When choosing an organist for Mass.
  • This is exclusively about hiring an organist for Mass.

    Which of these would you choose if there were no other applicants:

    A. An organist who struggles playing 4 parts out of the hymnbook.

    B. An organist who is competent playing 3 parts but no pedals.

    C. An organist who is competent playing 3 parts with a simplified pedal part.

    A, B or C.

    Comments welcome, but a rating of A B C is needed to make this useful.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,302
    Unequivocally C.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,696
    I would fix the budget, increase the salary, and find D.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    I would sing unaccompanied music.

    But in a ranking of A, B, C --- C.
    I assume (s)he can get better.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    You don't choose organists. Organists choose you.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    Some are born organists. Some achieve the status of organist. Some have organists thrust upon them.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,164
    It's an organistic thing.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,775
    Sheesh, get a good serpent player already.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Organ-ic development is the ideal. Bring back the serpent - and take my basses. LOL.
  • 3 answers and 6....
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,500
    B then C. I had to listen to an organist who played 3 parts + pedal badly... YUCK. I'd rather just not have pedals.
  • With all due respect to Noel -
    Why would anyone who could play only three out of four written parts think him or herself an organist? Why would anyone hire such a person. This entire conversation is a commentary on much that ills Catholic musicdom. A, B, and C, are not organists, so the question, 'would you hire an organist who could only....' is senseless because we are not talking about people who actually are organists.

    This is rather like asking a university: would you hire a professor of mathematics who could only add, or one who could only subtract, or one who could add and subtract but not divide, which would you choose... if there were no other applicants.

    This is not at all meant to discourage any who may be becoming organists and are trying with all true devotion and valiance to reach that goal. Godspeed!
    Thanked by 1ghmus7
  • "Why would anyone hire such a person."

    Ask the thousands of catholic priests who do this because there are no other applicants.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    "We're offering $15,000/yr to do five Masses every weekend, pick music, rehearse with two choirs, train cantors, come to staff meetings, and deal with five idiots who call themselves the Liturgy Planning Committee. We advertised this position only in our bulletin and by adding it to the announcements at one or two Masses on Sunday, but we forgot to mention at the 4pm or the Spanish Mass, which is probably fine because we don't want any of those people doing it anyway. I can't imagine why we only have three applicants and none of them play the organ very well. I guess they just aren't training organists the way they used to. Oh well."

    This is an artistic work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 975
    To expand on this:

    "Why would anyone hire such a person."

    Ask the thousands of catholic priests who do this because there are no other applicants.

    I got my first job as an organist (MJO would put quotes around "organist"... I probably would, too) at a small country parish. I wasn't particularly looking for work in the music field, but I could play four-part hymns on an organ. I didn't use pedal unless I could practice a LOT on an individual piece. Why would a parish hire me? Well, for one, some words that might stand out are "SMALL COUNTRY PARISH." They didn't pay much and they didn't have anyone else. Who is going to travel out into the boondocks for a pittance?

    But, hey, it's a start. Sometimes a person learns best by experience. It's how it worked for me. In the two years I played at the parish, I learned how to play any hymn they had with the pedals even to the point of being able to sight-read quite a few of them. It was a "have-to-learn" situation.

    If that one priest hadn't taken a chance at hiring me, I'd probably be working in some other field.

    Note: This parish actually previously had a professionally-trained organist. They were fortunate that he chose to stick around his home town and do other work and just play organ on the side for awhile. After he left, hiring me WAS a definite downgrade.
  • Congratulations, TCJ, for your ardour and your progress. Keep going!

    '... because there are no other applicants.'

    One could wonder why this is so. Perhaps the sneezy (or non-existent) remuneration? Perhaps, as is often the case, they really don't advertise for the real thing; or because all they want is a 'key-punch operator'.... you know: someone who knows how to play the keys but is only allowed to play the ones that the committee or the pastor want to hear. Anyone who really wants a genuine church musician will attract one and employ him or her. If there 'are no other applicants' it is because of the salary, the locale, the undesirable professional environment, & cet. There are scads of genuine, sacrificing, even compromising, church musicians who aren't being employed because a slew of people don't really want them.
    Thanked by 2hilluminar dboothe
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,176
    In one local case, the remuneration had to be small because the job was small: one Sunday Mass and one choir rehearsal. Ads brought in two applicants, and one dropped out upon finding out that the church was quite small, so the one remaining candidate was hired. As we end up with clusters of 3-4 churches under one or two priests, we may end up with many churches presenting only one or two Masses for a Sunday.
  • OlbashOlbash
    Posts: 314
    B. LH plays bass on one manual with 16' and strong 8'. RH plays other two or three voices on another manual
  • B.

    Only B and C are listed as being competent, so that eliminates A. Band C probably would require a good deal of practice to get ready for Mass, and I would venture to guess that C does not have a pedal instrument at home to practice. B could probably practice more, so I choose B.

    Nothing is worse than A. I have experienced "organist" A on many occasions. It is impossible to sing with such a person. It's worse than having a drummer who can't keep time. Really. Both play out of time, but at least the drummer can't play wrong notes.
  • I'd say B or C for sure, but B seems most practical. I'm probably going to get a lot of flack for this, but here's what I think...if someone plays a hymn well (accurately, good tempo, good interpretation) the congregation will be able to sing along. That's the point of playing hymns--to lead the congregation. No one sitting in the pew is going to know or care if they're playing pedals or not. It would be nice if the potential organist could eventually learn how to play the pedals. But that can take time, and it's better for a hymn to sound good than to have someone struggling with a difficult bass part.

    When I started playing the organ a few years ago, I only had a couple of lessons before I was thrust into the choir loft and baptized by fire (due to one of the other accompanists being in an accident and unable to play for a month). I made good use of the bass coupler button and I greatly simplified the more complicated hymns so I could actually play them. You just have to do what works and keep practicing.
  • dboothe
    Posts: 31
    Nothing was said about the instrument. Could be one reason better organists haven't applied.

    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • Definitely C. I'm in this position now at my current assignment. We had a fantastic young organist who was studying at the local university. He graduated and moved to another state to continue his studies in organ performance. There is no one here to fill the void who didn't already have a position at another church. This meant that if there was any organ music to be had at all, that I was going to be the one providing it.

    I am by no means an organist of any sort, but I do find that it rings true that you improve when you have to. I have really enjoyed learning how to play the instrument, and I hope to one day do so with some proficiency. I do think that some pieces played solely on manuals have a place, but nothing compares to having a bass line. On the instrument in my parish, no registrations on any of the three manuals sound good as a bass line (in my opinion). I found that learning to play the pedals gave me a lot more pleasing options for a bass line. The pieces I play are not complex, and I do most of my own harmonizations for accompanying chant (though we do almost all of our singing a cappella for the TLM). I find that working on a few short interludes and a postlude give me something to work towards expanding my proficiency without overwhelming me. I also try to improvise on some chants and hymn tunes. I have seen much improvement since I started, and I hope to continue to improve! Maybe one day I'll be reading four parts with pedal with some degree of proficiency!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,951
    Never give up, barnabus1898. Keep at it and you will excel.