Yesterday, at the New York Encounter, the Mass was accompanied by the Gospel Choir of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem. Perhaps I was expecting something more rowdy than the reverent, moving music we were treated to. The songs were all about trust in God and asking his help in conducting our life. The words were simple, the music easy to pick up, the singing heartfelt, and some of the church members were scattered throughout the auditorium to worship with and encourage the rest of us. The clapping was restrained and purposeful. It was about praise.
Yesterday's post from Msgr. Charles Pope describes the African American contribution to liturgy in a very comprehensive way. I so appreciated this article after the liturgical experience of yesterday and am grateful to the choir for so generously sharing their faith with us. In his second point, he described the particular character of this music:
One of the glories of musical repertoire of the African American Parishes is that it is almost exclusively focused on God and what He is doing. We have remarked here before how much modern Catholic music is far too focused on us, who we are, and what we are doing. Not so in the gospel music tradition where God is invariably the theme. In an anthropocentric time, this is a refreshing stream from which to draw. You may have whatever feelings you have about the style of Gospel music, but the bottom line is that it is about God. One song says, God is a good God, he is great God, he can do anything but fail. Another says, God and God alone! Another songs says, God never fails! And on and on. Even when we mention ourselves it is only to remember God: We’ve come this far by faith, Leaning on the Lord, trusting in his holy word, He’s never failed me yet!
Following is a video of one of the songs from yesterday's Mass, "I Can Go to God in Prayer":