Of course I understand the power music can have on someone. Being a musician I have participated in concerts and recitals which had the very purpose of touching the lives of the audience. But so often in the place where music is suppose to be present at the uniting heaven and earth we are subjected to banal little ditties and even some places where a band plays contemporary music while the words are put up on overhead projector.
If you read this blog regularly you might remember a recent post about a trip to a parish in which I called ahead to find out if it was going to be a high or low mass for Sunday morning. Well, it ended up being a low mass. I took a friend who I don't think appreciated the silent style. To boot, some parent in the back allowed his kid to play with the holy water font (metal) and bang it on the ground during mass. I did feel sort of disappointed though because the music was so painfully missed at a Sunday mass.
Where have all the musicians gone? For this generation church musicians of any denomination have been really hard to find. I recently got a call from a Methodist church in the area asking me to play Sunday mornings 45 minutes away. The pastor told me how hard it is to find anyone who can play piano for church these days. I know for a fact that in other churches I personally have replaced tape recorders and disc-drive organs for funerals and Sunday services.
I guess its just not cool anymore to learn how to sing or play piano? That may be part of it but its not the whole reason. The parents of kids who don't want their kids wasting time on something that won't bring in the money later in life. Playing piano probably won't pay you a good wage plus health benefits. But the benefits they receive will be the ability to give back to their communities over and over again and especially minister to people in a very important and albeit necessary way.
Here's an excellent example from personal experience. This past Sunday, "Gaudete Sunday" as it is called, during communion (which I cannot yet receive) I stayed kneeling as always. The choir descends from the loft and proceeds to the communion rail. However one or two always stay up there to sing chants until the rest come back and join in. Well, the one man (solo) began singing a chant mode of Alma Redemptoris Mater that nearly moved yours truly to tears. Just one man, one human being, had such an effect on my experience there at mass. Here I am in a little church in Scranton kneeling before Christ with one person singing above me and it feels like heaven. That chant was so beautiful that I doubt with all honesty that I was the only one moved by it. I can best describe it as a supernatural joy. Not the holy roller praise the lord and shout type, but that ultimately indescribable feeling of the presence of holiness. Its like getting butterflies in your stomach in a good way, if that makes sense.
And I believe this is the power of music which we need to promote for every congregation. There is no reason why a Latin Mass community should be ,even with the greatest and most admirable piety, ultimately relegated to celebrate a silent low mass on a Sunday. Chant is easy and it can be taught to anyone. I am not blaming anyone for anything, many TLM communities have it hard enough. I believe the musicians of the world need to help out and teach the congregations, and not just TLM ones, how to use music for the uplift of mankind.
This is the best use of our craft: to help the people of God better celebrate his divine mysteries. As the verse says "To whom much is given, much is expected." What more noble cause can music be used for?
Although it may not even be completely the musicians fault. When I was deciding my college major I was given the following advice by my band director, who meant well: "either go into music education or don't major in music at all." Performance was out of the question because there was no money in it and you had to be the absolute best or you had no shot at all. Performance degrees are oft thought of as a waste of money, and most of those who get them end up teaching at colleges anyway. Not once was I ever advised to major in sacred music, which is a field so desperately in need of musicians. And to be honest, thats exactly the way the musician culture is these days.
If you don't already realize it, here's the No Spin truth... For most musicians, Sacred Music, or rather "playing in church", is something high schoolers do before going to college. At best its a side job while teaching high school band or chorus later on. Sure there are some sacred music programs out there but certainly not enough.
Someday I would love to form a lay apostolate to spread the love and use of easy to learn and decent music for services. Many parishes and congregations simply use bad music because they can't afford professional musicians to come in for what amounts to low pay. I myself have turned down jobs because of that. Its unfortunate but it happens. Regardless, this apostolate would provide materials for teaching good traditional sacred music to non-professional musicians who could try their level best. Those parishes who are afraid of chant would be so no more. In fact I bet if you asked a congregation to try a chant mode they would probably find it enjoyable. The 4 part hymn could make its comeback. Goodbye drums and tambourine. Hello human voice.
Who knows, maybe someday I'll work on it. I know there are various ones out there with similar goals but I don't know if any of them have the same slant. Ok, enough rambling from me.