Accompanying A Wedding

I had a nice conversation with Charles yesterday, welcoming me to the Pacific coast and all. I’m still trying to get a handle on the physical reality of being two and three time zones away from my family and old friends.

Anyway, speaking with my melofluent California friend brought to mind the CMAA forum. I don’t surf there regularly, but I did find an interesting thread-starter:

I am working with a couple on choosing music for their wedding. I have sent them the guidelines for choosing music and here is the response:

I think we are confused about everything we need to choose… isn’t there something easier to follow that just lists the order of the mass by music- what is sung, by whom and what choice we need to make and what type of song it is? I feel like what is provided by the church is not clear at all. Of course we know in general, but having never had to plan the music in whole ourselves we are missing pieces and need guidance.

Now, before anyone accuses me of arrogance or any number of other sins, please be assured that this couple will receive clear guidance in getting the music right for their wedding (even in the vernacular if they so desire!) It won’t be from any book or encyclical or church document, but from yours truly, sitting with them, and patiently steering them through the mass confusion (pun intended). This is very telling, and amusing… but Very, Very, Very, Very sad that the Church is in this predicament.

I confess I don’t get the sad with repeated adverbs.

First, it would never be my practice to send or hand out guidelines in advance of a face-to-faces meeting (groom and bride together; mothers optional in the second row). Most parish guildeines are partly written in churchspeak, and I don’t assume that even a dedicated choir member would want to communicate in that language.

Second, I think the clear guidance offered by francis on his CMAA posting is great. It needs to be a personal walk-through–an accompaniment, if you will. A wedding musician needs to accompany more than the wedding singer. The first and more vital accompaniment is with the engaged couple. We church musicians can be well-prepared to offer a support just as artistic as that we give for our very favorite pieces.

When I meet with couples, I pray with them, and I offer every means of encouragement. But no handouts. I present that they have chosen a church wedding (for whatever reason) and that this implies an act of worship. Good guidance follows from there. Perhaps the impulse to choose a song about human love is good, but the particular repertoire is … unsteady. Where can I direct them to steady ground, I ask.

I certainly wouldn’t get into a diatribe:

It is the telling truth about the “diabolical disorientation” which the Roman Catholic Church finds herself to be in. We are in the ultimate predicament: Pandora’s box was opened with VII (well, at least with the results of those who spun it out!), and this is proof positive that we are spinning around in the tornado of confusion, one that will not end until we obey heaven.

This is just sillytalk. Vatican II and weddings mean planning can’t be passed on to a white list and a black list, check the right list, please. It means that musicians (who take themselves seriously as a minister of music) were going to need to enter into an accompaniment, and as a minister. And if a musician is unwilling to be a minister, I don’t get the concern about diabolics–stick to good music on your list, out of your mouth, or whatever.

Over the years, I’ve found couples much more willing to take my good advice. They seem receptive to the idea of a church wedding as an act of worship. Does their faith register a 1 or a 2 or even a 9? Who cares? They all deserve careful, patient guidance, with an eye on evangelization where needed.

My perspective: no tornado. Not even gray skies. Just three people walking together trying to get to a good place in one piece.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Accompanying A Wedding

  1. Mary says:

    “It means that musicians (who take themselves seriously as a minister of music) were”

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about the folks at CMAA. Many see themselves as musicians, not as ministers. And they’re musicians presenting the church’s rituals and rules, not God’s living mercy. That’s the sad bit.

    • charlesincenca says:

      Mary, let’s be cautious about the indiscriminate conclusion about “the folks at CMAA.” I’m one of those folk, and as I’ve mentioned to Todd (in fact in our conversation yesterday), even tho’ they resort to polemics and document this/that on the forum, it is my direct experience that I know they still return home from colloquia and actually do what Todd describes, still choose selective modern repertoire accompanied by piano, guitar as well as organ, etc. What I’ve noticed over the many years at MSF is that CMAA’ers’ venting and spinning rhetoric is hyperbolic precisely because they consider themselves “ministers.” Many of us, CMAA or otherwise, have faced some longs odds when trying to restore or improve faltering music programs with pressure applied from above (clergy of every type of disposition) and below (attack sheep PIPs and even their own choristers/musicians.) Some regulars at MSF (one has to remember that MSF is not an accurate barometer of CMAA) are so confounded by the tornado of legislative options, caveats, contradictions that they can’t really articulate, nor will they ever be able to, prescriptive remedies for the “universal” church’s liturgical woes, when the only viable remedy is the one in your own parish. Others, young or old true believers all, like Dorothy clicking her heels while saying “Home, home, home,” just point to the Graduale Romanum and say “There, there’s the solution.”
      People to people, that’s the solution.

      • Karl says:

        To adumbrate Charles

        Internet discussion boards are topical and therefore biased towards revealing ideas and emotions rather than genuine spiritual personal interplay (how’s that for a conceptual rather than personal thought?). So it helps to distinguish between a person’s real personality versus the one revealed on the Internet. And never assume they are highly congruent….

  2. charlesincenca says:

    To fuhther obfuscate Karl, yeah- most folks who know me only from the boards think I’m a really loquacious, fatuous bully……oh, wait…….sigh

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