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Monday, 23 July 2007

The war 'twixt loft and sacristy

NOT at my parish, I hasten to add!

Very contentious thread http://wdtprs.com/blog/2007/07/she-shouted-oh-shut-up-and-stormed-out-of-the-sacristy/#comments
on Fr Z's, which he prudently closed.

The incident, from Orthfully Catholics
Today I served the RCIA Reunion Mass, which was a very interesting experience. As it was attended by people who had come home through the RCIA programme the priest and catechists decided we should show them what home they had come to by having a Latin High Mass (Ordinary Form obviously) but the Music Directress didn’t like this idea. When she was told the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were going to be in Latin plainchant she shouted, ‘Oh, shut up’ and stormed out of the sacristy. She then jumped in at each of those times accompanying Paul Inwood style tunes on the electric keyboard. The only thing she couldn’t put a stop to was the professional singer we had got in to sing ‘Panis Angelicum’ [sic] at Communion, however she did fight back by singing some happy clappy song straight afterwards."

I weighed in, of course,
"I am not excusing such behavior ... but if this was a regularly scheduled Mass, the music for which has always been this person’s responsibility, I think she had a legitimate grievance... last minute changes made by someone else with no thought to the preparation that might have already gone into it, or what instantaneous preparation might now be required"

I noticed that, Fr Z's readership being what it is, naturally the response was overwhelmingly supportive of the musical and liturgical sensibilities of said Music Directress's antagonists.But I was struck that only other musicians seemed to acknowledge that MDs are constantly the brunt of such dumping upon, justifiably bridle at having changes sprung on them and delivered by fiat (often from someone with no authority to do so,) and that there may be more to the story.

The always kind and wise Michael E. Lawrence:
Music directors of varying stripes in churches the world over are disrespected in ways that many would find hard to believe. Much of this disrespect, regrettably, comes from the clergy ...It may also be good to keep in mind that this might well have been one episode amongst a number of things, and it MIGHT not have been about ideological factors. Perhaps, if the music director was indeed approached with this at the last minute, it might not have been the first time that such a request was made minutes before Mass was to begin.

And this from Veiled Woman
"The crowning incident came when [a "dear woman who holds a Master of Theology" yet once declared "Vatican II outlawed Latin!”who "Holds the parish liturgies hostage" ]and the pastor she influenced threatened to fire me if I did not sing a “hymn” set to a Disney tune, “It’s a Small World” as requested by a parishioner who wintered in Florida. We have a new pastor now and her power is diminished, but I seriously doubt that we will ever see a Latin Mass in this parish.
Why do I stay? One reason: the job helps support our only child, a 19 year old seminarian, who loves the Latin Mass. Where did he develop that love? Not at our parish."

(That one truly horrified me, as I have made jokes that I naively thought were over the top about the "It's A Small World" settings of the ordinary contributing to the Disneyfication of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.)

Mary Kay:
"How do you know that those who approached the music director didn’t provoke her out of their own frustration? Granted, not the best response, but 'shut up' sounds more like a response to [a provocation] rather than a neutral stating 'We’re singing these songs.'"

I’m assuming that this musician was neither qualified, prepared, or willing to do chant. That priest put her on the spot, and I’ll tell you she acted a lot more civilized than I would have. If my priest were to say to me, ON A SUNDAY no less, “Gavin, I want you to do On Eagle’s Wings four times at Mass today”, he’d have my resignation and no musician for the Mass. While I strongly disagree with this woman’s hatred of Latin, the priest was just a jerk to demand something that she could not and did not want to do.

One aspect no one brought up -- the possibility that the musician had put a great deal of preparation into something else especially for the occasion.
ST J's choir loves to tell two stories that speak to such a situation.
1. Permission to sing a complex and difficult choral creed for a "big" Mass, lot of work to perfect it, and when the time came, the priest just started reciting it. (Apparently the director waited patiently until it concluded and then, as the priest was inhaling to begin the General Intercessions played the intro to the prepared Credo full organ.)
2. The cranky bishop who simply shouted from the sanctuary up to the loft, in the middle of some choral anthem, "That's enough o' that for now!"

I am occasionally left out of the loop when the scheduling for our "Three Rites" of Baptism, changes, despite the fact that it is they who do the scheduling who mandate the use of the absurd Becker, and that they know that not all the cantors can do it competently, and that cantor scheduling takes place nearly a month before the Mass where "final rite," overshadows all other considerations and ceremony, and that they would prefer two cantors (hard enough to be certain one will show up sometimes!,) if there is no choir; and finally that, in the ever user-unfriendly GIA scores, reading inserted names (also as requested by those who do the scheduling,) so that they can be sung is always a challenge, so I personally go to the trouble and time of setting it on the computer, (in an often vain attempt to make it easier for the choir or cantor.)

Fr is terrific, he understands, or at least understood when it was so presented, that music no more occurs spontaneously at Mass than does the sermon -- and does a seven minute homily require 7 minutes of his time to prepare? and is always apologetic and abashed if a change is required last minute.

(Yet, my impression is that change is sometimes required, five minutes before Mass, whereas my impression is also that even with several weeks lead time, it is always too late to tell a lay reader that, oh, say, a votive Mass will replace that of a Sunday in Ordinal time.)

The only time our relationship in this regard was in any way strained was the OLofP incident, and while he was unreasonable (how would I have known in time for the Sunday Masses, much less the anticipated one, that a committee of which I am not a member, and which had met at 2:00 that Saturday afternoon, had decided that a particular song was to be sung at every Mass for the next month?) I was detached enough from the situation that I could remain perfectly cool, as well as a little indulgent and sympathetic to him because of the WOB with whom he was constrained to work.
And I think because I was able to be cool, there was no baggage from the incident.

Lawdie, I've gone on here, haven't I......?
I'll leave it to another post to discuss the draconian but not entirely lack in merit "rules" set forth by another poster before the thread was quashed.


Kathy said...

This was really an unfortunate situation.

But--ultimately worth the trouble. Nothing is more important than working out the best way to worship the Living God. If the result is some hurt feelings and bad scenes (let's hope this is as ugly as it gets!), I think this is all worth it.

Meanwhile, I'm going to be praying for the people involved in this debacle, that they'll try and make peace.

I do hope that lady and priest are not too embarrassed.

Scelata said...

I admit, I didn't read too deeply into the site to know exactly who the Orthful Catholic is, (other than that he is British,) but I was frankly amazed that so many people felt so strongly, about the situation without really knowing any details of it.

IME, this kind of thing erupt more often between two "demi-clerics" than between a priest/employer and his musician.

We've got to presume, ego involved or not, that everyone BELIEVES that what he is doing or promoting is the right thing.
We have to presume goodwill and stop thinking of those with different priorities as "the enemy."
Thanks for stopping by!

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)