About this blogger:
Veronica Brandt holds a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering. As editor, she has produced fine publications (as well as valuable reprints) dealing with Gregorian chant, hymnody, Latin, and other subjects. These publications are distinguished on account of their tastefulness. She lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her husband Peter and five children.
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The representative Protestant collection, entitled “Hymns, Ancient and Modern”—in substance a compromise between the various sections of conflicting religious thought in the Establishment—is a typical instance. That collection is indebted to Catholic writers for a large fractional part of its contents. If the hymns be estimated which are taken from Catholic sources, directly or imitatively, the greater and more valuable part of its contents owes its origin to the Church.
— Orby Shipley (1884)

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It's not about talent
published 25 June 2016 by Veronica Brandt

Veronica at the keyboard AST WEEK I READ A COMMENT exhorting church musicians to be grateful for their God-given talents and the joy of playing music.

It may have been the emotional turmoil of third trimester pregnancy, or maybe some leftover exhaustion from a recent interstate trip, but suddenly I was sobbing into my arm in a flood of self-pity.

You see, I may be the worst aspiring organist I know who has the temerity to play at Mass. My fingers seem to be unable to stick to the right key signature and require 150% attention to stay on track. The times I get things right are generally the result of hours of practice in my “spare time”.

My singing voice may be passable, but I know enough to wish for some proper voice coaching as well as more practice singing together with the choir. We never seem to get up to “blending” – it takes long enough to hit the notes, let alone work on a good sound.

In short, talent just doesn’t come into it. The thing that makes music happen is lots and lots of work.

So many people will not try joining the choir under the blind assertion that they don’t have the talent. I don’t need talented singers – I need ordinary singers with the ability to attend weekly practice. That would be wonderful.

This idea carries over into other areas. Working on web pages has some of the same mystique and the same proportion of work to talent required. Today I formatted Charcoal Management 101 for my husband’s art shop. My eldest son – who also forms half my regular choir – helped with some of the more repetitive work while I squeezed in some more keyboard practice.

Drawing itself is another area where people often sigh about how talented someone is to draw so well. The facility in drawing is earned over many years of practice. There’s a great story about Picasso:

Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him. “It’s you — Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist.”
So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.
“It’s perfect!” she gushed. “You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?”
“Five thousand dollars,” the artist replied.
“B-b-but, what?” the woman sputtered. “How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!”
To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life.”

A church musician’s work may well be priceless. We don’t need to have gratitude for our natural talent, though talent can make life easier. The big honour is to serve God at the summit and source of Christian life. Servire Deo regnare est. To serve God is to reign.