I was very surprised to read the reaction to your Editorial "Folk Masses need watching" (May 10). Of course they need watching. The folk Mass movement is still very much in its infancy in this country and it is only quite recently that folk music especially designed for Masses has been published. Furthermore, folk Masses themselves are still'not widely accepted.
Much of this is due to the music played. There is some very good folk music and very had folk music. It is now not sufficient to get mediocre players and singers together to produce in church such songs as "Kumbayha" and "Lord of the Dance." A Folk Mass, if it is to be meaningful at all, has to be well sung, well played and the words and music carefully chosen. And there are plenty of words and music fit for the occasion.
Here in St Mary's we have very successful folk Masses. We began by attending folk Masses ourselves and much of our success is due in great part to the painstaking research of Fr Tony Hamson from Newport. We reckon our success not so much on the number of people who attend — and it does attract a large number — but on what people get out of it. Young and old alike take part — it not merely caters for the young — and, what is more important, I myself know of several people who have actually mended their ways after going to a folk Mass.
A folk Mass well sung and wellplayed is a joy to hear. A had folk Mass is a nightmare. I would willingly help readers if they want to know where they can got good folk music for Masses, All they need to do is to write tot (Fr) Christopher Delaney, OSB St. Mary's Priory,
Talbot Street, Canton,
Your editorial (May 10) has struck a familiar chord. I sing and play in a folk choir in the south-east and I am glad to say that ours is a 'rather "oldfashioned" group. We don't sing the political protest songs that you (and I) are concerned about, and when there is a popular tune with non-Christian words — for example, "Blowing in the Wind" — we use a completely new set of words with the emphasis on explicit religion. We seem to have inherited the Comrhunist "Family of Man" with our folk books, but I assure you we don't sing it.
The problems facing groups such as ours spring mainly from our being a Catholic group. The traditions of modern folk music (if that is not too great a paradox) are those of nonCatholic England and a vociferous political minority amongst the student population and elsewhere.
Apart from the lovely songsof the Medical Mission Sisters, the output of Catholic composers is overshadowed by the sheer hulk of Protestant writers' efforts. This would not be very important, as they are presumably as sincere as anyone else, except for the fact that the editors of "Youth Praise," the "Faith, Folk ..." series, and the many other collections of folk humns would seem to be more tolerant than necessary of songs. expressing social concern in
hat often boils down to whitewashed Marxism.
The result is that whereas, say, Polish folk hymns are in a Catholic tradition and comprise many suitable songs for Communion and in honour of Our Lady, we in England have only a few Catholic communion hymns. I think the song "Let us break bread together ' (whose refrain gets perverted to ."When 1 lie on my back with my feet to the rising sun") is of Methodist origin.
I would be grateful if anyone could point me in the direction of any English folk hymns which could compare with "Maryjo, Matko Jczusa."
Leaving aside the lurid folk songs, we come to the reasons behind the repetitive ones. The important thing in a Folk Mass is participation. We try to keep songs as simple as possible so that everybody can sine. Otherwise there is no point in having Folk Mass, you could revert to choir Masses pitched too high for any congregation to sing.
Of course, the repetitive hymns, which are mainly Negro spirituals, can get boring and every Mass needs a variety of music with perhaps a more difficult song just after Communion, when the choir usually sings alone.
If you don't like what the folk group is doing, you might join them and help them. Many groups suffer from having no members, apart from their leader, who are over 17. In our parish there seems to be a strange gap between 16 or 17 and 27!
You may be interested to know that a young choir master has collected together with his own compositions what is thought to be the first complete Folk Mass in Polish in England. May I suggest that we draw encouragement from this example and strive to make folk Masses everywhere a true enrichment of worship.
(Miss) Sarah Kaye Wood Rhostar Pottery,
131 Woodham Lane, New Ham, Weybridge, Surrey.
While agreeing with Fr Payne (May 17) that a good tune alone is insufficient when the words of a hymn are deficient I would be interested to know why he dislikes and disapproves of the words of "Amazing Grace". There would seem two possible grounds for disapproval: aesthetic or doctrinal. Aesthetic values are largely a matter of informed opinion — personally I would prefer the original words anyday to those penned by Fr Payne's parishioner.
As to the content, there seem two possible grounds for complaint: that the words are in se false or unsuitable or that while true and good in themselves they are irrelevant to the concerns of the moment. The theologian Georgina Harkness in her recent book on mysticism speaks approvingly of the hymn and at a recent Mass attended by six theologians I printed out the words under the title of "A treatise on Gratia Praeveniens". All present were agreeably struck by the way the hymn expressed the nuances of the Catholic doctrine of grace so admirably.
At a time when we seek unity with Christians of the reformed tradition it is surely good to find a hymn which both counteracts any popular ideas of grace as a "commodity" and which we can share with our separated brothers.
(Rev.) T. Cooper Catholic Presbytery, 82, Knox Road, Wellingborough, Northants.