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Monday, 6 October 2008

What some musicians are actually dealing with...

That novena to St Caecilia? Keep at it.
A sometimes reader posted this on another forum (he can identify himself and the forum if he wishes.) I have removed some of the particulars.

We have a very young ... vicar whose seminary education was in [another country]. He is gregarious.
When he "presides," this is how he determines the "opening" of Mass:
The Entrance is sung.
From the chair, he folksil(l)y greets the faithful with a charming [mixture of languages] greeting of some sort, waxes on about what a shame it would be if we let Mass go by without knowing the name of the person flanking us, and commands us to converse amongst ourselves under pretense of introduction as he goes down from the chair and hugs people for three or so minutes.
(Side note: he makes a particular invocation towards me at the end of his victory lap by calling out
[a diminutive of] my name ... as I'm praying, head-bowed, in order to "get his point across." I, out of respect, nod.)
He returns to the chair, waxes on a bit more, and then initiates the "In nomine Pater..."
Then he waxes further on human behavior before proceeding to Penitential Rite A.
After Kyrie/Gloria he waxes further on a constant theme, which has also been the focus of nearly every homily he gives, on "what if this was the last Mass we were to attend on this earth alive?"
He then recites (not cants) the Opening Prayer and then verbally asks all to sit down.

I had a training session for cantillating collects and prayers with him and another [foreign born] vicar ... (who is excellent and humble) during which I found out both had excellent pitch and singing talents. [The first] vicar agonized that all "this" was too hard-singing the collects even in recto-tono-but he actually did very well. I remained very supportive and positive. Because of the "musical/liturgical" nature of the practice session, I stressed to them that upon reaching the chair, the only invocation to be first heard would be the canted "In Nomine Patris..." and "Dominus vobiscum."
But at the end of the session, our friend informs me that, as he understands it, MASS BEGINS ONLY WHEN HE SAYS "In the Name of the Father..." and, incredibly, he checked that out with the pastor and KNOWS HE'S CORRECT.
Mind you, this is also in the presence of the other vicar. I respectfully respond to him that he is incorrect in his understanding according to all documents, not just the GIRM ... but the Sacramentary and many other prevailing canons. And, if Mass begins when the cleric invokes the "In Nomine..," there is no logical reason for the presence of the Introit/Entrance Proper/Antiphon/Hymn/Song option noted in all liturgical books. I affirm that the Mass has, in fact, formally begun at that moment, either signaled by an entrance bell or something sung. To extricate myself from engaging him in an argument over his clerical, presidential preferences, I suggest he check his understanding with the pastor; but that if he were to correctly begin our Catholic rites then I personally wouldn't give a hoot if he then did his meet and greet before the penitential and opening rites.
I report this encounter to the pastor. Who has done nothing.
It is a long standing understanding at our parish that Mass begins with "In the name of...." and therefore (dang near) anything goes before that. Extra speeches from mourners who fancy themselves stand-ups comedians, reflections on the weather, the "say hello to your neighbor" routine, and once, unforgettably to me, (my brother maintains that I can't help it -- the Irish pick scabs, is the way he puts it,) after the choir had sung the Introit -- with a grimace, "whew!, wasn't THAT solemn?" (with an inflection that left no doubt as to the appropriateness or not of solemnity, at least in that celebrant's mind,), "why don't y'all turn and say 'howdy!' to your neighbor?"
I won't go into how this is bookended by the dismissal at St Thewaywedoithere, a Church of the Makin'itupaswegoalong Rite, according to Howyawannadoitthistime Usage.
(Because I have gone into it here before, and being only half Irish, I'll give that scab a change at healing...)


Gavin said...

If you ask me, the problem is too many trad-minded musicians (and laymen in general) are afraid to stand up to priests. I've done it my whole career. If a priest did what you describe at the end, I'd hurl a hymnal at him and yell "undignified enough for ya, s.o.b.?" without the abbreviation. I've lost my sympathy for musicians getting bad treatment when they work for bad priests. The guy are jerks, and there's a hot place for them. But for us to subject ourselves to them so that MAYBE we can get a Sunday without Gather Us In is just asking for abuse.

Charles said...

Thanks, Scelata. Again, your latest series of posts are wonderfully apt and energizing. I love your take on preludes/postludes/ettiquette. Dovetails nicely with the Chesterton Academy.
Gavin, while in principle (and in practice) I agree with your assessment of the obligation to fraternally correct our ordained brethren when appropriate, you must allow as how that is really a more difficult task than walking through the minefield path to the caves of ToraBora in Afghanistan.
I'm old enough to be willing to risk that dance. But we know and share internet friends of your generation who have remained steadfast against the idiocy and were unjustly and without cause dismissed. The results of this and other kinds of liturgy/policy wars is always devastating not only to the Divine Liturgy but to those folks among the PIPs who had their own apostolate/discipleship affirmed by the orthopraxis of the summarily dismissed dedicated practicioner of Sacred Music. It's not always as easy as just dusting one's sandals and movin' on. That, in fact, can exacerbate the dilemma of bad liturgy/bad music when said musicians are routinely changing gigs every other year or so.
Yeah, tons of these "guys" are absolute jerks. I'm well on record widdat. But take it from one old John the Baptist to another young JB, we cannot be the ones to overturn the tables of the merchants in the temple or deliver an Adoremus knuckleball to the guy's head.
We need to remain an uninterrupted, calm clarion in the presence of these guys.
As my wife has said a thousand times, "If you leave, who really is hurt? Those folks in the pews WHO GET IT."

Anonymous said...

I asked a friend with a Catholic Church music job why she sticks it out, she said apres moi, le deluge... of LIFETEEN!