Saturday, May 23, 2009

Many gifts

There are many gifts, but the same Spirit....

Last night the choir that sings at both the Saturday night and Sunday morning Masses here on Post participated in a choir concert at the largest chapel building in these parts. The room was pretty much filled with people, many of whom participated in some fashion or other.

There were eleven performances in all. Our choir was fifth, so pretty much right in the middle.

The emcee made it clear in her remarks at the beginning that the evening was about praise and worship and not about competition, but I still think of it as a "Battle of the Bands."

In terms of sheer volume, we lost. Hands down.

Because I wind up presiding at Mass whenever the choir is singing, I don't sing with them as part of their ensemble, but rather as a member of the congregation. Earlier this week I received several emails from choir members asking me if I'd come sing with them at this event, even though I'd not been practicing with them.

I showed up in enough time to run through each of the two songs, twice, with them before the program began. I'd planned on sitting with the choir, right about in the middle of the very large room, but as I was about to take my seat, a very eager and helpful Warrant Officer asked me to sit up front. "We're asking the pastors to sit in the first row," he said.

Right next to some very large speakers, pointed directly at my right ear.

There are some very important and noticeable differences between liturgical and non-liturgical worship traditions, of which I've been very aware for many years now. Last night I discovered -- or at least appreciated much more fully than ever before -- another.

Each of the other choirs participating in the praise and worship celebration represented a community which prays non-liturgically. Each of those choirs -- save perhaps the International Ugandan Choir -- expressed their praise and worship as loudly as they could, made even more impressive by the very large and efficient speakers pointed directly at my ear canal.

The music was spirited and joyful. The praise dance teams that performed were impressive and moved many to tears. It was a powerful worship experience.

The International Ugandan Choir performed two pieces, one of which had been written by their musical director. Because the choristers sang in their local language, I couldn't understand any of their words, but the lilt of the tunes and the obvious and genuine pleasure the singers expressed through their voices and movements communicated all that was necessary.

If I'd not been directly in the path of the speaker system, I suspect I'd have felt more drawn in to the celebration. I've not been exposed to music of that decibel level for so long (two hours) since I was in college and went to a Supertramp concert in Washington, DC in the spring of 1977.

Next time I'll be sure to decline the invitation to move up to the front, so as to be well clear of the speaker system.

Or I'll bring along my combat earplugs as we make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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