Hello, Hervé here.
After I started organizing workshops and scholas to learn and practice Gregorian Chant, my credentials to do so have been questioned more or less directly. But rather than engaging me on the substance (ex: “come sing with me”, or “let us read the Church documents together”), I would be asked to present academic credentials., a degree from some university with a sub-department in liturgical music. This questioning came from paid employees of the Church (at the parish and diocesan level) with the academic degrees in liturgy or in music they found I was lacking. My reading of the Church documents seemingly disagreed with theirs, especially with their understanding that justifies their income from the Church. For example, a pianist is not needed to teach Gregorian Chant. Or introducing new music to parishes can be a good thing, but is not a yearly necessity, unless of course you make a living from publishing… I thus discovered that Church music is also a business. But are we not supposed to give to the liturgy, rather than take?
Singing in Church is not new to me: I am the third boy in this 1977 video, singing a-cappella sacred music at this prominent Sunday TV show in France at the time. As a soprano soloist with this boys choir, I toured the world, and sang over 300 concerts, Masses and/or TV shows between 1975 and 1978.
This experience did not lead me to make a living in music (only one of the 4 boys in the video did), but I kept on singing, mostly for the rewards provided by the music itself. Below are some pictures of opera performances when being paid was just a welcome consequence of my passion for music and singing. My experience in professional opera left me however with a lukewarm impression of trade unions for musicians (AGMA in opera) that I seem to encounter again with church musicians. NPM is the organization that sees the financial concerns of Church musicians as its top strategic priority. Its mission is to “fosters the art of musical liturgy”, as if liturgy was another sub-division of the art of music. It is not. Liturgy starts with the Trinity, not with its creation. Music grew from the divine liturgy, not the reverse! St John Paul II describes the artist as “the image of God the creator” (see Letter to the artists ) and when artists follow the Pope’s advice, they deserve our financial support.
NPM leaders need to read the “Letter to the artists” more attentively.
The liturgical music that the Church passed on to us through tradition surpasses any opera or other form of artistic masterpiece. Liturgy is the participation of the people of God in the work of God. That seemed worth some studying as well:
I recommend warmly these on-line classes from the Liturgical Institute to any Catholic, especially to liturgical ministers. Regarding my liturgy “credentials”, I was told I was the second student to complete the first 4 classes (20 hours) only a few weeks after the on-line program started.
If you have more questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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