Here’s the lens through which I view church music:
When I was quite little – say, 1962-ish – my family attended a large parish church with a Sunday Mass schedule something like 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12:15 – and all but the first couple were standing room only. The 11:00, which we often attended, had the choir.
The Latin Mass is a blur, but I do remember the choir. It was big and sounded great to my little ears. They sang some motets, and lots of hymns with the organ, and some Mass settings.
I loved it. It was the best part of Mass to me. When I got to high school, by which time the Novus Ordo as implemented in my parish had managed to cripple what was now called the ‘adult choir’, I signed up for the school choir, started taking piano lessons, and joined the ‘folk’ Mass group – all, I think now, in an attempt to recapture the rapture I felt as a little kid listening to a big choir sing at Mass. As the years went by, I indulged my music jones more and more in non-church music – sang in some big community choirs, was in a series of (poor to OK) rock bands. Did a little choir directing here and there, too, but I’m not really a good enough musician to pull that off well.
Apart from a couple years when I sang with a really good polyphony and chant group, little of this was really the fix I was looking for.
In high school, I even joined the adult choir at our church. By then, it had been reduced to mostly a small group of more or less disgruntled old people (more on that in another post). But it wasn’t the same. To be fair, in the early 60s a couple new parishes were founded within the boundaries of what used to be our parish, so some of the drop off had to do with people simply attending Mass closer to home. “Where do we put him to minimize the damage?” – I was that problem, so I know how that feels. (I eventually learned to sing OK, it has been reported.)
2 of our kids are singers now. They never had the week in, week out experience of hearing a good big choir at Mass. I’m agitating to get us all – the kids and me – to join one of the choirs at Parish C. We’ll see.
In a way, I suspect these experiences have made my expectations of music at Mass somewhat unrealistic. But I’ll cling to this truth: it is possible to have a bunch of parishioners sing great music pretty well. I’ve heard it done.