“The old folk Mass” has become the phrase used by teary-eyed, nostalgic Catholics
(and some who left the Church) for the liturgical events of the 1960’s and 1970’s,
when the organ gathered dust and the guitars–six and twelve string–were unpacked for
the celebration of the sacred mysteries. But was it really folk music?
Or was it just music done in a folk style and instrumentation?
Falling into the first group is this album. Ed Gutfreund, familiar to many old
NALR aficionados, is a real folk musician who put out this, a real folk album.
He’s best known for his rendition of the Baptist classic “How Can I Keep From Singing,”
which introduced this to many Catholic churches. That alone made him memorable,
but many of his other songs deserve much more play and performance than they get these days.
Gutfreund, in some ways like Sebastian Temple, is an upbeat composer and performer.
That contrasts him with the more moody, minor key style we see in, say, a Roger Smith,
and that should have made him more popular as a liturgist. The problem, however,
may be that, as a true folk musician, his work is harder to perform than many of those who
simply use folk instrumentation.
And it doesn’t take much for Gresham’s Law to work in Catholic music. Gutfreund,
like many other good Catholic composers and musicians (like fellow folk musician Juliana Garza) got thrown under the OCP bus during the pontifical reign of John Paul II. Coupled with the liturgical translation changes, much of the “old folk Mass” is pretty much history. And that’s a pity.
Note: this album is unusual in one other respect in that the music specifically for
the Mass is interspersed with the other songs, as opposed to the time-honoured practice of
putting these pieces at the end of Side 2.
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