Random, nasty comments you've heard from parishioners
  • Two weeks ago we invited a guest musician to play, lovely older fellow who also teaches band at my kids' school. It was a "special" day because the church was honoring its 50 year members, of which there were a surprisingly large number (mind you, we never see them in the pews the rest of the time...) So tonight I was discussing stuff with the director and commiserating on various things, and she proceeds to fill me in on something that happened. Someone approached our guest and said "Nice job, it's nice to finally have a REAL MUSICIAN in this church." This person apparently had not been seen in the church in a number of YEARS but felt compelled to comment on other guests and also throw in some backhanded nastiness towards the director, an accomplished singer and cantor at her own church, her husband, also an accomplished musician, apparently myself, two music degrees/four orchestral positions, celebrating my 11th season with one of them/church gig...nah, none of us are "real musicians."Maybe if he attended more than once every four years he'd not be so ignorant and make such a comment. Needless to say I was glad I had already departed for another rehearsal when all of that went down. People suck. I'm sure you've heard similar or worse, so here's your place to vent. Go ahead, I need something to make myself feel better. It really is a thankless job sometimes, lately it's been bothering me.


  • Bitchiness prevails. Extremely prevalent among "musical" Catholics who do not participate aside from complaining.
  • Especially if you're in the US, most people don't understand the difference between real music, made by trained musicians (and what that training means and represents, and how one becomes so: it's generally viewed as a magical thing that just suddenly makes you good at what you do), and the pop slop they hear on the radio every day. They mostly think music "just happens" and don't really understand nor appreciate the time, effort, and training that goes into it. They might give it lip service, but they really don't get it. The problem ones are those that pretend they do understand.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,668
    I read a complaint letter once at a parish with an organist who played things like Buxtehude and Bach and the person complained that preludes and postludes reminded her of "Disneyland parade and Phantom of the Opera."
  • Lol matthewj that is definitely random!! Where do people come up with this stuff??
  • @matthewj: that person needed to get out more and have new experiences. Especially if that person's experience of the organ and its music was limited to Disneyland and Phantom.
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    One parishioner complained the organ was too loud. I apologized for ruining his nap.
  • I got complaints all the time about the organ being "too loud" or whatever - mostly by people with hearing aids (not so much in my current position, though - they actually seem to like it). Some would come up to me and say, "Can't you use that volume pedal (pointing to the swell shoe) better?" I try to use things like that as an educational opportunity (at least for those who stick around for a response from me) to show how the organ works, the role of it in communal singing, etc. I've had to learn to simply brush those things away. But...

    One that sticks in my craw is a time when an anonymous parishioner decided to use his/her offertory envelope to write some sort of nastiness about me. The business manager, as he was working on the collection the following Monday, found it and gave it to the pastor (the business manager's wife was in the choir, and while she was a good singer she had a knack for instigating conflict). The pastor, instead of throwing it away like we normally do with anonymous notes, had me come into his office, showed it to me and said, "We normally don't take these things seriously, but I think you should read this one." As soon as I saw it was unsigned and as soon as I left his office I shredded it and began looking for a new workplace.
  • Organists cannot hear the organ where the people are sitting.

    Organists have to guess how full and bright the instrument should sound.

    Organists have to play to please the people and not themselves with some sort of ideal in mind that does not fit the needs of the parish.
  • The principal at our school tried to tell me there was something wrong with the organ after Mass one day. I had used the pedal Krummhorn 16' as a drone while improvising on Kyrie XI, which as you can imagine has a buzzing sound and effect as a Krummhorn should. She insisted that this buzzing, rattling sound was not natural to the sound of an organ and that the organ should be serviced immediately. I attempted to explain that what was used was a reed sound and that those sounds have a bit of a buzz to them no matter what, but she insisted that it was something more than that. I wish that I could have had the liberty to take her over to the console and show her how the instrument works, considering she just wouldn't take my word for it.
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    Our organ is in the loft at the rear of the church. About one-third of the way from the front, the volume drops. Loudness can depend on where you sit. However, the pastor said, "Open it up. I love it!" I don't worry about loudness complaints anymore.
  • I never understood the complaint of the organ being too loud when the microphones at the altar and ambo are, in my experience, generally turned up to 11.
  • I've been warned several times about the "too loud crowd". The previous organist (who is now my teacher) mostly ignored such complaints. The comments I've heard on this subject seem to be focused on not feeling like they can sing with the hymns or feeling drowned out-two things I am definitely not going to allow when I'm on the organ bench! I've spent some time now with the instrument in the church and concluded a few things: it's probably too large for the space it's in, and anything more than 16' rattles the doors that lead to the loft area. Less is more, at least in my circumstance.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,802
    I occasionally get people asking me to play "normal music". I have no idea what that means.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    Started using a new Mass setting last year, a result of collaboration between myself and another composer. A month later, the cantor and I are getting water in the kitchen right before Mass and a parishioner walks by and says, "Who wrote this horrible new music?" "I did." "Well, I HATE IT!!!!" and she walks off into the church.

  • Ah yes, the very direct kind of nastiness. I think I prefer that to the passive aggressive, let's all turn our backs and whisper while they walk by kind.

    @Salieri: Normal music...lol are you playing like 12 tone stuff or something? Maybe you should start, then they will appreciate "normal" music more...
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 101
    Why can't you play more traditional Catholic music like "Gather Us In" and "City of God"?
  • I have a veritable arsenal of information that I usually fire back with, and I do so mercilessly. For better or for worse, people learn not to ask those kinds of questions of me. I've had: "I haven't heard X song in about a year or so, what's the matter, don't you like it?" and of course, "Why can't we do X song?" and even, "Can we do X song for Mass next week?"
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    The music for the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 was rather awkward, and as the pastor was out of town I was disinclined to change anything. The following weekend as I was entering church to play for Mass a man approached me and asked me what I thought I was doing last weekend, that "we needed upbeat music, not what you played. YOU'RE NO BETTER THAN THE TERRORISTS!"

    I told him in a very calm voice that he had no idea how hard I worked every week to select music that was appropriate, and that it was wicked and unfair of him to compare me to terrorists, and walked away.
  • Oh wow...that is really awful. I really wonder what goes through people's minds sometimes. Good for you on maintaining composure. My temperament is far too volatile and I am too passionate about performing music that is tasteful and respectful, I'm not sure I would have been able to deal with someone who challenged my decisions so abusively! (Which is why I'm known as "quiet". I rarely speak about anything because my mouth usually gets me into trouble.)
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • Yup some people are just going to complain no matter what you do. There are many reasons for this, which I will withhold unless someone really wants to get into that discussion with me, in which case, they should probably PM me.
  • When I was looking around for a church, I was doing blog reviews (sort of a Mystery Worshipper thing), and I wrote up a service where it was the priests' last day, and where there were obviously issues in the parish. A comment was posted to that which was so defamatory that I had to take it down, but I did respond to one part of it. The organist was seen to be spending a lot of time after-hours at the church, and the writer took this as evidence that the organist and pastor were having a gay affair. Apparently he was supposed to just pack up the pipes and take them home with him in order to practice.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 987
    You mean organists don't have pipe organs at home to practice on??????
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,668
    Some do.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,333
    Two things come to mind:
    In one church i worked at, The big sounding tuba was placed in a very interesting position. It was mounted right above the chairs where the altar boys sat during Mass. During the 7:00 am Mass the boys were sometimes seen to nod off....Lord deliver us from temptation.
    Also, i have experienced several times that some thing contemporary music is life teen and tradtional music is On Eagles Wings, Here I Am and City of God.
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    I recall years ago a person watching my organist mesmerized by their technique (he really is VERY good). They said, "that was amazing, do you know something other than Dracula music?" The person didn't wait around for the answer.

    I'm a snarky person. I turned to my organist and said, "They make better pets if you have them fixed". He was embarrassed at how loud he laughed.

    I had to go to confession later on.

    To this day I have a rather evil pride about that comment, I know I should pray for that poor stupid fellow (and I do) but I still think about the comment.

    That being said, the hippies see their power waning, their music despised, they still have their power and as a result their bitter viciousness has just begun. As music is really restored (and it will be, beauty must be placed in the liturgy; the garbage that took it's place won't be able to measure up) and the crap that had long ago replaced it is thrown out, they'll get even more vicious.............they know their days are numbered.
    Thanked by 2canadash Salieri
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,668
    At the same time, I do have to say that I've seen some organists completely overreact to things parishioners say...
  • For me at least, it is a reaction to the audacity to complain, comment, or correct with such blatant ignorance as we often encounter. The example of my principal attempting to tell me that there is something wrong with the organ mechanically when she doesn't understand the difference between reed pipes and flue pipes, and wouldn't listen to my charitable explanation. This is frustrating at best, and often infuriating.
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • For me at least, it is a reaction to the audacity to complain, comment, or correct with such blatant ignorance as we often encounter.


    This had better be a royal we.

    Or is it true that all football players are stupid as well?
  • This had better be a royal we.


    You can't tell me that I'm the only one who has had someone try to correct me when they've no clue what they're talking about, and won't listen to charitable explanation. Note that I tried to help the person.

    Or is it true that all football players are stupid as well?


    Now you're reaching. Refer to the first point: I never said everyone was ignorant. Also, ignorance and stupidity are not the same thing. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge, which is completely acceptable, as a lack of knowledge can be taught, and I usually try to do so. Stupidity implies that the person knows better, but continues to make poor decisions anyway. The issue I was referring to is when someone attempts to complain, comment, or correct without the requisite knowledge to do so, and then not being willing to listen to the explanation. YMMV as usual, but I've encountered it more than once, from principals, parishioners, and Pastors.

    So, not to say that everyone is stupid or ignorant, but referring to specific instances when this happens when the person is ignorant, and won't listen to reason.
  • all football players are stupid
    From a statement by Erik Routley concerning organs.

    You can't tell me that I'm the only one who has had someone try to correct me when they've no clue what they're talking about, and won't listen to charitable explanation. Note that I tried to help the person.


    I wouldn't even try as we are...I mean, I am actually ignorant and stupid. All in one package. "Watch out, pigs are flying!!!! Duck!"
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,713
    Eric Routley, golfer – not to be confused with Erik Routley, hymnist and musicologist, or Hugh Routley, Australian rules footballer.
  • Matthew
    Posts: 31
    I had been on vacation for 2 weekends in a row and returned to have someone yell at me about practicing before mass when they were trying to pray the rosary. Called me stupid and that I should practice somewhere else. I explained that a sub had done this and I'd tell him, in the future, to finish 30 minutes prior to mass. This fellow continued to unleash on me a verbal tirade. I suggested we go outside to finish the conversation as confessions were being heard nearby. He then said I was threatening him by suggesting we "go outside and settle this like men." The priest finally exited the confessional to see what all the fuss was about. After this fellow said I threatened to beat him up the priest responded: "As a priest, I cannot condone violence. But, based on what I've heard you say to our music director, if he did decide to pound on you I'd have offered him absolution on the spot." I love when priests have your back.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, Matthew, it's clearly been the Church of Me for quite some time. What with the flatus of all the kerfuffles erupting at the Vatican, we're only modeling what the shepherds have demonstrated to us'n sheep(s). I'm sure your critic thought he was THE DEFENDER OF THE TRUE FAITH. Dum dee dee Dummmm.
  • Erik Routley, Hymnist. No one's ever come across that quote by him before?
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,333
    I recall once when i was working inna church in Michigan. I had the audacity to introduce several new hymns from the hymnal. One man was so angry he tromped all the way up to the choir loft. He was so red faced and angry that i thought for sure he was going to attempt to hit me. I managed to survive another day because there were several choir members there he would have had witnesses.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,278
    I have never been threatened nor intimidated by an angry parishioner. That could have to do with the fact that our parish is very conservative and traditional. No one really expects anything saccharine or silly from us to begin with. The spirit of Vatican II crowd left us years ago. Perhaps the fact that I could beat most of them up could be a factor, as well. Who knows?
  • wow...
  • Sometimes people complain about matters that do not merit complaint.

    Sometimes they complain about a genuine issue, but they express themselves badly, perhaps do not even understand it themselves very well, and the complaint comes across as pointless.

    Sometimes people complain in a manner that makes it very difficult to care about what they are saying, or what is motivating them to say it.

    I try (not always, alas, and not always successfully) to find the grain of truth that might be behind the complaint. Sometimes it's there.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,410
    I tell you the NICEST complaint I ever got.

    "Adam... I really like you. And I like the work you are doing. But I just don't like it when you do Latin. I just don't."

    She just needed to let me know.
  • Especially if you're in the US, most people don't understand the difference between real music, made by trained musicians (and what that training means and represents, and how one becomes so: it's generally viewed as a magical thing that just suddenly makes you good at what you do), and the pop slop they hear on the radio every day. They mostly think music "just happens" and don't really understand nor appreciate the time, effort, and training that goes into it. They might give it lip service, but they really don't get it. The problem ones are those that pretend they do understand.


    What's worse is when the pastor doesn't understand the difference between real, let alone sacred, music and "pop slop" and insists on giving the people what they want ("pop slop"). Well-trained sacred musicians need not apply in such situations.
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,221
    Too true, @teachermom24, too true.
  • Shortly after I arrived at my parish in Lancaster NY, around October 2012, I had decided one of the first things on my agenda was to introduce a new Mass setting starting Advent. Now, Advent 2012 would have been a full year after the New Roman Missal started, and for the first year of the new mass text, parish's in the Diocese of Buffalo were asked to use Scott Soper's Mass of Awakening, with the idea that the Diocese would have a new common Mass Setting. The parish I became Music Director at, had been using Mass of Awakening when I arrived, which meant they had been using it since Advent 2011, or about 10 months. Now, I've been a church musician for several years and it's been my experience that most parishes rotate between 3-5 settings per year, so I really didn't think it would have been a big deal about a new setting, especially after using one for a full year, EVERY WEEK. For those you know Mass of Awakening, the refrain Gloria can get rather tiring after awhile, and you can start hearing it in your sleep!

    Since my parish, like everyone else in Buffalo uses OCP, I thought the Heritage Mass would be a nice change/contrast to Scott Soper. Words can not describe how hard the people fought me on this! I even took the entire month of November to slowly teach the setting before we began using it in Advent. I remember the first Sunday of Advent, Saturday Vigil, after the "closing hymn", one of the rather vocal old gaurd parishioners (who knows just enough about music to be annoying and was also on the interview committee who hired me), literally started screaming at me. "What's going on? What is all this new music? This is what we agreed NOT to do in the interview!!!" Following that Sunday, I received numerous phone calls and emails of complaints. People actually thought that the ENTIRE church around the world was to use Mass of Awakening forever, and some actually confused Mass of Awakening with being the actual Roman Missal. After some educating and time, people came around but the congregation struggled a bit with the Heritage mass Gloria, which is a through composed setting. One day, maybe three months later, one of the older parishioners said to me "Peter, did you ever think this new "Heratige style" or whatever you call it just isn't working? I mean, at what point do we give up and go back to the "old music." I really just wanted to tell him, "you heard the Heritage mass now at least 12 Sunday's in a row, and you still don't get it???"

    After 8 months of using the Heritage Mass, we switched to another OCP mass - Mass of the Ressurection. It was not any easier, but somehow we got through it. I'm now here 3 years, and have not found the strength to teach a new mass, so I've been rotating between those three about every 7-8 months. By the way, I did get a lot of negativity from my Contempory Group about the Heritage Mass, they absolutely hated it. So I allowed them to choose their own setting over time.

  • Noel Jones mentioned something interesting in another thread that would have been relevant to your situation, but only in hindsight since that is 20/20: he said there is one question you need to ask when interviewing and this is it:
    One important question to ask when being interviewed:

    If I find it necessary to replace the entire musical staff paid and unpaid, including cantors, if need be, are you going to stand behind my decision?


    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • Pgonciarz,

    I would suggest a different approach.

    1) Talk to your pastor, explaining that you hope to increase the musical diversity (or repertoire) of the parish, so that they can more fully participate in the life of the Church, and more fully enter into participation in the liturgy. (Since this happens to be completely true, there's not even a subterfuge going on here.)

    2) Lay out a plan for him. What I present here is just a suggestion:

    a) One Mass setting for Advent
    b) One Mass setting from Christmas Eve to February 2nd, or the beginning of Lent.
    c) One Mass setting for Lent/Passiontide.
    d) One Mass setting for Easter - Corpus Christi
    e) One Mass setting for the "Ordinary" Sundays until Advent.

    You could use the same ordinary for Advent and Lent, but given what you've said about the parish, I recommend a chant, Latin, ordinary in Advent and an English one in Lent -- so that the parish doesn't associate dying, suffering, and Latin too closely together. If you can't do better than the USCCB chant Mass, use that.

    Again, you could use the same setting at Christmas and Easter (since the C and E folks will be in town) but I would encourage you to use something extra-specially joyful at Easter.

    3) Rein in whatever cantors you have. They are to serve the liturgy. If they scowl as they announce the Mass setting, they work against you.

    4) Make information sessions available for "anyone interested in the coming changes in the music at" the parish.


  • Cantors should never announce anything.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Agreed. However, to play the devil's advocate....
    We've occasionally touched upon the (non-official) but sanctioned role of the "commentator" in the N.O. A commentator (a bane to musicians) is not the same as a Master of Ceremonies. Perhaps whomever articulated this innovation did foresee that engaging whatever the heck they dreamed as FCAP from the PIPs would require "directions" at Masses because practicum clashed and displaced catachesis. We have the benefit of hindsight to say that whatever resource (Missal/Graduale/hymnboard/published Ordo...) supplanted centuries of learned/acquired worship behaviors that were passive if not reactionary. Fifty years later of the Novus Ordo has tempered that perceived need for verbal direction, but coherence and consistency has hardly been achieved (I mean, look at the synodal de-centralization idee fixe) from parish to parish just in this nation/conference. We're no where's near liturgical Valhalla and to some extent still in the Wild, Wild West of praxis. What's a cantor to do?
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • People actually thought that the ENTIRE church around the world was to use Mass of Awakening forever, and some actually confused Mass of Awakening with being the actual Roman Missal.


    I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,713
    Alas, Melo, the concept of the "commentator", that didactic addition to the Roman Rite, isn't really unofficial: it's mentioned in the GIRM and even in the 1958 De musica sacra.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,468
    At our parish a cantor who sings at one particular mass announces the hymns. At the mass where I direct the choir, there are no announcements. I've been told that people do not "feel" invited to sing if there is no announcement, even if the numbers are visible on a hymn board. I'm actually baffled by this comment. If I didn't want people to sing, why would I put the numbers on a hymn board?