About this blogger:
Andrew Leung is a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville, Ohio. He has served as Director of Music at St. Pius X Church (Atlanta) and taught Gregorian chant at the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit (Georgia). For two years, he will be studying in Macau, China.
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“With all the powers of modern music open to him, from romanticism through French impressionism to the German and Russian modernists, he is yet able to confine all these contradictory forces on the groundwork of the Gregorian tradition.”
— Theodor Rehmann (on Msgr. Jules Van Nuffel)

Sacred Music as an Emotional Experience
published 6 August 2015 by Andrew Leung

CTL Emotional Sacred Music AVE YOU EVER gotten emotional after listening to a piece of church music? Or have you had someone in the congregation come up to you after Mass to tell you how they were touch by your music? During the summer, my choirs take a break from singing and the cantors take up the responsibility of leading the singing at Mass. Two of my youngest and best cantors sang at Mass this past Sunday. Because of the limited voices and John’s Gospel on the “Bread from Heaven”, I picked César Franck’s Panis Angelicus as the communion motet at the principle Mass. The two ladies sang a duet and did an absolutely beautiful job with it. After Mass, I got many compliments from parishioners. Many told me that the piece was very touching and a few people actually cried. Is that supposed to be the result of good church music?

St. Augustine mentioned about the danger of music being just “pleasures of the flesh” in the Confessions. I think liturgical music is not about “feeling good” nor “being touched”, but it is a form of prayer. Even though sometimes the Holy Spirit touches people with music, but making people emotional and touched was never my goal. My job is to make it a prayer to God by taking Sacred Music to the highest level. When people tell me about their emotional experiences with the music, I always remind myself not to rejoice for people being touched by my music; but to rejoice because God was glorified and the Holy Spirit is working through the music.

The above situation is really the “good side” of emotion in the field Sacred Music. If you are a music director, I am sure that you have also experience the “bad side”: negative comments and complains. I think the “bad side” can be divided into three categories in general. The first category is negative comments due to misunderstandings and the lack of liturgical catechesis. These conflicts can usually be solved by polite and objective explanations. The second category is negative, but constructive comments. These comments may make us feel bad at first but they are usually helpful. When you hear these comments, what you need to do is: calm down, analyze and improve. The third kind is the ridiculous complains that don’t make any sense. These unreasonable complains can drive us crazy and affect our performance. All you can do is pray for the person, control your own emotion and say the prayer to St. Michael and tell Satan to get behind you.

The field of Sacred Music is truly a place filled with emotions.