VEN IF WE DON’T take into account the years of training, we all know the investment of time and effort it takes to get to the point where we can offer our musical services in the sacred liturgy: not only the hours of practice and performance, but also the time taken selecting appropriate music, printing or buying scores, travelling to and from practice and so forth. Hopefully it isn’t as much of a burden, but music is an inherently social activity, relying on strong and trusting relationships between musicians, so making sure to spend time with other musicians while not playing or singing also requires a commitment measured in hours. Nearly all of us have other professional commitments during the week and families to whom we owe our time. It’s understandable, therefore, that many liturgical musicians simply don’t feel they have time to undertake serious study of theology or musicology alongside all of their other commitments.
My professional commitments are as a secondary school teacher. Teachers are often warned of the danger of getting trapped in the “hamster wheel” of professional practice. We can be so caught up in the cycle of planning, delivering and marking lessons, that we never have time to step back and consider the bigger picture in a way that would improve how we do our jobs. It strikes me that the same is true of parish musicians. As ministers and servants of the sacred liturgy, we need the opportunity to think about the theory of what, how and why we engage in our vocation.
Following the call of Sacrosanctum Concilium for musicians to receive “a genuine liturgical training” and for clergy and religious to have a musical formation (SC 115), we need to develop a reflexive practice in order to be able to offer the best of ourselves. That you’re reading Corpus Christi Watershed might suggest that you already think that this should be part of your vocation.
One of the great helps as a teacher is the growth of education and pedagogy blogs. The best of these publish short articles on one idea at a time, sometimes with an example or a practical application, in a quick and readable form. Over the next months I will be writing articles for Corpus Christi Watershed in the same vein. I hope that their format will allow busy liturgical musicians time to revisit ideas they already knew, and introduce some ideas that might be new.
The other great benefit of education blogs is their ability to spark debate and dialogue between differing points of view. In the same way, any feedback you can offer would be warmly welcomed and I hope that your lived experience can contribute to future posts.