EVERAL YEARS AGO, in a traditionalist publication, a certain author created what he called: A List Of The Fifteen Best Hymns. He included the following: (1) At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing; (2) The Lamb’s High Banquet We Await. Do you see the problem? If that author had purchased the Brébeuf hymnal, he would have known those are both the same hymn! They are English translations of Ad Cœnam Agni Providi (also known as Ad Regias Agni Dapes after 1631AD). It makes no sense to create a list of “best hymns” containing duplicate entries. Willard Romney is not a different senator than Mitt Romney. John Ellis Bush is not a different governor than Jeb Bush. Eldrick Woods is not a different golfer than Tiger Woods.
Our Core Problem?
The author claimed he was an expert on hymnody—yet he was guilty of a rookie’s error. I sometimes wonder if church musicians make the mistake of talking about the sacred liturgy in ways the average Catholic cannot understand. In other words, we “assume” Catholics know things they actually don’t. We “assume” folks in the pews understand concepts which are—to be completely honest—quite complex for those who haven’t dedicated their lives to church music. We “assume” Catholics know the difference between a COLLECT and an INTROIT. We “assume” Catholics realize 30+ different translations exist for each Latin Breviary hymn. We “assume” people realize what 88 88 meter is, or 86 86, or 87 87 87.
Consider this live recording from last Sunday. How many people know what happens at marker 0:23—in terms of what the voices do?
Failure To Communicate Well
Church musicians: Is this what we’re doing wrong? Do we need to start speaking about the sacred liturgy in what we would consider painfully obvious language? Are be boring our potential students because we “assume” they have the same command of these subjects as we do?
If an “expert” of hymns doesn’t even realize he’s listing the same text twice, what can we reasonably expect from the “average” Catholics in the pews? (I hate talking about “average” Catholics, but hopefully you get the point.)
Do we too often fall into the trap of speaking to people, not at the level they are, but at the level at which we desire them to be?