20 April 2007

Where are the singers?

I was speaking with one of my music directors lately when the two of us began speculating what happened to all the men trained at St. Michael's choir school.

The choir school was set up years ago for a few purposes. One was to train boys in singing in order to provide music for the cathedral. The other purpose was to create a body of trained liturgical musicians who would then go on to provide music for the parishes around the city.

They are successful in fulfilling the first of these purposes. They provide excellent music to accompany Mass at the Cathedral. As for the second, few parishes have a former member of the school.

The MD and I speculated some reasons. A few students go on to have careers as professional singers and make quite a name for themselves. And some do end up at the parishes, but only a few. As for the rest? I speculated that a fair number are probably sick of music by the time they graduate and never want to sing again.

But the obvious was staring me in the face, and I missed it. Those who stay in liturgical music would most likely work at a United Church, or an Anglican Church- at a church that pays. These young men are highly trained, and would want to be rewarded accordingly, but very few Catholic churches are willing to pay for such skill. One of my old parishes constantly has ads in the bulleting searching for volunteer choir leaders and "keyboardists." I don't need to add that the music situation there is a disaster.

It is sad to think that there is a pool of talent available, but we are unable to make any use of it. The other congregations who value music and are willing to pay for it, will get our best. And so the situation will stand until our Churches are willing to pay real musicians a real wage. We can train them, and they can go to the Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans- anyone, really, but us.

A friend of my has a saying: "Good things ain't cheap, and cheap things ain't good." As long as we insist on getting cheap music, we will not have quality music. And we may as well stop pretending there were two reasons for the choir school.

To all the professionals who read this blog: God bless.

And tell your boss you deserve a raise.

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