Hello, Hervé here.
Several times since I started voicing my preference for singing Gregorian Chant, or when I have stated that “Active Participation” is not a “new” Vatican II concept, some people have questioned my credentials to do both. 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. This questioning came several times from paid employees of the Church (at the parish or diocesan level) with such academic degrees in liturgy or in music, but who seemed threatened that my reading of the Church documents disagreed with theirs, or with what justifies their income from the Church (for example, a pianist is not needed for Gregorian Chant. Should I be blamed for that?).
Recently, I had to explain to the Director of the Office of Worship for a large US diocese who seemed to see my degrees as a prerequisite to our meeting that if liturgy were about farming, I would be like a farmer, and this director would be like a PhD in agronomy. This director also admitted not to be a singer. Sometimes, the PhD can learn from the farmer, if he/she is willing to listen.
So what are my “farming credentials”?
Singing in Church is not new to me: I am the third boy in this 1977 video, singing a-cappella sacred music at the foremost 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 livelihood in music (only one of the 4 boys in the video did), but that does not mean either that I stopped singing. Below are some pictures of opera performances when being paid was just a welcome consequence of my passion for music and singing, and my willingness to work to improve my skills. My experience in professional opera left me however with a lukewarm impression of trade unions (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). St John Paul II describes the artist as “the image of God the creator” (see Letter to the artists ) and when the artist follows the Pope’s advice, they deserve our financial support. NPM members need to read the “Letter to the artists” more attentively.
The liturgy of the Church surpasses any opera or other form of artistic masterpiece. It 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.
Hopefully, the above can help those who regard themselves as “authorities” doubt less and believe more. If you have more questions, please contact me, and we will first sight-sing together through some antiphons from the Graduale Romanum (the official songbook of the Church) so I can check your credentials…
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