Maurice Durufle playing the organOne of the greatest modern Catholic composers and musicians is Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986).

Lately, I’ve been delving into Duruflé’s Requiem (Op. 9), originally composed in 1947.  It is a sublime and ethereal piece, rich and nuanced.  A piece you really have to listen to many times in order to “get it.”  I have found it rather harder to “grasp” than the works of, say, Fauré or Poulenc.  But the more I listen, the more it comes together in my mind and the more I love it.  The best part is that Duruflé’s Requiem is largely underpinned by traditional chant; I recognized the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei from Mass at my local parish, but have certainly never heard them quite like this before.  My current favorite movement, and the one that really captured me and reeled me in at first, is the Domine Jesu Christe (Offertory).  Duruflé was a master organist, so organ features prominently as well.

Chant and organ–the treasured hallmarks of Catholic music, as Vatican II would reaffirm (despite the illusions of those drunk on the “Spirit of Vatican II”).  Duruflé saw no need to break with tradition, and yet his music was very new, creative, and unique–and remains so.  He was a true modern master, exacting in his artistry, who clearly strove to carry on and breathe new life into his heritage rather than to wantonly destroy it.  This is what Catholics have done for centuries and millennia.  Our faith is ancient, but never old–that is reflected in our Catholic culture, in our arts and sciences, in all of our thought and expression.

At least, that’s how it ought to be.  Things have gone horribly, hideously wrong in the last 40 years.  And instead of master musicians like Duruflé, the average Catholic is far more likely to be exposed to various bland and forgettable “contemporary” musicians.  If that is all people know, then how are they going to start demanding better things?  Our culture is so much richer than all of that–and we need to reclaim it and cherish it!

I still have a lot to learn and absorb myself, of course… and I look forward to sharing more of the treasures I discover!  Please feel free to share your favorites with me!