Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What's in a Name?

I am a member of a musical ensemble at my church. It's been around for more than 25 years, and has a name that has been around that long: the Folk Group.

That's not a very dignified or pretentious name, but that's OK. We're not dignified or pretentious. I'm not saying we're irreverent, just that we're not full of ourselves.

We have no illusions about what we're there to do. We're on a mission, and I believe that as humble as our instruments may be (we've got 5 guitars), we fulfill our mission well. Our mission is to help the assembly at church pray through song. Our mission is to lead them in sung prayer. We don't do solos; we rarely do echoes or descants; there's nothing fancy going on. And I think it works. We see people opening their hymnals. We hear them singing along. Even if the song is new to them, they make an effort.

But now that we are under the leadership of the Musical Powers That Be in our parish, we've had to change our repertoire. We had to cast out of the Mass one of our very favorite acclamations--and one that the assembly absolutely loved. A year and a half later, that wound is still raw. We miss singing "our" version of The Lord's Prayer, and so do the people in the pews, who used to raise the rafters on that one week after week after week for more than 25 years.

We had to learn some new songs. Sometimes that's good. But some of them have not been such great songs, and we cringe--because we don't get to pick, anymore.

Last Sunday there was an interfaith music service hosted at our church. All the choirs from the area churches were invited to participate. Our Folk Group attended, and we were amused to see that we were not labeled "Folk Group" as we call ourselves. We were not labeled "Guitar Group" as the Music Director calls us. We were listed in the program as "Contemporary Group"--even though most of our music is less "contemporary" than what the regular choir sings. Go figure.

I guess "Contemporary Group" sounds classier than "Folk Group." But we're not in it to be classy. We're just folks who sing and play guitars and try to get people to sing along with us, because we're doing this for the glory of God.

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