, even if I don’t care for the tune, I can meditate on the scripture when I’m driving or whatever because it’s right there in my head. But some of the songs that are not so scriptural are, admittedly, lame. I feel uncomfortable singing the ones about how we’re going to bring about the kingdom of God on earth because of our obedience to God in practicing love and mercy and justice. I know they’re supposed to inspire us to action, but to me they seem unrealistic to the point of dishonesty.

    But I always come back to what I was taught growing up: it doesn’t matter if the music is to your taste, you are here to worship the Lord and it’s your job to make sure you do.

    1. I just bothered to actually listen to the songs posted here. Some of them we sing at my parish, but much more briskly! I wouldn’t call them favorites, but a snappier tempo really helps.

  8. De gustibus non disputandum.
    For every tree representing a song, there will be a dog with lifted leg representing a disappointed parishioner. I like David Haas and many songs in Gather, but not all. May everyone find something in mass that helps them to live in the Lord.

    1. I think pretty much every church I’ve attended recently uses Gather, but for some reason they always use the same (bad) 15-20 songs. It’s like listening to contemporary radio but worse – I can always turn the radio off but I’m supposed to go to Mass.

      Anyway – for a while the entire Gather 3rd edition was on Google Play, and I listened to the whole thing. I heard all the familiar bad songs, a whole bunch of even worse songs that, saints preserve us, I will never hear again. I also heard the handful of amazing songs that I’ve only heard maybe once or twice before, and I also heard a whole bunch of amazing songs that I’ve NEVER heard before! It actually made me kinda sad that seemingly no one had actually plumbed the depths of Gather, as common as it seems to be.

      I’m sad that they took it off Google Play because I was really enjoying a couple of the really good songs that are literally nowhere else. Oh well.

  9. Comparing anything to the talentless Yoko Ono is pretty harsh. Gather Us In does grate on my nerves, much like Ono’s voice, though.

  10. This is probably the best palce to pose this query, does anyone know the name of the Mass setting that resembles the Ketchup Song from Prairie Home Companion?

  11. I cannot un-see, or un-hear this…

    I also can’t work out whether to thank you or cry. Might have something to do with the fact I’m pregnant…

  12. Santa Barbara mission. Totally legit choir with a cantor that gives my hubby and I goosebumps. Buuuuuut children that grouse and sigh and moan and groan that they are singing too much. The pleasure gets canceled out by the pain.

    Church music fails to really move me though. What are you going to do? I guess I don’t care.

    At our new/old parish there is a nice kid with a nice voice that plays the piano. I appreciate his talent and the fact that it’s not an organ. Sometimes there are a few other instruments which make it even sweeter. Flutes can be nice. I totally approve of when this huge African dude in native garb comes to beat his drums though. There is a three year old that runs over to join him and gets totally into it. I love that.

    Sometimes my husband wings it a little when he doesn’t remember all of the words. You’d think that he’d sing those parts softly.

  13. Great post, but “We Are Called” reminds me of “One More Try” (gospel version) that George Michael did in ’91. F major for that one as well as the original “One More Try.”

    (Styx song is in C major)

  14. The Catholic Church should have a vested interest in raising up the next generation of musicians if it wants “better” music. The organ is held in high esteem…but it’s basically unlearnable.

    It has an old guard with their old favorites and their rules. You have the church organist who won’t let a professional music student practice on the organ at church. (well-known parishioner, to boot) Unfortunately, this has happened in more churches and more parishes than I can count when I related this to various friends and family members. Where do those young people go? To protestant churches who welcome them practicing when no one else is around. What happens to those young people? They drop out of music. They play at Protestant churches. Some even lose their faith.

    The sound coming from churches is not the issue. The attitude is.

  15. I grew up in the Marty Haugen era. Nearly all I know about church music is in the Gather hymnals. So I didn’t know any better when I chose “Gather Us In” for our processional at our wedding (the Church doesn’t allow for secular music during the wedding Mass, obviously, or I could have had the song “Storybook Love” as our recessional–and it would have been more meaningful than “Gather Us In”).

    My personal bugaboo is that turd of a song, “Soon and Very Soon” because it is so. damn. repetitive. I have kids who will repeat things over and over, I don’t need it in a church song.

    I also really hate the recent editing I have seen in some hymns that take out the masculine references to God. Yes, in Catholic hymn books. WUT.

    1. There is really, really no excuse for “Soon and Very Soon.” Completely unredeemable and just plain awful.

      My personal pet peeve is when people sprint for the doors as soon as the priest walks by, but I confess that when they end Mass by playing “Soon and Very Soon,” I become suddenly aware of an emergency, gather the kids, and sprint for the door before I hurl in the aisle.

  16. GOAT: Greatest (Post) of All Time.
    When people clap at the end of Mass for the choir, I wonder, are they clapping because they enjoyed it…or because it’s over?

  17. If I never hear “All Are Welcome” again, that is fine by me. Sounds like a kindergarten marching song.

    Same for “Amazing Grace” (which I know people seem to love). It sounds like a dirge, especially when accompanied by bagpipes. It reminds me of the bad times of the 9/11 funerals, when everyone used it. Sorry, it depresses me. I have come to hate it.

    I enjoyed this article. You are right. When there is nothing we can do about crappy church music, we might as well get over it and cheer up.

    1. It makes the hair stand up up on the back of my neck. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me find another church.

  18. I guess you’ve never seen Rob Paravonian’s Pachabel’s Rant on YouTube?
    A lot of music sounds like a lot of other music.
    As a Music Director who fights the “crappy music battle” weekly this article really bugs me, and I’m a fan of yours. Beating up the Musicians at Catholic parishes seems a blood sport these days.

    1. I am not a musician nor do I help with music at my parish but I can kind of see pianist’s point. It does seem to me that the [very loud] folks who complain about losing all the Classical and High Quality Catholic heritage music (a la Abp Chaput’s recent “letter of a young father”) do not need any more encouragement. Ugh.
      That’s one of many reasons, but maybe a main one, that I stay out of these conversations.

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