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Evansville, Indiana
September 25, 1987     The Message
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September 25, 1987

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Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese Evansville, September Faith of 25, 1987 I I I I 'Praise him with lyre and harp...' By Father John Castelot NC News Service ow did a little shepherd boy become a member of the royal household in biblical times? There are dif- ferent traditions to explain the ascendancy of David, but one has a rather modern ring. King Saul, in our terminology, was afflicted with periodic spells of severe depression. His atten- dants suggested what we might call music therapy. Saul took their advice and told them to find a skillful harpist. A courtier listed David's credentials and "thus David came to Saul and entered his service." Whenever Saul had an attack, "David would take the harp and play and Saul would be relieved and feel better for the evil spirit would leave him" (1 Samuel 16:14-23). David went on to far greater things, but none blotted out the memory of his musicianship. By the time the book of Chronicles was written some 600 years after his death, David was credited with the organization of the whole complex musical system of the temple with its large staff of singers and instrumentalists. All these traditions indicate the important role music played among the Israelites. As early as Exodus 15, Moses and the people sang a triumphant hymn to celebrate their successful crossing of the sea. And the song of Deborah in Judges 5 is accounted one of the oldest bits of Hebrew poetry. The psalms were hymns used in worship. Though many originally were individual prayers, they were adapted eventually to express the faith and religious sentiments of the people as a whole. And they were sung, not just recited. Many came with indications of the ac- companiment to be used, like Psalm 4, which carries the rubric "with stringed instruments," or Psalm 5, "with wind instruments." Since the law forbade making images of anything, we have little or no idea what the instruments referred to in the Bible looked like. However, the same in- struments were used in surroun- ding cultures, and artistic works in those places included representa- tions of musicians at work. As a result, we can form mental images to go with the names of the instruments mentioned. It is quite a list: a small drum like a tom-tom; a lyre with strings made of sheep gut; a small, hand-held harp; a rectangular, lO-stringed zither; a flute, a woodwind something like an oboe; a ram's horn used for assembling the con- gregation on certain feasts; a buglelike horn used mostly for military signals It is impossible to imagine what the music would have sounded like. But judging from the preponderance of percussion in- struments, the accent would have been on rhythm rather than melody, although melody certainly played a part in vocal music. The book of Psalms ends with a bang: "Praise the Lord in his sanc- tuary...praise him with the blast of trumpet, praise him with the lyre and harp, praise him with timbrel and dance, praise him with strings and pipe. Praise him with sound- ing cymbals, praise him with clanging cymbals" (Psalm 150:1, 3-6) A sad note is struck in Psalm 137, but it shows how much music meant to the people: "By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the aspens of that land we hung up our harps, though there our captors asked of us the lyrics of our songs, and our despoilers urged us to be joyous: 'Sing for us the songs of Zion!' How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land?" There is the frequent invitation to "sing to the Lord a new song of praise" (Psalm 149:1). And all this echoes loudly in the days of the Christians when we hear: "Sing. gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns and inspired songs" (Colossians 3:16). (Father Castelot is a professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich) I Commun By Stanley Konieczny , NC News Service ne purpose of music during the Mass "is to build community," stated Father Ron Brassard, director of music and liturgy at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, II1. But to build a community through music can be a special challenge at the shrine where(n a summer Sunday morning, Father Brassard may have 600 to 1,000 worshipcrs scattered through a 6,000-scat amphitheater. "it is difficult to find music that is singable, but beautiful and well- crafted," Father Brassard admitted. "Yet good music can take the faith experience and bring it to a new level of expression." Father Brassard experienced this during the shrine's annual Youth Sing Praise program. "We had a soloist, who did a gospel piece, 'Taste and See.' I looked out arid I saw 70 teens and young adults with tears in their eyes because they were so moved by what he was doing and by their participa- tion in this Mass," the priest recalled. "I would like to see people touched in some way at the celebration of the liturgy," he said. "I am not advocating we start playing with people's emotionsil Yes, Virgi By Father Lawrence Mick NC News Service ever try to teach a pig to sing," said a greeting card I once received:..( It's a waste of time and it only annoys the pig." Because of my great interest in music, I got a kick out of the card, especially when I heard that Martin Luther once called a con- gregation a herd of pigs bbcause he was so upset with their unChris- tian lives. Some music leaders, trying to get parish congregations to sing at Mass, may-think the parallel is ac- curate; the effort often seems a waste of time and the only cleai, result is that people get annoyed. Nonetheless, I persist in my belief that people can learn to sing at church services and will enjoy singing if given hlf a chance. In working with parishioners, I find that many complain about how difficult it can be to sing in church. Their complaints often are similar: "I don't know those hymns, the music is too slow or uneven, and they play everything too high!" I |