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Musical Musings: Liturgy Page 2

How to Get Beyond the Mediocrity of Liturgical Music with Excellence

Part II: It's Not Just the Composers...

It is not as though there is no good music around. In fact, there is so much excellent music that there should be no time for anything less. But someone needs to know and select that music. Musical mediocrity does not end with composers. The best music can be ruined by poor singers and instrumentalists. In recent years, the quality of musicianship has improved in many places. Too few Catholic churches had competent organists in the past. Today we use many instruments besides the organ in worship; many of those who play these instruments are very competent. They often, unfortunately, have little liturgical training, and, therefore do not know the role of music as "the handmaid of the liturgy." They sometimes behave like the operatic soloists of a former age against whom St. Pius X had much to say. They do their own thing and have little concern to lead the congregation in worship. Incompetent organists still abound. These have little training, get paid little, and have little notion of the use of their instrument and the techniques of accompaniment. A parish is more likely to have a good pianist or a good guitarist than a good organist. The people there can give up on ever being exposed to vast resources of the rich treasury of sacred music.

How do we get beyond the mediocrity? It means first taking music seriously enough to pay a living wage to musicians, so that they can have the time to perfect their art and train the many volunteers needed to serve as cantors and choir members. Popes have emphasized the education of the clergy, so that they would be able to promote excellence in sacred music. The popes also have asked for thorough formation of the laity. A tradition of excellence has to be established. This means being dissatisfied with "liturgical music as usual." It means working toward high standards. This will cost time and money. Without it, we can continue to expect mediocrity in the celebration of what should be the most important hour of our week. The person in the pew will just have to "offer it up."

 Back to Part I: Introduction

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