The pianist of a very fine Filipino choir, in which all the members harmonize very well, applied fake marks to a traditional four-part arrangement of a hymn.
I recovered that player’s fake sheet, removed the fake marks, transforming it back to traditional four-part arrangement, which I regularly play.
The congregation later sang to my rendition of the traditional four-part arrangement during Liturgy of the Hours.
Unlike the Filipino choir, most choirs cannot handle singing harmony. If a singer starts harmonizing, the other singers will start faltering in their execution of the main melody, because they find the unfamiliarity of vocal harmonization radically distracting.
The usual reason for neglecting to train choirs for to sing with other singers harmonizing is the “circular” reasoning that “it’s too hard for them”.
(Heather Keevers, who attended LifeTeen team training in Arizona, reports that while LIfeTeen purposefully “dumbs-down” their music on the pretext that the purpose is to include the most number of kids, LifeTeen never gets around to “smartening-up” the music–it’s uniformly dumb.)
This neglects the obvious fact that in past ages, all players harmonized. “It’s too hard” only because the players haven’t been exposed to it. “They can’t sing it…because they can’t sing it” is a “just ‘cuz” excuse.
The video below wasn’t a fanciful Hollywood mythologizing of four-part harmonizing, nor does it involve specialized barbershop chords. It accurately reflects how ordinary people actively performed music as part of their daily cultural lives in the period before the dominance of portable radios, like “transistor” radios.
The “everywhere” ubiquity of transistor radio contributed to the demise of active cultural life–in the 1960s, people weren’t “dancing in the streets” to Martha and the Vandellas, the average person’s experience of music was more akin to “muzak” elevator-music as wallpaper background. As late as the start of World War II, most homes didn’t have radio.
Prior to the initial introduction of radio in 1923, Victrola was an expensive novelty, most of the public became aware of the work of recording stars at music stores, music was propagated to the public through sheet music sales linked to the recordings, the most popular titles selling upwards of a million copies in the decade of 1910-1919.
In the generation before radio, there were 300 piano manufacturies in the U.S. (Now there are perhaps five.) My family went to their cousins, the Reddys, where my Mother learned to sing almost before she could speak. If you wanted music, you made it.
This was the age-old pattern throughout all human history, prior to the technological impoverishment of cultural life which is ubiquitous today. In the standard history of a small guitar-like instrument, the cittern, it is generally agreed that in many Renaissance barbershops, a musical instrument was present which the patrons could tune up to accompany casual choral singing.
In today’s technologically enforced, cultural desert, our contemporaries can’t begin to imagine the high level of the everyday person’s culture. John Senior estimated that the average person was able to sing 200 songs in the period prior to radio, M-TV and continual cell-phone music streaming.
Charles Chaput, Cathoic Archbishop of Philadelphia, wrote of a young father’s comment about “banal modern liturgical music more suitable to failed off-Broadway theater”. This observation accords with the findings of a book “Why Catholics Can’t Sing“. The do-it-yourself guitar music revolution of the late 1960s, throwing out the vigorous lay musical cultural life of prior generations in favor a continual cultural revolution, over-emphasized needlessly complicated but uncultured Broadway show-style music that was deliberately calculated to exclude the congregation from singing.
A people who had retained their own authentic, vital culture, would never have fallen for this anti-cultural ruse.
Most keyboardists are no longer capable of following a sight-read, four-part hymnody arrangement. They can only analyze the chords, apply a narrow routine of faking, the deficiencies of which they count on the congregation not to notice–because the congregation doesn’t sing anymore, and are themselves unaware of the culture they have lost.
There is more than passing similarity between faking and the “worship” habits of non-Catholic Christians who misunderstand “heaping up vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). Coming Home Network host Marcus Grodi remarks that supposedly “spontaneous” non-Catholic prayers are highly formulaic and repetitious. Whereas, the angels continually cry out “Holy Holy Holy”, and Jesus repeated His plea to His Father in the Garden of Gesthemane.
Most faking practitioners posses only very modest improvisational skills. Traditional four-part arrangements in the best, old hymnals reflect continual critical filtering of generations of active music practitioners, who were highly capable of mounting worshipful music performances based on tried and tested arrangements.
Liturgical musicians of the look-at-me Hootenany generations simply, generally lack minimal technical competence to perform four-part singing and accompaniment. They generally fail to inspire their “audiences” even scant attention to the great musical culture of the 500 year span 1450-1950. This is the substance of the fall and loss of a once great culture, in the record of human accomplishment.
Thomstic philosopher Peter Kreeft has remarked that he personally knows of four atheists who were converted to the Christian faith simply by virtue of listening to the music of J.S. Bach: “Bach exists, therefore, there is a God”.
Self-taught “liturgical” musicians of the period 1970-2010 inspire scant zeal for the Good and the Truth through the Beautiful.