So… what’s a nice Roman Catholic girl like me doing singing with the choir at St. Timothy’s EPISCOPAL Church?
Blame my friend Patricia, for starters. Patricia is not only the choir director at St. Tim’s (I hope you don’t mind, Patricia; I affectionately call my home parish St. Tony’s), she is also a colleague and has become my best friend here in this city where I work and live part-time. Knowing I love music and that I sing, she’d been inviting me since the Open House where we met to come sing with her church choir.
Nah, I’m Roman Catholic. Got to go home on week-ends… can’t sing with the choir at St. Tony’s because I can’t make choir rehearsals in mid-week, but I love Fr. I. and duty is duty.
In the meantime, I as good as lose Christmas altogether this year. No music. Last year I was bogged down in choir work and it was wonderful, even though our choir back home in my former parish does way too much (i.e., ANY) Haugen-Haas Horse-Hockey and, in fact, chooses most of its music from that insipid, cotton-candy non-genre (genre wannabe? — btw, I am an official member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, or SMMMHDH for short – can prove it by looking here!) As a matter of fact, I have not found a parish in the diocese of Raleigh that is not! bogged down in that ooey-gooey-icky-schticky contemporary not-at-all-Catholic “music”.
So Lent is here, Easter is fast approaching, and I’m still music-less. Patricia comes to talk to me again. One of her choir members is on call, her father is terminally ill and there’s a very strong probability she won’t be in town to sing for Easter. Will I please, as a favor, help her out? (there’s also a small stipend, which I could say tipped the balance for me, but I’d be lying and would have to add to my list for Confession this week)
Oh! my SOUL! what music! William Byrd dominated the week — his Gospel settings, his “Ave Verum Corpus”. We also sang the Mozart “Ave Verum Corpus.” Have you ever heard the Gospel sung? I had not. On Palm Sunday two men, one a regular member of the choir, sang the Evangelist and the Lord, and the choir sang all the “mob” parts (which includes the voices of the disciples) The baritone singing the voice of Jesus didn’t merely perform his role; he seemed to be praying it.
Even during the rehearsal, I felt my soul being re-aligned. I hadn’t realized how off-balance I’d become, being in the middle of subtle deteriorations. I felt myself opening up to God all anew in the midst of praying that glorious music. I went home and picked up a long-neglected Book of Christian Prayer, the heavenly Liturgy of the Hours (short form). I felt as if I had come to sit in God’s lap and be loved by Him a while.
So… I sang Holy Week (they celebrate a Triduum, too), Easter Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday (oh, thank you, Father James! for remembering our dear John Paul II in your prayers that day!) …
Got sick. Oh, how sick I got — I am seriously thinking of taking a bold black marking pen and scratching through the entire month of April, it was so lost and what wasn’t lost was horrible. Allergies like I’ve never experienced before, laryngitis, infections… oh, MISERY! like constantly being in a nightmare of living under water.
Could not talk, certainly could not sing. Equilibrium — spiritual as well as physical — faltered.
Well, folks, I sang again today. I’m not even 75% back to what I was during Holy Week (which in itself was rather a gift) — but, by golly! I sang! The anthem was a wonderful Latin piece, out of France, re-telling the story of the Ascension, which Solemnity was celebrated today. I was AWFUL! but everyone was kind and supported me completely. And once again that amazing, palpable sense of soul re-aligning.
I do hope that, when our new bishop is appointed (we’re due), that he takes steps to bring some decent liturgical music back into our Church!
Because it’s not fair to blame Patricia for something that certainly is not her fault. The choice is mine, so any blame is mine. And my choice is to continue this “double-dipping” act until my own Church in this area realizes that the insipidity of its music is inducing insipid spirituality and mediocrity in the Faithful (not to mention the heresies this stuff promulgates!) and provides something substantial and fitting to stay home for.