The priest who wants more people singing.
  • 1. but he said he wants full communal singing at just about any cost, and he explained that the way to do this is through music that is catchy.


    2. Whenever I've been at a church with a great number of people in the 45+ age range and have done Here I Am, Lord or On Eagles' Wings, I hear a lot more congregational singing than when doing Lord You Gave the Great Commission.


    3. Sounds like he wants this blow-the-doors-off-the-church congregational singing


    Most priests do not speak music.

    Most of us do not speak appliance either. Had to go to the appliance part store and order a replacement part for an electric burner that would turn on, go red hot and not be adjustable. Went on the internet to find out what might be doing this and learn enough "appliance" talk to order the part. Got to the store and was able to stumble my way into getting the part ordered. Needed an "Infinity" switch.

    Father is unable to express what he wants in musical terms. So he is using the term "catchy", saying that people want to sing melodies that display the words in simple rhythms instead of word rhythms (chant, for the most part) or common word rhythms combined with structured musical rhythms (hymns).

    However, neither catchy melodies or rhythms lend themselves to full congregational singing. The more intricate the melody or rhythm is, the fewer people sing. I doubt that enough priests "speak music" enough to explain this or understand this - all that they see are mouths opening and shutting.

    So, look at #2 above once again. It may well be that this is what the solution is instead of "catchy" melodies.

    It's simple. The better a person knows a song, the better chance is that they will sing. If you sang Lord, You Gave the Great Commission every sunday for 6 months, it would then become a song that more people would sing.

    Does it fit every Sunday? And, along the same line, does the desire of some of us to match the music to the readings decrease the number of people singing?

    Do you have a master list of hymns for your parish? Ones that they sing well, ones that they do not?

    Why not?

    Planning is everything. It was easier for non-music reading, "learn it off the cassette tape" guitar groups to sing Here I am or On Eagle's over and over week after week, so this music became the master list of music in your parish that people will sing today. I was at a priest's mother's funeral and his sister sang all the verses of everything - Be Not Afraid, On Eagles, I am the Bread - everything that you'd expect perfectly as performed by the original artists, from memory while taking up the gifts, in line for communion...I'll wager $ that she had the cassette in her car and listened to it over and over again, locking it firmly into place in her mind, I'm sure.

    Our own interest in new music and moving ahead is what causes people to complain and not sing, not the music that we pick. Making a planned list, making CDs and mp3 field available for those interested, would both become a plan that a priest could understand and support.

    Giving him a copy of the CD and an explanation of what you have planned and why and then giving him time to listen and learn it would also go a long way to getting him on board and prepared for the congregations response.



  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    This is a very interesting topic.

    I feel very confused every time I go get my hair cut. I sit in the chair and my stylist, presumably an expert in this field, puts on my cape and begins asking me all sorts of questions...

    -How short do you want it?
    -Do you want me to use clippers or scissors?
    -If clippers, what number blade?
    -Do you want the back to be rounded or squared?
    -Should I shave "stairs" into the side of your head?
    -Would you like an arch when I wax your eyebrows?

    It is very confusing. I don't know what any of this means, and despite going through this process every 4-6 weeks, I never remember what it is that I'm supposed to ask for.

    So I usually ask the stylist, who again is hopefully an expert in the field of hair, what she thinks she should do. Usually she'll make a recommendation and then come back with three or four more questions.

    I just want her to make her expert decisions and then for me to reap the rewards of her labour and pay her for the tasks she has completed.

    Compare this to the average Catholic-music world situation... everyone wants something different, something that is easy for Person A is difficult for Person B, and nobody listens to the supposed "experts."

    My ideal haircut would be:
    Sit down, small talk hello and how are you (the answers of which I have memorized), cut the hair, wax the eyebrows, pay, walk out of store looking nice and ready to be a part of society again.

    If I a pew-dweller and were looking for the liturgical music-equivalent of the hair cut I'm looking for, it would be:
    Walk in, I sing the dialogue responses and the ordinary (which I have memorized), choir sings the propers, organist plays the organ, the priest/deacon delivers the homily, there are prayers and sacrifice, Transubstantiation, etc... then I walk out of the church feeling edified and ready to share the graces and messages I've received with the world.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Wow, MJM aka Sweeney, the Demon Barber of Camelback Mountain!
    I got that second haircut this mornin'', Matyieux. Much easier fo sho.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Glad my life is much simpler. When I first took my job, there was at least one new hymn of the day every Sunday, never rehearsed, and unknown to anyone but the choir or cantor. No one sang. Where is the surprise in that? I settled on 25 or so seasonal hymns and we all learned them. Now the congregation sings anything from that list.

    Hair. No stylist for me. Rather an old-time barbershop with copies of Field & Stream, a deer head on the wall, gentlemen discussing trucks, guns, and their wives spending too much time and money at Wal-Mart. The haircut is simple, as well. "Take it all off!" I don't have that much to cut to begin with. See how simple life, haircuts and music can be. LOL.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    I still don't know what the right answer is regarding rounded or squared neck.

    I JUST WANT TO UNDERSTAND.
    Thanked by 1Andrew Motyka
  • TCJ
    Posts: 696
    Next time just ask for dreadlocks.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • MJM, I believe I mentioned the same dilemma on Facebook a few weeks back. I feel like they're judging me if I pick wrong.

    (Psh! Rounded back? Seriously?)
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    Is square the right answer? I'm very confused.
    Thanked by 2BruceL Andrew Motyka
  • TCJ
    Posts: 696
    You can't go wrong with square. After all, if you had to pick from square notation or round notation, which would you go with? What works for music should work for hair!
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    Man alive, your stylist should be able to tell you which is better - round or square. Go to a barber. A real one, not one of them girls who had two weeks of "barber" in school.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I always tell my stylist "I don't care what you do, as long as you can tell me with a straight face afterward 'I thought it'd look good.'"

    There is a parallel to music here.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,827
    Hair Cut:

    Take a picture of yourself with the perfect haircut. When barber asks how you want it, show them picture of you. Done.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,027
    "Blocked" back is the appropriate barber's term, IMHO.
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    Now that Ordinary Time is coming around again, you can pick yourself about 5-6 generally eucharistic hymns and about 10 hymns of general praise to God.

    Some Suggestions:

    Soul of My Saviour (Anima Christi)
    See Us, Lord, About Thine Altar (Drakes Broughton)
    Let All Mortal Flesh (Picardy)
    Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (Hyfradol)

    Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Lobe Den Herren)
    Holy God, We Praise Thy Name (Grosser Gott)
    All People That on Earth Do Dwell (Old Hundreth)
    By All Your Saints Still Striving (Aurelia)
    The Lord's My Shepherd (Crimond)
    O God Our Help in Ages Past

    Having a list of regular hymns which you use throughout the year means that there are always a few solid hymns which the entire congregation will know. If they know the hymns they will sing them.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    So... I know I've been woking for Episcopalians and all that, but I have to ask....

    Aren't there some people working in Catholic parishes who are able to introduce new (to the congregation) music with some regularity, with them actually singing it?

    And has anyone had success in moving a congregation from not much singing to decently good singing?

    Maybe its just the nature of internet (or human) discourse, but I find that the various extremes (new music all the time, which no one sings; old music all the time, which people either sing or don't) get mentioned a lot.

    If everyone blows the roof off while singing "Be Not Afraid" or whatever, then YOU HAVE A SINGING CONGREGATION. The fact that they don't sing whatever else you selected for them is probably YOUR FAULT. It could be that you are introducing too many new things too quickly, or that you didn't prepare them well for it, or that you are playing it in a manner that makes it hard to sing, or they can't find it in the hymnal, or the type is TOO DAMN SMALL, or the melody is hard to follow, or the choir is over-amplified, or a single cantor voice is drowning everything out, or any number of other things....

    Does a congregation need to sing everything? No.

    But a congregation should be able to sing the things that pertain to them - and if you are using congregational hymns, then that pertains to them. There's nothing more depressing than a church full of people with hymnals open, mumbling along to something they are supposed to be singing.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,902
    Yes, Adam, it's do-able. We intro'd an OF congregation to a new hymnal, trained 'em up on TWO Ordinaries and several new-to-them hymns, and they sang well. All happened in around 2 years. Given time and repetition, they'll sing even better.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    Maybe its because I've been working for Protestants (in the South) and maybe its because I love a singing congregation more than any choir, but - I've managed to introduce 4 or 5 new Ordinaries and dozens of new hymns and songs over the last four years, and congregational singing has been excellent.

    Maybe I'm delusional, and maybe Catholics really are drastically different, I don't know - but often I think congregations don't sing because the musicians don't really want them to.

  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,111
    Maybe I'm delusional, and maybe Catholics really are drastically different


    No, I do not think they are different. It truly depends on our attitude of hospitality and our relationship with the community. Do we want them to sing? Do we want them to integrate sung prayer into their experience?

    The question was put to me by a Benedictine abbot, " Do you have a heart for communal prayer and will you use your talents for that purpose?"
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I agree. We don't limit ourselves to 5 or 6 hymns; we do new or different things a lot and our people sing pretty well.

    It seems like it just depends on the culture of the parish. In a parish that has never really sang, they won't. If they have always sung, they will sing, and will make a real effort to learn new things when they are introduced.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Even though I understand Little Joe's impetus towards, uh, familiarity being the prime mover for congregational singing of hymns, if you're going to jump into that tub with a sail, know that you'll share it with the odd couple of Omer Westendorf (RIP) and the disgraced theologian Matthew Fox. Anyone old enough to remember Omer's sensibilities at WLP back in the 70's knows that his People's hymnal (WLP) was premised upon the 12 greatest hits of RC musicdom, fleshed out with other greats from other denominations. Matt Fox at Detroit 81 (IIRC?) NPM keynoted by essentially saying the congregation should be spoon fed only songs and hymns that they know by heart, he meant that literally. At the time I thought it as "The 'Happy Birthday to you' method of programming." I didn't buy it then, still don't. Add to that the unhappy associations that attend texts like "A mighty fortress...O, God our help....Amazing grace...etc." and discretion and discernment become the better form of valor.
    If we're going to choose (legitimately) strophic hymnody for processionals, choose the best text for the best reasons and the melody that best suits that text, and presuming it's from some approved hymnal from somewhere legit, RCC or not, or app'd like Kathy's or Chris T's, then program the darn thing knowing the "singing" part is now in the PIP's strikezone. If they're gonna take a walk rather than swing, that's their fault, NOT ours.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,050
    The ability to learn new music involves exercising the muscles of the intellect. If used infrequently, the muscles will likely remain relatively feeble. Just as some couch potatoes can become triathletes in midlife, so too can adults whose childhood musical training was deficient acquire greater musical skill in midlife.

    Now, it should always be remembered that musicians are more likely to get "bored" by music much faster than a congregation because musicians rehearse it much more frequently (well, if they are well directed, that is).

    That said, I find there's something of a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to claims that a congregation can't do X, Y or Z. The causes for the claim should be examined. They are more likely to be true if there are significant extrinsic explanations: a hostile worship space, poor acoustics for congregational singing (carpeting, surface materials, proportions, vaulting that defeats a desirable level of musical clarity, domes on drums, et cet.), poor leadership, poor musicianship on the part of the musicians. There are tried and true techniques for gradually familiarizing a congregation with a new piece of music.
    Thanked by 2melofluent CHGiffen
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I agree strongly with Liam's first paragraph above. If a congregation goes to church expecting to sing their favorite hymns, they will only do that. If they're expecting to hear and participate in something new, that is what they will do.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    I don't think there is an easy answer to all of this. Congregations are not always in a singing mood. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they don't and for reasons even they may not understand.
    Thanked by 1Gavin