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Shake off the yoke

Flashback: Music Ministry workshop at Liturgy School 2019. Photo: Elmo Griffith

“…Praise His name and shake, shake off the yoke, shake, shake off the yoke…” are the last few lines of the refrain from the hymn, ‘Freedom Song’, which began the journey of Music Ministry at Liturgy School 2019 as we attempted to navigate this challenge of ‘Hymns’ in the Catholic Church of today in Trinidad and Tobago.

We began our journey looking at the history of sacred music and working through the various musical traditions used for worship. From the early Church’s use of Hebrew and Jewish chants, to the Eastern Orthodox tradition of Byzantine chants which evolved from the people of the desert and making its way to the great cathedrals, then to the Roman Church’s Gregorian chants which still linger even today. We hoped to foster an understanding of where we came from, to now chart the course of where we are going as a Caribbean Church.

If we look at the guidelines of Vatican II which encourages ‘Conscious, Active, Participation of the Faithful’, then our hymn selections will be more meaningful to ensure all present at Mass are included and are actively participating.

We must be considerate of fixed Mass text i.e. ‘Lord Have Mercy’, ‘Gloria’, ‘Alleluia’, ‘Hosanna’, ‘Mystery of Faith’ and ‘Lamb of God’, and ensure that we follow the guidelines laid out in the Missal and not replace them with a song that we like.

Using hymns from a Penitential Service to replace the ‘Lord Have Mercy’ is not a suitable alternative. We must now embark on the task of teaching the congregation, either before Mass or over a period of a few weeks, until they are comfortable to participate.

We also looked at some problems we face e.g. lack of knowledge of Church guidelines, the difference between fixed and free texts, copyright laws, how to choose songs for Liturgy and why we are still lacking hymns that truly represent our Caribbean identity.

Let us pay closer attention to our hymn selections, using various rhythms and executing them well, to guide us to better quality of worship. Take the time to work on hymns and reflect on them in rehearsals to ensure we bring the faithful to deeper worship at Mass, by a carefully coordinated execution of all pieces of music.

In our next offering, Part 2, we will go deeper into the best practice for making Sunday Liturgy amazing and the vision for music ministry through form and function. —Music Team, Liturgical Commission