Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sometimes, it’s better to play ball

A music director I know, a good man, was recently nudged out of his parish, supposedly because he, a staunch traditionalist, reallllllllly didn’t want to do more “contemporary” stuff. I don’t fault him, in a sense. I prefer more traditional stuff myself. But if there’s a theme set that I have developed on this blog over the last couple years, it’s the following:

1. Church music is not about you.
2. Differing musical preferences are OK.
3. Even though you may not like a hymn, swallow your pride and do it. You are a professional. This is your job. Do it.

This guy’s issue is that he finds “contemporary” music unworthy of Mass. Fine and dandy. But you can’t draw a wide brush to describe all “contemporary” music. There’s a gulf of difference between this or the Protestant songs that snuck into Mass (“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High”) and, say, “Open My Eyes” or “We Belong to You” or “Christ in Me Arise,” all excellent “contemporary” hymns that can also be done on organ.

Now, he is a music director, unlike me. So he can pick whatever songs he wants. But my point is that you can find serviceable, Mass-worthy “contemporary” songs now. He could have swallowed his pride and found the best “contemporary” out there. He could have, in other words, played ball. But it doesn’t seem like he did. Exiting a parish, in my mind, is something you want to avoid unless you have another job lined up or circumstances at the church are terribly dire. I wonder if at some point, he might regret what has happened.

But, as I’ve said, he’s a good man. I hope he lands safely on his feet quickly — perhaps a smidge wiser.


Everything falls apart; you can count on that

Oh, come on.

I’ve been snakebit lately, it seems. Two weeks ago, an organ broke while I was playing it. One week ago, an organ broke while I was playing it.

Good news: last weekend, I did not break an organ. Bad news: for the third weekend in a row, there was a malfunction.

This time, I was playing the Gloria at a different parish from the first two misfortunes. Their piano is being repaired, because it’s been fussy since it was put in. So they had an electric keyboard filling in, with one of those cheap plastic music stands attached.

I think you know where this is going.

Yes, the music stand decided to fall off with about a quarter of the Gloria left. It, of course, made a loud noise. Everyone stared.

I smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and muscle-memoried my way through the rest of the Gloria. Then the cantor and I got out a real music stand to use the rest of Mass.

I told this story to my parents that evening, when I stopped over for dinner.

“Well, this should be the end of it, right?” my mom asked, noting the old adage that bad things can happen in threes.

We can only hope, mom. We can only hope.


The situation: Confirmation (featuring the bishop, of course) is coming up at my main parish.

The problem: Most of the music is in Spanish (a small amount in English), but I have a shortage of available Spanish singers. My main cantor, for example, is going to Panama to visit her ailing mother. The English choir is coming too, but they’re not fluent in Spanish.

The solution: Networking! With all the parishes I play at, I had to know someone else who does Spanish Mass, right? And I do! The choir director at another parish. She’s coming and may bring a couple helpers. Since she’s fully bilingual, she can help with the English music I’m adding as well.

Not this type of reinforcement.

The lesson: If you have some small parishes (or small choirs), maybe some collaboration for big deals such as this is a very good idea. If this works well, I might suggest additional collaboration between parishes for things such as funerals. In the meantime, I’m thankful for selfless musicians who get me out of jams.

Bad breaks follow wherever I go

For the second week in a row, I broke a church organ.

OK, that’s not entirely true. Yes, the organs broke while I was playing them. That having been said, the cold weather has wreaked havoc on the pipes, which are protected from the snow but not the cold.

I didn’t do it!

This time, at least, the organ waited until my postlude to break, as opposed to last time. But this time, the break is, in a sense, worse. I could turn off the offending coupler in last week’s break at my main parish. So the organ is usable. But this time, at another parish, I cleared the organ, and the sound didn’t stop.

So the organ is not usable until that is fixed. That’s bad, and potentially expensive.

Now, I realize these breaks aren’t my fault. These are old organs, and even good, newer organs can have issues. But still, I feel bad.