Here we go again.
I already wrote about crappy Church music a while back, so I won't go there again (at least not today). But what happens when the music choices are actually good, but the performance of these songs stinks?
What happens when the cantor stumbles over the words because he or she hasn't prepared? What happens when the cantor sings like a soloist at a concert rather than as a leader of a congregation? What happens when the organist and the cantor don't coordinate their efforts, or when the organist plays like one of the DMV Sloths from Zootopia? Does slower mean holier? Does every last syllable of music need to be dragged out?
Liturgical music (good music, that is) is written to lead the people into prayer and to focus our attention on the substance of the Mass. Therefore, the way that this music is presented should be to enhance that mission and never to distract from it. When my mother was a choirmaster back in the day, she would tell us how difficult it was sometimes to work with organists. She said she had to make it clear to them that their job was to support the singers but not to overpower them or drown them out. I would add to that organists have an obligation to set the tempo of the music and to help the singers and the congregation maintain a good, singable tempo so that no one is rushing through but also, so that no one is dragging out the music.
Why so slow? I hear this sometimes in prayer services, and it drives me crazy! Recently I was at a prayer service at a local church, and the lady leading it pronounced each and EV-ER-Y SYL-LA-BLE the entire time. It was so slow and dragged out that it became a distraction and I found myself unable to focus on prayer. The same is true with liturgical music. I attended a Mass recently, and it was the same thing--music way too slow, too unrehearsed, and the cantor putting his own style into the music so that it was impossible to follow along.
I do sing in a Latin Mass choir, but I don't consider myself a musician by any means. I do have a pretty good musical sense, however, and I know enough to understand what's appropriate and what's not for a Mass. Here's my list of do's and don'ts for those in music ministry:
St. Augustine famously said that "he who sings prays twice." So let's be sure that the music we use AND how it's presented can either make that prayer possible or rob people of that opportunity to pray.
witty; cunning; crafty
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