Halleluia! He is Risen!
My liturgical musician friends and I have completed our singing, playing the organ, ringing the handbells, or blowing the trumpets to rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and triumph over death. To borrow (and mutilate) that phrase from the post office, neither congested parking lots, disruptive latecomers crowding into full pews, nor fiery Pascal candle flame flickering outdoors in that wind Saturday night stayed we couriers of the Good News from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Unbridled Easter joy!
Well, let me amend that: my Easter joy dimmed a bit as I sat with mug of coffee in hand this morning to catch up with the stack of this weekend’s newspapers on my kitchen table. On the front page of Sunday’s statewide daily paper was a picture of a robed choir in a sanctuary innocently entitled, “On Easter, Singing the Lord’s Praises”.
“Good,” I thought. “Finally, the secular press realizes that, for we church folk, it’s not all about the new clothes or chocolate bunnies or hunting for plastic eggs.” No such luck; by the third paragraph, I read “Easter, and in fact all of Holy Week, is the big season for these musicians…. there is money in it all.”
The writer interviewed a number of both secular and liturgical musicians who perform their craft during the Triduum. A few of them were, indeed, just sharing their talents for a paycheck. One trumpet player/teacher, painfully unaware of the holiness of the season, said unabashedly, “Most of the professional[s] are working on Easter. It’s too bad it’s not every week.”
Thankfully (and not unsurprisingly) however, each liturgical musician interviewed emphasized the love, the reverence, and the feeling of fulfillment they experienced as they led the congregation through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ via music. John J. Miller, director of music ministries at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark professed it eloquently, noting, “The texture and color of the brass emphasize the jubilance and the glorious character of Christ’s resurrection… the paid (musicians) do not consider it just a job where they show up, get a check, and go home.”
Bravo, John. I’d like to expound upon that on behalf of all of us liturgical musicians in central Jersey and around the world.
Yes, we musicians grow weary from hurried commutes, late Vigils and early sunrise services, but we understand that the weariness is washed away as we celebrate as a church community.
Yes, we musicians grow hungry from inadequate, hastily-consumed meals between liturgies, but we understand that the hunger we feel will be satisfied in the Eucharist.
Yes, we musicians look out upon pews crowded with unfamiliar congregants who attend Mass only during Easter and Christmas, but we welcome the chance to evangelize with the lapsed and the lost and the lonely and, perhaps, coax a few of them to come back more often into the fold.
Yes, we musicians are burdened with extra practices, extra octavos, extra preparation for multiple liturgies, but this burden pales beside the burden of the cross which He carried to save us all and upon which He suffered and died.
And, finally, yes we may indeed draw a paycheck for what we do, but we gain so much more than that paltry earthly reward. Our unique gift of music is for His glory and must be shared to be of any lasting value; we eagerly a reward greater than any paycheck: everlasting membership in the heavenly choir.
We liturgical musicians wouldn’t do what we do for any other reason but for His glory; we know it’s a bargain at any price.
Halleluia! He is Risen!