Friday, June 20, 2008

Once again, my friend Dr. Lyn recently provided a challenge with a Letterman "top ten" list, versus meme, posting:
What are-

A. The top ten worst things clergy have done according your own liturgical world and history.

and

B. The top ten worst things musicians/liturgists have done (same criteria.)

I'd like to respond to the challenge by offering my list B first:
1. Purposefully remain ignorant, entrenched and defensive concerning matters of their own personal, life-long responsibilities to learn, comprehend and apply to their own duties the vast, extraordinary treasure of wisdom and experience that informs us all about that which we call sacred and liturgical music.

2. View their "position" as a leader of sung worship through the rose-colored glasses that affirms their own self worth as a performer, as if the choir stalls or the psalmist's podium provides them the ideal venue to display their talent to an ever appreciative, yet captive "audience."

3. Rationalize many of their decisions and performance modalities by maintaining an attitude that shouts "I'm singing/playing for God, His Glory and Honor! I don't give a rip about whatever the rest of you think!"

4. Force-feed their own political agendae, vis-a-vis, the "Music Wars," upon any and all with whom they interact, rather than from a starting point of humility.

5. Failed to consciously link their choices and efforts to the larger continuums, not the least of which is the nearly 2000 year traditions of Christian/Catholic worship. But most musicians of this (and past) eras likely cannot declare definitively that they actively researched the practices of their predecessors at each of their often many assignments, whether their immediate forbear or those of generations removed. They likely have nor want to have a clue as to whether what they do at "my place" is at all connected to the next neighbor parish, the diocese, the region. And, worst of all, they don't even consider their own place in the continuum to come; "am I laying a solid foundation of repertoire and liturgical catechesis for those who will follow my time?"

6. A vast majority have relinquished their solemn duty to be arbiters of what constitutes "the finest and best art" for sacred and liturgical use to the commercial publishers, their comrades in the guilds that depend upon the viability of publisher economies, and the consumerist culture that underlies it all in the guise of the "superstar" liturgical "composers." Conventions and congresses that sponsor vast marketplaces of the latest product, as well as commission such composers via contests to compete for this year's "Theme Song" or "Mass setting" subconsciously lull many musicians into such complacency. Let someone else do the heavy lifting, that's why they're paid the big bucks.

7. Failed to maintain the highest of performance ideals and standards for themselves. Many in the field, even those acclaimed by the public as "masters," can barely sight-read or even read standard music at all. Many vocalists rely upon skills that became apparent to them at a certain age, but who have never sought to improve them or to practice them as age and other debilitations onset in their lives. Guitarists who "came of age" with 6 chords a-strumming have, by and large, failed to even recognize the demands placed upon them by their own beloved prophets, the St. Louis Jesuits, to hone their skills in many varied ways. And so on. And if these are our leaders, what must the choristers and instrumentalists in their care be modeling?

8. Failed to acquire any sense of need to understand aesthetics: why are some Psalters artistically superior to others? If I am required by my clerical superior to use OCP's "Respond and Acclaim," how can I insure that the performance of those settings is more than perfunctory, even if some are banal or pedantic? How can I tell if a new hymn or song and its text is not only suitable, but intrinsically desireable to add to a parish repertoire, OFF THE PAGE of the sheet music or hymnal, without benefit of hearing its recording on a CD or download?

9. Failed to keep long tenures in one parish assignment due to not having distinguished their abilities in all areas of their job responsibilities to the parish as a whole, not just to the merry-go-round of pastoral re-assignments, or to the greener pastures of more money or less hassles in the next parish around the bend.
10. Forgotten the Christ of Matthew 25, the Christ who challenges his flock to build the Kingdom here and now, the Christ who demands we accept the cross or help others with theirs, and the Christ who asks us to be better Christians tomorrow than we are today.

Charles A List


1. Being intellectually dishonest in many of their liturgical philosophies, dealings and decisions.


2. Being ethically dishonest in many of their liturgical philosophies, dealings and decisions.


3. Being spiritually dishonest in many of their liturgical philosophies, dealings and decisions.


4. Purposefully remain ignorant, entrenched and defensive concerning matters of their own personal, life-long responsibilities to learn, comprehend and apply to their own duties the vast, extraordinary treasure of wisdom and experience that informs us all about that which we call sacred and liturgical music. (Where have we heard that before....?)


5. Defaulting to the prevailing authority of the Roman Collar, even if it contradicts veritable Roman canon, so as to end contention towards their favored outcome.

6. Being transparently lazy with their preparation and execution of liturgical duties.


7. Eschewing their daily and lifelong profession to be alter Christi should it negatively affect their ability to realize the achievement of their personal legacies (I built this church! I cleaned up this parish's financial morass! I kept my youthful profile and vigor! I got my Mercedes Benz!)


8. Being "there" for people; in their offices, answering the call from the hospital in the middle of each night, not counting time in front of a computer monitor reading Catholic gossip as honest work in the fields of the Lord, showing up at as many parish functions and operations as they can on a regular basis (O, I can't just pop onto the school campus any ol' time, what with the scandals and all....), etc.


9. Not being transparent; telling untruths to concerned folks with the presumed aura of immunity to correction when being confronted with such dishonesty.


10. Making life decisions that contravene their clerical vows, ala a "I can have my cake, and eat it too" mentality.

2 comments:

Doug and Elizabeth said...

Wow! When were you in Greenville, NC????!!! I missed you!

We are drowning here in musical craziness and pastoral meanness. The MM plays so loud with the piano that my daughter has to play descant all the songs with her violin just to be scarcely heard.

Charles said...

Can't say I've been to Greenville, D and E; my folks are from Fayetteville! I have visited NC cousins and friends in the summers of 05/06/07, and then gone to Masses in RDT at the cathedral and Immaculate Conception.
But I get your point. When I visited one of the RC parishes in Fayetteville things were so telling and obvious: the choir loft virtually had a Berlin Wall- on the choir side there were pews and a lonely director's stand. On the "praise band" side of the organ was a full tilt PA, drum kit, an arsenal array of mic stands of all types, amps aplenty and you know the rest. We must keep up with the meganondenoms, one knows, eh?
I have at least a string trio or quartet with our contemporary ensemble each Sunday. Tell your MM that having the singers vary their dynamics actually invites congregational attention and participation; that also means s/he has to vary dynamics at the pinano as well! Then the strings have a quiet wind to lay their lovely clouds of sound upon.