About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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“I have, on the other hand, retained several more or less traditional tunes, absolutely valueless and without merit from a musical point of view, but which seem to have become a necessity if a book is to appeal—as I hope this one will—to the varied needs of various churches.”
— A. Edmonds Tozer (1905)

Christmas • When Jackie Gleason Broke Character (Updated)
published 24 December 2016 by Jeff Ostrowski

ATERSHED OWES so much to supporters like you. Below is a small Christmas gift I hope you’ll enjoy. It’s the conclusion of a HONEYMOONERS episode; the only one in which Gleason steps out of character:

Gleason had something to teach choirmasters. He avoided over-rehearsing his cast. He believed things turned out better that way. A good choirmaster knows when to “hammer” something hard during rehearsal—but avoids rehearsing a piece so much the choir begins to hate it.

LEASON AND HIS CAST made live performance seem so easy & natural. Few realize how diligently Gleason had to work to produce such phenomenal results. The same is true of the choirmaster. We do so many things and make so many decisions we’ll never get credit for—our jobs are incredibly demanding.

I know we can become discouraged, but I have some good news.

In order to understand the good news, you must first learn about Jerry Seinfeld, who was a master of “situational comedy.” To be clear, I have nothing against Seinfeld; and he’s quite good at situational comedy. But there’s more to his story. Seinfeld was incredibly successful and soon reached the highest echelon of his profession. He was rich and powerful. He did whatever he wanted. 1 But in a recent interview, Jerry Seinfeld said that—after attaining those heights—his life lost all meaning. He ended his show and “basically played pool” (his words) for about two years. But his life still had no meaning. So Seinfeld began working again—and said something terrifying about this! He said that, in his opinion, the meaning of life is a “hard day’s work,” when you come home totally exhausted from working so hard.

We Roman Catholics know better. We know the meaning of life is absolutely not throwing ourselves into “work” (whatever “work” might be).

I know we can sometimes feel discouraged as choirmasters. We often suffer tremendously and deal with major frustrations. But “say not the struggle naught availeth.” Let Jerry Seinfeld be our reminder that nothing can replace our longing for God: not money, not fame, not power, not work. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord; and they are restless until they rest in Thee.” When you’re near the end of your rope, rejoice that you have something worth fighting for—namely JESUS CHRIST, His Church, and your eternal salvation!

UPDATE :   (24 December 2016)

I forgot something important. When we’re “too close” to the choir, we can become convinced things sound bad. However, that’s not always true. I recently found an old recording by my high school girls (circa 2009), which—at the time—I thought was severely flawed. When I listen after all these years, I must admit it doesn’t sound horrible:

    * *  Mp3 • High School Girls’ Choir (“Tantum Ergo”)

My little son likes to bring me pine cones, which he carefully collects. It may not seem like much, but it means everything to me. In the end, our offerings to God are like his pine cones. God doesn’t need them, and doesn’t need us. At the same time, they are priceless in His eyes!


1   When Seinfeld was 39 years old, he dated a 17-year-old girl (still in high school) named Shoshanna Lonstein. Sadly, our celebrity-obsessed culture tolerates such inappropriate things. It was not always so, but that’s another story.