avoiding getting boxed in or trapped in your organ loft.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    I decided to change the topic.

    Do organists typically get someone waiting at the loft door to speak to them or coming up to the loft and boxing them in?

    Because this is not something that just one person does. I find myself trapped in that situation a fair bit and not just in one parish.

    How do you avoid getting spoken to by people you don't want to speak to?

    This could include a parishioner you know, a parishioner you don't know, a person you don't know who isn't from the parish (yes this has happened) or someone that regularly waits for you to come out of the loft door. I often find it is safer to lock the loft door to avoid crazies coming up but when it is time to come out you can very easily be trapped. I have had to call a priest on one occasion when a weird person had entered the church and was waiting for me to come down the stairs and the police came and removed the person for me.

    Does anybody else feel trapped in the loft situations?
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    From your description, he does not sound like a candidate for the priesthood any more than he sounds like a candidate for your hand. (Among many other things you mention, I will just note that a young man who actually says "Oh well, you are but a woman" to a woman needs far more than exercises in humility.)

    Btw, what did you mean by "I'm just here to help *him* with sacred music" [emphasis added]? You don't describe the fellow as being in any role of responsibility for sacred music, merely as a connoisseur-congregant.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 462
    Well see you can't play that at mass because we don't have any reeds on the organ


    A Catholic nerd. Makes comic-book store nerds look suave.

    From your description, he does not sound like a candidate for the priesthood any more than he sounds like a candidate for your hand.


    Hmmm...maybe a good tactic. If you feel he's boxing you in, bring up his possible calling to the priesthood.

  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    It is a poor (and potentially mischievous) idea to use a vocation to the priesthood as a pretext - however partially sincere - for resolving a situation like this.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    I will just note that a young man who actually says "Oh well, you are but a woman" to a woman needs far more than exercises in humility.)


    Bingo, Liam! Big red flag there that something's amiss.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbFq3CyXqWc

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,676
    He may be right about semiology. I have met too many semiology "experts" who were never trained in, nor ever understood, conventional conducting techniques. It shows.

    Something about those "trad" masses seems to attract those superior, know-it-all types. Being self-appointed as one of the elect can do that to you.

    The criticisms I get are from folks who want more "contemporary" music - meaning stuff from the seventies they like. I tell them they would be happier elsewhere since we are not changing.

    I would be very leery of this guy. He's up to something. The popular country music entertainer, Dolly Parton, once said something I have found of great value. She said she asks the Lord to put the good people into her life, and keep the bad ones out of it. A good thing to pray for, I think.
  • Reval
    Posts: 163
    Hmmm. Is it possible he was saying "you are but a woman" in a joking fashion? Although a horrid stupid attempt at a joke? I honestly can't imagine a man in his mid-20s A.D. 2016 saying that in earnest.
    Is it possible he's had a crush on you even during that obnoxious time, and that was his hopelessly awkward way of trying to interact with you? Not trying to make excuses for the guy - - just trying to parse out the timing of his crush (or whatever it is).
    Anyway, as he gets older and more mature- - he may get more tolerable (to deal with, not date). A lady who was a substitute grandmother of mine, once told me that one should never marry a man under 30, because they're not ready to settle down yet (I realize I maybe just offended half the men on this board). If he asks you out, tell him he's not old enough to go courting. : ) Or, you could say "I don't date parishioners". Or, "I only date millionaire playboys / punk rockers / film directors / vegans...etc".
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,676
    Well see you can't play that at mass because we don't have any reeds on the organ...


    You may not have any reeds but you definitely have a serpent.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    Julie

    Thanks. There's a terrible school of old Catholic piety that should not be permitted to take root in new traditionalist communities: it's an erstwhile piety that saw social awkwardnesses of divers sorts as a sign of potential vocation to clerical or religious life. It's really a form of utilitarianism disguised as a form of mytisical piety* - it's designed (mostly subconsciously) to border-collie socially awkward folk into some sort of non-marital sheepfold, but the problem is that priests and non-eremetic religious have to have MORE intense social skills than regular layfolk, but it seems people want to be oblivious to this. Any priest working in a parish or oratory has to make himself nearly totally available to strangers on a daily/hourly basis - this is not the life for an introvert who does not have strong auxiliary extroversion skills. Religious living in a community are living in a social hothouse that can make small family life seem tame by comparison in terms of stress. (The call to eremetic religious life is comparatively rare, so I would not consider that a typical route to suggest to anyone.)

    I am sensitive to this because I've personally witnessed the destruction that can arise from priests who have no aptitude for parish life.

    * It's a form of magical thinking about grace. It was typically, in the old days, expressed in the form of "grace of state" - that, if you took vows, God gave you the graces necessary for that state of life - with the incorrect and very unCatholic understanding that graces would override nature (rather than build on nature), magically transfiguring peoples' characters. It's a pernicious piety.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    "I honestly can't imagine a man in his mid-20s A.D. 2016 saying that in earnest."

    Given what I've seen on traditionalist and alt-Right blogs, I can honestly imagine it. People have ways today of insulating themselves from people who might otherwise slap them in the face (figuratively or literally) for such rudeness. Personally, if I had been a young woman on the receiving end of such, a perfectly earnest "That statement is utterly unacceptable" accompanied by a long, unblinking look in the eyes in silence, would have been my response.

    Run, don't walk. When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. (They might change, but never imagine it be you who is changing them.)
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Elmar
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    .
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I was thinking of just saying "hey, look, you're a nice person and thank you for including me lately but I wouldn't want to give people the wrong idea about my intentions for why I am here. I am not here to follow groups of young gentlemen around, I'm here to pray and play organ and sing."


    If you feel uncomfortable in the "club of gents" I would say exactly what you wrote above. I don't see your honestly as being a problem at all. As an "older lady," I think it is refreshing!
    Thanked by 4Jes Liam CHGiffen Elmar
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    Be upfront and speak solely to your feelings. (You can entirely omit any characterization of how you perceive him or his posse.)

    There's an old universal widget of etiquette that comes highly recommended by none other than the original Emily Post. When you want to decline to do something someone is asking you to do, you say some version of "It's simply not possible." One might call it a Bartleby (the Scrivener) type of no that is emphatically NOT seeking to be negotiated into yes - it conspicuously avoids providing reasons/explanations (and apologies other than the most cursory and bland should also be avoided, else they be turned into a negotiation.)

    Etiquette is a useful set of tools for the socially awkward to feel more confident when dealing with the socially assured.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    .
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I think if you are "blunt" and "to the point" you will be less open to misinterpretation, which is good. As for people gossiping about you or your intentions, this is out of your control.

    People in my congregation wondered if I was married to our organist. We began at the same time and we are both very tall, so maybe this is where they got the idea? One woman actually asked me about it. I had to laugh since the organist is fifteen years my junior and my husband and I had been married for a decade and had four children by then (and yes, he came to church with me every Sunday.)

    People will say what they want and see what they want. You continue to lead the upstanding, holy life you have described above and all will be made clear soon enough. I too would not want to hang out with a group of "blokes" sans ladies, so you are not alone.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    I think I heard a priest comment, when asked about preparing a sermon, "...be brilliant, be brief, and be done."
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    Right. Don't worry as much about turning him down gently as turning him down quickly, politely, and very clearly.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    Emphasis on "very clearly".
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,465
    There's a terrible school of old Catholic piety that should not be permitted to take root in new traditionalist communities.


    I know the phenomenon of which you speak, Liam. I think it's fair to say that in the U.S., there might be a tendency for Catholic traditionalists to adopt wholesale preconciliar social mores and attitudes. While this isn't always bad, I've seen some attitudes among "Latin Mass Catholics" that would have been best left in the cultural ash heap.

    Recently, a young lady, now married and in her mid-twenties, who was raised for most of her life in a very conservative/traditionalist, "alt-Right" atmosphere in the northeast and the south, came out on Facebook and publicly denounced the many cases of sexism and actual abuse she has seen in traditionalist communities and parishes. It wasn't a pretty list.

    It's a very complex subject, and I don't claim to understand it at all, and of course, elitist, arrogant attitudes and social dysfunction aren't limited to EF communities, by a long shot. I just tend to think that in America there is a certain mindset that has caused a great deal of damage, and though it was probably there before a certain prelate arrived on the scene in the 80's and 90's, I think he may have done a great deal to foster its growth, from what I remember of his infamous letters to the laity written some decades ago when he was rector of the seminary at Winona.
    Thanked by 2Liam Elmar
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,706
    Oh, absolutely, and unfortunately it seeped into the group which broke from his in 1988.
  • I'm sorry to introduce a little levity into this conversation, but reading a description of this personage, I can't chase the image of Jane Austen's Mr. Collins.
  • When I first read jesearle's description of this fellow my immediate thought was 'oh! I didn't know that this species of person existed outside of Episcopaliandom'. Are there really Catholics like that?
    Thanked by 1stulte
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    Oh, yeah.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    Okay, I don't want to be mean to the bloke, there is a heck of a lot of good stuff that he does. It's unfortunate that my first impression was a little poor and it still doesn't mean I want to chill out with him and his friends. I just don't want to be mean about it. Yes there are people like that and it might not be in my interest to hang out with them but they aren't species of people, they are just people and it's not my place to feel disdain for this person or to judge him. It's not how I would conduct myself I hope but I took down my statements because I felt they were unfairly judgemental and on the same scale of levity to be so judgemental.

    I should really specify I really don't want this to become some awful thread about "oh what an awful person this is" because he's not an awful person, just not someone I want to hang out with. Like I said before he has a number of skills, a lot of them are good for the parish, especially good for non Catholics as he's quite good at bringing converts in. We all need this sort of person in our parish. I have pitfalls and I am sure I have more pitfalls than this bloke.

    Maybe I might suggest people focus on what I'm more worried about.
    Do organists typically get someone waiting at the loft door to speak to them or coming up to the loft and boxing them in? Because this is not something that just one person does. I find myself trapped in that situation a fair bit and not just in one parish.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,606
    "It's simply not possible for me to talk with you now. Have a lovely day." Move forward without looking back.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    Put down here so you don't have to scroll peeps.
    I decided to change the topic.

    Do organists typically get someone waiting at the loft door to speak to them or coming up to the loft and boxing them in?

    Because this is not something that just one person does. I find myself trapped in that situation a fair bit and not just in one parish.

    How do you avoid getting spoken to by people you don't want to speak to?

    This could include a parishioner you know, a parishioner you don't know, a person you don't know who isn't from the parish (yes this has happened) or someone that regularly waits for you to come out of the loft door. I often find it is safer to lock the loft door to avoid crazies coming up but when it is time to come out you can very easily be trapped. I have had to call a priest on one occasion when a weird person had entered the church and was waiting for me to come down the stairs and the police came and removed the person for me.

    Does anybody else feel trapped in the loft situations?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    On downtown abbey servants who are cornered often say, "Now I must get on with my day" or "Heavens, look at the time." I wish I'd had those expressions handy when I spent time in a choir loft. I know a very successful director who just turns stoney faced when he's done listening--but that's probably not what you want.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    I normally ask a chorister to come back up if I'm not out and he's pretty good at coming to fetch me if I don't come out after mass.

    One of my friends installed a Perspex sheet window on the loft door so he could see who was outside before opening up.

    I had one horrible incident when I was practicing in the middle of the night that involved a locked church, a dead body in a coffin, and a crazy man that managed to somehow have a key to the church. He'd come to deliver a gift painting he'd completed to the church which was still wet and dripping. Having never seen this man before in my life I was terrified and just locked myself in further til my priest could organise police.

    I can recommend hiding in the organ case. They don't look for you there. Swell boxes are often a bit cramped though. Near the pedals is best.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Have you considered a grappling hook? You could get out of dodge Batman-style.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    How about a zipline?
  • MarkS
    Posts: 274
    The 'trapped in the loft' syndrome is very real! I make it a point to be available after services to receive any potential feedback, but often can't make it down to coffee hour in time, as there are folks who love to pin me to the organ bench after services—generally to say kind things, occasionally to make uninformed comments, and in one case by a women in the choir who has a crush on me (she is harmless). In all cases I have always felt it my duty to be as polite as possible—a lot of smiling and nodding, even when what is being offered is utter nonsense, or (in the rare case) downright insulting—as these are the folks I am serving.

    Having said, I have complete sympathy with your present case!
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    So I will make a point that when I'm on vacation in a different Diocese to go to Mass at different churches in the area. When I hear a good choir or organist, I go tell them. I like to meet people (networking). Are you all saying that you would not appreciate me coming up to you after mass and saying Hi?
    I personally welcome others coming up, introducing themselves as a member of a different community.
    Thanked by 1Spriggo
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431
    donr, you are describing something very temporary (visitors), while jesearle is discussing something that happens in an ongoing way.

    As in any helping profession, dependencies happen in choirs. In a therapeutic context, this is normal and natural. But most of us aren't equipped for doing therapy, and in any case the choir loft isn't the right place for that.

    Being clear but polite and friendly makes you "teflon" for people who are needy. One of the main reasons not to be pulled into their drama is because it would be inappropriate and unkind, because we're not trained to help.

    (This is obviously different from concrete forms of help that anyone can do, like giving rides or lending money for the pancake breakfast, or the kinds that we are trained to do, like voice advice.)
    Thanked by 2Liam Jes
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,676
    I once had what I thought to be a street person come up to the loft when I was there to accompany Lenten Stations and Benediction. He turned out to be the autistic brother of a prominent parish member and was quite harmless. Nevertheless, I locked the door after that when I was in the loft by myself.

    Visitors to the loft? Every Sunday. The stairs are steep and difficult, which is a real obstacle for older folks. My visitors are in their late teens, don't mind the stairs, and are people I taught before I retired from teaching. They wait until the postlude is finished, tell me how they are doing, that they miss me, and keep me informed as to what is happening in their lives. I get big hugs from them before they leave. I genuinely care about them, and they are welcome in the loft any time.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    like giving rides


    If you're an employee of a church, you need to check with the Diocese before doing something like this. We have policies in place that forbid church employees from giving rides to anyone where one would be alone in a car with someone.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    I lock the gate to our choir loft before Mass and don't go downstairs until after the postlude. There's a keypad for any choir member or cantor who wanders out of the loft to use the restroom to return. I'm not trying to be unfriendly, but unless you're authorized personnel or you've contacted me ahead of time, you don't belong upstairs. If you want to greet me or talk to me after Mass, I do come downstairs within 2 minutes of the postlude ending and sometimes people do wait and chat with me as we walk toward my office.
  • At one of the churches I go to on occasion, the loft is always open, for anyone to come. Even when the choir is there. Just not the organ, only students (like me) who come to practice or performers are allowed to use it. He likes people, and especially those interested in music.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,431


    If you're an employee of a church, you need to check with the Diocese before doing something like this. We have policies in place that forbid church employees from giving rides to anyone where one would be alone in a car with someone.


    Matthew,

    This isn't just minors?
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    Okay I should specify again... I'm not against people coming and saying hi. But when it is people who are dangerous or unwanted what do you do?
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I've never had anyone dangerous in the loft.

    Our loft isn't a place to socialize. You could mention that the loft is a part of the church, and in the presence of the Eucharist, and that socialization must take place in the hall. Politely usher everyone out. Also tell your choir that this is what you think is best and let your priest know that you have implemented this "rule." I don't know if you can have it both ways though. Either it is a place to come up and socialize or it is not. People can say hi in the foyer or the church hall.

    I don't think you are being rude at all; you are being prudent and protecting the loft area; this is important.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    @donr what if that person is someone suffering the negative effects of "ice" from a drug addicted community? (which whilst my parish doesn't have this problem the location of the church in the wider community is unfortunate.)
    As a woman I feel very threatened when a scary type man comes up to the loft with an unfriendly face or creepy sense of personal space. I have had to call my choir friend to come up and rescue me from a man that kept touching my hair and saying really creepy things. It is a really bad idea to be locked upstairs with that.
    If it is someone saying hi I have no problem but I'm in a position where these instances are mostly people that aren't normal like that.

    @MarkS I understand so much but I don't think choir girls with crushes are harmless, their actions and intentions might be but association alone with them isn't so harmless. I once was the friend asked by a conductor to stay behind so he could avoid being alone with the girl that would stay behind. It was purely to protect his reputation. Sadly as a music teacher in a girls school I've seen too often a girl get rejected by a male teacher and then make his life into a misery. Not at all suggesting that this particular girl would but some do.

    @matthewj I'm the one playing the postlude which is why I'm last down. I have in past foreseen an issue and asked a chorister or two to stay behind. Beer is a more important factor than the postlude for some... And I totally understand that.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    Isn't there a locked door that choristers can shut on the way down? My singers wouldn't dare leave the gate open if they had to leave before the postlude finished.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    Church security is a real issue, and there are measures you can take to prevent dangerous situations, minimize the harm they cause, or respond afterward. Here's a short paper about the topic:
    http://churchsecurityconsultant.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/DaleAnnis-E-Book032011.pdf

    Of course, what measures you adopt would depend on the particular situation of your church and the risks.

    Could an air horn come in handy?
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,821
    All of the above could be solved if we just followed Pugin's lead and placed the choir & organist in the stalls of the sanctuary. Hard to get cornered in there! (But then @jesearle would then have to face the issue of being a female in choir . . .)
  • MarkS
    Posts: 274
    At my current church I actually encourage folks to come up to the balcony during the postlude—folks (especially kids) love to see what my feet are up to! While this might encourage some folks to view the postlude (and therefore the music generally?) as a form of entertainment, rather than a fitting conclusion to worship, it also helps to foster interest in the organ and organ music, which I think in this day and age is a good thing! So I suppose in that way I am creating my own loft 'traffic' issues. Is this a practice anywhere else?
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    Yup, I have been trying to leave it open so a little girl can play but it's not always a little girl coming up to play.

    @stimsoninrehab please don't make that the next story of my life! Cos I'd probably Joan of arc it very convincingly. I've been called a bloke enough, struth!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    Tried an experiment with closing the loft door and it worked. The girls still came and asked more politely than usual if they could play. Wasn't boxed in.

    also an aside about my new special friend...
    Found out a seminarian had told the bloke he didn't have to be mean to women to become a priest hahaha.