CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Choose appropriate and good songs for Mass

HONG KONG (SE): Around two hundred liturgical music lovers and Church choir members in Hong Kong attended a music workshop by Franciscan Brother Rufino Zaragoza, held at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Kennedy Town, on January 21 to brush up on their skills in liturgical singing. The event was organised by the Chaplaincy for Filipino Migrants and co-sponsored by the Franciscan House in Kowloon.
Brother Zaragoza was on a tour giving liturgical music seminars in Saigon, Vietnam before coming to Hong Kong. Every year, he spends six months developing English worship resources and supporting choirs in Southeast Asia. He was invited to Hong Kong to give a music workshop in 2012 as well.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Brother Zaragoza holds a bachelor’s degree in Church music from Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, and a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley, California. He has written many articles in various liturgical magazines and the Oregon Catholic Press has published his musical compositions and instrumental albums.
Explaining some instructions in the Roman Missal related to the choir, Brother Zaragoza said that the purpose of an entrance song or the gathering song in the Mass is not to announce the entry of the celebrant to the sanctuary, but to gather people’s attention to prayer and to enhance their participation. Hence, the choir must continue singing a few more verses even after the priest reaches the altar and should not stop abruptly. 
Brother Zaragoza further emphasised the importance of selecting appropriate music for the theme of the Mass. “Before selecting a song, think about the function of the song during a Mass and the liturgical season and see if the songs help to reflect the theme of the Mass,” he said.
Accompanying himself on piano, he invited participants to sing some liturgical hymns for Lent and Easter, such as Resucito by Kiko Arguello and Worthy is the Lamb by Ricky Manalo. 
He reminded the choir leaders that the lyrics of a selected song have to be pastorally appropriate, so people can think about its meaning and apply it to their daily lives. He encouraged the choirs in Hong Kong to expand their repertoires and include songs about peace, justice and care for creation to help bring the gospel to the world or draw attention to the suffering people. He demonstrated some songs in the recommended songbook that speaks to the situation of overseas workers and comforts their homesickness. One of them is You Gather in the Outcast by Scot Crandal.
Brother Zaragoza believes that a choir should repeat songs, or at least the communion song, to enhance people’s focus on the Mass. Too many new songs each week may disturb the congregation’s participation as they may not be familiar with the melody. He recommends a comprehensive music plan be made for liturgical seasons rather than from week to week, so as to bring out the message of that season. 
Nida Abaya who is in charge of the choir at St. Alfred’s parish, Shatin, said she found the talk practical and informative. She said she was happy to buy a songbook recommended by the brother with a list of music selections for different Mass settings on the occasion. 
She said her choir, however, rarely sang new songs in the Mass as they have little time to practice them. She said that the talk helped her to learn things about the Roman Missal which she was not aware of before, for example as the responsorial psalm is a sung prayer, it has to be led by a cantor at the ambo.
Ruel Trinidad, music director of the English choir of Rosary Church, Tsimshatsui, said he came to the seminar to see how to improve the musical skills of the choir. He told the Sunday Examiner that he found the part about selecting appropriate music for Mass most useful. “The problem of some choirs in Hong Kong is that they choose songs they like to sing instead of the ones suitable for the occasion or the season,” he said.

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