Pastor keeps throwing off the choir when he sings...
  • So the pastor at my church has a great voice and really enjoys singing. The problem is, when he sings along during the Mass (usually the propers and ordinary), he sings at a different tempo than the schola is singing and it really throws us off because his microphone is louder than our mics are. I think it makes it worse because we're in a choir loft and there's about a one second delay before our sound hits his hears. Anyways, today it was especially bad because we were getting ready to intone the Sanctus XVIII and he just started singing it himself, but he sang it at breakneck speed and no one could follow along, including the congregation which knows it very well. It's disappointing to me because I have several beginning singers in my schola, including children, and I've worked very hard with them so that they have good diction and pronunciation of the Latin words. They do a great job when we can just sing at a normal speed, but no one can follow along with "sanctusdominusdeussabbaoth...."

    Anyways, does anyone think this is worth talking to the pastor about, or is it just something I have to deal with? We haven't been singing at Mass for very long, so I don't think he's used to having a schola actually lead the parts of the Mass like that. I just feel like we're being micromanaged.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 755
    Wow what a blessing - a priest who sings enthusiastically.
    'Father, it is so great to have you sing you parts of the Mass... could you come to practice sometimes, it would really help and encourage the children....Now everybody, since Fatheris here to practice with us today, lets go through the parts where he sings and we respond, that's it, first he sings and we listen, then we sing and he listens.... okay now the parts where we sing together, remember we will be at opposite ends of the church so it is really important to listen to each other (or the organ), and lets practice our diction whle we are at it...( I feel like I am channeling joyce Grenfell)
    nursery school with joyce grenfell
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Get rid of all microphones.

    Of course, in thingsthatcanactuallyhappenland, tell your priest that he is forgetting to turn off his microphone while he is singing. Done.
  • This is a delicate matter, but summon all your delicacy and explain the problem to him. He may be unaware of it. He may think that he doesn't need to follow the choir. He may be pleasantly glad to oblige. Perhaps a private session or two with him getting him to sing in time with you would illustrate the problem and be helpful in solving it. You are blessed that he does love to sing, so there must be a diplomatic way to get him out of his (Probably unconscious) divo role.

    (And, it is astonishing that your choir sing through microphones. Get rid of them. And while you're at it, get rid of his.)

    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • I like that suggestion, bonniebede. It really is a blessing that he sings, and I don't want to hurt his feelings or discourage him. It's more just about everybody getting on the same page so we can sing together.

    Gavin, I'd love to get rid of the microphones, but the acoustics in the church are horrendous and literally no one can hear anybody else unless they use a microphone. It's like, the building has magical powers to absorb all the sound before anyone can hear it.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 755
    My sympathy re the building, we sang our family Mass in such a church at Christmas. Our usual church has a lovely acoustic, even the children can make it ring like a bell. At Christmas I was on the altar leading carols, and watching the choir sing. It was like a silent movie. I could see lips moving but no sound coming across.
    I am sure you will find the diplomatic solution.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • Hahaha, I know exactly what you mean! It's like, where is that sound going?! I have definitely noticed that if the church is full, the acoustics are worse. I think people absorb the sound or something. When we practice and the church is empty, it sounds pretty good. Not that I'm complaining about a full church, though!
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,221
    just tell him to turn his mike off during the singing.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    Bonnie's suggestion is the best. Giving the priest directions - as if you're the one running the liturgy - is unlikely to work well.
  • Musiclover88, you're right! Helmholtz, a noted acoustician from the past, said each person is equivalent to an open window when it comes to absorption of sound. And each puts out about 150 watts of heat.

    Since both the choir and priest are being amplified the priest should be hearing them as they sing without delay - with no delay unless the choir has its own speakers or e cannot hear the front speakers. Since he did not hear that the people and the choir were falling behind, it sounds like he is in a position - probably surrounded with carpet and absorptive stuff so that he cannot hear.

    Bonnie's got the right idea, especially about being sensitive to his situation.

    If he sings it a lot faster than you like, this may be part of it too. He may have jumped in to take control.

    There's nothing that having supper one night each week with the pastor would not solve. If he's got the time.
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    We get some of the same effect when one of our priests processes in and forgets his wireless mic is on. We have even heard conversations he was having with people outside after mass. LOL.
    Thanked by 2musiclover88 Carol
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    Where are the volume controls? :)
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Since both the choir and priest are being amplified the priest should be hearing them as they sing without delay - with no delay unless the choir has its own speakers or e cannot hear the front speakers. Since he did not hear that the people and the choir were falling behind, it sounds like he is in a position - probably surrounded with carpet and absorptive stuff so that he cannot hear.


    That's a good point, Noel. I am wondering if maybe he wasn't able to hear the speakers from the altar. I used to have a problem with him singing the wrong tempo on hymns, but that quickly got better when I simply played the organ louder. He might even have some slight hearing problems.
  • Often the speakers are directed away from the altar so that the microphones can be set to a high level, which otherwise would pick up the signal and starting to feed back. After all there is nothing coming from the church for the priest to hear, so it does not matter.

    The solution - adding monitor speakers carrying only the sound of the choir microphones to the altar so he can hear - might be suggested, but is useless. It further complicates everything.

    There are few churches that could not be improved by a visit from:

    http://www.riedelassociates.com
    Thanked by 1PolskaPiano
  • Thanks for the link, Noel, I'll check it out. I know what you mean about complicating everything. I think the entire sound system probably needs an overhaul.

    One choir member pointed out that when several of us were standing very close to the ledge of the choir loft (we had just been kneeling) and started singing the Angus Dei, several members of the congregation turned around and looked at us, like that was the first time they heard us or something. So I'm wondering if just moving everyone closer to the ledge (that sounds kind of scary, haha) might help, too.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Where are the volume controls? :)


    Half a city block away from the loft in the altar servers sacristy. We have no control over them at all.
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • TCJ
    Posts: 697
    I had this problem once when a priest who usually doesn't say Mass here had one of the weekend Masses. He sang very well, but always a little behind. We use mics for the choir here, too (although set to only give a TINY boost) because when the church is full, the voices hit the backs of the congregation and die. The church has great acoustics when empty!
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • So I'm wondering if just moving everyone closer to the ledge (that sounds kind of scary, haha) might help, too.


    Yes. If everyone in the choir can see the people in the church all will be able to hear direct sound - if the choir stands back they only hear reflected sound - a mix of the two is very important - direct carries consonants, reflected carries vowels.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,312
    I like the idea of blaming the microphones. It's not only true, it's also tactful.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,111
    A dear friend of mine who is an acoustician said," The best part of the sound system is the OFF button."
    Thanked by 1francis
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,902
    If everyone in the choir can see the people in the church all will be able to hear direct sound


    Thus the maxim: Line of sight is line of sound.
  • a mix of the two is very important - direct carries consonants, reflected carries vowels.


    That's really interesting--I didn't realize that. It makes a lot of sense, though. Right now, our choir loft is arranged so there are two rows of chairs, and even when you're sitting in the front row you can barely see the people in the congregation. If you're in the back row, I don't think anyone would be able to hear you at all. Yesterday I had everyone move up to the front row and I moved several chairs so they were against the wall so we kind of formed more of a semicircle than a row while singing. I think that helped, too.

    I've been brainstorming on how to rearrange our choir loft but it's kind of stumping me. It's weird because it seems like there should be plenty of room up there, but it's always crowded and everyone is tripping all over each other. Of course, if it was all up to me, we'd throw away the electric piano, all of the Gather hymnals, and the collection of David Haas CDs and then we'd have a lot more room...but unfortunately my choir isn't the only group that uses the space.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    he sings at a different tempo than the schola is singing

    They do a great job when we can just sing at a normal speed, but no one can follow along with "sanctusdominusdeussabbaoth...."


    I don't know you, or anything about your musical skills, preferences, or programming.

    However, my experience with a lot of other church musicians who lean traditional leads me to ask:

    Are you sure that the problem isn't your schola singing too slowly?
  • Ha! I had a choir member who was a real thorn in my side: nasty, snide remarks aimed at me, and always interrupting. So, the pastor was doing something that really irked me and the choir. I said, "Patrick, I'm appointing you to talk to the pastor about this, and don't be kind, not that you would be." It worked doubly: the pastor got the message and Patrick was not nearly so obnoxious. Not a very good suggestion really, but this did make me think of it. Mea culpa.
    Thanked by 2chonak musiclover88
  • Yesterday I had everyone move up to the front row and I moved several chairs so they were against the wall so we kind of formed more of a semicircle than a row while singing. I think that helped, too.

    Always a good decision
  • This has got to be one of the funniest church musician problems (from my perspective) I have seen, though I am sure it is one of the most frustrating church musician problems from your perspective.

    While it doesn't help you're in a choir loft where you can't really hear him until it's too late, is there any way you and the schola can "give up" and follow your pastor's lead?

    I mean, that's why God made monitor speakers. Well, I guess He did so through other's hands but still...

    When I played in a bar band, with the bass in my left ear and the lead guitar in my right (I couldn't even hear the singer) I felt like I was pressing buttons on my Hammond- am I dating myself? I couldn't hear anything I was playing until I had a monitor speaker.

    OT - If anyone wants a bunch of 12AX7 tubes and others for a Hammond, PM me. My wife wants me to "get rid of that junk." Not selling, I'll give them away -just send a shipping label or drop by the house if you're near Pittsburgh.
  • If the choir is singing the ordinary of the Mass the priest and congregation should be singing with the choir. The priest is not there to lead the congregation in song at any point in the Mass.

    That's why cantors sing the psalm and Alleluia in the NO Mass, right?

    This might be a good time for Dr. Mahrt to address this issue, after we all say HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
  • Seconding the Happy Birthday (and whatever other festive greetings anyone may be due), this issue came up in a parish I know of, and the eventual best solution anyone could come up with was installing a mixing board next to the organ so the music director can change the levels on the various mics on the fly as needed. It has also helped with lectors who are too soft or too strong, etc. I don't know how this is wired up, because the amplifiers and wireless receivers are in the sacristy and that is where all the sound system and mic jacks had the wires run to/from, so perhaps the sound board in the loft is essentially some sort of remote control, either that or an awful lot of sound wiring was run all the way to the loft and then back again to make this set-up work (and all this in an old church originally built without even electric lights, so who knows where and how the cables are run).

    Generally in any even semi-professional settings it seems the mics are rarely turned off at the transmitter, rather this is done at the sound board, either by dropping the levels or with a mute. Likewise it is usually preferable to leave the master level (volume) alone (once it is set properly in the first place) and adjust the individual source levels.

    Another parish nearby, this one new built, actually has a sound and lighting control booth and has someone trained on the equipment for each mass (mostly keeping sound levels adjusted as needed).

    While I would generally prefer not to use microphones and amplified sound, when it is necessary we should do it competently, even with a bit of professionalism. The notion of having a sound system that merely needs to be turned on and off is OK for amplifying a speaking voice from a mic at a fixed location, but really once you start amplifying music or using a multitude of mics you need a bit finer level of control readily available (though certain functions must be kept out of the hands of all but the true professionals).
  • Are you sure that the problem isn't your schola singing too slowly?


    I mean, it could have been that we were singing too slowly. It's possible. I really try not to drag the speed of the chant, but when it's impossible for even the congregation to follow along with the Sanctus being sung so fast (and everyone knows it--we've been singing it for almost 10 years), it's too fast. Believe me when I say he was singing at breakneck speed. You could barely understand the words. It would have been comical if it wasn't so irritating.
  • Believe me when I say he was singing at breakneck speed


    You aught to hear my priest do a rosary! Right about bead 7 all of a sudden it's a "Glory Be."

    And I am certain he went through all ten. ;-)
    Thanked by 1musiclover88
  • My priest does the same thing, SeasonPsalt! So funny, it must be a priest thing...
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,596
    Hailmaryfulofgracethelordiswitheeblessedarthoamongswoemenandblessedisthefruitofthywomb...JEEESUUUSSS...Holymarymotherofgodprayforusinnerznowandatheourvourdeath. Amen.
    Thanked by 2SeasonPsalt Carol
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,052
    If you say it sottovoce, you can recite on the inhale and the exhale. That's the trick to the quicky Low Mass....
  • you can recite on the inhale and the exhale

    Catholic Yoga

    Not really such a bad idea.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Catholic Yoga


    Uh oh, you just said the "Y" word...!
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 823
    Or the priest may be saying the rosary the same way many of the older women used to by just saying the first words of each prayer - "I believe" "Our Father" "Hail Mary" "Hail Mary" "Hail Mary" "Glory be" "Our Father" ...... If you don't worry about the mysteries, you can say a whole novena by the end of the entrance song!
  • I've studied business management under a guy who is able to levitate after spending much time in India. So what's a little Yoga? I also studied cello with a lady who was at the Yehudi Menuhin School as a student and ended up studying Indian singing in India and who uses the Yoga inhale exhale to teach bowing.
  • Or the priest may be saying the rosary the same way many of the older women used to by just saying the first words of each prayer - "I believe" "Our Father" "Hail Mary" "Hail Mary" "Hail Mary" "Glory be" "Our Father" ...... If you don't worry about the mysteries, you can say a whole novena by the end of the entrance song!


    Didn't the kids in Fatima get in trouble for doing that? Or was that just in the CCC movie "The Day the Sun Danced" and it didn't really happen?
    Thanked by 1PolskaPiano
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 346
    I'm chiming in on this because I think I have something to contribute. When I was growing up in St. Mary's I sang in the choir (1977-2010). During this time we had several priest who said mass. Not all priest are singer's nor do they have perfect pitch. This is why almost everything we did was accompanied by the organ. Now the organist did his best to find they key the priest was singing in by lightly touching the key board. Sometimes he was successful and at other time the priest was in the key of "Z"...lol. in such cases, we got as close as we could but in most cases the organist played the correct key and the choir would bring the congregation and the priest back into "harmony".
  • Carol
    Posts: 561
    Coincidentally, I just sang for a funeral yesterday (NO) and encountered the lag problem. The guest priest was very loud and quite far behind me on the ICEL chanted ordinaries even with the antiphonal speaker turned on next to the altar which should help. He just put a firmata on the end of every phrase. It was a death spiral of slowing down. I got stuck in a power struggle between the organist and the celebrant. SO, I just backed way off.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 823
    And his firmata differs from a fermata how?
    Thanked by 2Carol CHGiffen
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,142
    It’s firmer.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 460
    There are so many circumstances where this happens: off-key, slow, fast, and so on. I do think it's rather awful to do a power struggle live during Mass. But in the moment someone has to give, and if the priest is louder and more confident than the choir, it's probably best to adapt. If the choir can be taught to stick together and sing out and ignore distractions, it might work to just keep going and not adapt. So many things can interrupt, from crazy people to tourists to equipment malfunctions and power failures to really loud off-key/off-rhythm singers in the congregation to fainting and heart attacks and kids crying to police activity outside the church, etc. So practicing keeping it together in the face of chaos is probably a good exercise.

    But certainly if it's a regular priest and situation some kind of conversation and adjustments to equipment would be in order.

    I find really loud bad singers in the congregation more common than bad priest singing. Yesterday's:
    Most everyone: la de da dum de dum, la la la lee la dee doo
    Her: DAAAAA LAA LAA LAA DOOOOOO
    Thanked by 2Carol CharlesW
  • Carol
    Posts: 561
    Each spring, there is one Sunday when a motorcycle road rally is held in our area and the hundred or so motorcycles all ride by the church during Mass. It is deafening and seems to always occur during the homily. Our pastor has no poker face and though he tries to ignore the sound, he is clearly irked NO end. It is, for me, sinfully funny.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    Many are the posts I have read here complaining about priests not singing. All I can say is be careful what you wish for. You may get it.
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 352
    'practicing keeping it together in the face of chaos is probably a good exercise.'
    The latest chaos here is the fire alarm going off, triggered by excessive incense. It's happened several weeks in a row. The alarm is in Eflat so perhaps the solution is to sing everything in Eflat......