Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Kyrie XI by Osmosis: How My Own Disgraceful Negligence Taught Me a Lesson

When sung Mass resumed this Fall in my parish, I pulled out Mass XI, determined not to do Mass VIII ever again except under the rarest and most coercive circumstances. The schola had learned this last year, and we were ready to go.

There was just one thing I forgot to do: make copies of this Mass for the congregation. "You are a bad, bad music director," I said to myself the first weekend, as the schola sang through the Mass without any congregational participation. Surely, the bureaucrats of Central Ecclesiastical Planning are frowning up me, their eyes angrily darting out toward me from just above the pages of their liturgy planning booklets. The next week, I still hadn't gotten it done, but I thought I heard a few people singing. By the fourth week (this past Sunday), it was unmistakable: people were singing the Kyrie with gusto--even some of the tone deaf people.

At this point, I am frankly tempted to run an experiment and see just how far this thing can go. I do suspect that the congregation will, at the very least, be able to pick up on the Agnus Dei without much help from me. But I really should get them the music to the Gloria, at least.

There is something peaceful about the process of osmosis. It is organic, for one thing, and the modern, liturgist-approved badgering techniques are blissfully absent from it. People join in when they are ready, and only if they want to (and, though I may tease out ridicule from certain sectors, I do think that second aspect needs to be respected).

Sometimes I think people sing in inverse proportion to our attempts at manipulating them. Are we willing to let the congregation alone and trust that they do, in fact, have a song to sing, and that they will join us eventually? Many parish leaders don't have that kind of patience, but I suspect many parishioners wish they did.

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