Feel the bass!

What makes good liturgical music?

I genuinely believe that it doesn't matter at all whether your community has the finest church organ in the county played by a skilled and sensitive organist or you rely on two guitars and a tin whistle, or even what musical/liturgical style you have; what makes liturgy beautiful is when you have a community gathered, strong in faith and the living of that faith, singing prayerfully with their collective heart, mind, soul and voice.

I can't remember whether I have already told the following story - the old memory is not what it used to be.  Several years ago I spent a few days at a convent for a private retreat.  This convent was recommended by a couple of friends but I was warned that I may find their singing of the office 'hard work' - the sisters were mostly advanced in years and their singing voices were well past their best.  And yet I found it quite beautiful.  True, they would never be asked to record a CD.  But their humility, sanctity and faith shone through as they sang their simple Psalm tones when gathered to sing the Office.

It is that living faith that makes our liturgical singing beautiful.

That said, those of us involved in the music for the liturgy do have a responsibility to carry out our ministry to the best of our ability.  Not through pride, or obsessiveness, but out of love - love for God and for the Church gathered in prayer.  As Catholics we do believe that God communicates through beauty, and so we should do what we can to make our music beautiful.

One way in which we have been working on this is through an increasing use of harmonies by our musicians.  But, by chance, we were able enhance the harmonies even more this weekend.  Set-ups like ours are generally short of bass, of some low-end 'grunt' in the music.  However a cellist has just joined our group and the difference she has made is quite striking, creating a much fuller sound.  Only once before have I had use of a bass instrument - a tuba at a school I used to work at - and such instruments are absolutely a blessing in our ministry. 

Do try and hunt them out in your own community.


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