Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Choir and the Liturgy

I have recently quit the choir at my church. This is something that I really did not want to do, but I've finally come to the end of my rope. We are blessed to have a pretty talented choir which executes week in, week out pretty well and aesthetically pleasing. I can't tell you how many times people, who have moved away and returned to visit, have said that the choirs at their new churches are nowhere near as good as what we have. Such is a great compliment. But, like everything else in life, you have to take the good with the bad. Sunt bona mixta malis as we say in Latin. I wonder if we would still be complimented by these same people had they known what goes on when we are not singing.

I have quit the choir because I am tired of the incessant talking that goes on when we are not singing the responses or the hymns. I have quit because I don't have enough silence to pray the liturgy which I am trying to say. I have quit because many of the people up there do not take their duty (that's right, duty) seriously and come late, sometimes so late as to not arrive until after the Gospel reading, do not concentrate on what they are singing, do not concentrate on the rubrics, leave early so that only 4 people are left for the final "Amen", etc. In fact, many of the people up there are up in the choir loft so that they can talk to their friends and get away with it, something that would not be able to get away with if they were downstairs. Also, this choir does not rehearse and most choir members only want to sing the material they have done for the past 40 years! And then choir members wonder why no one new wants to join. Their own actions have prevented it.

So, I'm done. And yet, for all my righteous indignation, I know that I am guilty of a sin. Bishop BASIL once wrote up a very candid paper on the duty of singers. You can read it here. I have used the term "duty" referring to what choristers and chanters do deliberately simply because what we do on Sundays or any other Orthodox service or Liturgy outside of Sunday is a responsibility, is a duty. It is not optional for us. Those of us who are gifted to sing should sing! To neglect or to deny that gift is to cause grave offense to our Maker.

I don't like my choice. I would prefer never having made it. But I have and I must bear the weight of my sin. Though I will continue as a chanter, to deny my voice at the Liturgy which is the work of the people, I am imperiling my own salvation. I do want things to change up there but I'm not so arrogant as to think my departure will change anyone's habits. Most of the people up there have been up there for a long time and such habits will not change overnight.

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