Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"All Right, Sisters: Blend IN!"

There was this marvelous moment in Sister Act (1) where the divine Maggie Smith, in her role as Mother Superior, exhorts the members of her convent to invade a Las Vegas casino.  "All right, sisters," she tremulously exclaims, "blend in!"

A few years later, I heard an extraordinary homily by none other than my musical counterpart in crime, the late Fr. Chrysogonus Waddell, o.c.s.o., and he was commenting on the same scene.  How, you may ask, did a Trappist monk watch this crazy movie?  Because he was a movie and television junkie, and he found plenty of creative ways – most notably on international flights – to catch up on any and all pop culture he could get his hands on.

That homily did a lot for me as a church musician on tour.  I realized that sometimes the worst thing you can do is set your ensemble apart from the assembly: it's rather like writing an insurance policy that all your efforts are going to land in the domain of a performance.

For several of the events we were present for in the Diocese of Ferns, we "blended in."  At the Corpus Christi Vigil Mass at Our Lady's Island, at mass the next morning in our beloved Clonard Parish, and later on that evening in Enniscorthy Cathedral, the choir was carefully placed, either in the midst of everyone, or in the case of Enniscorthy, actually behind the assembly, so that we could sing into their midst.  (By the way, we did the exact same thing for Sunday Mass in Edinburgh, and for Vespers the following day in Belfast).

The results of this kind of choral placement were stunning.  It brought the music, the students, the message of the texts, close to the hearts and ears of the people.  And at moments when we asked their participation, because we were doing something new and not rooted in performance, that was all the more successful as well.

Enniscorthy Cathedral was our last event in the great Diocese of Ferns – a place that is no stranger to the Notre Dame Folk Choir.  We leave behind a veritable pile of great memories: the Opera House, Our Lady's Island, walks around Wexford Town, and singing in the church where part of the movie "Brooklyn" was filmed.

But I'll contend that while some of our best experiences were had when we were up on some stage or in a sanctuary, it was still when we were in the heart of the people when things were the most powerful.

For maybe we're at our best when we're blending in.  Thank you, Whoopi Goldberg.  And whoever else thought up that script!

No comments:

Post a Comment