Wednesday, January 30, 2008


...And he shall speak to you of beagle's things, rubber toys and chewy things...

Gotta love it when the funeral "request line" starts running amok like a bunch of bad monkeys. Let me give you a quote from Domini Sumus' recent experience (emphasis mine):

My one victory: To the dismay of the parish secretary, I successfuly nixed Wind Beneath My Wings from the request list. Unfortunately, it was replaced by On Eagles Wings. What's the fascination with wings? The secretary even asked if I would play a CD with Wind Beneath My Wings. NO!

What part doesn't this secretary understand? No secular music at Mass. Period. Scratch that. EXCLAMATION POINT!

I can remember one funeral - roughly a couple of dozen years ago, where the family asked for Imagine. Yes, John Lennon's Imagine. I don't even like the song in secular circuits, let alone at Mass. And when I mentioned that it didn't belong at Mass, the PASTOR asked me, "Couldn't you play it at the recessional, just the organ? You don't have to sing it." WTF??? And I was only 20 then. Bright side - that pastor's now long retired.

Another sentiment I can relate to:
What's the fascination with wings?

What the hell IS the fascination with wings? More than once have I been asked for the Bette Midler "hit", only for the song to get turned down by yours truly, then get asked for Beagle's Things (who let the dogs out?). And yes, this included a deal with my wife's mother and aunts in picking music for her grandfather's funeral (my rare pro bono work at the console). I was lucky enough to successfully "catechize" my own in-laws at that moment, and I was complimented at the end by even the most distant of relatives.

Unfortunately, "catechesis" isn't always successful. But what I can't understand is that I've heard many horror stories about weddings. I've had pretty dang good luck overall with weddings. It's the dang funerals where most tiffs get created. Here's an experience that is a bit more current - during my Holy Ghost days...

One of the responsibilities of any parish musician is not only to ensure that only sacred music be allowed at Mass, but to ensure that the Mass music itself doesn't get toyed with (like seeing to it that All I Ask of You, Beagle's Things, and Make Me a Channel of Your Peace aren't responsorial Psalms), and to see to it that the apparent bad theology isn't present. A couple of the goofy things one often encounters is Here Me Is, Lard as the casket's being rolled down the aisle, and Gentle Woman because "Ant Josie was such a gentle woman" (As hideous as the song is, Gentle Woman was written to the Blessed Virgin Mary, not Ant Josie, though Mary must be rolling in her grave every time she hears this). Well, when one woman called me about Here Me Is, Lard as the entrance, I suggested that we move the song elsewhere into the Mass (like the offertory), she started ranting that she's a CCD director and she couldn't believe that "a parish could be so restrictive". I stood my ground. Where the hell do some of the people get these ideas? I don't even get this at weddings!

One of the nicer spots is that in my diocese, the parish hands the organist the check for playing the funeral Mass. The undertaker was relieved of those duties last July (he now hands a check to the parish for EVERYTHING and the parish draws from that to pay the organist). This change was Bishop Tobin's own doing, and his reasoning is very good. The intended purpose was to try to relieve the undertaker of any impression that since he's handing you the check that he own's yer hide. Unfortunately, it hasn't changed things much. The request line is still open in many parishes, supported even by many pastors. You can usually tell by the first words a pastor asks: "Did you get those requests they asked about?" Warning light right there.

Someday laity and clergy alike will get it. Maybe not in my generation, but someday.

Gerald Augustinus points out another problem - when you have to play a funeral and you only have Gather to work with (this is a response to a question he received from one of his readers).

Well, Gather violates the Geneva Conventions. It's one of the low points in the history of the West.
Ideas ? I'd suggest a traditional Requiem Mass, but that might be hard to come by.


1 comment:

Jason Pennington said...

Here's the bad music catechism:
Why is Beagle's so appealing?

Beagle's is so appealing because the priests refuse to teach their congregations what good music really is and why chant and polyphony are the first choice. This is all they know. "Uncle Henry had it at his ditching back in the 1980's, so I guess that's fine with us now, as long as we get his cash, it doesn't matter what the cantor singz at the fun'ral."

Why don't priests do this?

Priests don't teach their congregations about music because teaching the congregation about anything church related, other than good stewardship, is difficult and the music in question is difficult and requires specialized knowledge to teach and coach. It's cheaper to hire a Sunday pianist/housewife to play easy piano music than to hire a trained Church musician to teach chant and polyphony. With the money saved, Father gets a new kitchen and a spiffy new set of All Clad cookware, and he gets out of writing difficult sermons and complicated pastor's letters. It's all about father. If father is lazy, father is happy. If father is happy, God is happy. If God is happy, beagles are happy.