"When are we going back to the regular music?"
  • baritenor
    Posts: 10
    This is my first full-time job as a parish music director, and I'm the first full-time music director this parish has ever had. Since being hired last summer, I've been consciously moving the repertoire away from the Haugen/Haas/Joncas songs they were dependent on before toward more general hymnody. Along the way I've sprinkled in the occasional communion antiphon in English, and at Advent we used common-meter entrance antiphons in English to the tune of Conditor alme siderum, with bulletin inserts to explain what the propers are. For Lent, the pastor asked me to incorporate more chant, so every week we've sung the entrance antiphon from Adam Bartlett's Simple English Propers and the communion antiphon by Andrew Motyka.

    This past week one of my choir members blurted out, "When are we going back to the regular music?" and another singer reported a comment she had heard before Mass that "everybody hates the chants." Of course, these two are not the only parishioners with opinions, but it does make me wonder about how much chant I can "get away with" in the future, or if I've tried to change too much too soon. Anyone been in this situation before?
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,891
    Yep, been there, done that. I pointed out the pastor's policies and mentioned that I am an employee of his. I referred the complainer to the pastor. Nothing came of it since complainers often bitch and moan, but wont follow through on their complaints.
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • Let them complain. I just had a discussion with someone about our local TLM parish, and she said "I don't even know why the bishop ALLOWS that" re: using chant.
  • I agree with @CharlesW and @FidemInFidebus.

    But more questions than answers from me.

    For Lent, the pastor asked me to incorporate more chant

    1. How firm is he in his decision to incorporate more chant?

    2. Did he happen to specify exactly how much chant?

    3. Is his request based on more than simple aesthetics (arguably shallow) or legislation (arguably heavy-handed), or is there also a concerted, parallel effort on his part to be more demonstrably sensitive to them, e.g., by referring to the content of the proper texts in his preaching? the rationale of replacing man-made texts with inspired Scripture? &c.

    4. Given that he has delegated oversight of liturgical music to you, how prepared is he to come to the defense of the decisions you have made on his behalf? short-term? long-term?

    5. How much of the Mass does he himself chant?

  • How well is the chant executed? This is not primarily a question about your musicianship; rather, chant is hard for the willing. If the choir hate it, how well can they do it? And if they do it poorly, why wouldn't everybody hate it?

    When I introduced chanting to St Thomas More, where it was relatively well received, I started solo, so I could do it right. In Lent, I noticed that w/o preludes, the nave got noisy. So I started chanting psalms in directum before Mass. Well received. Then I decided to do the Proper Introit as prelude and Communio after the hymns when time, and didn't stop after Lent. Then this moved to during Fr's communion. Then I had a teeny volunteer schola, who were tight. Then a year or so down the line, after hearing it done well and often, I could pull some of my better choir singers into chanting with us for a fuller group. We did my Englished propers every Sunday, the full Gradual on Good Friday, in Latin, the Vexilla Regis, Crux Fidelis, &c.

    Not a big believer in the ease of congregational chanting if it has not been heard for a while, so they were actually my last step.
  • Reval
    Posts: 150
    Hello baritenor,
    Although I am not a music director, I have listened to the ones on here for quite a while! I think sometimes change can happen too suddenly, which maybe is what is happening in your parish? As long as your pastor backs you up, great, but he may fold if enough people complain.
    My parish got a new music director last July, and we have been gradually moving from Haugen & Haas to mainly "traditional" hymnody (the old fashioned stuff - - "Panis Angelicus" "O Sacrament Most Holy"). I notice that our MD throws people a bone now and then, "Make Me a Channel" - - maybe that's the answer for now (if you can stand it!).
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 147
    Experiencing the same thing. The saying "slowly but surely" may take effect here. There are admittedly a few songs by Haugen/Haas/Joncas that MIGHT be liturgically appropriate, and it doesn't hurt to sing one of them occasionally.
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 115
    It sounds like they need more catechesis. I would begin by informing any objector that you and the pastor are merely implementing the Second Vatican Council:

    "116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

    But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30."

    Under the decrees of the Council, Gregorian chant is the norm for the Church. Messrs. Hagen and Haas are permitted substitutes.

    And the "success" of the mass should be judged on how it makes anyone feel, but how well the "life of the world to come" is made present. The choice of music at mass is not merely a question of taste, but of how well the music embodies what the church wills for its worship.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,490
    I just had a discussion with someone about our local TLM parish, and she said "I don't even know why the bishop ALLOWS that" re: using chant.


    Well, it's not like Haugan and Haas have set enough Latin to fill an EF High Mass.
    I'm sure that our bishop wouldn't allow the TLM either, if he could get away with it.
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • Always remember that they think that it is their church - since they pay the bills.

    The wealthy ones often make that very, very clear to the pastor, as do some of those who volunteer to sing in the choir or especially, cantor.

  • When are we going back to the regular music!

    Ha! That's rich!

    Some of us have been wondering that ever since certain types chose to ignore 'preserve, foster, and cultivate' chant and our musical heritage as commanded by Vatican II and replaced it with their piteous whining and wailing, plunking and toodling fashioned after pop, broadway, rock, and just about anything but what the council asked for.

    The obvious answer to the lady's question is 'we have gone back to the regular music'.

    More seriously, you have been there a year, you have the pastor's blessing for what you have done and he wishes for you to do more of the same? And no one has complained until this one unfortunate choir member? (A choir member yet? That's like a traitorous stab in the back!) Count your blessings and do as your pastor bids you to do. I would suggest that your answer to the lady ought to be just what I have suggested above, together with a brief summary of just exactly what Vatican II thought was 'regular music'. Also, refer her to the pastor who supports you.

    It might be a helpful thing for the entire congregation if in the weekly parish newsletter you include a 'choirmaster's column' in which you explained the Church's rather clear guidelines and expectations with regard to liturgical music. You could cite, among others, H.F. Benedict's pelucid A New Song for the Lord, and other such works.
    Don't let this be a one or two time column. It should be a regular feature of the parish newsletter in which you reveal interesting things about the parish music, its background, history, appropriateness, interesting things about composers, hymns, propers, or liturgical music in general, etc.

    Whatever you do don't back down. You have your pastor's support, so smile, stand your ground, and don't be thrown off by people like this and their loathsome backstairs intrigues. When they say 'everyone' they mean 'everyone they talk to', which may or may not be (and most likely isn't) anywhere near 'everyone'. Cultivate rapport and a professional demeanor with your congregation - and continue to cultivate an unbreachable bond with your approving pastor.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 647
    The obvious answer to the lady's question is 'we have gone back to the regular music'.


    You beat me to it MJO!
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Allow me to chortle that out here in the wild west I've never cottoned to a diet of the Minnesota Mafia, au contraire....we've been the exponents of California cuisine, Alice Waters' style, only the finest ingredients, whether Hassler or Hurd.
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • Ahhh.... Charles, chortle on!
    Thanked by 2melofluent baritenor
  • princehalprincehal
    Posts: 47
    Her question, taken at face value, implies that they don't get to sing any "regular" (i.e. familiar) music anymore. Do they?

    Because familiar music is a powerful tool in implementing sacred music. I've found it's very difficult for PIPs to receive anything unfamiliar if they can't orient it with something familiar. Your singer wants familiar music because she is made for heaven, where all goodness is familiar. Your job is to make the sacred sound more familiar, which is hard.

    All this to say: If you've removed everything they can orient to, you have a steep cliff to climb, and your pastor might have to choose between you and his parishioners.

    I'd recommend (especially if you sense hostility) keeping everything they know, and just slipping in very well-done sacred music seamlessly alongside it. Then the whiners have nothing to whine about. Then once you're singing familiar alongside sacred, you've moved the discussion away from "either-or" and into "how much." And once you're there, you're home free; just sit back and crank up the volume.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,301
    "everybody hates the chants."


    People who claim to speak for anonymous masses are humbugs — false and unscrupulous gossip mongers, devoutly to be ignored.
  • princehalprincehal
    Posts: 47
    I'd also add (and maybe you do all these things already):
    1. Go through your parish's favorite music, and pick out the most beautiful and appropriate stuff. Use this whenever you possibly can.
    2. Attend parish events and get to know the congregation. Parties, Knights of Columbus, School sports, etc.
    3. Try to do the above without telling anyone how great sacred music is. No one cares and they won't understand what you say anyway till they've experienced it.
    4. Let the pastor know that sacred music is awkward when there's no incense or clerical chant. ('Hey man, you can chant everything and burn incense, or the rest of the music can suck a lot more; your call')
    6. Be confident but not arrogant. Be calm when things get frustrating. Make a martini, go to bed early, go to morning mass, say a rosary, and get back to work.
    7. Know where your boss is at. Can I push things?
    8. Call in St. Cecilia.

    All that said: This situation raises a lot of questions, about which a lot can be said. I'm attaching my notes from Matt Moloche's breakout session "introducing sacred music to a parish community" from the 2016 colloquium.
    (I assume that's cool since the plenary sessions are publicly available? If it's not, please let me know and I'll take it down.)


    I also wrote about my own experience here; a very different situation I know, but some of the principles may be helpful.
    2448 x 3264 - 2M
  • Your job is to make the sacred sound more familiar


    That's going in my "inspiring quotes" notebook. Thanks!
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    "When are we going back to the regular music?"

    "You'll hear it as soon as head to that Lutheran church down the road"
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • Sometimes taking things very slowly (and throwing them a few bones now and again) can encourage long-term success. Even if done very well, it does take awhile for a parish that hasn't (ever) heard chant to adapt to it to the point that they like it and appreciate it. I've been working on this in my parish since 2012 and am just this year starting to get genuine unsolicited comments from the Pip's that they really loved the music and are going to try to follow our Mass schedule (groupies).

    Note: I am directing only one of four choirs at our parish and our schedule is rotating so that we sing at a different Mass time three times a month -- so all the parishioners hear us once/month at their regular Mass time.
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • The suggestions to slow down and include some (what is to this person and her 'everyone') 'regular' music may good advice. I note, however, that baritenor has been at this parish for almost a year, his priest supports him, and only now has one person had the ingratitude to complain about the improved musical regimen. So, it doesn't seem to me that there is such a resistance and desire for the so-called 'regular' music as would warrant alarm or suggest that baritenor has alienated people and created a disaster. That is not at all the case. People who complain and say that 'everyone' doesn't like such and such do not really speak for everyone. They speak only for themselves and, at most, their own nasty little coterie of grumblers. Many times has something praiseworthy been scuttled because the many who either liked it a lot or a little were silent, and the noisy and shameless few grumblers accomplished their shabby ends.

    After talking this over very seriously with the pastor, one might slip in one of the so called 'regular' pieces now and then to make this woman happy. It hardly seems needful to do the opposite, namely, going back to the so called 'regular' music regimen and slip in something good once in awhile.

    And don't forget that 'regular' music is the Church's own paradigm of chant and our patrimony of choral works from past and present. Other music is 'irregular'.



    Thanked by 2princehal baritenor
  • I have experienced that most people after dealing with years of "regular" music, silently appreciate the change to propers, motets, polyphony, hymnody, etc. The only ones you hear from are the select few that are stuck in the 60s. They will get over it.

    The people that are in church for the right reasons will recognize the more sacred, more prayerful environment and inwardly appreciate it.

    The people that are in church for the wrong reasons will complain and most likely go somewhere else where the "show" is going on.
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 184
    "When are we going back to regular music",
    My response, "you mean the music that popes for centuries constituted the most sacred music set aside for the liturgy?"
    *sneers from the singers*
    "or are you referring to the pop music of the 1960's that infiltrated most of Catholic parishes after the changes in the liturgy post Vatican II council? The same council that stated that Gregorian Chant is the 'official' music of the church."

    I tend to use the obedience route, if that doesn't work I invite people to their local evangelical church where guitars and drums are regularly used for the religious "party".
    Thanked by 1baritenor
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,573
    Yeah those Egyptian fleshpots sure were tasty ..
    but we are going to the Promised Land !
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    This past week one of my choir members blurted out, "When are we going back to the regular music?" and another singer reported a comment she had heard before Mass that "everybody hates the chants."


    First, I would almost guarantee you that not everybody hates the chants: it's most likely just the person saying it, or they heard a small group of people discussing it, or they overheard someone say it, and then that became everyone. The report is likely inaccurate. Second, the "regular music" for the Mass is Gregorian chant. It says so in Sacrosanctum Concilium #116:

    116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the
    Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of
    place in liturgical services.


    A good way to handle this sort of thing is to have people contact you directly with their concerns. I prefer to have face-to-face meetings, but that may not be your thing. The idea is to educate the people about what Sacred Music really is. You may have already discovered this, but most people probably don't even know that there are documents that the Second Vatican Council put out regarding the Mass, which precludes them even knowing what they're called, perhaps even having heard of them, which precludes them knowing even one iota of information contained within. Most people are not trained musicians, either, so they don't know what a good standard of performance is, and are therefore more likely to accept a lesser degree of performance in order to have a more shallow appeal.

    A major concern I would have here is this: is the pastor with you or against you on this? Will he change his tune when the specific people complaining go to him and present their cases? That will make a big difference in how this all turns out for you.
    Thanked by 1baritenor