Making a Joyful Noise
by Lourdes Montegomery
Many years ago, my daughter, out for a stroll around our quiet south Florida neighborhood, heard the voice of a young girl singing a familiar, yet quite unexpected, melody. Returning home, she shared with me her surprise, “Mom, I just heard a girl singing the responsorial psalm we sang on Sunday!” As I reflect on that memory I ask myself, “How many times, and where, did that one child sing those sacred words; how far and wide was that text shared?”
As you recall, at Mass, during the Liturgy of the Word, psalms are sung in response to the first reading, which are most Sundays taken from the Old Testament. Haven’t we all gotten to know a number of tunes during our worship time, as we sing along with our spiritual family at St. Vincent de Paul? I wonder, how many of us, like this little songstress, take those snippets of holy text back into our homes to sing to one another, perhaps before family meals or rides in the car? It is a lovely thought.
Music sung in our Worship space directs us toward sanctification as we praise, bless, worship, and glorify God. It is my vocation (and passion) to research (and even compose) music to enhance the readings of our many Masses. Where else but in our Worship space does one hear texts such as, “Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness,” or, in consideration of those who might feel isolated, the proclamation, “All are welcomed in this place, behold Love’s (God’s) amazing grace, all are welcomed, all are welcomed!”
The species of sung proclamation are several, the most common (and simple) being the singing of text in “unison,” i.e., the same notes sung by all, a reminder, perhaps, that we are one body in Christ. The second, conversely, when we sing in “harmony”, reminds us to celebrate the beauty of our uniqueness and diversity. We are, after all, American, Irish, German, Scots, Filipino, Vietnamese, Mexican, Salvadorian, Puerto Rican, Spanish (I am myself Cuban) – when we come together we create a wondrous symphony of colors, sounds and flavors. And thirdly, we must not forget that even dissonance (two distinct notes which do not, at a certain moment, blend pleasantly) is celebrated, as it enhances our appreciation of any consonance that follows! Finally, the element of musical rhythm, without which it would be difficult for us articulate the words of sung text at the same time - rhythm enables us all to “hear the same drummer” (my apologies to Mr. Thoreau).
We Catholics are in the midst of a three-year National Eucharistic Revival spearheaded by our country’s bishops which aims to inspire, educate, and unite the faithful toward a stronger relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist. While the first year was dedicated to diocesan revival, the second (which has now begun) intends to foster Eucharistic devotion. As an aid in this regard, one of my choir members suggested we sing the very beautiful piece “Draw Near” (which, as you may you have noticed, we do sing each week at the 10:00 am Sunday Mass). The song tenderly invites the faithful to, “Draw near, draw near, and receive the Body of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for you”.
I must say, it warms the heart to hear all of you good people, the “Walls of Living Stones” at St. Vincent, joyfully joining our choirs in song– may it forever enrich your lives and those of your loved ones. And now, I ask myself: did they simply read the words of Draw Near or did they sing it in their hearts; and ... will they sing it out in the streets for their neighbors to hear?
*Lourdes C. Montgomery, a pianist and composer of Liturgical Music, is published with GIA Publications in Chicago, Illinois
and OCP in Portland, Oregon. She serves St. Vincent de Paul Church in Music Ministry.
(Choir rehearsals are 5:30 to 7:00 pm every Thursday evening.)