This past week, was out of town on business, attended Mass at a hip parish near the convention I was attending.
This parish had money – it’s in a resort town full of the kind of people who move some place to retire. (Aside – if I ever am so foolish to move away from where I’ve lived my life in order to retire with a bunch of elderly strangers, just shoot me.) The church building was in the modern ‘talk show set’ form factor, with amphitheater-style seating, huge speakers hung from the ceiling, an orchestra pit to the left for the musicians, and a tabernacle tucked away on the right so that, unless you were really looking, you’d never see it. The sanctuary was dominated by a huge crucifix that looked like happy-bendy bronze Jesus sitting on the cross-piece of a giant upright X. His limbs were flat and twisted – the theological and artistic reasons for this are just one of the baffling items that we must accept, it seems, as mystery here. The quality of the structure and furnishings was high.
The people seemed nice. The Mass was efficacious, if a bit meandering. Was not asked to say or sing anything heretical.
Music was the expected blend of St. Louis Jebbies, Marty Haugen and the like, performed by a very good set of musicians – piano player, drummer, bass – with a team of about a dozen singers. As is so often the case, only maybe 5 of the musicians were under 50, with one young lady and the drummer maybe under 30. Mostly way over 60. But, to be fair, that’s probably not too far off from the demographics of the place.
Another mystery that remains unanswered: if, with few exceptions, we, the congregation, are going to simply listen to the band play, why does it have to be such mediocre music? They’re not doing that music for the sake of the Young People (which is what they told me they were doing 35 years ago in high school). Young People were conspicuous by their near-total absence.
I have some hope things will get better over time. Haugen is a much better musician than the Jebbies, who are much better than Carey Landry, for example. (Haugen has even shown a tendency to try to reinvent the Lutheran hymn on occasion.) And Haugen has muscled in on the Jebbies, who pretty much squeezed Landry out – so, maybe, even without a whole-sale replacement of this inferior music, selection pressure may gradually improve it…