Why have skilled musicians left Catholic circles for greener (musically richer and less stressful) pastures? Frankly, non-Catholic communities such as a local Baptist community, or a local Anglican parish in our city, value great music and classically trained musicians and regularly present music Palestrina, Vittoria, Byrd and Bach while our Catholic parishes are enamoured with grotesquely uninspired tripe that nauseates trained musicians and should nauseate everybody. Simply put, there aren't many friendly Catholic homes for Catholic singers and organists, at last in our diocese.
Catholics have long suffered under an oppressive cadre of ideologues who, possessing little knowledge, poor taste, bad manners and in many cases ill intentions, have subjected Catholic congregations to heterodox texts, saccharine harmonies and, it must be said again, no matter how appropriate their musical choices could very well be and how brilliant a musical mind a director might possess, bad behaviour (arrogance, condescension) does not absolve anyone from treating others and the Liturgy poorly.
Choir canary in a parish coal mine.
Is it fair to say that parish choirs can also be cesspools of gossip, second only to the pews upon which are seated the two or three busybodies who, lacking an obvious sense of Christian decorum, prattle on about so-and-so's hair or make-up, or some sewer mouth yammers (in "colourful" language) about yesterday's baseball game or (in not so polite terms) some ally of the Adversary gabs about Father's sermon last week or (in salacious terms) or blathers away about a next door neighbour's affair with the boss's wife or complains about how the parents of six snotty-nosed kids are so irresponsible for having six kids... ? So, you might very well fit in to your average parish choir.
Choirs seem to spill over with an abundance of catty know-it-alls. Choirs, not all but many, are prone it seems to a particular kind of partisanship, so much so that a pastor has little choice but to try and placate tyrants (directors) who, if excused from service because of their misappropriation of the Mass, would make it a duty of the other choir members to pack their music folders and march out the door with them in retaliation against parish and pastor. How many times has a parish been held hostage by an individual or small group of small minded bullies with nothing better to do than play power games and kidnap the Liturgy and shape it to some strange end?
- Do they (the choir members) sing to honour God? Do they pray as a group before Mass in preparation for the Liturgy?
- Do they strive for skill and insist on excellence? Do they offer their very best to God?
- Do they demonstrate respect for the Liturgy? Do they attempt to sing the music of the Liturgy, e.g., the prescribed proper chants (Introit, Offertory, Communion)?
- Do they respect the Latin heritage of the Church?
- Do they appreciate authentic beauty?
- Are they organized? Are rehearsals efficient, well planned?
- Are they open to feedback? How does the director respond to questions from the choir?
This brief post is, one could suppose, an invitation to a boycott of sorts, a rally cry to all who love the Liturgy to stop enabling ne'er-do-wells. Dry up support for groups and/or individuals that show little respect for the Mass and their fellow human beings. Pray for the badly behaved, that they may repent, and do not enable them to drag the Sacred Liturgy down to a miserable level.
As for those who are directly responsible for forcing choirs and congregations to sing schlock, dung, etc., its time that they free us from their shenanigans. They should change attitudes or leave and let someone more qualified and respectful assume the helm.
So then, why would someone join a parish choir? Because it may very well be the right thing to do. A parish is a family. Families do not break up because one member or more behaves like an idiot.
It only takes one saint to turn around a choir, a parish and an entire diocese. Be that saint.
Remember, no one has ever said becoming a saint was easy.