Wednesday, 27 February 2008

When will we find an authentic practical solution?

There is an essay on the Adoremus website by Australian Richard Perrignon, apparently "a visiting choirmaster at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney", entitled: "Sacred Music: Time to Reconnect with Worship". It is a thoughtful piece, and not unlike many other calls for reform and renewal in Church music. Naturally, it suggests recovery of the (lost and found and lost again) tradition of Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphany.

All very well and nice. Kappelmeister Geoffrey Cox does a neat job of this in our Cathedral already. But the propblem is that this doesn't really go any where in proposing a solution to the dismal situation of church music in the parishes.

Take my parish for instance. No, rather, take my "mass centre", the school hall in which 50-70 people gather every Sunday, Mums and Dads and kids and cousins and grandmas and grandpas, the odd single parent and lone chap or chappess (eg. me sometimes!). There's two female singers who are backed by an electric guitar, flute and violin, and then there's me who leads singing once a month with one or two other blokes after a rehearsal squeezed in a hour before mass begins, with my daughter or myself providing a bit of accompaniment on the electric keyboard.

Sounds dreadful, doesn't it? Well, it is most of the time, but the fact is that we are doing something and trying to enthuse the congregation into singing something rather nothing (the latter being their preference most of the time). Only the incurably optimistic (or possibly the socially suicidal) would attempt to introduce gregorian chant in such a context, let alone sacred polyphony...

There must be something between this "all or nothing" approach.

I mean, one could start with singing all the parts of the mass for a start. And chanting the responses to the chants provided in the missal and Catholic Worship Book. And singing some theologically and musically decent hymns. That much we could do, even in our little "mass centre", with a little bit of encouragement from our parish priest and liturgical committee.

It would mean swallowing a bit of pride, and being very patient, but we have to learn to walk before we can run, no?

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