Church music hits the mark in Bangladesh

0

Catholic bishops’ commission for liturgy and prayer organizes training to ensure musicians sing

Catholic singers and choirmasters undergo national training in liturgy and church music at the National Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. (Photo provided)

Posted: Jun 17, 2022 05:10 GMT

Updated: June 17, 2022 06:09 GMT

For more than three decades, Ruma Brizita Biswas had sung several popular liturgical and devotional songs with incorrect notations and lyrics because no one had taught her the correct versions.

“One of my favorite songs is Jishu ghrinar rajjye enechho tomar prem (Jesus, you brought your love to the realm of hate), but I had been singing it incorrectly all my life as ‘Jesus brought love to your realm of hate.’ The same thing happened to other songs,” Biswas, a Bengali Catholic, told UCA News.

Aged 40, he is the choir director of the parish of Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in the diocese of Khulna, in the south of Bangladesh. The parish has about 5,000 Catholics.

Ucan Store
Ucan Store

A church-sponsored music training program in the nation’s capital Dhaka helped her correct her faulty lyrics, she said.

Biswas was one of 50 participants in the nationwide training on liturgy and church music by the Catholic Bishops’ Commission for Liturgy and Prayer in the Holy Spirit Major Seminary from June 3-9. They included two priests, 11 nuns and lay people representing eight Catholic dioceses in Bangladesh.

Participants learned basic concepts related to liturgy, devotion and the importance of liturgical music. They practiced the correct notations of the songs provided by the trainers. They have also been trained to select appropriate songs for occasions such as baptisms, weddings, funerals and parties.

“We have seen that the meaning and purpose of songs change if the words are misused. Musical instruments must help liturgical music”

“I never knew that specific songs had to be selected for a specific liturgy and for different parts of the Holy Mass. It was a valuable learning for me through the training,” she said.

The national formation is an annual program held since the 1970s aimed at making the liturgy more participatory and harmonious, said commission secretary Father Peter Chanel Gomes.

He said their attempt was to discipline liturgy and church music in Bangladesh in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

This year’s program took place after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Problems exist in liturgy and music at the diocesan and parish level. The use of incorrect lyrics, tunes and musical instruments, poor selection of songs, especially during Mass, are major issues,” Fr Gomes told UCA News.

The Second Vatican Council allowed for the inculturation of liturgy and music “but we have to make sure everything is disciplined,” the priest said.

“For example, Saint Anthony is a popular saint, but he is not more important than Jesus. So when we sing songs for the saint during mass, it lowers our faith”

He said teams from dioceses have been formed and will form choirs in parishes.

Father Patrick Gomes, Bible scholar and prominent Catholic musician, was a trainer. He insisted that proper music is necessary to aid in the sanctity of liturgies.

“We have seen that the meaning and purpose of songs change if the words are misused. Musical instruments should aid liturgical music” and should not disturb and distract people, he said.

Sometimes when songs intended for the distribution of communion are sung for the offertory, “it destroys the meaning” of the songs, the musician priest said, pointing to a common problem.

Father Gomes, from the Diocese of Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh, noted that due to popular devotion to certain saints, Catholics tend to sing songs dedicated to the saints instead of Jesus during Mass on feast days. .

“For example, Saint Anthony is a popular saint, but he is not more important than Jesus. So when we sing hymns for the saint during Mass, it lowers our faith,” the priest said, adding that the lyrics of some hymns are also not in harmony with the Bible.

Father Gomes was referring to the devotion to Saint Anthony of Padua, the Portuguese saint famous for his miraculous power. There are several shrines in Bangladesh dedicated to the saint which attract tens of thousands of Christians and non-Christians every year.

“I think that such training programs will have a real impact if they are carried out regularly at the diocesan level for members of parish choirs. This will help make liturgy and church music more participatory”

Bangladesh has around 400,000 Catholics out of a population of over 160 million in the Muslim-majority country.

“I think every diocese should have at least two trained people who can handle liturgical music. They will be responsible for the proper selection and singing of songs. Seminary programs should include a course on liturgical music,” Fr. Gomes added.

Rinku Biswas, 40, an ethnic Paharia Catholic and choirmaster at Queen Assumed into Heaven parish in Rajshahi diocese, said all parishes had choirs but most singers were untrained. They learned to sing from their elders without having any training, he says.

“It is necessary to have such training for at least one month a year. There is so much to learn and correct. During the five-day program, we learned at least something that will improve church music in my parish,” Biswas told UCA News.

He said he learned music when he was a student at a church-run hostel and only once had a brief musical training in his diocese.

“I realize now that training is important for a creative art like music, and when it comes to church music, we have to be more careful because it impacts the devotion of the people who attend the liturgy. I learned a little but I need to know more,” he added.

Both Ruma and Rinku insisted that church authorities at the diocesan level should organize regular training to improve church music at the local level.

“I think that such training programs will have a real impact if they are carried out regularly at the diocesan level for members of parish choirs. This will help make church liturgy and music more participatory,” said Ruma Biswas.

Recent news

Share.

Comments are closed.