Of Music and Musicians

The feast of St Cecilia is a good day on which to think about music and musicians. Let me say straight away that I am very average choir fodder. Indeed, when being taught to sing plainchant, I so exasperated my teacher that she exclaimed, ‘It’s just a matter of intelligence!’ Whereupon, to my eternal discredit, I did an off-the-cuff translation of one of the trickier hymns in the Hymnale. Pride 1; humility nil.

Inability to sing or play should not be confused with the ability to enjoy. There are very few who do not enjoy music, although we certainly don’t all enjoy the same music. I think it’s no accident that the concept of ‘heavenly harmony’ and the ‘music of the spheres’ runs so deeply through western culture and civilization. For instance, I often use the image of playing a string quartet to describe the dynamic of community living. Each brings to the whole an individual talent, but through intense listening to each other, periods of silence as well as playing, something greater and more beautiful is produced than one alone could achieve.

So today, when we thank God for the joy and beauty that music and musicians bring to our lives and to the liturgy of the Church, we might also spend a few moments thinking about something less abstract: the way in which we ourselves contribute to the music of the universe. We may be only ‘average choir fodder’ but we each have something worth giving.

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5 thoughts on “Of Music and Musicians”

  1. Thanks for a sign of hope for a tuneless, tone deaf, below average singer, who loves singing the Hymns and Psalms.

    Perhaps the gift of not be able to sing well, is also good for our humility. Realising that we each have different gifts, and being able to recognise them and to share the ones we for the benefit of all.

  2. Oh how I wanted to be a singer when I was a teenager! But goodness me, there are few people who have a less worse “meowing” sound for a voice than me. Even so music was a fundamental part of my existence culminating in being allowed to sing in the school choir which meant we turned up on Saturdays for weddings, funerals too…. There remains much nostalgia for this:
    Dies iræ! Dies illa
    Solvet sæclum in favilla:
    Teste David cum Sibylla!
    … Plain Chant??

  3. I like to remember a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo – ‘Singing is praying twice.’ Now, the redaction of that could go on for pages. I prefer to think that God loves those who sing and try to sing.

  4. For those who don’t consider their voice to be a suitable instrument for public praise, please consider playing an instrument. I sing with our choir using my violin.

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