Every now and then I relish the opportunity to celebrate the quiet heroes of the parish, the people who, mostly remaining in the background, do so much good and enable the parish to become a place of healing, hope, friendship and faith. It is long past time that I acknowledge some not-so-quiet heroes – the parish musicians and choir members.
Part of the special character of Padre Serra is the way the music is so uplifting. The trouble is it is so consistently good that, if I’m not careful, I can begin to take it for granted.
When that happens, there is nothing like going to Mass anywhere else to refocus my awareness on how good we have it. Celebrating with other communities when I am away schools me in the need to appreciate the efforts of directors, musicians and singers who enliven our worship here in Camarillo so dependably well.
Part of our parish’s special tuneful equation is just how varied the repertoire is, from classic Catholic polyphony, to modern compositions, old standards, spirituals and praise hymns, from ancient to new. I’m sure you’ve noticed that, while our texts are overwhelmingly in English, some are Latin and, occasionally, Tagalog and Spanish. That kind of musical breadth and linguistic depth takes open spirits, the willingness to stretch and a lot of practice and experience.
Now, doing music as well as our choirs do it demands competence, artistry, and hours of practice. Children’s choir rehearses weekly on Mondays after school, the 11 am choir on Tuesdays, and the 9 am on Thursdays, both in the evening. When we get into the special liturgical seasons of the year, before Christmas concerts, to prepare for Holy Week, etc., additional rehearsals are necessary. I am truly grateful that our parish contains so many people with generous hearts, willing to make that double commitment, to be at a given Mass time and its preceding rehearsal.
On a side note, I hope you’ve noticed how often the words of the songs reflect the content of the readings. Time after time, Dominic has managed to find sung texts that reflect what I’ve tried to communicate in my homilies. I can’t say that it’s never an accident of grace, but most often it’s because of Dominic’s deep knowledge of the texts, and his willingness to do long range planning.
Having sung in choirs in the ten years I was in the seminary, I know the particular struggle of keeping my music in order, attending to meter, maintaining melody and pitch, faithfully observing the director’s leads, and…praying. The whole purpose of the music program is to lead us into sung prayer, where sacred texts and musical artistry combine to lift our minds to the holy presence of God. Musicians and singers have to commit deeply to prayer to stave off distractions. I am so thankful to them for this.