Thank you again for your beautiful music at the memorial liturgy for my sister back in February. When I thanked you after Mass, you commented that you were surprised and pleased that so many people in the pews had sung. May I share a few reflections?
It seems to me that liturgy falls somewhere on a spectrum between performance and participation.
If the emphasis is on music as a means, in itself, of honoring God's sublime presence, as your pastor clearly prefers, then the liturgy tends to seek a gorgeous and perfect musical performance. Through that performance, the hope is that the people experience the beauty, enter the reverence, and lift our hearts to God. In practice, if not in theory, this style can convey a clear hierarchy: the presider and the music ministers are the channels for God's presence; the people's role is secondary and not essential.
If the emphasis is on music as a means of engaging the whole community in prayer as fully as possible, then the liturgy, the presider, and the music ministers send lots of signals that people's imperfect voices are part of our liturgical joy in our wondrous God. The musicians' voices and instruments never drown out the voices of the people, and occasionally are so quiet that the people may hear only themselves. The presider often sings along.
The liturgical leaders tend to make eye contact with the people, rather than facing the side wall of the church, as your pastor often does (conveying a sense that people are a distraction from the Real Event, which is solely happening in the sanctuary; those in the pews are audience, observers rather than active parts of the Eucharistic transformation).
The people in the pews for my sister's funeral came from all over. But many, many of them were either her friends from your parish, or my friends from mine nearby. My parish has a very strong tradition of participatory liturgies, as well as the things that tend to be present in a parish where participation is part of the package -- e.g., strong lay leadership roles in the parish, an active pastoral council, etc.
At my sister's memorial liturgy, I'm guessing you were hearing mostly voices from my parish. Remember, in your parish church, people enter every single week by walking below the words, "Let all mortal flesh keep silent."
I appreciate the beauty that you gave us, and wish you many blessings in your work. Music is a great gift, in any form. But the form and style do change the nature of the gift - tending toward either "we presiders and liturgists give you this gift as a means of reverence" or "let's sing together as a gift for God."
(I know this isn't about LCWR. But it is about us either being, or not being, recognized as church. I finally sent this, six months after the event, with appreciation and respect and hope for the fine young musician I addressed.)