For over a year I’ve been playing with the ensemble that leads music for our parish’s fifth Sunday Mass, the one mostly prayed in Spanish. My fine predecessor directs the choir from the piano, so I get to play guitar and blend into the bevy of instruments. Usually.
They recently put me in the rotation for the psalm. As a music director, a few things cantors do annoy me. More so in the past; just a bit these days. Let’s see how many I can hit in the reverse experience:
I switched assignments with another psalmist, so my turn came up early–yesterday.
Did I remember to write it down somewhere or put it in my phone? Sorry, but no.
Did I even look at the music ahead of time, or take time to pray the Psalm? Sorry, but no.
What about taking the text slowly and prayerfully? My Spanish-speaking friends all speak the language very rapidly, including our lectors and some psalmists. Unfortunately, I got tongue-tied on the word huérfano and flubbed.
Making it easier on the ensemble by sticking to the chant notes? Sorry, but no; the director had to remind the guitarists to hang with me when I “improvised” after my English-speaking tongue rebelled.
Did I have a pencil ready to mark my score to remind myself of my errors? Sorry, but no. Eight-year-old Alison was kind enough to loan me hers.
Thirty years ago, this fledgling music director would have been annoyed at the compounded errors. Twenty years ago, I would not have attempted to sing the psalm in a language other than my own or Latin. By ten years ago, I would have been more chill on specific mistakes–on other people.
The interesting thing about yesterday was my concern for being under-prepared. After my turn I remarked to a few friends in the choir this was not the way to do it. I was offered a second practice bit before Mass, but I declined. I felt it was more important to pray the words, slow down and collect myself.
So Mass went better and I avoided the physical mistakes. But thirty-plus years into the liturgical music gig, I still find I’m getting important insights.