As I mentioned last week, I've recently been away on vacation. Despite this, my thoughts have not strayed far from St. Mary's. Today, I'd like to share my experience at two recent worship services.
Church 1 was much like St. Mary's in repertoire, instruments and style of music. The only major difference was that the person who played the organ and piano also served as the cantor/vocalist.
The music at church 2 was mostly hymns (ex. Holy, Holy, Holy) played on the organ. There was no leader of song and the organist did not sing.
Which church do you think sang more? The answer might surprise you.
Perhaps the better question would be: "Which church sang?"
Church number 2; a small congregation between 80 and 100 sang with vigor. Virtually no sound came from the similar-sized congregation of church number 1.
You may be wondering why I didn’t sing. I did. I was the one playing and singing by myself. Throughout the mass a flood of thoughts, questions and unproductive criticisms came to mind. I pushed them away and focused on how good it is to be playing at St. Mary’s.
When Fr. Rich introduced me to you 4 years ago I shared a fundamental principle of my approach toward church music: The principle instrument in the church is the voice of the faithful gathered. This last anecdote provides an excellent example of how you have grown to embrace this role.
I asked my cantors and substitute musicians if they would share a little about their experience while I was away. My goal was to hear someone else’s perspective. (Thank you to Gabrianna for sharing.)
It seemed that one of my subs was playing the Gloria a bit slower than we usually sing it. Gabrianna correctly decided to simply go along with this tempo. That would have been the end of the story except for one thing: the voice of the congregation was strong enough to challenge both her and the instrumentalist.
While one might see this as a problem, I interpret this as the healthy tension created by the proper balance between instrument, leader of song and congregation. It’s like when you’re at a rock concert and the lead singer stops singing but the audience continues singing the chorus.
This is where we are. This is where we’re heading. This is why I’m so excited to be playing here at St. Mary’s.
Thank you to Ryan Gorman for subbing for returning to sub this weekend. Please don’t overwhelm him by changing tempos and singing too loudly. On second thought: Go for it!