• Even when I play postludes that are approx 2-to-3 minutes, I feel like my effort is usually wasted since no one listens for more than (what seems like) 60-to-90 seconds.

    How do other organists deal with this? Is it similar for you? Do you truncate longer works? Just play really short pieces? It drives me crazy to work up a decent postlude only to have the previously full church completely empty when I finish it.

    P.S. Many years ago when I went to a Presbyterian school, I remember the whole congregation singing the final hymn and then sitting down to listen to the organ postlude. They attentively sat for 4-7 minutes while the organist ripped off something marvelous. Imagine my disappointment when the Catholic congregations couldn't be bothered to even stay in the church for more than a minute after the final hymn!
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I think partially it's Catholics general lack of appreciation for good music, and partially the subconscious knowledge that the music is there to serve the liturgy, it's not necessarily music for it's own sake, which is a different view than I would imagine many protestants have.

    Just my own 2c.
  • Jani
    Posts: 386
    Pink, I can identify....sort of. People feel free to leave when the priest processes, and in our very small church, that has sometimes left me singing to a near empty church with a few people milling about and talking. Sigh. It doesn't happen very often though. If I can get them singing a good song, most will stay. But people just mostly want to go home. Or to breakfast.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    I put good organ works on a recital or concert, and play it for the 75 people who really want to hear it. Often I just improvise a piece based on the last hymn, or something totally out there altogether, use a double melody in the pedals for a high holy day and leave it at that. Often I play meditative music for a postlude to keep an attitude of prayer for those who stay to do so. (usually 1 - 4 people)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,343
    Some older Catholics still have the habit of leaving directly after Holy Communion and not waiting for the final blessing.

    When my mother started attending Mass in the 1990s, brought to church by her neighbor, the neighbor did just that, and Mom followed her out. It was some months before I took her to church one day, and until then she'd never actually seen the end of Mass! :-)

  • PDf,

    There are several issues here.

    1) The Mass is ended, and there is no recessional hymn in the rubrics.
    2) Most people have had the impulse to stay a few minutes afterwards, praying Thanksgiving, drilled or leached out of them.
    3) Due to the general denegration of music at Mass, the self-consciously ugly architecture and internal arrangement of most Catholic parishes nowadays, and the habitual acceptance of such things by John and Mary Catholic, who would stay to listen to a work of fine art which -- they have been told -- is all show and beyond their comprehension anyway?
    4) "More important" things to do.
    5) What is generally termed Irish-immigrant Catholicism. ( I don't know if it's fair to blame the Irish, but the idea of being first to the parking lot, having spent 47.5 minutes at Mass, is a badge of honor in some places.

    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • cmb
    Posts: 65
    Pretty sure most of the folks in my parish would be surprised to learn that the recessional hymn generally has more than one verse.
    Thanked by 1Jani
  • I did enjoy working in a Polish Parish, playing mostly at the English masses (thank heavens). The priest would stay absolutely in place for the first verse of the final hymn. If there was a Trinitarian hymn at the end (like, O God Almighty Father), I convinced him to stay in place until after verse 2. No one would leave while the priest was still at the altar or walking down the aisle. God bless him, he always walked very slowly, no matter how fast the servers might go. Postlude? A recapitulation of the final hymn, and that's it.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    I wonder if part of it is that people find it natural to process out of the church to music, rather than stand and wait until the music is over and then walk out in silence. Especially so if they have already stood there for an entire closing hymn as the sacred ministers processed out.
    Thanked by 1Steve Q
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,091
    Postludes in Catholic churches are processional music for the congregation's exit.
    Thanked by 1melofluent
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    My organ professor told me to hit the sforzando and put my elbows on the Great manual. He said they would never know the difference as they rushed for the exits.

    To answer the question of what to play, I often play French Baroque works. There are many short works written for the organ masses widely used in those days. They tend to run around a couple of minutes in length and nearly everyone is gone by the end.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Charles, some will even stay because they've never heard such marvelous music before!
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I know, and it happens. That music is wonderful and has been too often neglected, I think. I just wish I had 8 or 9 trumpet stops like the St. Maximin organ. ;-) I looked at the specs a minute ago, and it has 14 reed stops. WOW!
  • One time, I was playing for a Confirmation. We finished the recessional, and I started into my nice, loud, spirited postlude ... when the pastor got on the mic to tell people how to line up to take a group picture with the bishop. Which the pastor had already done before the bishop gave the final blessing.

    I gave him the benefit of the doubt and turned everything down -- hey, things happen and we sometimes have to be flexible. He seemed to finish, so I turned everything back up. Then he started talking again and didn't stop. I had to play the rest of the postlude with the boxes almost entirely closed so he could keep yapping.

    After that experience, I don't mind people galloping for the door so much.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 362
    In my parish, there is always another mass waiting to begin, so postludes are reserved for the rare Sunday where mass runs long. I think that in some places, the people are in a hurry to leave because they didn't really enjoy being there in the first place. I don't have an explanation, but it may depend on the community itself. Attention spans are not what they were when I was a child and mass was mass.
  • Steve Q
    Posts: 96
    I wonder if part of it is that people find it natural to process out of the church to music, rather than stand and wait until the music is over and then walk out in silence.


    Our pastor tells us to go ahead and keep playing, even if most of the people have left the church. He says that he wants a joyful sound ringing out in the church as people leave, which they will continue to hear out in the parking lot until they get into their cars. Hopefully, that will somehow help them to retain the joy in their hearts from the mass.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    My pastor said to play loudly since it would be harder for the pips to talk in the church.
    Thanked by 3Liam CHGiffen Gavin
  • musicman923
    Posts: 239
    I always play preludes before mass. This weekend I used the widor adagio from the 5th symphony. Pink, I agree with you. I do not play any classical organ postlude only on Christmas or Easter Sunday. Every other Sunday the postlude is a final time through the recessional hymn while pulling stops.
  • For the postlude, I use a mix of composed music and improvisations on the final hymn. If something is particularly long, I might cut it down some, or just play the last few pages. For example, in Bach's Passacalia, I might start at the quick triplets or the next variation.

    Here, there's usually at least a few that will stay to the end and thank me afterwards, which is nice.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    My pastor said to play loudly since it would be harder for the pips to talk in the church.


    At one of my first jobs, the pastor told me not to play the postlude so loudly, because the people couldn't talk over me.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    No prelude, carillon takes care of that

    No instrumental post-communion, Fr. doesn't allow it

    Postlude not worth doing, nobody stays long enough to hear any of it, and they just think I'm practicing for something else

    At the school:

    Total opposite. Prelude and postlude at each Mass, post-communion at my discretion, and Fr. totally supports it all
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    Don't be fooled by the dual headed philosophy of modernism that plays both sides to keep you on 'their side'. google, dual headed eagle.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,229
    Staying for the postlude? Many folks take a hike after communion.
    I expect people to not listen to the postlude, however, what irks me (rant warning) is when someone (often a choir member) keeps tapping me on the back to get my attention while I am playing the postlude.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Yes! The cantor often tries to ask me questions about this or that during the postlude. Irritating!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I have told choir members that I am unable to do two things at once. If they have anything to say to me, be seated and wait until I finish playing. I have also told them to stop trying to talk over the organ during postludes, and to leave the loft if they have anything of any importance to say to each other. I have to repeat it from time to time. I call them the Alzheimer's choir.
    Thanked by 2kenstb eft94530
  • Reval
    Posts: 150
    On the subject of people who are clueless about preludes and postludes, I once was playing prelude music before an outdoor wedding (as part of a string trio). The groom was yapping on his phone, right next to us, about how we were "just practicing the wedding music". Of course, this was the same wedding where the bride's mom warned us that 2 of the groomsmen had outstanding warrants for their arrest, and the sheriff might pick them up there, since "everyone" knew they would be there. Also the wedding where the ushers shot off fireworks (illegally and surprisingly) during the recessional.
    Ahhh, the joys of outdoor weddings...
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Technically, the moment after "Thanks be to God" is uttered, any and all congregants can exit the church "guilt free," not even having to wait for the cross or the celebrant to pass them by.
    So what we're chatting about hear is Miss Manners' stuff.
    Having the good fortune of being the choirmaster and graced with a genius organist, we long ago articulated a few things-
    *Whatever is played and/or sung at that dismissal, we're are doing so for the glory of God only. We haven't a concern whatsoever whether "they" stay, sing, talk over the music, or moo on their forced march to the parking lot.
    *When the postlude is played, now generally as the recessional piece, as soon as the celebrant crosses the plane passed the choir in the epistle transept, the choir sits, doesn't talk, takes in the postlude, and if we're so moved quietly applaud our organist if the piece was rousing. Then we exit after any quietly announced remiinders from me or W, and all's well.

    We're, as AmChurch, now a long ways from "ettiquette" and way into "It's all about me and you're not the boss of me" mentality. It's a crying shame, but it is so.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,229
    In some parishes, the many masses are so back to back that there is hardly time for preludes or postludes.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I haven't played a prelude in years. It is utter chaos with cantors and choir coming in late, trying to find their music, and other craziness going on. There is not more than 15 to 20 minutes between masses and I need to get out of the loft for a few minutes, too.
    Thanked by 1lagunaredbob
  • I might add that at our weekly school liturgies, I traded the recessional song in for instrumental music/postlude years ago. It has the practical application of keeping me from having to do many awful "sending songs."
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    At my last job we had a sizeable pipe organ in a huge, marvelously lively space, and on the ocassions the PIP chose to talk, which was most Masses, there was NOTHING that would drown them out.l

    Tim, at my first school Mass with a choir, we began a choral postlude, would have been 45 seconds tops, choir in the front of the nave, but that didnt stop the dim-bulb but beloved principal walking into the sanctuary, grabbing the ambo mic and barking out info about cafeteria schedules, or something of the sort....
    I should have realized then what value TPTB placed on music that didntinclude hand jive or itsy-bitsy spider moves.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    As I read the comments, this video came to mind:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGG3Zcc7yqw
    It is my favorite for three reasons (in order of occurrence):
    1. Liber on music rack
    2. Guilmant on music rack
    3. the microphone-assisted voice was severely under-powered
  • I have been Music Director at a church in Lancaster NY, eastern suburb of Buffalo for about 2 years now. Church has a 1920 Moller that was acquired by one of my predecessors. Both of my predecessors (there were two organists that split the organ masses) were both notorious for whaling away on another stanza of the closing hymn on full organ almost every Sunday. I play standard repertoire postludes each week, and I normally "suggest" a full organ sound by using 1/3 or less of the organ's volume. There are a few old guard parishioners who I know are on a mission to drive me out of the church, and would gladly take back my predecessors. Well, about a month ago, one complained to the parish council that my postludes are "too loud and disturbing to those who want to talk after church," and another screamed at me in the sacristy saying that "we don't want to hear grandiose performances of "songs" we don't know..." Fortunately my pastor is not taking these complaints too seriously, aside from a "be aware of the organ's volume" comment. Postludes are still heard in Lancaster NY.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • Those who call their voluntaries 'preludes' and 'postludes' may not be aware of what, exactly is meant by these various 'ludes'. A voluntary, of course, is any apt piece that is played at some given point in the liturgy at which music is appropriate and a choir is either not available or inappropriate. Voluntaries, like propers and hymns, should be chosen for their aptness by virtue of a lectionarily-appropriate cantus firmus or mood. But a 'lude'? What is that? Well, it comes from the Latin 'ludus', which has to do with 'play' - as in 'ludicrous', 'ludic', etc. Therefore, playing before a liturgy is a 'pre-lude', and playing after the same is a 'post-lude' - which makes playing during the offertory an 'offertorylude', and playing during communion a 'communionlude'. Whether you call your voluntaries voluntaries or ludes, choose them with care.
  • Missed this thread first time around, so I'll have a go. (Full disclosure: I currently serve a Presbyterian church, though am not Presbyterian myself.)

    The custom here is for the majority of people to start chatting noisily and head for the exits, while a few remained in the pews and attempted to listen. When I arrived here, it would frustrate me greatly...I'd put in the time practicing the big works by Bach, and hardly anyone could be bothered to listen. The Worship & Music committee spoke to the pastor on my behalf, but he had no desire to ruffle any feathers by trying to change the situation.

    Eventually I realized that what I could do was change my approach. I scoured the organ repertoire for shorter (2-3 minute) works, particularly by the lesser-known composers. There was a lot of mediocre stuff to sift through, but I managed to find some keepers. I also wrote a postlude of my own, and it was well-received so I'll try dashing off a few more. On the occasions when I do play a larger work, I usually truncate it, and hope the composer will forgive me.

    It is ideal? No. People still talk noisily and walk out, but at least I haven't invested so much of my soul into the postlude that I feel deflated afterwards. It allows me to focus my energy on other portions of the service. And I do put on organ concerts for the people who want to come and listen respectfully.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    Whether you call your voluntaries voluntaries or ludes, choose them with care.

    Especially true in the case of quaa-ludes. Never bite off more than you can swallow.
  • Not a new or American problem; consider Saint-Saens' remarks about the fugue being the proper form for a postlude.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    A fugue is the proper form for music.
    Thanked by 1irishtenor
  • Fugue is not a form.
    It is a procedure.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,229
    I sometimes wonder if there is a conflict between folks wanting make a good thanksgiving, and the organist wanting to make a good postlude. When im wailing away at the postlude I sometimes feel as if I am distirbing those who stay to make that thanksgiving, though I seem to lose that slightly guilty feeling as soom as I am in the midst of the 'lude.! I cant recall anyone complaining about this, except for a student getting upset about Messiaen!
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,229
    Are there any mention of pre or postludes in church documents? The only thing I recall is the question of appropriatness for certain seasons....WHICH MIGHT indicate that the church regards them as normal unless trumped by other factors?

  • '... a student getting upset about Messiaen!'

    I must admit that in my younger and more impish days I would on rare occasions play Messiaen just to see if anyone would get upset. Oh, the thrill of it! The triumph! (Of course, I really did love and highly value his music - it is wretched to learn, but so fulfilling to play.) And, actually, no one ever did get upset, which was an even greater triumph. The most droll thing ever said was when I was practicing les bergers from la Nativite' for several ladies in the St Ambrose choir and one of them said humourously that it sounded like the shepherds had clubbed feet.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen ghmus7