HAVE MELLOWED considerably in my old age. So I thought. But it’s not true. Even if I have, it’s not saying much. I have a very long way to go. But if I’ve softened in some ways, I’ve become much more intense in others. Priorities are clarified and heightened. Yet, the soul is relatively more centered, I pray.
And then there are days I feel I’m more of a mess than I’ve ever been. Then it’s time to remember God is in charge, and we are to serve Him.
Service to God and the faithful is the primary responsibility of our roles in the liturgy. If I have calmed my musical approach as an organist or director, it is because I have become more intense about this notion of service.
For example, the older I get, the more I spend time practicing and preparing hymns and service music. I play mass every day. Shouldn’t I know these, just show up and play them? Yes, I could do that. But I’m spending even more time choosing the specifics of text, tune, harmonization, and registration. Why? Because this is one of the most important things I must do in a week. I owe it to the people and to God. The flashy postlude is of far lesser importance.
As years go by, I prepare more—not in order to receive accolades—but to become invisible. To be solid, reliable, and therefore unnoticed is an essential goal these days. My, I have mellowed! But not: to lead and uplift while pointing away from myself and toward God is the ultimate goal I’m chasing.
R. RYAN DUNS, S.J., a newly ordained priest, shared with me a simple guide from his homiletics class: Believe. Connect. Disappear. It is something he clearly puts into practice during his wonderfully edifying homilies. This is also a great model for liturgical musicians.
We must not only make beautiful music on the surface. We must also believe fervently in our hearts in order to inspire and therefore connect.
Then we must step aside in order to allow the faithful to take this sacred melody and text into their hearts.
ALL SACRED MUSIC MUST BE CENTERED IN CHRIST. It must point to God alone and to no one else. Doing so serves the faithful. As musicians for the liturgy, this is our true goal.