July 28, 2008

Before I begin let me just state that music (as anyone who follows this blog regularly undoubtedly knows) is very important to me. This is especially so when it comes to music in church, as I look to music to complement the larger worship experience, not dominate or overwhelm it. Just as there are few worse things in my mind than to be in church listening to music done poorly while you and everyone in the congregation shifts uneasily in their seats, likewise, music that is loud and out of place – even when well performed – can be just as much of a turn-off. Now I don’t expect your average everyday Mass or church service to be contemplative in spirit and approach – that’s reserved for monasteries. But when the world around you for the rest of the week is filled with the noise of our work-a-day lives, I don’t expect to find music spelled n-o-i-s-e cluttering up things when I attend church.

As I’ve mentioned in these spaces previously, one of the best things about attending St. Anne Catholic Church (besides it’s nearby locale and convenient 4 PM Saturday Mass time) has been its music. Not only because it was very well done, but – just as importantly – the music complemented what Mass should be all about: worship, humility, praise, and prayer in the sacramental Presence of Our Lord. The music was primarily performed on piano and guitar, with an occasional appearance by a bass player or another guitarist. And it was all done in excellent taste and performance, played loud enough to sing to but not take over the proceedings.

My how things have changed! Three or four weeks ago, the music director left and was replaced by what I can only describe as an obnoxious egomaniacal woman who thinks everything has to be a production, and the Mass saturated with music at every possible opportunity. Not only has the piano and guitar now been augmented with bass, additional guitar and drums, but several choral singers as well. And even though much of the music at Mass is the same from week to week, this woman has to make sure everyone knows the music is under her complete direction: hand waves indicating when the band is to start and stop, and, five minutes before Mass, instruction to the congregation on how the music that day should be sung.

(Note #1: Keep in mind that modern church music – especially the kind played at Catholic masses – hardly requires the vocal equivalent of a Ph.D to sing. Not only is it fairly simplistic, but at most the congreagation only has to sing two verses with chorus. We’re not talking Handel or R. Vaughan Williams here, by any stretch of the imagination.)

(Note #2: And if it were a male music director instead of a woman I’d feel the same way, so please, no sexist accusations.)

To me, it’s all just too much. Even the Psalm of the day, which used to be sung simply and beautifully by a cantor to piano, now gets the Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” treatment – choral harmonies and full band participation, including drums. Were it just the processional and recessional that were getting the full band I would have no problem with it, but this woman is so full of herself and determined to turn Mass into her show that it is a complete turn-off. Since I don’t receive communion, I used that time for contemplation to the soft music and meditating upon the priest’s voice repeating over and over, “The Body of Christ”, “The Body of Christ”, “the Body of Christ”… and feeling immersed in holiness and sanctity.

No more. Now communion simply provides this music director more opportunities to show off her and her musicians not-insignificant musical chops. But to me it’s completely out of place and ruins the entire proceedings. I don’t think I’m alone, as I’ve noticed more people heading directly for the doors after they receive communion than is normal. And I can’t blame them – they come for Mass, not a concert and musical onslaught.

So for me it’s adios! to St. Anne Catholic Church. While I wish it weren’t so, it’s not something that devastating – I never considered SACC my spiritual home, but attending Mass there was convenient and the axis around which my weekly prayer life revolved. And I’ll always remember it fondly for being the place where I first began attending Mass regularly – something I thank God for revealing to me in all His Goodness and Mercy. So it looks like I’m church-shopping again. Where I’ll end up is anyone’s guess; we’ll just have to see how it all turns out.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. […] As a result of this post I’m searching for a new church to call my spiritual home. Given the number of Roman Catholic churches around the area I can afford to be choosy, so the only requiremnts I have are rather subjective in nature – that being, that I can attend Mass and feel like I’m part of a spiritual experience that helps serve as a center to my prayer life for the upcoming week, and that it takes place somewhere in the four o’clock hour on Saturdays. This may sound petty, but the fact is due to work I no longer have Sundays as a recreational day, so to have Mass on Saturdays not too late in the afternoon is very important to me. The finalists are: […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » The Final Four — August 2, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

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