Vatican Entity Needed to Preserve Sacred Music

President of Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music Says

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2003 ( Given the great importance of liturgical music for the Church, a Vatican entity is needed to preserve it, says Father Valenti Miserachs Grau, president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

‘The maestro,’ as he is known in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he holds the post of chapel canon maestro, thinks it is opportune to establish an institution to safeguard sacred music.

Father Miserachs spoke to ZENIT after his return from Spain, where he gave several talks on the occasion of the first centenary of Pius X’s motu propio «Inter Solicitudines.»

At present, sacred music is not under the direction of any Vatican congregation or commission, as is the case, for example, with communications, culture, and education.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has competency in this area, but it is shared with other congregations (education, cultural goods, bishops, religious, etc.), given that sacred music touches different areas, extending from the liturgy to education, and including instruments and music in the missions.

In fact, it is the episcopal conferences that are really in charge of sacred music, editing the texts and elaborating repertoires of liturgical singing.

«Sacred music is not an aesthetical question, it is essential to the life of the Church: Lex orandi, lex credendi (as you pray, so you believe),» the priest said.

«In chapter 6, the dogmatic constitution ‘Sacrosantum Concilium’ says that it is good to promote popular forms of sacred music in keeping with modern sensibility, but without disregarding venerable Gregorian chant or classic polyphony,» he added.

Tradition and innovation in sacred music were already implied in Pius X’s 1903 motu propio on sacred music. Father Miserachs also defended the need to safeguard Gregorian chant noting that «Gregorian chant is universal; it is an instrument of catholicity.» The maestro, a composer as well, added that «the composer of my homeland, Lluis Mollet, used to say that Gregorian and the popular repertoire are anonymous precisely because they have descended from heaven.»

Father Valenti Miserachs is president of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, an institution of an academic nature whose mission is to form, orient, and counsel students who come to Rome to learn Western liturgical music.

It focuses on different areas — Gregorian chant, composition, choral direction, musicology, and research — and includes students from the whole ecclesial spectrum, with the growing importance of Eastern Europe and Korea, in addition to the African countries.

Father Miserach has presided over the institute since 1995. He has been the organist at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican for five years, and is the author of over 2,000 works. Among other honors, he is the recipient of the Alfonso X ‘The Wise’ Commendation.

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