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To beat or not to beat, that is the question...

posted Feb 25, 2013, 9:22 AM by Steven Vaughan
While the inclusion of percussion instruments in the liturgy often provides color and dynamism, its place is often debated among the laity. In its document Sing to the Lord, Music In Divine Worship the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says: “Musical instruments in the Liturgy are best understood as an extension of and support to the primary liturgical instrument, which is the human voice.” It goes on to restate the following from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM): “Among all other instruments… the organ is accorded pride of place because of its capacity to sustain the singing of a large gathered assembly, due to both its size and its ability to give ‘resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.’” 

But it then points out: “However, from the days when the Ark of the Covenant was accompanied in procession by cymbals, harps, lyres, and trumpets, God’s people have, in various periods, used a variety of musical instruments to sing his praise. Each of these instruments has given voice to a wide variety of forms and styles through which Christ’s faithful continue to join their voices to his perfect song of praise...” The GIRM confirms that: “other wind, stringed, or percussion instruments may be admitted into divine worship in the dioceses of the United States of America, in so far as these are truly suitable for sacred use or can be made suitable". To be “made suitable” means that any instruments used to accompany congregational singing need to lead you into fuller participation in the Mass, or a deeper sense of prayer. 

And Dr. John Pennington writes in Today’s Liturgy: “The plethora of references to percussion instruments throughout Scripture certainly presents us with the historical precedence for their inclusion in the liturgy and the praise and glory of God.”  

But the question to you here is, does the occasional addition of percussion make you want to sing better? Does it help you pray? If not, why? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this, either in person, phone or email.