April 6, 2017

Mass of Restoration: Finding balance in the creation of liturgical music

Josh Blakesley


I’ve noticed over the last few years that discussions about liturgical music often very quickly turn into debates about traditionalism versus modernism. Social media, of course, fuels the argument because physical faces and genuine feelings give way to sarcastic memes and unbridled zeal through angry fingers. What scares me about that debate is that it seldom gets resolved in a healthy, holy manner and it leaves all interested parties more deeply planted in their opposing corners.

As liturgical musicians we have a responsibility: To keep sacred music sacred. When we take it seriously, we become passionate about defending our interpretation of various church documents. That passion is good and righteous. It’s necessary because it gives us reason to pass the torch on to those who come behind us. My question for all of us is this: Where is the balance? I have always submitted to the ideas of order and balance. Order comes from God. Therefore, when we seek order and righteousness, usually we are seeking God. In the context of liturgical music, I believe that there is a beautiful balance that exists somewhere in between the history and traditions of the ancient church, and the creativity and innovation of the modern church. My prayer is that as long as I am asking myself, “Where is the balance?”, then I’m contributing to order in the Church, and more specifically, in the liturgy.

In writing the Mass of Restoration, Grae and I tried to achieve a delicate balance of styles. What Catholics have been hearing for years in church is not necessarily what he and I are prone to playing for youth conferences around the country. By the same token, some of the songs we use to begin a concert simply won’t work as a processional song for Mass. To further this divide, the songs we might listen to in the car on the way to church, are usually not the ones we hear once inside the church. (Hey look, I’m not judging - you do you. Kasey Kasem’s American Top 40 was my jam on the way to the cathedral every Sunday morning.) All of these styles are heard and sung, loved and shared, by millions of people. If our church is universal, then it invites all ages, races, and cultures. If I serve the church, then I serve all of the above. But how do you create music that appeals to every single person? The answer is, you don’t. You create the music that God imbedded deep in your soul. You use all of the years of musical influence that has moved you. You draw from what has stirred your heart to be a follower of Christ, and you pray that it is worthy for His ears to hear.

So, Grae and I pulled from the melodies and feel of the cathedral organ sounds of our upbringing, the chord structures and vibe of the modern worship culture to which we’re so accustomed, and tried to marry them to make something sacred from our own musical influence. The result is something that I hope is usable and approachable for the universal church. I’m not sure Mass of Restoration will end the debate. That’s a pretty tall order. However, perhaps they will lead to a greater understanding of balance among the church parishes who use them.


Download the Mass of Restoration here:

Josh Blakesley

Josh Blakesley

With five solo albums under his belt, Josh Blakesley is no longer a newcomer in contemporary Catholic music. He and his band appear at some of the biggest faith-based events around the country.