The transformative power of liturgical music: A case study of an Australian catholic parish


Smith, Catherine (Kit). (2007). The transformative power of liturgical music: A case study of an Australian catholic parish [Thesis].
AuthorsSmith, Catherine (Kit)
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

This thesis comprises a case study of liturgical music practice in one Australian Catholic worshipping community, the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary Waitara NSW (situated in the suburban Sydney Diocese of Broken Bay). The principal aim has been to employ qualitative and ethnographic methods to explore and assess the effect of music on the faith life of an Australian Catholic parish, where music is a constitutive part of that community's liturgical prayer, taking into account the experience of clergy, music leaders and members of the assembly. Recent scholarly literature and local anecdotal evidence reveal grave concerns that the transformative power of liturgical music is not generally being achieved in Australian Catholic worship. Yet there exist a number of parishes whose commitment to quality liturgical music practice could provide useful models in addressing the problem. This research thus entails an ethnographic study of one such parish, and seeks to demonstrate that in an Australian context the faith life of a worshipping community can be enriched and transformed by liturgical music. While the field of liturgical theology provides the primary basis for the research, this interdisciplinary study draws also on the fields of ethnomusicology and ritual studies. An appraisal of major church documents and relevant research literature is provided, along with an account of the development of the research design. Central to the thesis are three chapters which present an ethnographic portrait of current liturgical music practice in Our Lady of the Rosary Waitara, with analytic commentary based on data collected over a twelve-month period from interviews and conversations, and observations made during regular participation in parish liturgies and other events. A final chapter summarizes significant findings of the study, with recommendations for liturgical music practice at the local, diocesan and national levels of the Australian Catholic Church.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Final version
Publication dates28 Nov 2007
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