Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Not-so-Humble Musical Opinion

The musicians at church have received our copies of the new Breaking Bread for 2010.

It's a rare occasion when I get to pick the music for a Sunday Mass. But that doesn't mean that I don't have an opinion. Having volunteered as a church musician since 1981 (except for my 3 "maternity breaks"), I've had plenty of time to cultivate my opinion about the music.

  • Some of my opinions are theological. I'm not a fan of the songs that make us "sing the words of Jesus" even though they may be musically beautiful and Biblically-based. However, I think those songs definitely have a place, but not for congregational or even choral singing. And many of them are beautiful, as I've said--musically and lyrically.
  • Some of my opinions are musical. I don't care for the kinds of songs that sound more like show tunes than hymns.
  • Some of my opinions are editorial--there are songs out there that are just plain bad poetry.
  • Some of my opinions are nostalgic. It drives me nuts when the lyrics to a perfectly good song get changed because they are no longer "PC"--for example, the masculine pronouns are used for God. (Oh, the horror!)
  • And some of my opinions are based upon exhaustion, because there are songs that have been so overused that I simply cannot stand to have to hear them again, let alone sing and play them.
So here's my list, based on the 2010 Breaking Bread, of songs I'd rather not have to sing during the coming liturgical year. I've only included songs I know. If I don't know the song, no matter how bad it may be, it's not going to be on my list.

Let the Valleys Be Raised (Schutte)--this one was wonderful before they changed the words to be PC.
Ashes (Conry)--ick.
Beyond the Days (Manalo)--belongs on Broadway, not in church.
In These Days of Lenten Journey (Manalo)--could we get any more self-congratulatory than these lyrics?
Resucito (Arguello)--fortunately, the music director who had us singing this has moved on. We're not a Spanish-speaking parish, so there's no need to sing in that language. And the translation is terrible. The English and Spanish verses have little to do with each other, and neither one is good poetry.
Gather Us In (Haugen)--this one is bad on so many levels.
Gather The People (Schutte)--it's not very original; many of his songs have the same theme. He's been very big on "inclusion" lately. And that last line of each verse: "Here we become what we eat"--I get what he means, but there has to be a better way to say that.
Song of the Body of Christ (Haas)--whiny melody, and bad poetry. Not a good combo.
I Am the Bread of Life (Toolan)--if I never have to sing this one again, it'll be too soon. Every time I'm told that we'll be singing it, my response is "Kill me now."
Pan de Vida (Hurd)--again, we don't speak Spanish here (but I do, and the translation is horrible). I don't switch well between languages, so it drives me crazy that the refrain is half English, half Spanish.
That There May Be Bread (Weston Priory)--along with just about all the Weston Priory songs, the lyrics are bizarre. Nice words that really say nothing.
The Summons (Bell)--first-person singular.
Servant Song (McCargill)--I like the sentiment, but not the lyrics, and not the melody.
Here I Am, Lord (Schutte)--first-person singular.
All Are Welcome (Haugen)--this is not a bad song in itself, but it has a bad association for me. It was sung at a special Mass where we said goodbye to the Sisters who had been told by the pastor that they needed to relocate because we could no longer afford to keep the convent open. All are Welcome--but don't let the door hit you on your way out.
Sing a New Church (Dufner)--don't get me started.
Endless is Your Love (Kendzia)--sounds like something the leading lady sings when she's alone on the stage. To her boyfriend.
You Are Near (Schutte)--this was fine until they took out the "Yahweh." I understand that we want to be sensitive to other faiths...but it's hard to rethink lyrics I've known since the '70s.
The Spirit is a-Movin' (Landry)
Come to Me (Weston Priory)--first-person singular.
You Are Mine (Haas)--first-person singular.
The Lord Is My Hope (Ridge)--more Broadway stuff.
We Have Been Told (Haas)--first-person singular.
Anthem (Conry)--FUN to play. I love playing it. But the lyrics are STRANGE!
We Are the Light of the World (Greif)--kill me now.
Sing to the Mountains (Dufford)--it was great before they made it PC.
Lift Up Your Hearts (O'Connor)--same thing.
Sing a New Song (Schutte)--this is no longer a new song. Let it go.
Speak, Lord (Uszler)--the refrain is great but the verses are a little off. You can tell that some of the verses were by a different lyricist.
They'll Know We Are Christians (Scholtes)--overdone.
Join in the Dance (Schutte)--I especially can't stand verse 2.
Isaiah 49 (Landry)--first-person singular.
Seek the Lord (O'Connor)--they've got the PC and the original versions here. How are you supposed to announce to the assembly that you'll be singing one version or the other? "We'll do the ORIGINAL verses, you know--the ones that offend a certain population because a masculine pronoun is used in reference to God." Yeah. That'll work.
Turn to Me (Foley)--first-person singular.

So there you go.

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