Help, the school mass is going down!
  • Dan F.Dan F.
    Posts: 205
    Ok, this is a partial vent with a request for advice.

    I teach at a Pk-12 Catholic school and have no direct responsibility for planning the liturgies here. We were blessed to have this year two priest chaplains serving full time at the school where previously there were zero (we are independent of a parish). They brought some liturgical sensibilites with them leaning toward simplicity and quiet, less organ and more chant. The chant was mostly Taize or similar, and the ordinary setting we've used all year is something called Alexander Messe that can be chanted a capella in unison or 4-part. Generally, the "feeling" at mass was indeed more peaceful and prayerful, though I would have preferred using Gregorian chant as the model rather than Taize.

    In our high school masses the choir leads the music easily, singing the ordinary and psalm in beautiful 4-part from the back of the chapel. There is a opening and closing hymn with organ, and organ improv during communion. Our high school choir director plans and leads the music for this mass.

    In our middle school there is no choir. Students have some exposure to singing through some music programs, but no group regularly rehearse all year. So we set out to sing the same settings at mass with no choir to lead. Middle schoolers do not like to stick out and when asked to sing as a congregation a capella with no leaders tend to just clam up. Another teacher played the organ at this mass, kind of fading in and out to get the kids familiar with the new music but hoping we could just sing without organ. It didn't work too well. Nobody knew when to start and couldn't stay together very well (the Alexander Messe has a lot of repeated notes that blend together to become indistinct).

    So, the MS organist was given the task of getting a small group of kids to volunteer to become the Chapel Choir to lead the mass parts for the rest of the school. About 4 kids volunteered and practice one period a week (35 minutes). For most of these kids its a challenge to match pitch and alone they are not strong enough to lead anything. So now about 6 of us teachers have volunteered to sing along, doing the ordinary SATB and chanting the psalm and singing a kind of hymn at communion. All under the direction of our fellow teacher-organist.

    Here's the problem(s): There is no clear unifying idea behind the liturgy anymore and it is ballooning out of control. The music at mass has become a means for students to "make the mass their own" by participating more. So the chapel choir helps pick the hymns (today, Amazing Grace and They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love), and other kids from the band are being invited to play their instuments at mass, sometimes a separate piece and sometimes along with the communion song. Today, we had two flutes, a saxaphone, trombone, 2 clarinets, and BONGOS playing along during the refrain of Eat this Bread, Drink this Cup. All with little to no rehearsal. Everyone's confused and tentative.

    It goes without saying that I'd like to see the trajectory of this liturgy change (PULL UP, PULL UP!). What should I say and how should I say it?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Hi, I just wanted to say that I really sympathize!

    I can't tell from your description what the problem is, exactly. Is there a lack of leadership? Or a bad leader?

    The first problem might be much easier to solve: you and the hs organ teacher could work together and make things good. But if there is someone in charge, who is deliberately democratizing music choices, that sounds like a real mess. Which is really sad for the kids!