Choir practice prior to Mass
  • It has always been the custom for our choir to practice prior to Mass in the Sanctuary! I found this very disturbing because it encourages the congregation to engage in conversation rather than meditation in silence, which is what we have been taught growing up.
    It isn't for a lack of space. The music director feels he needs access to his instruments in order to conduct practice, as small as our choir is.
    I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this in their church, and how it was dealt with.
  • Is this in the Sanctuary, properly, or in the nave, where the PIPs sit? If there is no Communion rail to help determine where the Sanctuary is, there should be some sort of raised platform upon which the altar resides. That would be your guideline for where the nave ends and the Sanctuary begins, especially if you're in one of those modern, stadium-style churches and not a traditional cruciform one. I point this out because it's not customary for instruments of any kind to be located in the Sanctuary proper: the area separate from the congregation where the altar is.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    I've always insisted that my choirs rehearse outside of the church-proper. At two previous parishes I was told "there just wasn't any space," and "this would be impossible." In both cases I found space and was able to run pre-Mass rehearsals there without issue.
  • Some Archdioceses explicitly state in their guiding music documents that a space other than the sanctuary must be used for music rehearsals.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,675
    I have held a brief run through of the psalm before mass - usually the Sunday after a holiday when the choir didn't rehearse. I have a choir room, two floors down, with no elevator. My choir is getting too old for all those stairs.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    What's the big deal? My choir rehearses from 10-10:40 on Sundays before the 11 AM Mass. They're older, they're amateurs, and they need plenty of run-throughs. The other option is a claustrophobic and carpeted conference room; ain't gonna do it. Besides, the choir has an important ministry and should have precedence for preparation before the liturgy over the mental peace of people offering private, non-liturgical prayers.

  • donr
    Posts: 969
    We hold our rehearsals in the Nave, on Tues but do run through the pieces one time if needed prior to Mass. We always ensure that there is at least 5 min of complete silence before Mass.
    I have requested a seperate rehearsal space out side of the church proper and will most likely get it when we move into our new church in Feb.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,536
    I hadn't even realized there were Archdioceses with guiding music documents! We do 10-10:50 in the church. I used to always save congregational music till last until a parishioner came up to tell me how he enjoyed coming early to listen to the choir; now I try to end with a review of our more polished repertoire instead. This also allows me to be more of a bear about any reponsorial psalm sloppiness ;-)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I agree with rogue. I would qualify that we sight read/rehearse the Propers (chant and choral) on a neutral vowel phoneme, ie. "loo."
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    We always try to leave 15 minutes of silence before the beginning of Mass. Usually there's only a few people in the pews by that point. That's NOT our main practice of the week - that's on Thursday. But if we have to cancel practice for some reason, then our norm is to start on Sunday another 15 minutes early.
  • At work, we have a dedicated choir rehearsal room below the sanctuary. At my home church I have no idea where the choir rehearses, they simply appear a few minutes before Mass. It's a very large building though so I'm sure there's no issue with rehearsal space. People tend to take silence before Mass seriously there, though, usually 10-15 minutes of it beforehand.
  • Charles,

    "Loo" isn't a neutral vowel! It's a place.


    I would like to suggest a nuanced position on the subject of using the church proper for rehearsals.

    1) Sometimes it is necessary to rehearse with the instrument in the choir loft, since it doesn't easily relocate.

    2) Sometimes (depending on the longevity of the choir) it is necessary to use the church proper to teach about proper sound -- vowels, avoided dipthongs, blend, lack of need for microphones... that sort of thing.

    3) There might even be a benefit to rehearsing for some fixed time in the church proper, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, to teach people how to behave in God's house (even when Mass isn't taking place) and to make a point about "This is the quiet time we leave for silent preparation before Mass."

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    No cause to go all scatological Chris ;-)
  • Some Archdioceses explicitly state in their guiding music documents that a space other than the sanctuary must be used for music rehearsals.


    For those that believe in the Real Presence, putting aside a few hours during the week when a choir might rehearse is just as sensible as letting the custodians run a sweeper at times when the people are not entering to prepare themselves for services by praying.

    Having a choir rehearse and cantors learning notes before Mass is disruptive. And encourages people to talk with their neighbors.

    Dead silence is always preferable. But most parish priests don't feel it is necessary to provide an alternate room to make this possible. Especially in parishes where an usher goes to the microphone and reads out a license plate number, YOUR LIGHTS ARE ON.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,083
    In my parish, the musicians practice before Mass. As a choir member and as a member of the congregation, I've never like that solution.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    rogue63 - "...besides, the choir has an important ministry and should have precedence for preparation before the liturgy over the mental peace of people offering private, non-liturgical prayers."

    I couldn't disagree more. It isn't fair to think that we know the operation of other people's spirits when they pray prior to mass. We have no idea what drove anyone through the doors of our parish or what burden that person is carrying. Therefore, I accord those members 15 minutes of silence before mass to recollect themselves. Bear in mind that the celebrant is often saying his vesting prayers during this time as well. Since the choir has an important ministry, I have always held rehearsals on Saturday afternoons. That way, we can practice uninterrupted for up to three hours (we usually finish in two hours or less), and we don't have to rush if there are unanticipated problems.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    I remember once rehearsing polyphony with a choir of about 10 in the boiler room 30 minutes before Mass. The acoustics were much better in there than in the church, actually. The custodian opened the door to come get something, and his eyes grew large as he saw what was happening. He took one step in... then stopped.. and slowly backed out of the room.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    20 minutes is plenty of time. And I stand by it: musicians deserve preferential treatment for pre-Mass preparation. People have 167 other hours to pray rosaries, stations of the cross, threaten to shoot us (which has happened to me and my choir on Facebook), and whatever else. My choir rehearses on Wednesdays and again on Sundays. If you can do it better than me, PM me and I'll give you my keys. The liturgy is not a private prayer. Period.
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  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    I'm not sure if you're joking or being purposefully obtuse. If you're serious, that attitude is simply unkind. It is such stuff that turns young folks off. Condescension from those who serve. BTW... You can send the keys whenever you're up to it. I have my own keys, but I'm not hard to find. I've been doing this for a long time so I'm not intimidated by your offer of keys or that dismissive remark either. It ignores the main point, and tries to bait me into changing the subject to whether or not I can do a better job than you. That was not the issue. This isn't personal for me. I'm trying to engage you on this point as a matter of principle. While liturgy is truly not a private prayer, the minutes prior to mass beginning are not liturgy. You must realize that.
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  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    What principle? That people have a right to threaten and harass me and my choir if we're rehearsing before Mass? I don't quite get it.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    Rogue, you are missing my point. I'm not speaking about the negative comments directed at you. In fact, I never mentioned it. Of course no musician should be threatened, but I think you're projecting something into our conversation that wasn't asserted by me. I'm talking about the fact that many folks need a little time to be still before mass and that we as liturgical musicians should be a little more concerned than to dismiss their need because we view ourselves and what we have to do as being more important than they are.
  • Kenstb, Rogue,

    May I offer the following as help:

    The purpose of a "rest" in music is to give context to the sound which comes on either side of it. Therefore, from a musician's point of view, leaving peaceful silence before Mass, pi minutes long, is to the proper benefit of the liturgy, the faithful and the choirmaster. It is even beneficial to the choristers, who, being silent before Mass, can be recollected enough to follow cues given by the choirmaster and can follow any last minute instructions in a timely manner.

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  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    Amen, CGZ!! I think Rogue is emoting about something bad that was aimed at him. Being threatened can throw our perspective off. I'm sure he didn't mean it to sound as combative as it came across. BTW...if you haven't already, report that threat to your local police department.
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    Fair enough---yes, thrown off by bad mood. Sorry for the outburst.
    Thanked by 1kenstb
  • Kenstb,

    In one parish where I served, I made a point of beginning any announcement I had to make from a microphone (or not-a-microphone, in at least one setting) "Please forgive the interruption..." in a perfectly quiet room. Silence isn't empty. Silence is pregnant, getting ready to give birth to something. (Now, I fully expect someone to post Leo McKern's wonderful speech in A Man for All Seasons)
    Thanked by 1kenstb
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,675
    I would hate to be the one to interrupt the pre-mass exchanges of gossip, bulletin reading, checking cell phones and tablet game playing for a quick run through of choir music. What was I thinking?


    Thanked by 2MatthewRoth chonak
  • Qui tacet consentire, Chris.
  • Stimson,

    No, that wasn't the speech I meant. That's Paul Scofield's line. "That would be silence, pure and simple"..... "It would betoken....."

    Happy Advent.

    Chris
  • I know, CZG. But as Scofield replies, we must assume that the congregation's silence gives consent to our practicing. ;)
  • Or, the silence gives voice to the place, as finally a reverent attitude descends upon God's house. We, noisy, talkative, fussy, self-centered musicians then disrupt that.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    What I need after all this fussbudgetry is any quote from Leo McKern as Rumpole. Perhaps it would be along the lines of "Another claret, Pomeroy."
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    From the movie, for those who don't remember it immediately:

    Cromwell: Now, Sir Thomas, you stand on your silence.

    Sir Thomas More: I do.

    Cromwell: But, gentlemen of the jury, there are many kinds of silence. Consider first the silence of a man who is dead. Let us suppose we go into the room where he is laid out, and we listen: what do we hear? Silence. What does it betoken, this silence? Nothing; this is silence pure and simple. But let us take another case. Suppose I were to take a dagger from my sleeve and make to kill the prisoner with it; and my lordships there, instead of crying out for me to stop, maintained their silence. That would betoken! It would betoken a willingness that I should do it, and under the law, they will be guilty with me. So silence can, according to the circumstances, speak! Let us consider now the circumstances of the prisoner's silence. The oath was put to loyal subjects up and down the country, and they all declared His Grace's title to be just and good. But when it came to the prisoner, he refused! He calls this silence. Yet is there a man in this court - is there a man in this country! - who does not know Sir Thomas More's opinion of this title?

    Crowd in court gallery: No!

    Cromwell: Yet how can this be? Because this silence betokened, nay, this silence was, not silence at all, but most eloquent denial!

    Sir Thomas More: Not so. Not so, Master Secretary. The maxim is "Qui tacet consentire": the maxim of the law is "Silence gives consent". If therefore you wish to construe what my silence betokened, you must construe that I consented, not that I denied.

    Cromwell: Is that in fact what the world construes from it? Do you pretend that is what you wish the world to construe from it?

    Sir Thomas More: The world must construe according to its wits; this court must construe according to the law.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    A good reason for it to halt well-before Mass: if you are practicing a well-known hymn (ie: Immaculate Mary) and cut the choir off, the congregants who are singing along as if it were a prelude will become suddenly confused.

    #oops
    #cantwaitfornewbuilding
    #withrehearsalroom
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  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,083
    I was at Mass on Saturday, and the musicians were practicing. They were so loud, I couldn't concentrate on my penance. Practicing in church, before Mass is very disruptive and is unfair to both the musicians and singers (who are trying to learn a piece) and to the congregants (who are trying to pray.) Other musicians and singers find time to practice well before they are to perform. Why not musicians and singers who are preparing for Mass?
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Actually, this is a somewhat complicated question. After all, when the audience files into a play, the stage is set and the curtain is closed. For an orchestral concert or opera, however, there is tuning and rehearsing going on right up until the lights are dimmed.

    Both conventions are successful - we are accustomed to them.

    It is safe to say that there is profound disagreement in the American church about what is supposed to be happening in the minutes before the rites begin. Is a "gathering" time, a time for private prayer, or for something else? What works best - conversations, reverent silence, musicians warming up, or something else? It is likely that for some time to come that, if we want a particular pre-Mass atmosphere, we will only get it by voting with our feet.

    There is, however, a part of this question which could be settled. If a parish staff manages to make a decision about what kind of pre-Mass atmosphere they would like to create, they can take constructive steps. However, too often it is unconsidered chaos which is in evidence: altar servers being instructed, lectors fooling with the book and mic, musicians doing whatever, celebrants late, ushers late and ineffective as either ushers or greeters. Anyone attending a Mass with this unconsidered amateurish activity going on before hand will be forgiven for getting the strong impression that nothing important is going on.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,946
    The difference with a concert or opera is that the audience is (presumably) not praying but generally doing whatever they want to do until the lights are dimmed. This is not a good comparison with the situation in church before Mass.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I grew up in a parish (actually most of the diocese was like this) where there was lots of noise and commotion, rehearsing and whatnot prior to Mass. People chat and greet each other. The last time I visited I could hear the choir director and choir rehearsing, though I think they were in the foyer. There was not a lot of silence. Now there are not vocations. I don't know if these two things are related, but it strikes me that they might be. I think a lack of silence is a bad idea.
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  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,576
    If a parish staff manages to make a decision about what kind of pre-Mass atmosphere they would like to create

    But it is not theirs to decide. The Church has decided. It is theirs to implement.
    General Instruction of the Roman Missal # 45 (Mar 2003)
    Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. Its purpose, however, depends on the time it occurs in each part of the celebration. Thus within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

    Even before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence to be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.
  • I'm not a fan of rehearsing in the church before mass, but I'm certainly not judging anybody for doing so.

    Our choir does not do it -- we are blessed with a choir room that has a decent piano. (It serves many purposes, but on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings before mass, it's a choir room.) We warm up and rehearse about an hour before mass and we walk over to the choir loft about 10-15 minutes before mass, where we observe silence.

    I certainly do not think that it is never permissible to rehearse in the church. I just do not like disturbing the quiet before mass. Yes, there are people checking their text messages or whatever, but there are also plenty of people who are trying to prepare themselves properly for mass. I account myself among them.
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  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,536
    Would that choir rehearsal space were on church architects' radar. We once warmed in the parking lot so that the visiting bishop could rehearse a schoolchildren's procession in the Sanctuary; I try not to imagine that atmosphere.
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  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    But it is not theirs to decide. The Church has decided. It is theirs to implement.


    Point one: the GIRM citation merely says silence before Mass is "commendable". This, fortunately or unfortunately is far from definitive.

    Point two: Even if the GIRM citation were definitive, many congregations would opt for a different atmosphere before Mass. We know this because of how loosely many feel they can follow the GIRM.

    My main point is about intentionality and skillful implementation. These are often lacking. The resulting tumult does not say "We are serious about what we are doing here today" to either a regular communicant or to a visitor. Their conclusion will be: to find seriously considered worship of God, I will have to go elsewhere.

    To be clear, what I mean by serious is that a parish put its money where its mouth is - AND that it knows where to find its mouth.
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  • This really is a sensitive subject for some directors, my apologies. Our parish church is all one floor like most modern churches in Florida, with class room and Church Hall. My goal was to see how other churches dealt with the matter in an attempt to keep with Catholic tradition of silence out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. I have read where our enemy's goal is to fill the world with noise. Eliminating distractions in the sanctuary before Mass is the goal. Thank you all for your comments, and personal feelings. Best regards.
    Thanked by 1Steve Collins
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    We had a rather unusual situation singing in one of the California Mission churches: many tourists, who would converse while they were walking around the church. Our priest asked us to practice before Mass to remind people that this was, indeed, a sacred space.
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