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Sorry, music ministers, I really did not intend leaving you out of this series on liturgical ministries: I was simply saving the best until last!
Music ministers are those who serve the assembly by playing a musical instrument, singing in the choir or taking on the role of cantor. They assist the assembly to offer its praise to God in song.
Liturgical musicians need to be skilled musicians, just as Ministers of the Word need to be skilled at reading in public. To play and sing well is very important, but it is not enough. Ministers of music have to be ministers, or servants of the worshipping assembly, as well. Ministers of music do not “perform” for the entertainment of those present, but provide the accompaniment and lead to enable the members of the assembly to sing the responses, acclamations and songs of the liturgy.
The main role of the cantor could be described as that of an animator. He or she assists the assembly to do its part by drawing everyone into the common sung prayer. Hence a cantor needs not only vocal skills but also the skills of knowing how to encourage people to participate.
The cantor or choir should never dominate the singing and “drown out” the assembly. Once the people are familiar with the melody, key and timing of a piece of music, the cantor steps back from the microphone or the choir softens the volume and allows the assembly do its work unaided.
Many members of the assembly would be oblivious to the time and effort that music ministers put into preparing for their role at Sunday worship. Songs and settings need to be chosen carefully, music located and practised, rehearsals held, etc.
Our music ministers have a lot of additional work in front of them with the imminent implementation of the 3rd edition of the Roman Missal. The revision of the English translation of the Missal means that the new texts have to be set to music for the sung parts of the Mass. Music ministers will have to choose, get music for, learn, practise and teach new Mass settings in their parishes, communities and schools.
Parishes and schools are being encouraged to learn one or more of the new Mass settings recommended by the National Liturgical Music Board for use in Australia. These seven settings have been deemed to be musically and pastorally suitable by experienced and expert musicians from across the country.
Music ministers have only until All Saints Day, 1st November, 2011 to complete the task of introducing the musical settings of the new words for Mass because after that date the existing texts may no longer be used. All Mass settings currently in use will need to be put right out of the way to avoid their being pulled out and mistakenly used after that date.
So why are our pastoral musicians prepared to put so much time and effort into their service of the church at prayer? “The only answer can be that the church musician is a minister, someone who shares faith, serves the community, and expresses the love of God and neighbour through music.” (Liturgical Music Today)