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Monday, 10 March 2014

"First Loft" Problems

There's an expression some people, including myself, use to remind themselves, or others, that we fortunate folks like to whinge about minor problems that only exist because on the whole our situations are so great.

First World Problems.

"The cable is out" sounds pretty petty to someone who has no cable, who seems to be livin' large to someone with no TV, who might as well be royalty to someone with no electricity in his house, which is a problem someone struggling to reach a refugee camp alive would be grateful to take on.

There is a thread going on at the CMAA forum, a poster asking for advice on how to deal with a priest reluctant to implement the musical reforms which would bring their parish's liturgy closer to the ideal as he envisions it, (when did the chattering class begin dropping the "en" from that word? I digress...)

As the thread grew, I realized that I would have been thrilled to have had that problem at my old parish.
And frankly, the music situation at my current parish, (for which I am in no way responsible, and in which I am involved only as a PIP,) makes me aware that I didn't know how good I had it.
Another poster has mentioned this, "Many would love to be in that position instead of where they are not allowed to sing chant at all. Is your goal singing beautiful sacred music, or just the restoration of Latin? They are not the same thing," and it set me to musing on the priorities we set, or fail to set as church musicians.

A manifesto, of sorts, would not be out of order, giving a hierarchy of aims, the first of which must surely be the salvation of souls, our own included. The worship of God and the sanctification of mankind are the end to which all else, including music that is "beautiful, sacred and universal," or "the active participation of the Faithful" are directed. Fcap is not an end in itself, nor is the "right" music.

Of course, one of the reasons most of us became liturgical musicians was because we believe offering the appropriate music, even when it is resisted or or even disliked by celebrant or congregants, is one of the surest paths to that worship and that sanctification.

But we need to put that aim of ours in perspective.

We need to love our choirs more than the music. We need to love our pastors more than chant. We need to love the people of our parishes more than Latin.

And this, from a recent homily by Archbishop Sample of Portland, seems apt, although he is speaking about a different aspect of the liturgy than music.
‘I’m a bishop of the Church, I must know [the Extraordinary Form of the Mass]’  And I encourage my priests and my seminarians to learn and to know this rite.  Even if you never have a chance to celebrate it, knowing it, experiencing it – I guarantee you – will affect the way you celebrate the Ordinary Form.

It seems to me, that we can take the same approach to working on music that is truly beautiful, sacred and universal, rather than the trite, parochial, more suited to devotion things we often find ourselves forced by circumstances to sing or play.
Working on, studying, singing, teaching, practicing music we will never have a chance to use in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will inform, will transform how we render some lesser music.

And it will transform us.

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