June 21, 2005


Brothers 'Get wise, get to church' (DAVE NEWBART, June 21, 2005, Chicago Sun-Times)

In "The Blues Brothers,'' John Belushi's character was so inspired by "preacher'' James Brown he glowed -- radiating in a beam of light -- and then he flip-flopped down the center aisle of the Triple Rock Church.

In real life, on any given Sunday, arm-waving children, dressed in bright purples, blues, yellows and greens, dance enthusiastically at the Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago, where the movie was filmed. Colorful bonnets -- from turquoise to pink to white -- dot the pews.

The music is loud and powerful, and the Rev. Hillard Hudson, holding his hands in the air and wearing a coat laced with crosses, screams, "There is nothing wrong with celebrating for Jesus!'' Parishioners shout back, "Hallelujah!'' and "Praise the Lord!''

It's a scene only slightly less energetic than Brown's over-the-top rendition of "The Old Landmark'' in "The Blues Brothers.'' The scene pays homage to Chicago as the birthplace of gospel.

The 88-year-old Pilgrim Baptist church is still alive and well at 3235 E. 91st, although it has gone through changes since the Blues Brothers went to "get wise'' and "get to church,'' as Cab Calloway, in the role of their orphanage mentor Curtis, urged them to do.

I never understood the Reformation until I listened to the wretched tunes the Catholics have to sit through.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 21, 2005 10:11 AM

The Christmas ones are good. But you are right, most of them are like "On Eagles Wings" which is awful. Once in awhile we get "Amazing Grace" which is lovely and powerful. I guess it depends on who the music director is, too. I avoid the folk mass at all costs.

Posted by: Buttercup at June 21, 2005 10:45 AM

Best worship music I've ever heard was one Sunday at the cathedral in downtown Buffalo while on a Cub Scout campout. They had a twenty-voice choir doing madrigals and medieval Latin chant. Real church music. A capella. No amplification.

It rocked.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 21, 2005 10:53 AM

Compared with post-Vatican II, hootenany hooey, "Rock of Ages" could be preferable. I guess.

Posted by: Ed Bush at June 21, 2005 11:29 AM


Although I am known here as a "moral freeloader" (not religious), I have fond memories of attending several Christmas Vesper services while in college. That kind of music is indeed soul-moving.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 21, 2005 12:09 PM

OJ: you made a correct observation, as did Buttercup (really depends on who the music director is) . . . it's gotten to the point that the only mass I can attend is early morning weekday (because there is no music) . . . I personally believe the Catholic mass is and should be so solemn as to transcend music -- any music would destroy its sanctity, regardless of how sublime it may be.

Posted by: jorge at June 21, 2005 12:23 PM


You've gotta come to a black Baptist service some time.

Posted by: oj at June 21, 2005 12:38 PM

Jorge, Agreed. I always try to attend early mass with no music, but neverthelees have fond memories from my earlier years of the music from the Latin Mass, especially the chants and the Dies Irae from the funeral Mass.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 21, 2005 1:00 PM

Pope Benedict's top priority is to fix the music.

Posted by: pj at June 21, 2005 3:33 PM

(Hey, there's another Jorge in here!)

Agreed. I went to a Catholic mass a couple of Sundays ago for the first time since Easter 1989 in Acapulco, and the music was horrid -- England Dan and John Ford Coley tunes with even wimpier lyrics.

It was an awful experience, until the service closed with everyone singing "God Bless America", which, while odd, almost made up for everything.

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at June 21, 2005 4:43 PM

Then there's Jewish liturgical music. In most hands it's not very inspiring. However, if you're ever in New York City you can hear a world-class voice at Central Synagogue (Lexington & 55th) at Friday night or Saturday morning Sabbath services with our Cantor Ida Rae Cahana. We've also have a professional choir whose voices meld and support nicely, and a state of the art pipe organ.

OJ, you're right about a Black Baptist choir. In a similar vein when I was a member of our separate amateur/congregant/volunteer choir the most inspiring singing was when we sang with the choir of the African-American Grace United Methodist Church at annual Martin Luther King commemmorations at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.From Psalms "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?"

Posted by: Jim Siegel at June 21, 2005 8:03 PM

I've an inchoate theory about the institution of cantor and why Jews can't sing, other than cantor's kids...

Posted by: oj at June 21, 2005 9:06 PM