Thursday, December 10, 2009

those opinions about music...

I had a strange conversation after Mass on the Immaculate Conception.
I'll try to summarize it, and then I will proceed to analyze it-was I obnoxious? was he obnoxious? why did I feel so weird afterwards?

So after Mass, this guy who I have never seen before, and after our conversation I have to assume this is the first time he has been at St. P, about my age, comes up to the choir loft, someone points me out (I was talking to someone else.)
the first thing he says is, "Did you know you did the Gloria way to fast?" (It was the usual Latin Gloria that we just taught at the beginning of November.)
Being quite surprised and taken off guard, I responded, "according to who?"
then he said something about "all the religious orders...when I was in seminary we did it much slower..."
I can't remember the order of the rest of the conversation, but it was cordial and back-and-forth, at some point I began to explain that "no, I don't sing chant according the old Solemnes style, but rather more like Cardine, based more on the text." I also at some point started to explain that it's impossible to say chant is sung in "this or that way" at any given point in history because we really just don't know, and it certainly has been sung in different ways at different time and places, and of course I am well aware it is a controversy. He didn't really seem to want to have *discussions* about either of those points, he kind of interrupted me when I went of on either of those tangents, but he *did* modify what he was saying by adding "In my opinion..." to what he kept saying about how fast it was (once he realized that I actually DO know what I am talking about, which is probably more than he knows....) He mentioned that the congregation seemed to be fumbling for the book to find where it was, like they didn't know it (cuz it was too fast,) but I quickly pointed out that we have actually only sung it for 6 weekends before Advent started and we haven't sung it for the past 2 weekends, so of course they don't know it well.
(a side note- I honestly don't expect the congregation to be comfortable with it until we have sung it for a YEAR! I am not disappointed with the progress so far! but yes, if in a year they are singing it as they are now, of course I would be disappointed and modify it somehow--perhaps slow it down, but at this point i don't think that's a problem...)
He also then mentioned that I play ALL of the hymns "too fast," at which point in my mind his opinion becomes very much discredited cuz I realize he really doesn't know what he's talking about. (I responded to that with, "uh...I very strongly disagree..." and then I tried to explain that if you can't get through a musical phrase without taking a breath, then it's too slow!)
I play the hymns too fast?! no, many other places, they are played too slow, due to poor organists who do not understand how to keep up with the natural "congregational delay."
At some point towards the end of the conversation he asked something about, "well, if the priest told you it was too fast would you change?" and i said, "of course, but he greatly respects my musical opinion, and I dont think he would ever tell me that." and then he said something about, "just wanted to see how much the people around here respect the priest..." and I think that was the end. (I did realize later that he probably didnt realize that we had a visiting priest that day, one who appears slightly feeble and old, so perhaps he perceived that as something which I would take advantage of and disrespect or not obey the priest somehow.

a few thoughts: I believe that due to this young fellow, the conversation got off to a bad start. you don't come to a church for the very first time, and say to the music director, "you are doing this WRONG." (He seems to hold his opinions so strongly, I can see myself being like that in some situations, but he doesnt realize how much he *doesn't* know, so he is convinced that his opinion-probably based on many experiences but nonetheless probably neglecting any sort of studying of the topic, but really...)

a much better start would have been, "you know, it seemed to me that the Gloria was quite a bit faster than anywhere else that I've ever you think that may contribute to why the people didn't seem to sing it very heartily? did you know you do it relatively fast?"
and I would have been put in the mindset for a much more enjoyable conversation!

anyhow, I am glad that he altered his statements to opinions, once he realized that I actually know quite a bit about what I am talking about and have thought about it a great deal.
I mean, I would LOVE to hear if other people thought this...but he is the first time that anyone has told me i do things way too fast! otherwise, all I hear every weekend are many wonderful comments!

why can traddies be like this?
something to do with, "don't mess with my worship of God when I am convinced that it is supposed to be done *exactly* this way..."

but seriously, listen, dude, come to this church for 6 weeks in a row, THEN you can tell me what you have really observed!

(on another note-it is looking very likely that I will get to do a rather interesting internship next semester--will write about that in another entry...)


Aristotle A. Esguerra said...

Way to stick to your guns and have all your bases covered, Mara.

Note to all opinionated non-church-musicians who may read this: formulate well your opinions and questions before you approach a music director or organist after Mass. Conscientious ones will be more than happy to engage you if you approach them the right way with the right attitude.

If you don't and go in with guns blazing, don't be surprised if the opponent you will have just cultivated does one or more of the following: (1) goes on the defensive; (2) throws your perceived attitude back at you, perhaps tenfold; (3) summarily ignores you; or (4) bites your head off (church musicians have bad days too).

Gavin said...

My response to him would not be postable on your blog.

I've run into people like that before. At a previous college, after my first time playing in chapel, an English prof came up to me and told me I was a "horrible organist" and doing everything wrong. And she should know because she once attended Paul Manz's church. That wasn't the first jerk I've dealt with and it hasn't been the last.

Anonymous said...

Way to go keeping the tempo up. Nothing kills a hymn faster than playing it too slow (in my opinion).