Fr Pontifex. Christian Music for the Modern Age?
Thanks to Pontifex University student Kathryn for bringing this to my notice. Following on from my article about Frank La Rocca, she brought the work of composer who is an ordained priest and whose stage name is ‘Fr Pontifex’ (this is pure coincidence I promise).
She wrote a comment with a link saying: ‘This is not Schubert but where do you think it sits in relation to the liturgy?’
Well. This is definitely not my genre and so, at risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy failing to understand what the youth of today are up to (‘but it’s nice to see the young people enjoying themselves’) here is my response..
It is some form of rap in its singing style, or at least that’s what an article in The Blaze in 2013 referred to it (see, New Rap Album From a Surprising Performer Warns About the Dangers of Removing God From American Society). I admit that thought that the style of singing that seems to be called rap had its peak with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s White Lines Don’t Do It in 1983 and have been predicting its demise ever since…which shows how much I know.
My response to the music of Fr Pontifex is that as long as we don’t see it anywhere near the liturgy, I don’t see why it can’t be doing good. The test for me is not if it appeals to Christians, although that is not without value, but rather if it has the power to supplant its non-Christian equivalent because it has merit in the eyes of those who listen to this music for music, and not for the message. Christian music has to good enought to compete with secular in its own terms, I suggest.
Furthermore, it would be interesting to see the effect it has on those who like it. Does it open in them a desire for the source of the beauty that is appealing to them in this music. If so, then it really does have merit. That, I suggest, rests as in the musical forms used as the text. Aside from the rapped lyrics, the music does sound to me to be sophisticated and melodic and may well do so. Anyway, you make your mind up. In the 1970s it was the music of pre 1975 Genesis that did just that for me and created a desire for more that was consummated with my hearing Palestrina in Mass several years later (see my article Can Popular Music Create a Desire for God?). If we get the evangelization of the culture right, then in theory someone could be engaged by this, be lead into the music of Frank La Rocca and then come home to plainchant in the Mass..or that’s the theory.