Sunday, November 18, 2007

The language of church musicians

I just happened upon a liturgy planning guide put out by a well known publisher of contemporary Catholic music. Instead of referring to musicians as church musicians, the term that is used again and again throughout the publication is "pastoral" musician. Yes, I know there is a national association of people who refer to themselves as pastoral musicians, but I had never spent time thinking about the term as such, and the effect this kind of language has on the way a musician views his role in the liturgy.

Not able to shake the question, I looked up some directives in the 2003 GIRM:

103. Among the faithful, the schola cantorum or choir exercises its own liturgical function, ensuring that the parts proper to it, in keeping with the different types of chants, are properly carried out and fostering the active participation of the faithful through the singing.87 What is said about the choir also applies, in accordance with the relevant norms, to other musicians, especially the organist.


104. It is fitting that there be a cantor or a choir director to lead and sustain the people's singing. When in fact there is no choir, it is up to the cantor to lead the different chants, with the people taking part.

Then, to beg the question, I looked up a definition of pastoral, in case I was missing something. Here's what the Wikipedia says:

Pastoral, as an adjective, refers to the lifestyle of shepherds and pastoralists, moving livestock around larger areas of land according to seasons and availability ofwater and feed.

Now if I read the GIRM correctly, it seems the role of a musician is to serve the liturgy - to make sure that correct music is in place. Oh yes, and lead the singing. Seems clear enough. But add to that the term pastoral(I understand that the above needs to understood metaphorically)and I'm left wondering how the serious parish musician with sound training and dedication to the music and traditions of the Church, and with focus on the quality and beauty of the music he provides for the Mass, should suddenly be required to consciously provide for the vital needs of the many souls crying out for salvation at the same time.

Isn't that why we have pastors? Shouldn't pastors be the ones providing proper guidance to musicians (especially if we're seen as part of the faithful, as per the GIRM)and parishioners alike? Bottom line - isn't what happens at liturgy ultimately the responsibility of the pastor?

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