First off, you ought to know two things: our new pope is, like Condi, a concert pianist; and his brother is a very well-known choir director of a chant schola.
Confessions of a Recovering Choir Director does a net roundup that’s full of interesting stuff.
Frex, the first article traces how the Vatican II definition of liturgy as being centered in the community “wherever two or three are gathered” has made people forget that it’s really about the One who is there among us. So why do you have music at a liturgy? To build community and exhibit creativity, right?
But the true answer is supposed to be — to celebrate God coming to us, and what He does when He’s with us. We are there to see Him and be seen by Him and be made more like Him, but we are not there to put ourselves in His place.
That is why church music really isn’t supposed to be like any other kind of music. There’s nothing wrong with pop music or folk music or opera music or even religious music that’s designed for non-liturgical use. But liturgical music is supposed to be designed to celebrate God’s presence and actions. It is music for the King, exhorting others to attend Him; it is music for the King’s pleasure, done while looking toward Him. Otherwise, there’s not much point.
So here’s what I’m taking with me:
When we sing a new song for the Lord, we have to sing it while understanding what we’re doing. This is not another gig; this is not showing off our talents to the parish. This is performing for God Himself, while knowing that anything you can do is about a zillion levels more removed from impressing Him than a slime mold is from you and me. But it still pleases God, so we ought to do it and do our best at it. Besides, it’s not as if we singers can really resist the urge to celebrate, is it? No, we’ll always feel our hearts burning within us, whether we want them to or not. So we might as well celebrate with the parish, for Him, as best we can.
UPDATE: For those who actually go to audible.com and download mp3s of papal Masses, here’s the order of music for Pope Benedict XVI’s first Mass as pope, and the order of music for Benedict’s installation Mass.