Sunday, August 19, 2012

When a congregation really likes a song... they sing it

Bringing the music director to the difficult decision of "what if it's a less-than-ideal song?"

This morning, I found myself surprisingly inspired at the robust singing of "I am the Bread of Life."
(Another controversy in itself... should the congregation be singing in the "voice of God," blah blah... Personally, I have minimal problem with it, particularly when the song is so obviously taken straight from the Gospel reading for the day.)

Today was unusual because instead of our usual tiny congregation in a huge space of ~100, it was probably double that, due to the class of 1957's 55th class reunion, of the (now closed) girl's high school that was attached to the parish. (Think of the age of those ladies... of course IatBoL is going to be one of their all-time favorite songs!)

I had picked IatBoL prior to knowing this would be a special occasion, and I admit that when I sang it at Communion, I was so pleasantly surprised by the rich and warm singing that resounded through the church on the refrain. A rare sound indeed, in our relatively empty and cavernous but beautiful church! (I also have to say... I really don't mind that song ; other church musicians of my acquaintance hate it, but I would take it any day over "Song of the Body of Christ" or "All are Welcome." Other than the range, I don't find any musical fault with it.)

It's just nice to hear the congregation, you know, singing, and then I get to feel free to actually, you know, play the organ loudly! How fun! :-)

(Note: I'm not saying I ought to do IatBoL more often because people like it- I think the particular people present for this reunion like it a great deal, but I also think it doesn't hurt to do it and things like it occasionally. It, and songs like it, with well-loved refrains, can really inspire people to sing in a way that they sing only a few hymns, like "Hail Holy Queen," and "Holy God We Praise Thy Name.")

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sunday Morning updates

Have I really not updated in so long that I have missed writing about my last two free Sunday morning church excursions?!

Last month I was blessed to attend the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, also in Parma. I attended their English liturgy, and I have to say, that has been my favorite Eastern Church experience so far! A young, passionate priest, and a diverse congregation. If I was not a musician, and having difficulties at my Roman parish, I would seriously consider that as an option.
It contained of course the beautiful Liturgy of St. John Chrysostym, and unfortunately my memory is failing me since it was quite some time ago, but I remember that like most other Eastern liturgies I've been to, almost everything was sung a cappella. I believe there was an accompanied hymn at communion, and also one at closing. The only thing that was odd, (and embarrassing for me as an outsider!) At what seemed to me the obvious ending of the liturgy, they did the hymn, and then everyone just  stood there and waited! In the booklet I was following along with, there was no indication of anything else happening. I actually had to leave then to get somewhere that I had to be, so I attempted to slip out, awkwardly not knowing how long this waiting was going to continue! But I hadn't even gotten out to my car and everyone came out! Not sure what I missed. Maybe an additional blessing from the priest?

Then, this month on my free Sunday, we were travelling in the Columbus diocese. I had heard that it is relatively a great diocese, but for various reasons, the choice of our Sunday morning church was out of my control. We walked into the church, and I was delighted to see a very young priest in the sacristy, and an adult altar server dressed in a cassock and surplice! This bodes well...
Sure enough, (we found out later) the priest was a brand new priest from this spring. And he is definitely trained in the Extraordinary Form. What a pleasant surprise to observe his extremely devout demeanour during Mass, such as how he bowed his head at every mention of the name of "Jesus," and kept his fingers together following the Consecration. He also gave a wonderful homily. This Mass was the 8 am, so if anything it was likely to be their "traditional" liturgy, if they have a distinction. While the hymnal was Gather, I could not have faulted whoever picked out the hymns on a single one, especially given what they were working with! How rare to go to a random church while traveling and to walk out of Mass pleasantly surprised!