Monday, October 1, 2007

Coyote chews more music . . .

I've been holding off on writing thise post because I wanted to make sure I had an accurate understanding of the situation before I publically went off the hook and started tearing into all manner of musical ranting. You know, there's nothing quite like going on a full-fledged rant only to find out you misread the announcement and boy, don't you feel like a schmuck?

But, sadly, this time, I had the right of it from the beginning. . .

Where to start? Well, I guess I should say that I'm a cantor at my church sometimes. I'm usually up singing with the choir but, when they need someone to fill in as cantor, I go down and cantor for that Mass. Since our usual cantor has been having various health problems these past few months, he asked me to fill on on the 9th and 23rd of September. At the time I was asked, I said "Yeah, sure, no problem."

The very next rehearsal, the conductor (reluctantly, I should add-- the man has taste, and this is not his fault) passed out little pieces of paper that looked like this:

And we were informed that we had to learn it, as pretty soon we'd be singing it before Mass, every Mass-- information which immediately made me want to start lighting little fires with little pieces of paper. In the bulletin, with the music is included this little bit: "All classes and groups in the parish are encouraged to use the refrain as an opening or closing prayer."

I'm gonna skip over how craptacular that melody is (I've sung campfire songs that had more moving, or uplifting, or . . . musical melodies) and go straight to my main problem, which is the lyrics. In case the picture is too small, the lyrics are:

We are the Church, the Body of Christ
We are the Church, a people Redeemed
We are the Church, anointed to serve
God's holy people, the people of God.

Now, I will grant, that in a different context, I would have less problem with these words. In an inspirational book, or (written more eloquently) in an encyclical of some sort, or something about the Cathecism. Basically, they'd be okay as part of a writing addressed to the Church at large. Well, mostly okay. I do have a problem with this verse however, even in such a context, and it is this: Who, exactly, is "God's holy people, the people of God"? In the context of the verse, we must assume that "people of God" would be the "people redeemed", which would be . . . As, yes, We. Us.

Talk about "self-serving." This verse is, basically, about how darned good we are, how frickin' fantabulous We, the Church, are. We're soooo great, we sing songs to ourselves about our amazing, fabulous greatness!

And moreover, we're singing this in church, where we should be completely focused on Him--not us. And when, exactly, are we singing this? Before the processional. To wit, in the cantor book this past Sunday, there was a sheet which I was supposed to follow (I did not, as I shall explain in a bit), in which I, the cantor was to welcome the people to the church (uh, okay, no biggie), then say something along the lines of "Let us greet one another with song--" (Erk?!) and then I was supposed to lead everyone in singing that thing, and then read reflection on the readings, and then a moment of silence for meditation or something, and only then invite people to stand and join in our processional . . .

They're trying to turn mass into friggin Sesame Street, and I won't stand for it. Now look, I love Big Bird, Oscar and Snuffleuphagus, this is not a knock on Sesame Street. But Sesame Street has it's place (public TV), and is not appropriate for a mass. But you know what, it's even worse than that, because the Sesame Street comparison comes from the idea of greeting each other with a song, but this particular song?

How did that email exchange with the conductor go? Oh yes, Dad mentioned something to the conductor like:

Also, you should know that C, who is scheduled to cantor Sunday, absolutely will NOT lead the congregation in "We are the Church." . . . C would love to cantor the rest, but that piece just triggers an aesthetic and spiritual gag reflex. If that is going to cause a problem, you may want to switch cantors.

I had nothing to do with her decision, but I definitely have the same reaction. This should be retitled "Hymn to Self-Absorbed Baby Boomers." I do not come to church to celebrate myself.

I, thinking I ought to say something for myself, then wrote to the conductor, saying:

Dad has it right. I'm perfectly okay and willing to do everything else (including the annoying little speech before the beginning of Mass), but my tolerance for self-worship runs out right here. If asked about my refusal, you can tell whoever that I say "There's something obscene about communal musical masturbation, and I refuse to have any part of it anywhere, much less in a church where we're supposed to be worshipping God, not ourselves."

Yes, I feel pretty strongly about this. I don't really consider myself very conservative when it comes to religious matters, but that doesn't mean I don't take my faith seriously. This . . . drivel is insulting enough as a "song", without the lyrics. Kum-ba-yah is literally more sacred, since it's at least supposed to be a sorta-prayer.

Hell, I know Linkin Park and Korn lyrics that are more reverent.

And that's saying something. [Especially when it's a soprano complaining about something being too self-centered. I mean, really. . . ]

I think that sums up my feelings on the matter pretty well. The pastor also knows my issues with the song since at one point I said to Kat, quite loudly in his hearing, that I would rather shove knitting needles through my eyes than lead the congregation in this . . . thing. This is not a prayer, nor a hymn. Prayers are addressed to God, hymns are either addressed to God or are primarily about God. This little ditty is about Us, We, and how marvelous we are.

Look, I know Pride. I'm a trained soprano (and a one-time fencer)-- pride is my middle name. I know narcissism when I see it, and this thing reeks of it. This is about as far from Humility as it gets, and to be honest, everytime I look at the music for this I hear chuckling from deep beneath my feet. Yes, Somebody Else knows these lyrics very well . . .

I was lucky this past Sunday that certain minders were not around and the organist, well aware of my intense dislike for the song, let me skip it. But if it is decided that this will be enforced, they'll have one less cantor on the roster.

Gah! Let's cleanse our mental palate with something truly Good and Sacred. Mmmm, Mozart!

PS: Here's Kat's take on the whole mess.

PPS: An article on Church Music for those interested.