My daughter Clare, who is 16, has talked for a long time off and on about how she would like to see our church choir sing some more traditional songs. She joined the adult choir rather than the teen choir primarily because the teen choir tends to sing LifeTeen songs. With all due respect to contemporary Christian music, she has a lot to say about how it is not especially suitable for contemplation at Mass. Here's a summary of some of what Cardinal Ratzinger said on this; here's some things in his own words.
So she's been planning to try to convince them to sing some of the old beautiful music -- something more like this. Last week she printed out Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart and pondered it wistfully, wondering how best to persuade a group of active, admirable post-Vatican II people 25 years her senior to try what appears to be called a motet with four parts, without sounding condescending or critical or just way too challenging. She spent several hours trying to pick out the soprano part on the piano while she simultaneously sang the alto. Challenging would be an apt word. She has never even sung an alto harmony before. But she persisted. I offered to try to sing the soprano so she could keep her whole attention on the alto.
So we tried this soprano-alto arrangement, and found that I was stretching beyond my range on the soprano while she was struggling with the alto. Her range is several notes higher than mine. So we ended up switching. I have never sung an alto harmony either. I make plenty of humbling mistakes, especially since I usually learn music FAST. THis learning process is not fast. But when we get it together for a few notes, it sounds beautiful.... so beautiful.
What's this post about? I don't think I have a point, really....
- I could talk about John Holt "Learning All the Time" -- I'm 43 and JUST learning to sing a supporting part. And it is a good experience. Never too late. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, as Chesterton says.
- I could talk about teens in what Dorothy Sayers called the "Poetic" stage -- but in this context, it would probably be rather too patronizing about my daughter, who has gone beyond her family in understanding and love for beautiful old music.
- I could talk about the importance of a hobby or vocational interest in the life of a teenager
- I could talk about self-directed interests and where they come from and where they can lead. Where will it lead for Clare? She aspires to much and it is all unfolding under God's providence.
- I could talk about how wonderful it is to TRY to sing in harmony, how it reminds me of a relationship, and how multi-part singing IS a relationship -- what Sandra Dodd called Leaning on a Truck or Parallel Play -- or CS Lewis talked about as friendship -- two people cooperating and working on something different from and in a way bigger than either of them.
- And just look at the words of Ave Verum Corpus. Just reading or saying them is a prayer; and singing is praying twice; and singing in reverent, multi-part a capella seems to be something like what the angels might do. We are blessed to have such music in our Church treasure-house. Why do only a few people remember it is there, or value it as the treasure it is?