CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Music an important part of life and liturgy

HONG KONG (SE): The close relationship between music, liturgy and prayer was explored during the Sacredness with Music Symposium (Past, Present, Future) a symposium on sacred music co-organised by the Divinity School of Chung Chi College and the Centre for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong on January 24 and 25. 
 
Professor Chan Wing-wah, a music educator, composer and conductor, said during a session on January 25 that every piece of music for him is sacred as he looks at it with a serious and positive attitude. 
 
Chan said music becomes sacred when it helps people to remember God or when it is used to praise him. From his point of view, it is easy to classify a piece of music as sacred if it has religious lyrics, but some music without lyrics can also give people a strong religious feeling.
 
He said people tend to have varied feelings about a piece of music and it is hard to define whether it belongs to sacred music. From his point of view, the nine symphonies of Beethoven are sacred and that is why non-liturgical music is sometimes used in some parts of the liturgy of the Christian Church.
 
Father John Mi Shen shared his experiences in launching the Veritas Cup, the International Chinese Hymn Composing Competition. 
 
He said it takes quite some time for new hymns to be accepted by the Catholic community and as a result, composers worry that their music will not be used. This problem has created a barrier for the composition of worship music. 
 
He pointed out that, while young people long for music that expresses their feelings, there is a lack of platforms for new Chinese hymns to be performed, hence he launched the competition to promote the composing of Chinese hymns and the exchange of musical experiences in different Chinese-speaking regions. 
 
He hopes that such platforms can help to enrich Catholic hymns and at the same time act as a way to evangelise. 
 
The competition was organised in 2014 and 2017. Father Mi said albums have been released with the award-winning songs. Follow up activities included sacred music workshops and seminars. 
 
“Sacred music can express the relationship between people and God. If the composer’s heart is connected to God, his music can help people experience the beauty of God,” Father Mi said. 
 
Anglican Bishop Andrew Chan Au-ming of West Kowloon spoke about the role of sacred music in bringing liturgy alive. He pointed out that music plays an important role in liturgy as, while praising the work of God, it helps people to share feelings which are hard to express in words. 
 
Other topics explored during the two-day symposium included the relationship between Church music and local culture, Anglican music traditions, music and faith as well as Taizé as chanted prayers.
 
In his concluding remarks, Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming said that faith is a part of life so it is important to have ways to encounter God. He said besides the scriptures and prayers, sacred music is an important way to help people to meet God. He used the music of Taizé as an example as it is simple and the repetitive lyrics from scripture are good for meditation.
 
Father Chan led the participants in a Taizé prayer session and musicians from the Protestant Churches gave solo singing renditions and organ recitals at a concert held at the chapel of Chung Chi College.
 
Yung Kwan-fung, a participant who is responsible for liturgy and music worships in her parish, said it is hard to include modern elements in liturgy because the Catholic Church has strict rules, so new hymns have to be approved by priests and the diocesan authority before it could be used in the liturgy. 
 
She said although new hymns can be used in gatherings and retreats, people are still more familiar with traditional Mass songs. She believes that, while it takes time for people to get used to new hymns, both traditional and new songs can be a great support to the faithful.
 
Father Louis Ha Ke-loon, director of the centre told the Kung Kao Po on January 25 that the seminar was a continuation of a symposium titled, Liturgical Space and Architecture, held last year to look at varied aspects related to liturgy. 

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