October 03, 2009

Be True to the Source Material

I love music. I was a band geek all thru school (Clarinet. I dabbled with Bass Clarinet, Sax, Trumpet and Trombone. I also took piano lessons for most of my life)Alas, I've not kept up with it. I was ok and could read and follow music but my dreams of playing like Benny Goodman or Henry Cuesta would never happen. I was just not that good.

I was in choir too but so was anyone! LOL! I don't have a great singing voice.

So, list me as among the many who have a deep appreciation for music but are not blessed enough to be truly talented practitioners of the art.

Decades before my reversion to Catholicism, I was listening to records (yes-LPs!) of the great Masses of Haydn, Mozart, Verdi, Beethoven, De Victoria, Schubert, Palestrina-even Bach's "Passions".

In my ignorance I never made the connection between the Mass on the record with the "masses" I was familiar with. I never "got" that the Kyrie was the "Lord Have Mercy" part of the Mass or the Credo was the Creed or the Sanctus was the "Holy Holy Holy". Benedictus? Never heard it on Sunday.

Sounds crazy doesn't it? I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it's true.

I thought, honestly, that Mozart and all the other composers took some basic structure that might as well belong to someone else (not the church I knew) and did what they wanted with it. Now, to some extent that's true but I failed to recognize that they, in their creativity, remained true to the core structure and ideology of the Mass.

I was accustomed to attending "masses" that were "Creative Contemporary Liturgies" thought up to be different every single week by some one who was paid to be "visionary" No wonder I failed to recognize in the "masses" I attended the Mass of ages in the records I played.

I feel, now, like I was robbed. Here I was, cradle Catholics (a poor one at that, I'll grant you) but I couldn't even recognize the Mass that belonged to my patrimony in the music I loved.

My friend, Mitchell has a very good post on Our Word and Welcome to It! about the new production of the Met's Tosca. Any fan of opera should read it. But, his post is more than about the opera. Mitchell talks about tweaking the source material but remaining true to it as well. It's a fine line to be sure.

I've been pondering the "masses" I attended for over a decade and I realize now that they were NOT true to the source material. We can argue over how much "latitude" is allowed in the GIRM but the liturgies I was attending were not even true to the source. Not even close. I probably could've walked into any Methodist or Lutheran church in town and felt right at home. No emphasis was placed on the Real Presence. No mention of personal sin (apparently the only things that sin are corporations and governments). No mention of forgiveness and redemption. I never felt like I was giving glory to God. I always felt like I was there to give glory to the congregation. I was there to see my buddies. "Who do you say that I am", asked the Lord. I would've countered: "Where are you, Lord?"

How can you even begin to understand the profound meaning of who the Lord is if you can't even find Him? I couldn't even recognize worship to Him in the music written to give Him glory.

Maybe those records were trying to teach me. Maybe they helped. All I know is now I listen to them with new ears; with a depth of understanding that was completely absent for so long.


Blogger Adrienne said...

You'd probably hear better music at the Lutheran church. I've watched some Lutheran services on the web that seemed more Catholic than us. That is sad.

October 03, 2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Tom in Vegas said...

I took violin and piano classes many years ago. Then one day, I completely walked away from and I feel a terrible sense of loss as a result. And up until a few years ago, I sang with a wonderful choir that had a director that never failed to picked out excellent music. At the end of this month, as we also do around Christmas, Lent, and 4th of July, we are having our Halloween party. It's one of the very few times a year that I allow myself to have a wine-spritzer (you can tell I'm not much of a drinker).

As for sacred music, do I have to tell you how I feel about it? My iPod has an untold number of these. One of the greatest works, in my humble opinion, is the Miserere by Gregorio Allegri. But thankfully there are MANY other pieces that are infused with the same sense of mystery and mysticism (by mysticism I mean mystery of God) as the Miserere.

October 04, 2009 2:08 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: Yes, I know. I've been introduced to some wonderful pieces via your blog when you had the sound clips running.

October 04, 2009 12:40 PM  

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