Jimmy Mac sent me Joe Ferullo’s entry “Sacred music” from yesterday’s NCR blog.
I found myself someplace else (mostly in a place far-too-occupied by moments with my dreaded college girlfriend). But, just as I was about to descend into a world inhabited only by characters in Tom Waits tunes, I was pulled out.My daughters heard the song. And they began to sing along with James Taylor and Carole King. They knew the song, my girls did, because when they were toddlers, it was part of our bedtime ritual. After reading a book chapter, I’d pull out my old guitar and sing a few songs: “House on Pooh Corner” was one, “Every Day” by Buddy Holly was another. But I would end each session with “You’ve Got a Friend” — about as decent, hopeful and reassuring a song as has ever been written, perfect for sending little ones off to eight hours alone with their dreams and fears.
And my girls remembered. And they sang along. And, honestly, the tune was suddenly new and different and sacred.
I’ve been listening to music from the past lately, too. I get memories of my favorite year in college with the window and door of my little room open and playing my stereo. I don’t have to hunt down obscure foreign-pressed cd’s; I can catch a lot of good music on YouTube, like this. Another Renaissance fan in my dorm had never heard this album, and he was pretty excited about it. They also played this whole album early one morning when my friend Marianne and I were dance marathoning. Lots of memories.
I don’t know that lifting myself up out of the present moment is sacred. It’s not really nostalgic, either. It’s not just about thumbing through a geology text on a small creaky bed in an overheated room or dancing with an old girlfriend. I listen to these old songs with new ears. I understand better my father’s huge stack of sheet music from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Even though we kids sometimes laughed when he played and sang them.
My old brain is less inclined to be so particular about defining “sacred music.” On another blog this week, someone said the MCW three judgments are irrelevant. All you have to do is program sacred music. I have to smile at the thought that all you have to do is be good, and the rules, rubrics, and guidelines are meaningless. I know that’s not what he said or meant. But it’s a nice thought, very akin to nostalgia.
Another thought from the NCR commentariat:
When I came here six months ago this 80 something lady was playing the organ for daily mass. During Communion one day I caught an interesting tune and questioned her about it after Mass. “That sounded like ‘Autumn Leaves'”, he started. “Yes, Father, it was”, she replied. “But that is not a liturgical hymn and is not appropriate” he put forth. “God created the seasons and all things in the world, including the leaves, of course it is appropriate!”, she rejoined, and he had not the nerve nor the will to question her again.
I probably wouldn’t play “Autumn Leaves,” but I think the liturgy is sturdy enough for a pretty large musical net. And if we fancy ourselves courageous enough to put out for the deep, maybe we need a big net.