Music is not new to me. In my younger years, I was a member of the youth choir.
When I entered the seminary to respond to the call, music had been part of our daily lives. There was no audition per se as every soul within the seminary walls were part of the choir – as one community we sang the mass. The music practice was a regular weekly activity. Of course for the neophytes, we had to be “voice-classified” using the piano keys. But even those of us who were “tone-deaf”, they were part of the choir even if their voice did not hit any of the piano keys. It is the beauty of this gift though – even our “tone-deaf” brothers were able to finally hit the notes of the “Our Father” after being exposed to a daily dose of music for 4 years.
Although, there was a specific group for the really talented and musically-inclined – the “Himig Rekoleto” and I’m PROUD to say that I was once a part of that group.
One other item worth mentioning with seminary music was we had to learn another “voice” aside from our specific “voices”. The reason for this was we can be picked randomly by a priest to accompany him on his outside mass. It would be unlucky if all that were picked were “tenors” or “basses”. Hence, anytime we could sing “melody”, “tenor” or “bass”. It is one reason why I also try to learn and sing “bass” even if it is beyond my vocal range. I even remembered a summer time when only three of us were left in the seminary, and we formed the choir. One was our instrumentalist, I served as the altar server, and another served as lector/commentator. But when it’s time to sing, we sang with three voices. Although in some instances during that summer, we were complemented with the “cantoras” – the young ladies from the neighborhood, our seminary angels.
With all these exposures to music, I’ve always appreciated quality in the choir’s voice, those that were specifically and specially selected because of voice quality and talent, i.e., until one summer vacation when I’ve experienced another kind of music. Let me digress here for one moment.
My mother was not gifted with a good voice like my Aunts, in particular auntie Munda and auntie Lita (may they all rest in peace and join the angels in heaven in joyful song of praise).
Oh, I love to listen to their beautiful a cappella rendition of “Devoted to You” or “The Sound of Silence.” Autie Lita’s alto blended beautifully with Auntie Munda’s soprano. No, my mother was plain-voiced even bordering at times to not necessarily “out-of-tune” but more so to “starting-a-song-with-a-different-pitch”.
She was one of the charismatic pioneers in our place together with another aunt. In one prayer meeting they had at our home, they were singing worship and praises and I never heard a song so moving, not even in the seminary that I felt I was with angels singing praises to the Lord. They were just singing melody, no voicing or any technical musical style. They were just singing their hearts out. It was then that I was taught my very important lesson in one of our rare conversations — that singing for people is very different when you are singing for the Lord. People listen and appreciate beautiful voices, the Lord looks at the purity of heart and the HUMILITY of spirit. As a music coordinator, it became my guiding principle in selecting and accepting brethren in our Music Ministry – COMMITMENT foremost, and love for music only second. Many have the talent but have no commitment. To those who commit and sing with utmost HUMILITY, the Lord provides the talent.
Last Saturday, 24 June 2017, on the 36th anniversary of Couples for Christ, we were honored to be part of the 1000-choir to lead the singing of the Holy Mass. We were not selected because of our beautiful voices because definitely there were many who had better voices than we have; nor were we selected due to our talent for music — read “notes-reading”. In our group, I think I am the only one with some background at reading musical scores and not even good at it. Most of the time, we do it “Oido”. No, we were invited to join the 1000-choir because of our commitment to serve the Lord through music.
Since the choir members were from different parts of the country, practices were done per group. Although there was a first choir practice scheduled two weeks before the event for those in Metro Manila and outlying areas at the Quezon City hall lobby, we were not able to join the group’s first gathering. And for most, the gathering at Quirino grandstand on the 24th was our first time to really gather as a choir. With so vast a choir, without a general practice, I salute our conductor, Bro Tito Cayamanda for really bringing the best in us.
Early in our singing, I noticed bro Tito pointing at his breast – telling the choir to sing from the heart. I was reminded of my mother when they sang their worship songs to the Lord with their hearts and souls. It is also what I always tell my brethren in our Music Ministry, to always sing from the heart whether in Sunday Mass when we are the choir or as we lead our brethren in the CFC community in our monthly prayer assemblies.
When we have a choir with good voices, complete with voicing and the right modulation, we tend to get the glory and not the Lord from whom all talents flow. In the Holy Mass, the congregation stop to marvel in awe instead of participating in the singing as they should have. Singing in pop concerts is entirely different from leading in worship. The attention and glory should all be directed to God and not the choir or the Music Ministers. In our prayers before singing, we always ask the Lord that “in our unworthiness, may He send His angels to sing with us that those who hear may have a deeper communion with Him.”
In my old t-shirt (one of my first CFC t-shirt), the CFC Music Ministry by-line spells it out:
“when the Spirit leads, the music moves.”
And so, for the 36 years that He has blessed Couples for Christ, we proclaim our praise and thanksgiving. To God be all the glory!