Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Real Dilemma

Okay. Never mind voting. Never mind partisan politics. Never mind all the issues of this campaign (just for a moment).

I've got a real dilemma on my hands.

I like singing in our new parish choir. I consider the woman running things a friend. I want to be nice and get along, hoping to be a positive influence in the general direction of more traditional music as time goes by. If I've learned one thing from the past it's that marching in with a "my way or the highway" attitude doesn't really change hearts or open minds to the beautiful traditional music of the Church's past. And so occasionally I'll sing a newer, lesser song with no complaints, but reserving the right to make my opinions about the piece known.

But this week she's scheduled "Gather Us In." No, really, the Wreck of the Edumund Fitzgerald of liturgical music, the dreck by which other dreck is measured, the tritest and most "let's celebrate us" piece of non-worship jangling, the piece which makes me want to gag, and only because it's preferable to completing the actual involutary digestive response that this piece provokes in me every single time I hear it.

I want to express my strong dislike of the piece without hurting feelings. I don't want to be unkind or disruptive, or try to take on myself a role that properly belongs to the new pastor (who, alas, might just like this kind of song for all I know). But I don't want to just sit there and sing it with no expression of my unhappiness whatsoever.

What should I do? What would you do?

Practice is tonight. I'll update later.

UPDATE: I ended up doing pretty much what Mary suggested below, just talking after practice about what I saw as the problem with the song and getting enthusiastic about the prospect of us "Vatican II Catholics" getting to rediscover/reconnect with our liturgical roots. Which is what I really believe.

One thing--for those who mentioned this, I was always planning to sing the song, despite my dislike for it. When I got involved in choir last year I decided beforehand that I would have to be capable of singing anything that was scheduled as a precondition for joining. And it was the fact that the first choir I joined would also sing lovely traditional pieces to counterbalance the less beautiful ones, a practice that continues with this new choir, that drew me back into singing in the first place, so I do see positive signs here. Obedience and humility are good things to practice along with singing--and I figure that a couple of verses of "Gather Us In" sung with a reluctant heart should shave a few minutes off of my purgatory, as well as the purgatory of everyone else who dislikes this song (for excellent reasons!) but listens to it without a grouchy or angry heart anyway. :)


Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

I would sing the song. So should you. When you're the choir director, you'll pick better songs then.

Oremus said...

You mean the ... Gather us in the rich and the haughty, gather us in the blind and the lame? song.

I would casually say, at another time, this isn't one of my favorites. I don't think it challenges us or shows our real talent.

Really, it should be sung at a bar if it is the one I am thinking of.

Anonymous said...

I say skip this week. Spare the people sitting below the choir loft - they probably wouldn't think to bring a change of clothes after the puke flies!

Scott said...

Can't help you in the short run. In the long run, do what we did. Form a schola group on the side dedicated to chant and general non-dreck. Try to get any Mass you can (other parishes even). Make people cry with joy. (Seriously, people would come up to us after in tears saying, "I haven't heard that him in so long!") Word gets around. More Mass "gigs" if you'll excuse the lingo. Regular music director retired and *poof!* Schola is now the regular choir. Have bonfire with Gather hymnals and whoop around it like savages. (Ok, we didn't do that last thing, but you get the point.)

Scott said...

"Hymn", not "him". :)

Obviously, for this to work you gotta have some talent. Be epic, or it's epic FAIL. Get young vocalists from the college or high school. That's from the Mark Steyn rule: In a fight between twenty teenagers and sixty octagenarians, bet on the teenagers.

~~~mary said...

Red -
I'd treat this weekend's selection as an exercise in humility then definitely start casual conversations about the changes coming for liturgical music. From tenor to soprano; choir director to Pastor.
Talk about tradition, spirituality, interconnects. Tell them of the pope's background and what he has said on this. In a friendly animated fashion,counter distain for the coming change with ready positives that you can figure cultural Catholic might otherwise miss.
Large order, but you can open hearts. Pray to open hearts. Peace. ~~~mary

Babs said...

If I could vote for any piece more vomit-inducing, it would be Haugen's "The Canticle of the Sun." Come dance in the forest, come play in the field! Like straight males are going to want to belt that out. Here is the ditty, set to inspiring slides... yet the music has never made creation look so tawdry - like a nature scene on a shotglass:

Take it from someone who's had the shame of singing on an actual Michael Joncas album: don't show up. You'll just end up hating your fellow man, who LOVES this stuff. They really, really do. Great mystery of life.

Mick said...

Whenever I hear about that song, I think of this funny post by Barb Nicholosi from a few years ago:

I'm sorry to hear you have to sing it. I am not sure what you say to the director of a music program who, while well meaning, just has horrible taste in music.

Lee Strong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Strong said...

Sing it. But maybe later suggest some songs you'd like to do, not in a challenging way, but is a positive one. "Gee, I always liked "XXX." Is that something we might do here some day? I'd like that."

Anonymous said...

OK, so I'm a little late joining in here. But you might want to say that somehow or other you stumbled across some spoof lyrics to that one that were pretty funny and now every time you hear the music all you can think of (sadly and regrettably, of course) are the spoof lyrics and you're liable to laugh out loud while trying to sing.

I know that that is honestly what would happen to me!

(Just like "Mr. Bean" ruined the perfectly good "All Creatures of Our God and King" for me. Alleluuuuia uuuuuia uuuuuuuuia.)


Irenaeus said...

What was the result?? How did the conversation go?

Scott said...

Off topic: I knicked your side bar about the evil of abortion for my own blog.

Maclin said...

I think "Ashes" is worse.

I heard one the other day--not saying where--which listed among things the Church is supposed to do: "not to preach our creed or our customs."

Red Cardigan said...

Good Lord, Maclin, that's terrible.

I think if we were required to sing a song like that I'd have to refuse, even if it meant going to Mass elsewhere that Sunday. On the other hand, our director really isn't of that sort of mindset, and seems very open to learning more about our musical history.