We don’t talk much about Spirit & Song
, Holy is the Lord
, and the like on this blog, but I thought I would share an experience I recently had and two thoughts that I gleaned from it.
I recently went to an area young-adult activity that had exposition/adoration, Mass, then a concert. The music for Mass and exposition was done by your typical “contemporary” group, and well executed. The amplification for the Mass went through a PA that had been set up ahead of time for the concert later on, and the music was quite loud. People sang fairly well - about as well as I remember from regular college Masses. But of course, the amplification was so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself. It really gave the impression that, rather than “singing the Mass”, my vocal participation constituted “singing along” rather than “singing”. My singing was auxiliary.
The music for Mass was kind of standard fare stuff, but redone, in some cases, for drums/bass/guitar/keyboard/screech-singing. The responsorial psalm was sort of typical of the genre - the response was all syncopated and funkified, which made it very difficult for me to sing it after a first hearing. (But, judging from what I know of the music selection for such Masses, the people choosing the music wouldn’t likely have thought very deeply about how learnable the music is on first hearing.)
Speaking of how easy congregational music is to sing, I began to think how frustrating it has been, the times I have had to do S&S-type stuff, when the music has a form like this:
...and, of course, each verse is different enough musically that you can’t deduce one from having learned another.
Then, the concert, with two (long) opening acts. Again, well-done stuff - not music I find very interesting to listen to, though I enjoy playing stuff like that. Toward the end of my time there, it occurred to me how dialectic the pronunciation was, and how awkward it would sound were these singers to have used the tall, clear vowels and crisp consonants I try to get my singers to use.
The next thought was, how well do good diction and formality go hand-in-hand, while dialectic/sloppy diction goes with informality?
I am wondering if I have stumbled on a “proof” of the idea that people who like hearing pop music at church just don’t want to feel like they’re really in church: they don’t like music that sounds right with good diction, which inclines them to shun formality by association. (And Gregorian chant does tend to sound formal, doesn’t it?) The problem is, of course, that the Mass is
inherently formal: even the vestments and decorations aside, the structure of the ritual is very formal.
Whaddy’all think? Should I publish? :)