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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Way It Is*

Many of you know that in addition to being a musician, teacher, and librarian, I'm a long-suffering church musician. Within the last year or so, I joined a Facebook page called "I'm fed up with bad church music" where contributors tell their own horror stories of bad clergy/parishioners/music/composers/etc. The current project that I'm completing for my DOM may present a microcosmic look into what we're up against:

I went up to my DOM Sunday morning after seeing what hymns he'd chosen and told him that I was tired of doing the same old same old, month in and month out. He complained to me that (ordinary time) wasn't a good time to introduce new hymns--as if Nicaea (Holy Holy Holy) Old Hundredth (All People that on Earth do Dwell), Italian Hymn (Come thou almighty King), St. Anne (Oh God, Our help in ages past), and countless others should have to be taught at this point in the church's life (at least this parish). The DOM tried to blame the pastor for what the he is "up against". I stopped that cold with, "Well, if the Pastor is the problem, I'll take it up with him". After he had a chance to recover from that shock, he told me to make up a list of hymns I wanted to do.

So, I'm in the midst of creating a set list for each service between the 14th in OT to Christ the King, based on the antiphons, readings, responses and themes, with the help of OCP's Music Finder, I've been able to find suitable alternatives to the steady diet of Haugen and Haas I've been subjected to for the past 12 years. There are some notable gaps, but for the most part I've been able put together a liturgically solid, musically sound list. One area had me stumped, though. Permit a brief explanation:

We have beautiful stained glass windows in our church, produced in France (or so I'm told), one of which depicts "The Church Militant, Suffering, Triumphant", a phrase probably more familiar to Catholics of a generation or two previous than to those today.We used to refer to it in the LCMS as Christian or Spiritual Warfare--fighting the temptations of Satan, the world, detractors from the faith.

So at one point I'm looking for songs on the Church Militant, or on spiritual warfare. I check the list of topics on the website. Nothing. I even emailed OCP (We use the Heritage Missal) and, in part, get this response:

...There are 9 songs under the topic Patriotism:
570   America
569   America the Beautiful
568   Eternal Father, Strong to Save 
567   God of Our Fathers
427   Let There Be Peace on Earth (really?)
451   Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory 
571   This Is My Song (FINLANDIA)
484   We Gather Together (Turkey and stuffing, anyone?)


Initially I was stunned. I had made it abundantly clear what I was looking for. When I wrote back and protested that Patriotism wasn't what I had in mind at all--even adding two links on the topics requested and giving two examples ("Onward Christian Soldiers", and "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus"), they responded by quoting the two links I gave and basically dismissing my arguments.

So it's back to completing the list which I promised to give him next Sunday I can only hope that things change--or the cantor will--and I've told him as much.

Onward.

*Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range, 1986.
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