Monday, February 2, 2015

The Intent of Sung Prayer

Not getting around to other parishes, not even our other three from our merged four, on Sundays, I'm not always up on current affairs as regards the practice of musical worship in general in CatholicLand. One thing I remember way back in the day in Oakland was that directors announcing the song to be sung often took the liberty of verbally contextualizing "why" that song was going to be sung, or simply a mini-homily. I have to assume or hope that practice has gone the way of the 8 Track Tape.
Anyway, as my schola (in its 22nd year) is greying, for every new member we lose about two to health or retirement issues (moving) and such. So, I've started to re-tool the overall thrust of choral repertoire towards SAB. Just got in Kevin Allen's MOTETS FOR THREE (equal) VOICES which, though I'm full of glee about them, I have to manually transpose them as our organist has impeccably perfect pitch and even if he doesn't accompany them, he sings them. So if a "B" is on the page but we're singing it down the fourth on F#, he literally is disabled. I digress.
A big part of the SAB move of course is more than satisfied by Chuck Giffen (and others) wonder Wiki, CPDL. So, I found a number of wonderful motets recently by Gounod. One of those, especially tender, is a setting of "Da pacem, Domine." (Give peace, O Lord.) We'd been rehearsing it among others for a few weeks and last rehearsal I decided to employ it yesterday.
Our schola is eclectic- we stuff the Meinrad Introit and Communio with hymns that most often resonate with the proper, the Offertory is flexible based upon a number of factors, but yesterday's was obvious: Christ as both Word and Light. "Da pacem" wouldn't have made sense there.
So, here's the deal. I and the rest of the world woke up to the news that the second Japanese hostage by ISIS had been beheaded. I thought "This is getting to be Groundhog Day" (no pun intended) as everyday we wake up to some new horror perpetrated in the name of religion.
So before Mass, I welcomed everyone per usual, normal brief script. But then I told them I was going to uncharacteristically make some prepatory remarks. I then mentioned that as events around the world point to the overwhelming evidence of evil and violence, the choir would be offering the "Da pacem" to God as a choral prayer and in the hope that all victims and martyrs of such malevolence now know God's peace.
Was I wrong to do that? I've been lobbying the pastor lately to brainstorm ways we can minimize or even eliminate extraneous talking and explanation from all "ministers" at Mass, and I make that call, all of maybe 15 seconds before Mass! But it was honest. It was prayer. But is it appropriate now and then to explain one's intent for programming a piece, particularly if it is in Latin or another tongue?
Be gentle.