Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Swimming with scapulars

OK, I've read it again, and confirmed my first impression: good book. However, there is a point I'd like to quibble with re: music in Mass.

I agree w/ Matthew that waaaayyy too much of the music has gone 1) prosaic 2) too "teen pop" and 3) boring. Glory and Praise has some nice tunes, but too many of them are just 1970s quasi-pop junk we need to stop singing. Let us move on and sing more of the "Warhorses"--"Holy, Holy, Holy" , "Holy God We Praise Thy Name", "Be Thou My Vision", "The Church's One Foundation", etc. Nothing wrong with sappy; sappy can be good. For example, I love "Here I Am, Lord." Great tune. I like "On Eagle's Wings." But there have been one too many singings of "Though the Mountains May Fall." And for the love of Pete, can we sing Advent songs during Advent? And Lent songs during Lent?? Please?

Anyway, to my quibble: Matthew talks about his issues with the choir singing up front, as opposed to in a choir loft, applause from the congregation when a song is over, and the idea that it's more of a "performance" than anything else. Now I obviously cannot speak for all choirs and I am sure that in some places this happens. But let me relay my experience.

First off, my church was built post Vatican II. There is no choir loft. We used to sit on the altar but then we got a new pastor and he vetoed that. So now we sit in a section of pews by the organ. The problem with this is that our sound is affected because we're basically singing to a wall. The congregation really can't hear us, or at least not the way we're intended to be heard. For some numbers we did go "up front", and that worked. The congregation liked it. But then it got vetoed. So now we're back to the pews for everything and we have to do all sorts of fancy mic work to make sure we can be heard. Which means spending money on good mics. It would make a lot more sense to just have us up front and eschew all the fancy-schmancy technology, or at least some of it, because we wouldn't need it anymore.

People who are not musicians tend to downgrade how much work it is being in a choir/band/orchestra, whatever. They assume we practice, but they don't know the intensity of it. Our choir rehearses at least and hour and a half a week. The closer we got to Christmas, the longer practice got. Sometimes we are beginning at 7:15 and rehearsing until 10:00 or later. Not much later, and not often, but it does happen. We put a lot of effort into every piece we sing, and we do sing one choral piece every week. For Christmas we're singing a piece from Haydn's Creation and several movements of Handle's Messiah . We've been having twice a week practices since October to prepare. This is not fluff stuff. Our families know how much we practice, but the general congregation? Who knows. So if we're going to put all this effort into it, it's nice to have some appreciation. The congregation doesn't clap very often (we do two pieces that are guaranteed applause) but when they do, we appreciate it. We are there to help them worship. It's not like we're there to satisfy our humungeous egos. Some of us are classically-trained, some of us can't read music. But it takes a lot of work and commitment to do what we do. And a lot of the time, people just don't get it. If the congregation wants to applaud, heck, I'm not going to stop them.

This Christmas, take some time to appreciate any special music your parish does. I am positive they put a lot of work into it. And tell them if you liked it!! We like to know we're not just singing to the walls. :)

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