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The oddity of special music February 7, 2009

Posted by Judy in Musings.
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As I was sitting in church today listening to special music, the thought occurred to me, “why is it okay for instrumentalists to play classical music for special music but not so much for vocalists?”  I’ve always thought this was weird.  As a kid, I would play something classical for special music since that’s what I was working on in my piano lessons.  As I got older, I would play hymn arrangements and sometimes classical music.  Once I hit college and became a voice major, that all changed.  By and large, I’ve only done non-classical sacred music for special music with the occasional sacred classical piece thrown in.  Mostly I haven’t done too much classical stuff because I think that most church-goers are the wrong audience for that (unless you go to one of the large college churches where “high” music is the norm.)  I’m a big believer in knowing your audience and finding the appropriate music.  Besides, there are TONS of great hymn arrangements and other non-classical sacred music to be had.

But back to my original question and what brought it on . . . . the music today was “Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ opera Lakme, played on the harp and flute, so no lyrics.  It was very pretty, but certainly not sacred, not by any stretch of the imagination.  (It’s about the daughter of a Hindu priest and her servant girl singing about a garden) Yet, people were enthusiastic at the end.  Now, I dare say that had I sung that duet with a friend for special music, we would’ve gotten lots of evil eyes.  So why okay for the flute/piano/clarinet/whatever and not for the voice?  And I might add, the song was originally written for voice!  So then, maybe I should sing “Ave Maria” but get rid of the words and just sing a combination of “Ah’s” and “Oh’s” and “oohs”.  Think that would go over well?  There are no words, so I’m not REALLY singing and lauding the mother Mary, am I?  WRONG!  Of course it’s still about the virgin Mary, leaving the words out doesn’t change that.  So it seems to me, instrumentalists should take more care in choosing their selections.  If it’s not good for the goose (the singer), it shouldn’t be good for the gander (the instrumentalists).

I suppose it boils down to this:  I get peeved that not everyone puts a great amount of thought and energy into special music for church.  You should want it to be the best it can be and it would be great if  it could complement the sermon, and if it doesn’t, it certainly should make the listeners think about God or His creation or something at least remotely religious.  *sigh*  I’ll get off of my soapbox now.

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