The choice of music at Mass matters as much as the quality of the sermon. That’s always been my opinion, anyway, and recent experiences have only served to confirm it.
“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is,” says a character in a Noël Coward play. And it’s true. Even in church. A morbid Victorian hymn or a Christmas carol can reduce even the most cynical atheist to tears.
But even more potent, I’d argue, is church music that isn’t so much cheap as embarrassingly bad.
I can’t speak for other denominations, but I’m convinced that the distinctive awfulness of the music in many Catholic parishes helps explain why Mass attendance has fallen off a cliff since the 1970s.
I’m lucky. I live in a London parish where the priest can tell the difference between a good hymn and a bad one. The tragedy is that so many priests either can’t or, more likely, don’t want to upset the choir by banning the dispiriting rubbish written “in the spirit of Vatican II”.
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