Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back to the source

Nine years ago, I attended Sunday Mass at St. T's, and sang in a Gospel choir. That's right, a Catholic Gospel Choir. The director, CJ, is musical giant, teaching 4 vocal parts and the piano part simultaneously. She left the next year, needing understandibly to go back to her own faith community (she's not Catholic). After all, she had only agreed to stay for six months while the found a permanent person; she ended up staying for five years, Catholic parishes don't pay their musicians a lot of money (which explains a lot about Catholic music....).

Anyway, the year I spent singing with CJ changed my life. Since then, I have let go of paper music, learned how to think in four part harmony, learned how to teach by rote and "in the loop." I got a job myself as a music minister, wrote several Masses, worked under one supervisor who tolerated my program and another who blew in and demanded "Catholic" music. By "Catholic" music, of course, he meant the contemporary/folk music that white folks like to lip-fake of those hymnals.

Whatever, it's a job. I can read that white music. I do, however, resent the ethnocentric implication that contemporary/folk music is more "Catholic" than the music that I write. I'm Catholic. I've read Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today. I've been doing Catholic music ministry since 1991.

Doesn't matter anyway, I'm probably going to tell them that this is my last year being their music director. I've got outside gigs to think about. I'm putting on a big workshop next month of my original music at a local parish that is not hostile to me. Also, I'm considering taking on a choir over at a megaparish across the lake in Microsoftlandia. They call themselves a Gospel/Contemporary choir; I will offer to teach them to let go of the paper, to sing hard, to stop overpronouncing, to stop doing that knee-bend bounce to the beat that white people like to do when they're "getting into it."

Anyway, I got an email today that CJ is putting on a concert at the beginning of October, and that rehearsals are the next three Tuesdays, starting tonight.

So I went to rehearsal tonight. It was amazing, amazing, amazing to see CJ in action again, amazing to hear her new songs, amazing to hear Gospel music again. When I walked in late, she was already teaching music, so she kept the loop going--you don't break the loop until everybody's got it. But later, when she stopped the loop, she said, "hey I thought I recognized that filipino guy!" and asked if I had lumpia.

I dug around in my bag for a moment, which some of the altos actually fell for. Like I keep lumpia in my bag for emergencies.

I'm listening to my rehearsal tape right now. Compared to this, I simply can't believe the shit that I'm forced to sing at at work. It's been a while, but I've finally come back to the source.

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