Paid Gregorian Schola
  • Does anyone have paid singers in a schola that sings strictly chant, no polyphony? What would be an appropriate rate per Mass and rehearsal assuming full Ordinary and Proper with cantor verses?
  • An appropriate payment for praying the Mass - zero.

    But I would pay for rehearsal and administrative time.
  • Starting at $125 per service and per rehearsal.
    Depending, of course, on the calibre of your voices.
    Some students maybe less.

    Of paid singers it is assumed that they will have learnt their music before rehearsal, NOT DURING IT. This means that you can spend rehearsal time, as it should be, in refining nuance and learning the music in depth, giving extensive attention to blend, intonation, and choral diction, etc.
  • In my opinion, a semi-professional or professional musician should be paid according to their education AND skill level in addition to the amount of music and its difficulty.

    Also, the financial capabilities of the parish and their appreciations should be taken into account. It should be taken into consideration, that once you have paid musicians, can and would the parish want and keep these position in place for a reasonably long term in order to build this kind of ministry.

    I believe that music ministries are extremely power in their influence; for good or bad, edification or degradation! A worthy music / arts ministry should be endowed financially and should NOT be allowed to survive at the whim or wish of changing pastors or committees.

    People come and go, so what I am suggesting is that a ministry should be looked at, planned for and managed with a long range vision for its growth and stability; especially in regards to its paid staff and ministers.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,679
    PaxMelodious wrote:
    An appropriate payment for praying the Mass - zero.
    But I would pay for rehearsal and administrative time.


    I think it's a mistake to describe paying musicians as "payment for praying", as though it were a hair's breadth from simony.

    The task of musicians is not simply "praying". The musician is (one hopes) praying and exercising a skilled art form. Furthermore, he is providing a service at assigned times and in an assigned manner.
  • This is probably one of those topics that's been beaten to death in the past, but I have to agree with chonak above. To suggest that musicians need not be payed for their services is like suggesting that the parish secretary ought to be a volunteer, or the janitor ought to do his work out of the goodness of his heart, cause hey, ora et labora and all. I realize that's probably not exactly what PaxMelodious was trying to convey (and please forgive my bit of snark; I just can't help myself sometimes), but that's the underlying message that I hear anytime someone suggests that musicians--who have devoted much of their lives, along with a lot of financial and other resources, to the study of their art--should just volunteer. This sentiment is, in my opinion, part of the reason the quality of music in Catholic churches has suffered so much, and why so many trained musicians (who happen to be Catholic) end up working in other denominations.

    That said, of course there's a place for volunteering. Many of our choirs are volunteer choirs, and that's great. Some of our musicians are volunteers. Some of us might be volunteers. But if we're talking about madorganist's scenario, and assuming as M. Jackson Osborne added: that the professional singers will come to rehearsal with music already completely learned and ready to fine-tune, then yes, it is right and just to compensate them for their exercise of their hard-earned expertise, including their singing at Mass. As chonak suggests, I think we should be careful not to conflate compensating musicians for all the work they put into their craft with some sort of simonious payment for going to Mass. They aren't being paid to pray, though one hopes that they are also devoutly praying while they sing!
  • People who expect things for free don't expect much.
    And, as they don't expect much, they don't (truth be known) think too much of what it's for.

  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,573
    "Would you rather pay for all the rehearsal time or all the performance time?"

    "Which is fewer hours?"
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab Elmar
  • though one hopes that they are also devoutly praying while they sing!


    So who exactly are they serving while they're singing - God or the pastor and congregation? Is it more important to give the very best of their talents to glorify God, or to share material which enhances the prayer of the pastor and congregation?
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,997
    Why distinguish so sharply between the two?

    Enhancing prayer glorifies God, too.
  • Kathy hit the nail on the head. It seems like you're setting up a false dichotomy wherein one cannot "share material which enhances the prayer of the pastor and congregation" and at the same time "give the very best of their talents to glorify God." I think the two are complementary, not contradictory, and offering reasonable compensation to trained professionals does not seem to me to frustrate either end.
  • I think that it is a poor reflection on those (with egg on their faces) who voice the absurd notion that the musical offerings of those who are gifted and salaried are not, on those counts, genuine prayer. This is, when one thinks about it, thoroughly, preposterously arrogant.

    Let's see, now - we could start a literally endless list of music that glorifies God that we wouldn't have but that its authors were salaried or otherwise provided for - chant, Victoria, Palestrina, Tallis, Bach, Gombert, Mocquereau, Howells, et alii ad infinitum, the list is literally endless. Not only the composers, but the choirs whose material needs were taken care of so that this music, an exceptional gift of God, could grace his worship.

    How cheap!!!
    How niggardly!!!
  • So who exactly are they serving while they're singing - God or the pastor and congregation? Is it more important to give the very best of their talents to glorify God, or to share material which enhances the prayer of the pastor and congregation?
    Is the prayer of the pastor more efficacious when he offers Mass pro populo that when he accepts a stipend? Is it more efficacious when he offers a Sung Mass rather than a spoken one? Is it more efficacious, the more people who assist? Personal dispositions aside, the liturgy glorifies God in an objective sense. The same is true of sacred music, even when performed in a nonliturgical setting. If it's edifying to the listeners, great. If not, is God any less glorified? What if some of the listeners find it to be a distraction from prayer? We must always remember that Gregorian chant is not merely an accompaniment to or embellishment of liturgical prayer - it is liturgical prayer. It doesn't suddenly become something else when sung by paid professionals.
  • ...than when he accepts a stipend?
    The rituals and incidences for which a priest is given a stipend are not the only times that he is 'paid'. As is fitting, he is given a house, food, a housekeeper and/or cook, a car, health benefits, clothing, incidental 'perks', an allowance from the diocese, and, finally, a pension; not to mention intangibles such as deference, trust, and much more. In other words, all his material needs are satisfied and provided for. While his whole life is lived 'to the glory of God' and the cure of souls, he can hardly be said to do all of this for free. He is well compensated in a life to which he was called and which he chose freely. And so should it be, in proportion to the ministry and endowments of each, with others who are called to particular service within the Lord's temple. We offer to God from thankful and contrite hearts that which has value. What is valueless does not glorify him - nor does it aedify his people....... nor does it speak well of them.

  • along these same lines... those who sing as volunteers are not offering something valueless when not being paid. It's not unknown for a parishioner to stop by and say, 'I came here today really struggling with something, and your music helped me to pray. I just wanted to thank you.' this is (to me) priceless.
  • A different perspective, although something that several posts have already identified in various ways... the parish choir / schola is (IMO) the stand-in for the true liturgical choir that would have been typically clerics and canons of the principal churches of a given diocese. Just as (for example) the canons of Notre Dame would have received a benefice associated with that role - a benefice which was attached with certain conditions such as being available for a set percentage of services if I remember correctly - I don't think one could legitimately argue against paying lay liturgical musicians a salary that relates to participation in the Liturgy as well as practices.

    Of course, as others have pointed out, there is certainly a role for volunteers, and much that can be accomplished with a volunteer choir. Volunteers may not be paid money, but entirely apart from the graces they receive for the generosity of their gift, in some cases they receive training and education that ultimately lead to a career in music. James Senson has recently been posting about apprenticeship programs instituted in his parish (a great idea), other parishes have formed music "schools". My last group saw a number of young ladies who, in part at least, inspired by the repertoire and demands of the volunteer choir have either gone on to major in music programs in college or are involved in organ studies on scholarship.

    I'm also quite certain that there are any number of paid liturgical musicians who, realizing they are not paid the true value of their work, may choose to think of the differential in some sense as a pecuniary contribution to the parish / Church.

    To the original question of how much... I don't think one can really assert a particular monetary value that governs all situations. There are any number of variables including what standards may exist within your own diocese, the skill level involved, the expectations of what is being done by the paid singers, etc.. I live in Cincinnati. If I lived in NYC the rates for soloists, for organists, for paid singers would be dramatically different.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • About those canons. There is a history of lay canons in the Church. Also, it is not uncommon for Anglican cathedral choirmaster-organists to be named 'canon for music'. This continues a tradition with a lengthy pedigree in the Church. (Titelouze was a canon at the cathedral in Rouen, as was Guillaume de Machaut, and they were not alone.) I hope that we at Walsingham will eventually so honour our choirmaster.

    Incardination is certainly right in pointing out that a $125 stipend in Houston, for instance, would be a pitiful sum in New York - and so, relatively speaking, elsewhere.
  • or (relatively speaking) somewhat of a fortune elsewhere :-) !!
  • Repertoire shouldn't have much bearing on payment. I'd be ashamed to offer anyone less that $50 per service, and that's lowball. That said, I don't think hired scholae are a good idea as a regular thing for a parish. (If you're doing a one-off as guests, it's different.) I want to get as many people singing chant as possible.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Our friend, Dale Fleck (formerly of Helena MT), may be on the right track of remunerating four "scholars" from the local university ALONG WITH the formation of a choir school of children based upon chant at our diocesan cathedral. This presumes an integration of the two down the road. What remains to be seen is whether these formats will also attract and open membership to an adult volunteer membership as well.

    My successor (another large parish in the diocese) will perhaps find out that paying for ringers sans a long term vision for sustained volunteer growth will not be viable. Hard to say.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,687
    A good rule in life is you are very lucky if you get what you pay for.
  • I think that it is a poor reflection on those (with egg on their faces) who voice the absurd notion that the musical offerings of those who are gifted and salaried are not, on those counts, genuine prayer. This is, when one thinks about it, thoroughly, preposterously arrogant.


    But this thread is not about salaries (ie amounts of money paid regularly for on-going availability to do whatever work is required). It is about a gigging rate - per the opening post:

    What would be an appropriate rate per Mass and rehearsal ....


    I have not anywhere stated that the prayer of those who are paid is not genuine.

    But I absolutely question whether it is appropriate to pay anyone to pray - and suggest that it is not.

    Priests in a diocese are paid for their service overall. The payment (in my area, housing and stipend only: they clothe, feed and transport themselves from with) is not based on how many Masses their appointment offers, what share of that workload they do, or indeed how many souls are in their care.

    I have no problem with the idea of paying professionals to serve a parish (or whatever) on an on-going basis - whether they are instrumentalists, choristers, directors, etc - and of course such arrangements are based on the expectation of serving that N Masses per time period, as well as facilitating music that would otherwise be unachievable

    But a per-gig rate is a very different kettle of fish.

  • stulte
    Posts: 235

    But a per-gig rate is a very different kettle of fish


    I'd have to argue that it differs mainly in duration, not in kind.
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,031
    I am a professional singer, conductor, and organist. Only in rare circumstances do I provide liturgical music for free; this is how I make my living.

    If my services are requested for a one-off liturgy / "gig," why should I not be paid? They need someone with my skills to execute the kind and quality of music I can provide, just for this one Mass. Who knows why they don't want to hire me to play for more than just the one? If it's just one, I should play or sing for free? I don't understand.
  • It's common practice in every diocese I've served for "guest" priests to get a check for offering Mass, hearing confessions, or any other "professional" work. The amount for Masses is considerably more than the customary Mass stipend and is presumably intended as a reimbursement for time, travel, and preparation, including preparing a homily. How is the case of a "per-gig rate" for singers any different?
    Thanked by 1Incardination
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,686
    paying for ringers sans a long term vision for sustained volunteer growth will not be viable.


    A parish up here is advertising for paid ringer-singers (choral). Preferred b/g includes degree in voice, music ed., or "equivalent" (the term for not-really-desirable-but-probably-necessary). They are to sing for a monthly EF Mass and a girls' choir will also participate. The parish is also paying an outside conductor for the EF Mass work.

    Meantime, the all-volunteer "adult" choir does not sing frequently and rarely sings anything in Latin. We'll see how long that 'adult' choir lasts.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Here's my monkey in the wrench: When I began the tenure of 26 years at my last assignment, I contractually vied with the pastor for an auditioned "schola" choir. It worked quite well for the subsequent quarter century. As the director, I was the ringer. It was my responsibility to determine the viability of each auditioner to learn, hone and perform the corporate duty. If a conductor/director cannot do that, should s/he be entrusted to vette "outside" singers (whose mentors are also elsewhere) to model ideal practice for specific parish needs? Or will adhesion be mistaken for cohesion?