CCG at St. Johns

December 5, 2016

This isn’t a review; it’s a reaction. I know better than to talk about my colleagues’ music. Most of it was very fine, some wasn’t.

First reaction: The Syndicate for the New Arts, the group that put on last night’s concert. Wow, just wow. Virtuosi, the lot of them. They did my work The Great Hunger, and never have I heard such a fierce, tight, balls-to-the-wall performance of it as Aram Mun, Henry Jenkins and Caitlin Mehrtens gave it. Yes, fierce… and these aren’t instruments you normally associate with that term. Unbelieveably fast and accurate, but well-thought-out and phrased too,  Of course, somebody had to slam a big wooden door right in the middle of it. Everything else on the program got the same careful treatment. Surprisingly large audience for a Sunday night.

Then there was the venue. St.John’s is supposedly the oldest standing religious building in NE Ohio, having been finished in 1838. Acoustically, it’s quite nice: tall enough for some bloom, small enough to not be echo-y. But it’s a wreck. I don’t know if they actually have services there anymore. It’s still owned by the diocese, they have a vicar (female of course), there are flags inside, and ’82 Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer, but there was nothing in any of the literature or signage suggesting that they actually did church there. And it’s sad. Every wall in the place is peeling and in need of paint. The 1928 Austin 2 manual organ is missing most of its key ivory. A square piano (original equipment?) sits forlorn in the corner. The cover was off the heating baseboards (the main heat produced a F drone and was fortunately turned off before the concert started). The stained glass behind the altar was missing a section. The cheeriest spot in the whole building was the bathroom! The place has had a history of “activism”, with Russell Means running the Cleveland American indian Center out of the basement in  the 70s, and the Metropolitan Community Church using the space when they could find no other. Now they have a yoga center attached.  So perhaps it’s a physical metaphor for the decline of ECUSA into spiritual irrelevance.

But this is sacred space. If it can’t be beautiful, it at least should not be ugly. Even as a concert space, it should not be ugly. It would be a simple and inexpensive thing to paint the inside. Somebody, in some ECUSA church in town, could organize a group of volunteers and have it done in a day or two. And there’d be white to balance the dreary dark pews that seen to be an Anglican dogma. But as-is, it felt like listening to a concert in Berlin in late 1945. “The acoustics aren’t so good since the roof was blown off, but at least the bombs aren’t coming down anymore. And we can listen to Mendelssohn again.”

Music, rape, and Boujemaa Razgui

January 3, 2014

Just about every musician I know has posted on Facebook about the Boujemaa Razgui story.  Now Customs has issued a statement and doubled down on their disaster, instead of throwing the officers involved under the bus. The gifted expatriate sackbut player and maker (and unapologetic socialist) Nathaniel Wood asked, “Who do these people think they are? ::weeps::” I’d been productive and good all day, so I fell into the temptation of trollery and replied, “They think they are protecting the citizens of the United States from agricultural disasters. Do you understand now why I am a minarchist?” The problem with this was that several people took it as a challenge to their belief in the benevolent state (ok, maybe it was!) and started blaming RAZGUI for his misfortune because, you know, a guy who travels all over and has presumably checked his instruments with luggage before should have known that someday some Customs guys would get a hardon, and should have made them carry-ons…where he would have had to deal with Customs anyway, argue with them, and get turned away from his home (he’s a Canadian citizen, orsiginally from Morocco, currently living in NYC).

Well, all this seemed to be a bit much like blaming the victim, so I asked one fellow his opinion of the classic case of Blaming the Victim. “Does a woman also have a responsibility to protect her body from rape?”  Nate yelped foul, the guy I was addressing said “I have absolutely no idea how you can even think to draw that comparison …….” and we were off to the races. My reply:

How can I draw that comparison? I’m a musician. My instruments are part of my identity, an extension of my body. It’s as intimate as the connection with one’s genitals, and as such, the psychological violation is as bad. The physical violation is WORSE, because the body heals, but instruments don’t replace themselves (and when replaced, are never exact replacements). Now, if I were to tell a woman to be sensible about what she exposes to whom, I’d be accused of “blaming the victim”. Isn’t that what you’ve just done with Razgui? (That’s my explanation, Nate, and you’ll have to decide if it applies, or is an extension of tastelessness.)

All of my musician friends are wringing hands about this, and rightly so. It’s horrible beyond belief. Yet hundreds of people are violated by the State each day, and have their lives ruined. They aren’t One of Us, though, so they don’t matter, as long as the Greater Good is served. So I appreciate the honesty of the folks who say, “It’s his fault.” But then you don’t get to be all emotional about it. If a moral crime was committed (and I think there was), we have an obligation to decide why and how, and how to stop it from happening again. That may well involve doing less. If we give average people the power to destroy without the responsibility to restitute, we’re asking for incidents like this.

Now to be fair to Nate, he very clearly saw that, on physics, biology and the law, this was clearly a case of Customs overreach. He didn’t address my original point, but since I’d offended him, I didn’t feel like pursuing the point on his Facebook page. Here, however, I’m under no such limitations.

I’d like to fill in the rape analogy. The instruments were self-made, somewhat as a woman’s body is. And the act of playing music with others can be unbearably intimate. You’re trusting the others not to mess up, as they trust you. You are constantly adapting to others’ musical ideas, as they adapt to yours. The New Musicology doubtless has much to say about this. And I wonder what the Goddess of New Musicology, Susan McClary, would say… but I don’t necessarily wonder enough to ask her when the semester begins (I’m controversial on Facebook so I don’t have to be at work.)

Was this violation necessary?  Nobody argues that rape is necessary. I can only think of one context where one could argue that, and since humanity is in no danger of dying out, it’s not applicable to reality, so why bother? And not many argue that agricultural import controls are UNnecessary. One could make the case that, in this small world, it would be best to get it over with, let everything go everywhere and duke it out for their own ecological niche. I’m not making that case, because we really don’t know enough to foresee all the dangers. And we like to pick the winners. But certainly government has done almost as much harm as good with invasive species, introducing such problems as kudzu, and the bane of my existence, multiflora rose.

This is a place where the Big Government folks need to read the Founding Fathers, and apply their principles to their own policy positions. If you’re going to give some high school grads power to make or break somebody’s livelihood (as they do with the vote), you need to hedge that power about with fearsome restrictions. You need rules under which they can do no irreparable harm. Agricultural materials? Sure, quarantine them until we’re sure they’re fine, especially if they’re obviously made into something. The opinion of the bottom rung worker has to be appealable, all the way up, and if they act on their own to make appeal impossible, they get the boot. Because oboe reeds are agricultural. Stradivarius violins are agricultural.

Newberry Organ dedication

May 12, 2013

This weekend was cold and rainy: a fortunate happenstance for the gardener, because I was occupied in the festivities surrounding the dedication of Richards, Fowkes & Company’s Opus XIX in the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland, right across the parking lot from work. The Newberry Organ (named after the grandparents of the principal donor, who was not just the donor of the principal rank) is a Baroque-style instrument in 5th-comma meantone at A415. My particular part in this was as a sackbut player in works by Schütz (Alleluja! Lobet den Herren) and Gabrieli (Omnes gentes plaudite).

My first task in taking this was to find a way out of my duties at Mary Queen of Peace, since singers are easier to come by than sackbutteers. Indeed, I only really know 3 in town, including myself, and we were all on duty (there are a couple trombonists I know who have played sackbut, but have no experience doing so at A415). I felt obligated to play, and Jonathan Moyer, music director at Covenant, made it worth my while. So I found a sub; I’ve not yet heard how that worked. And I found face, as I’ve been playing brass very little.

We met Friday night for an instrumental rehearsal.. “we” being a Most Excellent Crew. There were Peter Bennett, James David Cristie and Webb Wiggins on organs, Julie Andrijeski and a band of mostly present and former Case grad students on bowed strings, Covenant’s carilloneur George Leggiero on recorder, and me mates David Betts and Paul Furguson. on sackbuts. And, oh yeah, checks sitting on the stands. When I got my instrument, back in 1981 or so, I got a low pitch crook, but the other guys were reading everything down a half step. We didn’t have a bass sackbut, so I played the bass on tenor, transposing up the octave as needed. Paul plays alto, which was OK for the Schütz (which still could have been played on tenor) but problematic for the Gabrieli. Still the guys rose to the challenge magnificently. The only problem encountered was that one of the organs had a transposing keyboard and had been tuned at A440 (which meant that at A415 it was wretchedly out of tune). That got fixed easily enough afterwards. There were 4 organs in the church for this: borrowed chamber organs on either side, the Newberry in back, and the main one in front. It suggests a performance of Steve Reich’s eponymous piece, though 4 acoustic organs, 3 in meantone and one in equal temperament, would be quite inauthentic performance practice for that work (though it might be less irritating that way.). 4 organs in one church! I saw this as an act of expiation and reparation for all the organs that Calvinists trashed during the Reformation. And if you think that’s just Popish snark, the Catholics have a near-equal need to atone for the organs trashed in the wake of Vatican II.

Saturday morning I had to come into town again for the tutti rehearsal, which was kind of a meeting of old buds (Lynn Glickson, composer Jenny Conner) and folks I see every day in the Case library. The chief problem to be handled was to use eyes rather than ears in keeping together (as there were always 2 choirs separated). I’d done this to an extreme over the Internet, about a decade ago, and this was easier but still not easy. And there was the challenge of intonation (NONE of the partials on this instrument are in tune with each other; the higher you go in the low register, the farther the slide has to come out, which is counterintuitive.) Afterwards, I got lunch at Udupi Cafe (south Indian buffet), tried to do some shopping, tried to go to Mass but I got there way early and was feeling poorly, so I ditched my idea of going to a MQoP Schola member’s graduate recital, and went home to early bed, as I had to be out the door at 7.

Call at 8:45, ran through the big pieces, then sat back to hear the pregame show with strings and organ. I was listening to Castello and the Gabrieli Sonata a tre, thinking “This can’t be church music. Church music sucks, and this is 100% suck-free.” The choir did Byrd’s Sing Joyfully, and we did our big pieces without any great flaw (there are always little things that could have been better). The only problem was in the last hymn. In the bulletin, it was in A. We’d been given another hymn, with a different number and name and slightly different words, but the same tine, in Bb. But we hadn’t been told “play the Bb version”. So we came in, a half-step below the organ. I took out the crook (I might better have transposed), the other guys stopped their transposition games, and all was relatively presentable…and the organ drowned it all out anyway.

Well, then I still had to go to Mass. I shot in to the Mac, ran into Fred, who thought I should sing. So, just in case the morning hadn’t been exciting enough, I sight-read a Latin mass, singing tenor, and reading tiny notes for the Ordinary. I was in good voice and had somebody else on the part, so it went fairly well (less so where the notes were tiny).

Back to Covenant, do the 2 pieces again, listen to the organ recital. The new organ sounds wonderful. When’s the Hauptwerk sample set coming out? I want to take it home. I thought the morning had gone slightly better overall. Reception afterwards. I saw Carolyn Peskin, local recorder maven. for the first time in years, and by the looks of things it may well be the last time. I wanted to talk, but I’d spoke to a stranger who wouldn’t let me go (“…and I’m a Aspie.” “I never would have guessed.”) and she disappeared.

So, a lovely time was had by all. I think I’m going to try to put some work into sackbut solo and try to do something.

Agitprop song in the 21st c. Midwest

May 6, 2013

I was dismayed when a friend posted a video of my cher maitre William Bolcom on Facebook.

Then in the ensuing conversation, I was alerted to this:

which is apparently only half (!) of a longer ditty available on itunes, where, oddly, it gets rave reviews.

I’m going to dispatch the Rindfleisch first.If I were going to write a parody of a professor of composition writing a pop-ish song against conservatives, it would sound exactly like this. It’s self-parodying. It follows in the footsteps of another liberal academic singer-pianist, Tom Lehrer. But Lehrer had true wit, a deftness with language, and specific sacred cows to slay (as opposed to writing a song against, oh, half the country). Since he was a mathematician first instead of a composer, he knew that facts were facts, that reality was not a matter of whim. And the purely musical values of Lehrer’s products far outclass this work; it’s as if Rindfleisch isn’t even trying. He’s relying on his audience to consider their moral preening as fit recompense for the time spent listening, and that’s thin gruel artistically. It might work at a party, where everyone is drunk on Belgian Tripels and are your friends anyway; notsomuch on the iPod in your car.

As for the text, judging by the YouTube version (What? You want me to pay a buck to be insulted for 8 minutes?), it’s basically a list of alleged hates and loves of conservatives. It’s as if Rindfleisch lined up row upon row of strawmen in front of a trench and mechanically mowed them down with a machine gun, Nazi-style. To refute his generalizations would be a waste of time; the song is not about policy, but about how our guys are cool and your guys are not. It doesn’t even function as Alinskyan ridicule; to do so, it would have to say something unexpected, accurate, and funny about conservatives, and it fails at all three.

Bolcom’s song is dedicated to Woody Guthrie, and more-or-less written in his style. Unlike the Rindfleisch, it is dedicated to a particular specific policy position: victim disarmament. I say “dedicated to” rather than “argues for”, because it’s not an argument; it’s an imprecation against the Senators who chose not to vote for cloture, for “giving up this way / to the bullies of the NRA”. “The country screams and sobs / all you can think of is your jobs” . “how can we vote for you conscienceless men / when you’ve sold us out yet again”. If the Senators who voted no were indeed thinking of their jobs, it was because they were representing the people in their states, who didn’t “scream and sob” for the same things that Bolcom did. Or do the “bullies of the NRA” (i.e., the organization I won’t join because they are the pusillanimous self-serving compromising Vichy regime of gun control) spend their magical money, which somehow seeps into Diebold machines and turns the votes all red, while the money of Bloomberg and Soros is perfectly inert? In any case, it’s not a cogent position; it’s the yawp of a cranky old man. Now, I understand cranky old men, being one, and Bill has better cranky old man cred than I do (he’s just old enough to be my father, if he’d knocked up my mother in high school, which wouldn’t have happened because she was a senior when he was a freshman). But to see a revered master (well, revered by me, anyway) stoop so low as to bang out tonics and dominants beneath 4th-rate poetry, well, that just hurts. OK, it’s not contemporary music; as we said at the University of Michigan, it’s temporary music, as played by the Temporary Directions Ensemble. It’s a jeu d’esprit… but jeux d’esprit are best left to the young.

It might make sense though to situate these works in the tradition of political music. Looking at the classics of the repertoire, the IWW Little Red Book, The Internationale, Woody Guthrie, the union organizing songs of the 30s, one can draw some generalizations.  One is that they are by-and-large positive in tone. They advocate for a specific condition or course of action. They are not personal in tone; if the oppressor is described or addressed, it is in terms of oppressive actions, not as a target of character assassination. Even the most biting and memorable lines are more about actions than people. For example, in Joe Hill’s Preacher and the Slave, the Salvation Army are not bad people, they just have an inconsistent sense of social justice, and offer “pie in the sky” instead of pie here on earth. In his Casey Jones, if anyone is abused, it’s Casey, for putting up with too much, refusing to strike and valuing his “wooden medal”.  In Guthrie’s 1913 Massacre, the villainy of the “copper boss thug men” takes a back seat to the unfolding of the tragedy. The pattern begins to unravel somewhat in the ’60s. Tom Paxton’s Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation is personal, but still in a focused way: LBJ is a liar who sends us into an unwinnable war in spite of what he said in the campaign.The other element of the best protest music was poetry, the telling image. I’ve given a few examples already. In Guthrie’s Pretty Boy Floyd, “Some will rob you with a six-gun/ And some with a fountain pen.” After the Punk revolution, vulgarity became acceptable in the protest song. One example is Mojo Nixon’s I ain’t gonna piss in no jar: “I ain’t gonna piss into no cup/unless Nancy Reagan’s gonna lap it up.” Agtain, a striking image, but more for its shock value… and intensely personal.

Setting the two works under discussion into this context, the differences can be seen to be generational (1938 vs. 1963 birth dates). Bolcom is working consciously in the Guthrie tradition, without the same solid practical grounding in the Anglo-Saxon ballad tradition. (One wonders what sort of agitprop music would have been written by Ross Lee Finney, Bolcom’s predecessor at the University of Michigan, who was a professional folksinger.) He IS very well grounded in the American Songbook tradition, as was Lehrer, and one wonders what an artisticly serious attempt by Bolcom would sound like. Rindfleisch’s poetic voice sounds like somebody who had grown up listening to the Feederz’ Jesus entering from the rear. I don’t know if he was ever guilty of playing punk rock. The music affects the surface of urbanity without the content, so not punkish at all. That raw energy would have improved it, I think.

Like these gentlemen, I am no good at keeping my mouth shut. I suppose I will get no more performances of my music by the Cleveland Contemporary Players; on the other hand, I’ll get no fewer either. I can’t think of a classical composer writing agitprop song whose work in that genre has become canonical. Since some of them worked with Berthold Brecht, this is not simply a matter of poetic skill. This leads me to believe that music would be better served if we all found a different outlet for our political agitations, and made art for art’s sake. I’ll admit that I have a hard time taking my own advice here; there is certainly at least generalized political (or more accurately, anti-political) content in my Assault March of the Assistant Deputy County Environmental Safety Director. And I’ve written a libretto for an opera about the hen who bakes bread, updated for modern conditions. But neither of those works are in the agitprop/mass song tradition. So Bill, how about that next symphony for band? Andy, how about some more choruses or brass pieces?

Jubilation festival

May 12, 2012

Last night was the second night of the Jubilation/Elizabeth Stuart Choir Festival V, and appearance of the Mary Queen of Peace Chamber Choir, the Little Choir That Could. In the end, we couldn’t, but we gave it our best shot.

It had been pretty stressy going in. The Thurs. rehearsal was a workout; I had throat discomfort the next day. When you’re 1-2 on a part, there’s not much of a lifeline if you fall off the tightrope, you can hear every little imperfection, there were the usual suspects adding stress. Even warming up downstairs, we were changing things like performing pitch (though thankfully, we finally had the notes in hand).

Then upstairs to hear the competition. I’d heard 2 groups on the radio the night before and wasn’t worried, but tonight’s competition was stiffer, alarmingly so. Hudson UCC was pretty damn good… fine blend, dynamic range, diction and rhythm. And I sat there thinking, “We are screwed.”  Their gospel tune rocked pretty hard for a bunch of white folk from the ‘burbs. Processing to the back to that tune seemed a bit too much like a victory lap for me.

Next up was St. Noel Willoughby, in their first competition. They were big – about 70 – and also good, though not as consistent as Hudson, with some blend issues in the men, mushy diction and the occasional intonation lapse. And they HAD enough men, unusually for an OF Catholic choir. And the very able accompaniment of the amazing Eric Charnofsky.

And then it was our turn, and we sang at about 96% of potential. There were a few little lapses, but no disasters, and we were VERY well received by the audience. Praise afterwards, from other choir members, about our diction, our voices, expressivity, and repertoire (especially the Iain Quinn Vidi Aquam, which had been a controversial repertoire choice, particular for the closer. It’s beautiful, but pretty crunchy harmonically, and not at all a “big finish”.) All this we heard from people while we waited for the judges.  Fr. Doug showed up, which meant a lot to me. It is SO important to have the pastor in your corner, if you’re going to do traditional Catholic music.

Finally the judges came out, they got people shushed and cut back from the station, and they brought Robert Page up to read the results and give out the prizes. He was saving the winner for last (they don’t rank anyone else). So they named off yesterday’s choirs, then Hudson, which I somehow didn’t notice. Then #5, Mary Queen of Peace. Oh shit, we didn’t win. Shocked silence in the room as it dawns on St. Noel that if we’re #5, they’re the winner. BIG applause for us, and then of course big applause for St. Noel. After things quieted down, we approached Dave onstage. We’d gotten some amusement from Hudson’s choir motto, because Dave’s motto for us had been, “If you don’t win, you’d better find another choir director to go home with.” So Majersic said, “You SUCK! I’m quitting!” and I said, “OK, Hudson IS closer to home.” He was amused, and was happy with our performance.

I don’t know how the judges judged, and how subjective the process was. In purely objective terms, I thought Hudson was the better choir. But I’m really glad that a Catholic choir won, because most of them suck so badly (when they exist at all). And their repertoire was middle-of-the-road, which is an improvement on so many parishes. We got judged harder because we were obviously professional…but we predicted that going in. We just weren’t professional enough, what with that bass with the breathing issues (that would be me). I don’t feel very bad about being beaten by a choir 10x our size. And I’m not sure how we compared, since what we did was so different from anybody else. Our program was 50% Renaissance, and 50% Latin (not the same 50%), and was radically traditional-Catholic except for the obligatory African-American piece (and the Stainer maybe, though it’s hard to define a setting of John 3:16 as sectarian)  and we were the only group to perform exclusively a cappella. We got to show the world the best of what happens musically at MQoP… which is mainly why we did it.  That, and making some money to pay us with.

There were choirs (at least half) who brought instruments besides piano with them. Do they usually have that in their services? Was it an attempt to curry favor? I don’t know. I was amused by St. Noel’s flute piece though. It’s funny; flutes had never been part of the Catholic church music tradition, and were actively discouraged in Papal documents (which means they WERE used occasionally) — until Vatican II. Now they’re everywhere, the sackbuts and violins of the 21st century. Now, I don’t have a problem with that, as they don’t have those noisy theatrical lascivious associations for me, and the V2 docs are more permissive in that regard. I should have a problem, maybe, as flutes, harps and drums are the primary neo-pagan instruments. I just note that it’s yet another 180 from tradition.

So, it’s over…and there’s planting and composing to do.

Copland and Perry

December 12, 2011

The day began with one of my lefty Facebook friends raving about Rick Perry’s TV ad using Aaron Copland’s music. I hadn’t heard the ad, so I played it there as it was set out. Now I read Tom Jackson, linking the ad and noting that the music is NOT Copland. And indeed, it isn’t. Not only is it not any Copland piece that I know, but the woodwind writing doesn’t ring true; it’s too dense and solid. It’s certainly Copland-LIKE. But so is most of John Williams, just to mention the most famous miner of that lode. When you’re the Iconic American Composer, you set the style for icons. And that style has become the musical shorthand for “wide open spaces good old-time America”.

It was apparently an Alex Ross tweet that got the whole Perry/Copland meme going. Now, there’s less than no love lost between Ross and Perry; I’m a Ron Paul guy myself so I really don’t give a shit one way or another (especially as I’m not much motivated by gay issues). So yea, it was a deliberate attempt to make Perry look bad (as opposed to a passing cultural observation.) But then, the standard musical formula for love scenes in an earlier movie era was to use fake Tchaikovsky…who was of course queerer than a $3 bill. Yes, passion is passion (like “a mouth is a mouth”), but if we’re going to read things into films, based on the back story of composers who inspired film music composers, just what does that signify? If one is responsible for taking into account the sexual preferences of the inspirations on one’s media employees, then what was Perry’s team to do? I suppose that they could use fake Charles Ives, who had pretty impeccable gay-averse credentials (I don’t use the term “homophobic” because such people generally do not fear gays…though considering how many gays are  into physical culture, perhaps they should .),  but polytonality doesn’t suggest “E pluribus unum” and conservative politics to the average listener…. not to mention that Ives’ source material was diversity-deprived, being very Christian, and very WASP, and hasn’t been on the hit charts since 1898 at the latest. Which may, now that I think of it, might be an advantage to Perry.

The irony is probably lost on Perry’s target audience, who, if they noticed the music at all, probably thought it sounded like “movie music…John Williams… the score from The Patriot“, in order of specificity. I’ve never seen Brokeback Mountain, but I have to wonder now if there are Coplandisms there, and what they mean.  This friend-on-a-friend stuff is weak tea… which may be why the Internet insisted on amping it up to real Copland.

Choir rant

September 23, 2011

Last night was another rehearsal of the church choir I’ll be singing with come October. And it was not a pretty listen, to hear the notes of the easiest possible motets being beaten into them. I haven’t sung with a choir of non-music-students or dedicated amateurs since high school, and I had forgotten how bad it could be. Lack of literacy I expected. I don’t know why; I really need to check out all those community theater troupes who give parts to illiterates and then teach them their lines by rote. What I did not expect was a soprano section that could not match pitches. There was somebody seriously wandering in the wilderness there, and it did not seem to get better. There’s an ear at work, I think; at one cadence, having landed a whole step lower than the rest of the section, she corrected herself down to a minor third, which sounded better. I’m not in charge there, so I can’t do anything about it; perhaps neither can the director, given the gnarly world of church politics. He kept on mentioning “intonation”, but once you’re more than 50 cents off, it’s no longer an intonation issue,but a note issue. I’v got a guy in my section who is a bit behind too, but he’s making noticeable progress. He tends to get off when there’s more than one part going, and big leaps are scary, but he’s getting there. Of course, blend and vowel issues aren’t addressed, or dynamics. We do observe a few cutoffs, just to stay out of the “snake pit” of endless S.

I have to wonder whether modern Catholicism is subliterate. There’s seldom a worship aid that will give you the jingles of the Mass…which are never what’s in the missalette. So if you won’t go there every week, you’re not going to do the “active participation” thing. If choirs and congregations aren’t expected to “say the black/do the red” is it any wonder that priests don’t either?  If you can’t read notes, you’re like the priest who says “This is THE Body” at the consecration. If you can’t hold a pitch, worse, you’re like a priest with such a bad case of the shakes that he spills the Precious Blood.

So I’m there, listening, trying to get a convert’s handle on this “Offer it up” (euphemism for “Suck it up!”?) thing that Catholics do.  Realistically, Jesus suffered for me, so I can hear bad singing for Him. As martyrdoms go, it’s penny-ante, pissant stuff. I’m not locked in a room with 9 other smelly Polacks to starve to death, or wrapped in reed mats and burned, or flayed alive. If it’s too much, God could take away my voice or hearing, and that would be far worse. Objectively, I’ve got it pretty good. I’m humbling myself on purpose, because I need to observe how these thing work, because the dioceses who are having trouble keeping the lights on are not going to be springing for professional musicians any time soon. And I realize that my horror of the experience is a good marker of how much I need to do it.