Music at Mass Review 10-20-2013

Before we get started, let’s clear something up:

This is a Worship Aid:

File:Michelangelo's Pieta 5450 cropncleaned edit.jpg

And this:

This, too:

And, most especially, this:

But – this? Not so much

(Not the actual one used – just a sample of the species off the interwebs.}

Ya know? The concept that a person’s worship might be aided by a small sheaf of photocopies containing, as often as not, songs that weren’t even good enough to make it into the Disposable Word of God Missalettes strains credulity. Just FYI.

Now that we’ve got the public service announcement out of the way, was blessed to attend Mass this morning at a lovely parish in Orlando. Nice people, good homily, efficacious sacraments and a church building that, while thoroughly modern, did contain abundant visual cues that this, indeed, is a Catholic Church. Most beautiful of these are a large traditional crucifix hung high above the altar and, best of all, the Blessed Sacrament reserved front and center.  So, all in all, it was plenty inviting to reverence and prayer, which is pretty much all I ask. YMMV.

Music was provided by a pop band/choir of above average musicianship. The choices of music ran from insipid – who will rid me of these meddlesome Jesuits? – to OK, with commons that seemed based on high end evangelical Praise music, if I’m understanding that correctly. What I mean is that the music was less like that produced by people whose training in composition consists chiefly of having learned the chords to some Peter, Paul and Mary songs (Yo, Jebbies!) and more like what you’d expect from someone who’d learned the chords to some Brian Wilson and Carpenters songs, with a little power pop sensibility thrown in.

Maybe I’m completely off base here. Suffice it to say that the Commons, while not to my taste, were somewhat musically sophisticated, including some non-trivial harmony parts and syncopation that were not merely random (pretend here that I’m yelling “Jebbies!” in “Khan!” style).  I’d never heard them or their like before.

As usual, I lost custody of my eyes long enough to scan the congregation to see if anyone was actually singing any of this stuff. There were about 10% (generously) of people moving their lips – not that you could hear anything coming out of them.

So, as is inevitable, we’ve come full circle: the good musicians in the parish do the music for, not with, the congregation. The differences are that, now, the music performed by the choir isn’t as good as it used to be, and that the entrance and recessional hymns are not warhorses that the congregation knows and can sing – without a worship aid.

Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

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