“Lighten Up”


Fr Jeff’s suggestion to me, but I think his aim is a bit off. What Fr Jeff described as “Fun” some of us thought to be a mean-spirited post taking unoriginal potshots at one of St Blog’s love-to-hate musicians. So I replied:

Perhaps one of the reasons we can’t do better is that some folks spend an inordinate amount of time indulging in their own form of meanness.

Parodies are fun, and my friends have, in a good spirit, made parodies of many of my own songs. But at some point, as St Paul suggested, we leave childish ways behind and take on the burdens of adulthood.

For musicians that might mean channeling their God-given creativity to writing great new music, or at the very least, researching the horde of sacred music for their own choirs.

Quite frankly, beyond a few funny song titles, I have no time to waste in criticizing other people’s music in this way. Marty Haugen sells a boatload of music and makes a decent living from it. That sticks in the craw of some people? See how much money you make from mocking other human beings.

I have more than a few musician friends who have lamented at not being able to sell their wonderful music to publishers. A very few are somewhat bitter about it, and speak with envy about lesser lights who do so well. On the first point, I sympathize. I’ve used some of their music. I like it. It works liturgically and it’s just plain as good as what gets published these days. But I can’t go for the negativity, either from published-wannabes or others. From some people, their criticism is just plain jealousy.

Fr Jeff suggested:

Lighten up, Todd. Actually the complaint about the music is old. And those of us who just want to pray can be a bit defeatist when speaking about Church music. So it is completely understandable when some engage in this kind of black humor. I do not know who the person behind the Ox Files is, but I do know that many find refuge in that kind of humor.

The saddest thing for me is when someone asks for something more upbeat. We have inhaled a culture of entertainment and do not know how to worship anymore.

Well, I often find sin understandable in some contexts, a refuge of sorts. It doesn’t make it right. I too do not know the person behind the Ox Files, but I know what I read, and quite frankly, I find that kind of talk wholly unproductive. Envy has long been my worst weakness of the seven deadlies, and I struggle to strain that emotion out of my dealings with others. In my youth, I was bitterly critical of certain composers and certain church songs. I believe more strongly in piecing together musical repertoire by addition, not denigration. A hymnal (actual or parish body of repertoire) constructed by subtraction will be a mighty thin book. I’d rather use and test the good stuff, so as to arrive at a future excellence.

And regarding the “fun” parodies on contemporary church music, I really do believe such energies would be better put to use in adding to the treasury of sacred music, and not trashing it.

And lastly, I don’t know how people confuse “upbeat” with “entertaining.” Church music, especially plainsong, has a terrible reputation for being too dern slow. People want “upbeat” music in the sense they want to be able to breathe and sing music with some degree of ease. I have no doubt that Fr Jeff and his fine music director are getting the tempo right–I’ve heard the St Joe’s cd, so I know they know what’s needed.

Worship does not equal stodgy–and that’s where most of the pleas for “upbeat” are coming from.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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