Sunday, February 19, 2012

Church in the lurch

My aware and alert friend Prof. G posted on my Facebook wall this story on the decline of liturgical church music. It is by Joseph Cullen, choral director for the London Symphony Orchestra. Just on my Facebook page it has been getting amazing comments.

Facebook is funny because you get all kinds of people interacting who are from sectors of your life that would not otherwise interact. So there is this lawyer friend of mine conversing with people I know from church and a dear friend from my teenage years, and a wonderful woman I used to work with, etc.

All of us kvetching about church music!

I got a kick out of reading the comments on the story that Prof. G sent. But a few things started bugging me. For one thing I think it is silly how worked up people get about making sure that everyone in church sings. I remember when I played the organ, that was always a big deal, you had to get the people singing.

Now a change has come. I go to the Traditional Latin Mass, and I like to sing, and so I do.  have the Credo down, and the Gloria, and other things. And a lot of other people sing too.

But I think people are wrong if they think if you do not sing, you are not participating. There are Sundays when I have not been able to sing, when I have lost my voice for some reason, and I do not find my Mass experience less for that. I do not like this attitude that holds that just because you are not making noise you are not praying, you are not participating. Technically the choir is supposed to be doing the singing. That is to free you just to sit back and soak it all in if that is what you do.

Every time I hear someone railing about how people should "participate" at Mass, it kills me.

You can participate just in your own head!

If the gentleman in the pew behind me is not singing it does not cross my mind that he is not participating. This whole "participation" thing has led us down so many stupid alleys. It is why we have altar girls. And folk groups.

And the quality of the music does matter. It can help or hurt people's faith. That is just the way it is. Music affects us on all kinds of levels, in ways we do not always understand. That is the way God made us.

Oh well.

Do not get me started!

As we recalled on Facebook, this Web log visited this topic, of the awfulness of Church music, once before, when Riccardo Muti spoke up.

More people should!


  1. I wish I lived in Boston so I could attend Emmanuel Church -- their music program is amazing! They perform a Bach Cantata each Sunday. Now that would drag me out of the house and to church!

  2. What a wonderful thought!! It would be fun to do a post on top 10 favorite moments from Bach cantatas. .. Oddly enough when it comes to church music in Buffalo, one of the best places is the Unitarian Universalist Church... they don't believe in anything but they have this great choir and are always singing Mozart masses!