Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Peace, all. An essay edited from my parish bulletin this past weekend: A hundred years ago, when it came to musical entertainment, people had to improvise. Public concerts were regular events in just about any community larger than a hamlet. At home, music education was put to use and families lacking the yet-to-be-invented record player played and sang music for their own enjoyment. When recordings became accessible, people didn’t need to go to the big cities to hear Leopold Stokowski conduct or Louis Armstrong play. But we all got used to hearing the very best on our tapes and records. Technology has continued leaping forward: hi-fidelity stereo, vinyl LP's, compact disks, digital recordings, computers, dvd’s with all the great features. Music has now made another shift with cable TV: now it is as much an event to watch as it is to listen to. In a hundred years, we’ve gone from playing and singing music ourselves, to listening to it, and now to watching it. From a musician’s point of view, I like watching music videos (as a film event). I also buy and listen to cd’s. But, playing and singing is a matchless experience, especially when I can do it with other people. Why? Do I think I’m as good as the pros? Not really. But that's not the point. We're now two stages removed from the making of music as a prime means of enjoyment. Whatever we may have gained in the quality of the music that creeps from our speakers, we've lost in the realm of the spirit, and of personal accomplishment. Music is made first to be shared, not consumed. That includes church music. Especially so, because music is an integral part of worship, and worship is not something done for us on our behalf. Worship is something we do actively. Long build-up to another pitch for parish singers and musicians. (What else?) 98% of the human race has a good singing voice. (The other 2% should sing just to get even with God, but that’s another story.) Give your parish music groups a second thought, especially if you're on of the 98%. If you consider yourself one of the 2%? You can still recruit others to take your place. Or get even; knock yourself out! Parents should never underestimate the value of music lessons either. My parents never encouraged them and I waited until I was 24 for my first. Although I turned out to be a decent musician, I think of the missed opportunities of rock bands and school choirs I wished I’d had. Make music this week — or encourage someone else to make it.

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