Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday

People watch the Super Bowl for a multitude of reasons - the ads, the halftime show, the parties, oh, and the game too, I suppose. Personally, I never miss "America, the Beautiful" and the National Anthem. They always bring in some big name star, and I'm always curious to hear them.

I think Queen Latifah is great - and it did look like she might have had some technical difficulties with an ear piece - but why on earth did she need to breathe after every single note? She started "Oh, beau-" (BREATH) "-ti-ful." (BREATH) "For spa-" (BREATH) "-cious skies." That's three breaths in what should be one musical phrase! And so it continued, for the whole piece.

Of course, Carrie Underwood followed it up with my favorite breath-interrupted phrase in all music (almost everyone does it): "O say, does that Star Spangled" (BREATH) "ban----ner yet wave." It just proves that people are paying almost no attention the text. Can you imagine saying that sentence with a big breath in the middle of it?

Sometimes it seems like we've just quit holding musicians (and ourselves) to high standards of performance and participation. I'm going to blame American Idol in part for the declining musical standards. It's now accetpable just to shut your eyes and have an intensely personal experience singing a song. No true performer would make such a mistake. Music is about sharing a message with an audience. You need to open your eyes, prounounce your words, and be fully involved to make it a performance worth listening to.

I was just glad that both ladies sang decently in tune and with good tone and with most of their consonants in place. I know I must sound a bit like a cantankerous old organist today. But music is communication, and it's always a pity to see it cheapened. I hope you heard a message in this morning's music. What did you think of the opening hymn and the hymn of the day? I know at least one choir member who thinks it was a great change of pace. I'm always curious to hear more feedback about new hymns (ELW 525 for my non-Bethany readers).


  1. I've heard some of the music that kids like on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, and some of the singers sound like they're having convulsions, asthma attacks, or seizures with the way that they breathe. The fact that loud gasps for air are now "great music" is completely baffling to me. If people breathed like that in a normal, everyday conversation, we'd rush them to the emergency room, but on stage it's the most emotional, heartbreaking song ever.

  2. You people just don't understand what it means to "sing from the heart" (hence your love of Bach and your aversion to contemporary music.) If you knew what it is to sing with "real feeling", then you would appreciate all the gasps for breath that clealy show us how much the singer is truly getting into the song. They are just so overcome by emotion that they can barely sing a phrase without gasping for breath - just like you do when you are having a crying jag.

  3. i looked up 525 and it's a hymn that our congregation really likes. it's a good example of how the elw can be used for contemporary worship without the need for a praise band or other such nonsense. (ps we miss your playing, tom,a nd all you bethany people are lucky to have such a dedicated musician)

  4. What unnerves me even more than improper technique is the fact that these celebrities feel that their "interpretation" (ornamentation, quasi-cadenzas) can somehow improve the National Anthem. My grandfather was a Marine and, till the day he died, he would not hesitate to chew out local ballpark Anthem singers who insisted that their own ego was more important that than upholding the responsibility to foster a uniform and genuine patriotism amongst common men.

    I see the same imposition on the Liturgy today, both from the pulpit and from the chancel (or gallery, or nave, or wherever a choir may be). The fostering of piety is something that has left the radar in celebration of the community. Heaven forbid that the pastor face the cross (ad orientem); it's better that they turn their backs to Jesus than to "the people."

  5. Dear Anonymous, Come to Bethany. We have a High Altar and we conduct the Liturgy Ad Orientem for those parts which are addressed to God (Confession, Prayers, Proper Preface, Sanctus, etc.). For those parts which are addressed to the people, we face the Nave.

    However an argument can be made to face the people based upon the question of "Where is God?" Is God soley ad orientum or is God to be found in the gathered community "where two or more are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them"?

    I think the important point is what is our intention? If we only face the people because we think it would be rude to turn our backs on people, or if we only face the cross because we think that's where Jesus is, then we've missed what the whole question of orientation is really all about.

  6. The question of musical interpretation has been going on for centuries. Composers think performers should do it exactly as written, and performers feel they have a duty to bring an interpretation. Each listener also has expectations as to what is proper and what is within the realm of accepted performance, although we might argue that some listeners' expectations are more "informed" than others. Attempting to find the good in each performace would be a better goal than finding the bad, unless one is being paid to be a critic.