Saturday, September 12, 2009

Singing as a responsibility

Dr. Jeffrey Tucker hit it on the nail again (double or triple whammy, I may say) with the state of singing in most Catholic parishes:

"There's also been a terrible price to pay in terms of people's level of dedication to the task. Catholics are under the impression that the music at Mass just happens. Pastors are unwilling to pay for it, and the people themselves are unwilling to make anything like a serious commitment to making it happen. As a result, most parishes have a hard-core group of a few people, perhaps 2 to 4 people, who make it all happen, while everyone else involved comes and goes depending.

In fact, as a person with a childhood spent in the Baptist Church, I'm astonished at the lack of service ethic in the Catholic Church regarding music. In the Baptist Church of old (I don't know if this is still true), if you could sing, you sang. Period. There was no choice about it. If you were a member with some musical talent, it was a tithe to sing in the choir. It was something you did simply because you were a member. If a true singer were sitting in the pews instead of the loft, he or she was considered a shirker and a bum.

So it was and so it should be, in my view. The contrast with the Catholic Church today is striking. In Catholic parishes, people will sing only under certain conditions: 1) if they have some talent and are not embarrassed to sing, 2) if there is nothing else going on the evening of rehearsal, 3) if the singers are praised to the skies by the director and the pastor, 4) if they are willing to come to Mass every week, 5) if they are willing to sit apart from their family, 6) if the music is something they like to sing, 7) if they like the other choir members and have unrelenting fun during every minute of participation, 8) if the singer in question is given a big solo, and so on.

In other words, many people are sitting on the fence waiting to find out what the choir will do for them rather than what their participation will do for the parish. This is an egregious attitude, one that stands completely contrary to a service ethic. It is like saying to God: "I know you gave me a certain ability but I will only use it under the conditions that I name, and otherwise I will not use my talent to serve people and serve you, simply because my own personal pleasure and well being comes before any obligation I owe to anyone, including God." I would go so far as to say that, other things equal, it may be a sin for those who can sing not to sing.

And yet this ethic is nowhere to be found in the Catholic Church today. People assume the posture of consumers of liturgy. They show up and take it all in, and complain about it as they see fit, without a moment's thought put into what he or she can personally do to make a difference."

Read the entire article here.

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