Detroit Stories Episode 30: 'Does the Music Matter?' (PODCAST)

How can sacred music evangelize? Can drums and chant coexist in the same Church? And what does it mean to have 'unity without uniformity'?

(0:38) Horst Buchholz, Ph.D., director of sacred music for the Archdiocese of Detroit, explains why St. Augustine’s famous saying, “He who sings prays twice,” is actually a misquote. The narrator introduces the topic: Why does sacred music matter?

(3:32) Buchholz discusses the psychology of music, including research that shows people choose their churches for one of two reasons: the quality of the music, and the quality of the preaching. The narrator introduces a survey of Archdiocese of Detroit parishioners revealing local Catholics’ preferences in sacred music.

(7:23) Buchholz discusses the Second Vatican Council’s approach to sacred music, including its tradition of inculturation as well as its insistence that the pipe organ, chant and the use of Latin are “specially suited to the Roman liturgy,” while allowing for “unity without uniformity.”

(8:26) Wassim Sarweh, organist and music director at Old St. Mary’s Parish in Greektown, talks about the other-worldly qualities of Gregorian chant, the Church’s ancient musical language. Sarweh talks about how chant is different from other types of sacred music, and even has the power to make converts.

(12:40) Listeners are introduced to Santiago Fernandez, music director of the Church of the Holy Family in Novi, one of the largest multicultural (Spanish and English) parishes in the archdiocese. Fernandez discusses how a truly bilingual approach to sacred music brings the parish together in a profound way.

(16:45) Keir Ward, music director for Sacred Heart Parish in Detroit, talks about the impact of Gospel music on the African-American community. A lifelong Catholic, Ward has worked to incorporate the Gospel style — traditionally a Protestant tradition — into the city’s Catholic worship experience.

(19:32) Ward discusses the deeply meaningful history of Gospel, which has its roots in Afro-spirituals sung by slaves, and what that history means for today’s music.

(22:06) We meet Josh Ross, music director at St. Anastasia Parish in Troy, where contemporary, upbeat Christian music is played during a 5 p.m. Sunday evening “young adult” Mass. Ross discusses what drew him to the contemporary style as a young man.

(23:47) Ross addresses the opinion held by some that guitars and drums have no place in the liturgy, insisting that his role as a music minister is to help people to pray.

(27:02) Susan Lindquist, director of the Cathedral Choir Academy of Detroit, talks about what Catholics can learn about music from children. The children she teaches don’t have a preferred style, Lindquist says, but love learning and singing all types. It’s important to foster a love of sacred music in children so they can grow up to take their “rightful place in the Church.”

(29:44) Ward concludes the podcast with a story about a woman who found her faith again despite personal struggles with the help of an old Gospel song, “God has smiled on me.”

Reporting, script and narration by Michael Stechschulte; production by Ron Pangborn

This episode of Detroit Stories is brought to you by our friends at Alliance Catholic Credit Union. For over 60 years, Alliance Catholic Credit Union has provided Catholics in Michigan with trusted financial services inspired by Catholic values. When you join Alliance Catholic Credit Union, you become a member of a financial institution that supports Catholic education, Catholic Charities, and Catholic parishes around the state. Visit and join online today.

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