Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Can we fix it?

(For those of you, who had the instant reaction of "Yes we can!" no, this isn't a Bob the Builder post. Gotcha.) Michael at NLM makes a very striking and yet simple statement:

This brings to mind an immense challenge as we try to reform the sacred music of the Church. What do we do to restore the treasury of music to a pride of place not only within the four walls of a church building, but also within the souls of the faithful? It seems to me that there is no easy answer for this and that the solutions that seem likely to work are apt to meet with heavy resistance and require a lot of patience, such as teaching children from very young ages so that they associate chant with church, and sticking with the repertoire even if it doesn't "take" in the first year, fifth year, or even tenth year. We also need to be writing new music that is clearly indebted to the traditional music of the past. Nevertheless, this is a problem from which we must not shrink, for if someday every Mass is sung with Gregorian chant and yet the people are not edified by it, then ultimately we have lost.
I've often thought of suggesting to either our pastor or the choral director that there are many in our parish who would be most inspired and grateful should we hear occasional pieces of truly Catholic music at Mass. The only thing that holds me back is that I'm pretty sure the director has little-to-no interest in Gregorian chant and probably little in Palestrina. But Michael's point is even more incisive - even if I were to make this request and they were willing to do so but no one was edified I would have done nothing. The re-introduction of proper music must be done properly, gradually, without the shock of the guitar-and-tambourine folk music that seemed to have sprinted onto the stage not so long ago. My gut tells me if it's introduced slowly and equally importantly performed well then people will suddenly find they feel "home" and maybe even those who think they come to church to be entertained will find deeper meaning than the surface enjoyment they've come to associate with Mass. Then again, I'm a closet optimist, so who knows.

So my question remains. How do you help to ensure your kids are learning to appreciate chant? I'm talking methods and hard, cold strategies here. Just telling them to like it and forcing it on them isn't going to work. And let us not forget, I have utterly no skill when it comes to singing (I played trumpet through the fifth or sixth grade, but that's about it) so coming at it from a technical perspective is nigh impossible. If you suggest talking to the children's choir director that's fine as well (when my kids are old enough for that) but experience in dealing with, and convincing, initially intransigent directors would be more helpful. I'm at the level of most of us out here - I know good music "when I hear it" but I couldn't argue with someone at a technical level. me out, and maybe others too.