Are Catholics uncaring of organ repertoire as suggested here? Katharine Harmon speculates:
I was asked by a student today, “I just don’t understand why we need to have organ repertoire. When would you ever use it?” I stared at the student, confounded, dumbfounded. And then I had an intense moment of Catholic soul-searching.
(T)his student did not care, and could not fathom why anyone might care about liturgical organ repertoire. But I say, how could anyone say that liturgical music didn’t matter?
Such questions conjure up for many of us Thomas Day’s classic text, Why Catholics Can’t Sing (Crossroad, 1992). But, in the case of organ repertoire, I feel our title should be: Why Catholics Don’t Care. This absolute lack of “care” or understanding as to why music might elevate and complement a liturgical experience is deeply troubling to me.
The matter is complicated by a dizzying array of local practices and reasons behind them.
- Most American parishes do not have a music director with a personal history of performing instrumental repertoire.
- Most of today’s music leaders came into service during a time when the emphasis was on expanding the sung repertoire of people in the pews.
- In one parish I served, I inherited a “tradition” of the music ministry singing a prelude. That might be rare, but it is not unheard of.
- Some communities insist on silence before Mass–no distractions.
- Many contemporary groups are unaware of the possibilities for playing an instrumental piece before Mass.
There is a repertoire out there. And interestingly, a lot of instrumentalists in contemporary ensembles are at least as prepared to improvise as church organists are. What’s the deal? Maybe it’s just one more thing for a group of musicians to worry about. Or maybe a single organist has an easier time getting ready three minutes before Mass.