So maybe not Renaissance polyphony all the time – the above being Josquin des Prez’s setting of the Nicene Creed in his Missa de Beata Virgine – but there’s a place both for complex choir singing and for simpler congregational singing, though even congregational singing can involve four-part chordal harmony. Anyone who mixes plainchant and polyphony should know there’s a place for different styles to fit together – but they ought to actually fit together, not be cobbled together with Perl hacks.
If a musical piece is marked by contrasts between consonance and dissonance, lighter and darker moods, fast and slow, so too our worship. A time and place for everything, says Solomon.
The thing is, the people who say we should get with the times and ‘accept all worship styles’ don’t really mean that. What they really end up doing is creating musical monoculture with the myopia of a few decades and little to none of the tradition that the Church respected for centuries and centuries before ours (85% of her history, if not more), centuries in which the world changed as much as it has in our own time. Diversity? Hardly. And then when plague strikes, the monocultured crop falls to the disease.
Newness? By all means. Sing a new song to the Lord, one of excellent quality as well as intent. But for heaven’s sake, let it not be a new song that demands the exile of all the old songs except during Christmas. There’s a reason we also keep Psalms around.