Dueling Musicians, meet the Commercial Breaks
Amy Welborn and I have a lot in common - including our perception of ideal liturgical musical practices. Lo and behold, today as I was considering blogging about my liturgical musical experience this morning at Mass, I happened upon Amy's own post about her own encounter with (as she put it) "dueling musicians."
My turn first, then I'll send you her way. To preface, let me just say that I am a strong believer in the "we sing what we believe and we believe what we sing" maxim. I also am a fan of St. Augustine's understanding of singing as "praying twice." Therefore -- I see the purpose and goal of Catholic liturgical music to lead us to a greater respect of the awesomeness and mystery of the Triune God and His Church, and thus to be brought up to praise and worship Him with all our hearts. Liturgical music is not meant to entertain us, nor to lower itself to the lowest common denominator so that "everyone" can understand. The point is not for everyone to understand it, the point is to inspire everyone to want to understand it more! Singing ditties to God that sound like a 6-year-old wrote them does not inspire us to greater holiness, instead it simply gives us a pat on the back and tells us "we're all fine" and "just as you are" and "affirms" us in our "we are church" ideologies.
So. Anyway. This morning I took a "road trip" to one of our Archdiocese's more rural parishes, to visit a friend who is the brand new pastor there, who shall remain nameless for this recounting. It is a very charming country parish - beautiful building with original stained glass and carved statues/stations/pews, with a great pamphlet racks chock full of good Catholic info and apostolates, they pray a Rosary before Mass... good stuff. We thought to ourselves, great parish! as we went to take our seats. And it is, don't get me wrong. That's partly why I was kind of sad to check the hymn numbers in the hymnal beforehand and saw that it was basically going to be a Haugen & Haas Mass (Gather Us In, Taste and See, Canticle of the Sun, and another one I forget). And then the piano started.
Aside from the fact that Haugen's lyrics are potential theological timebombs (between the proud statements that we are the Body and that all are "gathered in" and all are to "take" the Lord, it's enough to make anyone think that they are indeed the Church themselves, and what's so special about that bread on the altar? Of course, that's assuming that anyone even listens to those insipid lines.) the thundering noise of "contemporary" band from the choir loft (hey, at least they were in the choir loft I guess) completely distracted and overshadowed the celebration of Mass by our very quiet and reverent priest friend. His beautiful soft chanting of the "through Him, with Him, and in Him...." was abruptly cut off by the AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN of one of those 80s-era Mass settings. And, the odd thing is that pretty much the rest of the Mass was celebrated pretty correctly... it was a very disconcerting feeling, because it was almost like you had the Mass, and then every once in awhile you had short obnoxious "commercial breaks."
I just don't expect strong and orthodox parishes (as this one certainly appears to be) to have fallen to the curse of innane music. People did sing the stuff too, but it was kind of funny that it was all the older people who were doing most of the rafter-raising... the younger people who were near me (and there were surprisingly quite a few of them, not bad for a town of 434) pretty much just mouthed the words. But from way behind us we could certainly hear the older crowd "gathering us all in." I suppose the "music leader" and the older and wiser parishioners believe that this kind of music is what they are supposed to sing now, and that the kids wouldn't like any of that old stodgy stuff anyway. Too bad. I have a feeling they would be a lot happier if they were given "permission" to sing good, solid, meaty, beautiful lyrics again, with the organ that this fine old "worship space" was designed for.
Anyway, so that's my story of the day, now on to Amy's: open book: Dueling Musicians