Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Gloria in the Deep South

Here's a follow up to Jeffrey's post on the Gloria from the other day:

To recap, we sent Father the music and an mp3 earlier in the week and waited a couple of days for an answer to the burning question - could we give Gloria XV a go this weekend? His go ahead came in good time for us to get things ready for Mass today. In fact, he agreed to my suggestion that he intone it, even though he was slightly nervous about doing so. He has a good, strong singing voice and quite a presence as a celebrant - of course I knew it would go beautifully if he consented.

We rehearsed the schola on Thursday evening. The main focus was rhythm and diction- my sense was that our "performance" had to be compelling if we were going to convince the congregation that they should like it, much less sing along. Lacking their attempt at participation, a project like this can go south in no time

Father surprised us by joining us for warm up this morning. He intoned and then sang along with us as we prepared for Mass. He suggested that our tutorial before Mass should allow for the congregation to sing it through twice. What we've normally done is sing through something once as a demonstration, and then have people sing along. But we took his advice. It's usually very good.

When it came time, the first thing to do was make sure that everyone had a program - the entire Gloria was printed in it. Gregorian notation. (We had to use legal size paper this week. The funny result of this, after taking so much care with the program, was that the Gloria took up so much space that the last line of the Sanctus was inadvertently omitted! )

We sang it once. A few people joined in. We sang it again. A few more. Mass began. The Greeting. The Vidi Aquam - and then - the Gloria! Jeff reached over and played the first notes for Father to give him confidence. Father took the cue and sang beautifully. Then came the moment of truth: and people sang! they really sang!

In many ways it seemed like a miracle. And it was . But I can't deny, as well, that it was also the result of years of taking baby steps, careful planning, and of course many mistakes from which we have learned so much. One thing we have learned, and today's Mass showed us yet again, is that people do what they are asked to do in Mass. The actions of the celebrant have so much to do with the success of a beautiful liturgy.

One woman came up to a member of our schola after Mass and said how much she liked the Gloria. She said she sang, and that even her husband, who never sings, sang. Why? Again, maybe because of the leadership of a strong celebrant. Maybe it was because of our convincing "perfomance." Maybe because of the tutorial before Mass. But I suspect it was because that Gloria XV, sung along with the angels, taps into the eternal so longed for by everyone who comes to Mass.

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