Dave and I are looking for a parish in our new east coast life. Actually, that's not quite true. I'm looking for a parish. He looked last year when he lived here alone, and quit trying in frustration. So I go off to church on Sundays and report back. So far, the best I've come up with was "it wasn't horrible."
The music in particular has been unrelentingly, laughably bad. My first thought is "they can't be serious". Is this God's people in amazing mediocrity? Or is it that people feel like they aren't entitled to better music? Or the priests and liturgists don't know how to charitably get rid of Matilda, who might have had a lovely voice 40 years ago, but since her hearing loss it's been a little dicey?
I can't believe that music doesn't matter to other people. Seriously, as a recruitment tool (not that that's the first priority of a parish) music is the smartest place a parish can spend its money. If the "celebration" of liturgy becomes instead an excruciating "Oh please God, let it be over soon" experience, what are we teaching people? What are we saying about the God who loves us? What are we saying about our standards?
Sometimes when people rant about the state of music in parishes, what they really want to see/hear is a return to the austere (and beautiful, I grant you) music of another age. Polyphony, perhaps. Maybe Gregorian chant. Or maybe just any pre-Vatican 2 hymn, not that those were uniformly great music. That, it will not surprise you, isn't my agenda.
I want a joyful noise. I want songs sung at a sprightly (but still appropriate) pace. I want accompanists who actually studied piano. Different kinds of instruments would be nice. I prefer choirs to cantors, but I'm flexible on that point. I want music that enriches liturgy. I don't want a performance (which is where polyphony and chant would err); it needs to be participatory.
I guess I have to keep looking. St. Cecilia, where are you when I need you?