Voting for the Masses?
  • cmbearer
    Posts: 66
    So this happened this past weekend:

    Three weeks ago, I introduced a new Mass Ordinary setting to my parish. I was very excited about this step in this parish’s history. I was excited that this new Mass setting had the approval of the powers-that-be. This is in a parish whose favorite setting since the new translation has been the Schutte “Christ the Savior”. I chose this setting to move us along in a different direction. However, last week, I was told there were numerous complaints about it. These complaints were variations of “it’s too hard.” (It’s not too hard, but I guess it is too new.) So it was decided that we would have a vote from all the Mass-goers. Wait...what? Yes, a vote. The Mass-goers (not the full roster of parishioners...just the ones that happened to come to Mass this past weekend) were invited to submit approval or disapproval via a ballot. We regularly have 2,000+ people in attendance over the course of the weekend. I received about 300 ballots back. And wouldn’t you know it, the consensus was split pretty evenly. So I believe we learned absolutely nothing about the wants of Mass-goers as a general group, just that the squeaky wheels do get the grease. Now it seems all we have done is to begin to polarize the parish and set a very dangerous precedent for the Music department to have to manage. Just thought I would share my insanity with you all.
    Thanked by 2canadash cesarfranck
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,554
    Three weeks is also far too early to assess how a congregation receives a new Mass Ordinary setting.

    The most important statistic in the example you provided is that +1700 people did not vote. That should be factored into the denominator for determining percentages of this not-useful datum.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,370
    Actually, CM, that's promising.
    One has to remember that people HATE change.
    IMO, the fact that 50% of people were interested in continuing with the change is great!
    People need more than two weeks to get used to something. Will you be changing things up for Lent? When will this setting make a return?

    I'd say, keep going with it. Unless your priest notices a huge drop in the finances and he's really worried about that (not that this is a good reason, just that this often motivates people) look at this as a win!
  • No voting. Ever. The minority always feels as though their voice was not heard. A vote will make them to go from not caring for something to vehemently defending their cause. My experience is that as a leader, it is far better to make good decisions based on actual results than to ask a group what they think.

    My choir dislikes every new piece I introduce. It is not because the songs are too hard or poorly written. It is simply because they have not sung them 4,000 times before. If I let them vote on whether they like something or not, we would do the same set of songs every year. We did "In the Bleak Midwinter" for the first time three years ago at Christmas. They just hated it. This year they asked me if we could do it again because they love it so much.
  • I also encourage you to keep going. However, perhaps make an overture to the crowd that doesn't like the new setting because it's hard. A few ideas: write an article in the bulletin, make an annoucement before or after mass and talk about ways to implement and learn the new ordinary. My parish loves (and kind of expects) the responses to be printed out on a laminated sheet for them to follow along. We also utilize projectors (I know) and project the responses. I have to say, when we have the projectors up, people are USING them and SINGING. (Did surprise me.) You can write/say that you will "teach" the the gloria or the sanctus before mass on such and such a day. I have also simply played through the gloria and responses as a prelude or had the choir sing it as a prelude. Other times I have asked them to sing through. People are drawn to beauty. The more beautiful you can make it (adding harmonies or getting a really good cantor), the better received it may be. I apologize if you know all of this. We recently went from two very "poppy" settings to Mass in A Minor (Strassburger, Lit Press- love it) and it is taking time for people to warm up to it. I has some blowback, but gratefully this particular parish really has a culture of congregational singing.

    Good luck and stay the course!
  • cmbearer
    Posts: 66
    Thanks canadash! That is a great point. I do hope the pastor will see that even though there has been some grumbling, there are those who think it worthwhile.
    Thanked by 2canadash Jes
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 271
    I gave my choir a vote on a particular motet we're working on. I have 20 people in my choir, so I said, "OK, we'll take a vote, simple majority wins. The rules are one vote per person, except the director (me), who has 21 votes."
    Thanked by 2Liam cesarfranck
  • Kathy
    Posts: 4,978
    No votes!

    By the bye,

    I've often wondered what the psychology is of "I know that song." Why does a familiar tune so please the mind? Why do we resist the new song? Does anyone have any insights on this, or know of any studies on the subject?
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 967
    I don't have much to add, but simply to say that this is a colossally bad idea. We don't determine the music selections at Mass by polling the congregation. We don't determine the content of the homily by polling the congregation.

    If we start polling the people as to what music they'd like, then we're saying that the music used at Mass should be determined based on the preferences of those in attendance--this is a seriously dangerous game.
  • Always remember that the grumblers (I call them grinches, for that is exactly what they are) are far fewer than those who don't grumble. How many times have the grinches got their way because they, rather than everyone else, were harkened to? What is it about grumblers (grinches) that everyone is afraid of offending them? And, don't take a vote. Music in the church is not an election.
  • If we start polling the people as to what music they'd like, then we're saying that the music used at Mass should be determined based on the preferences of those in attendance--this is a seriously dangerous game.


    To wit: "Hosanna to the Son of David" ………"Crucify Him" …. "May his blood be on us and on our children"
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • mburrier
    Posts: 25
    I'm the DM&L with an 1800-member parish.
    We sing three Mass settings (Creation, Renewal, Resurrection).
    We're blessed with several pianists who used to be on their own before I was hired.
    They wanted to introduce a new Mass setting; the presider was against it.

    What I want to do is slowly reharmonize the extant Mass settings until they are something very different.

    Call it a hobby.

  • MBurrier,

    I'm sorry that your music is so limited.

    Who is your "presider"? Don't you mean the pastor of the parish, or are you in one of those places bearing the cross of a parish administrator/angry nun.
  • cmbearer
    Posts: 66
    Update: The decision is in. However, I think it was in before the voting idea was ever conceived. We are switching to a more familiar Mass setting, the aforementioned parish favorite. I was hoping we could at least finish the season and continue to sing it until Lent when we would change it anyway, but we are switching now, further drawing attention to the fact that there was a “problem”. At least if we had finished the season, it would have phased out quietly.

    Is it wrong of me to hope that those who voted “liked the new setting” will now start to complain? (Half purple)
  • JesJes
    Posts: 472
    Perhaps you need to look at how you introduce new mass settings to your parish. We introduced a very different mass setting recently and with success and nobody thought we could pull it off. The trick was to have a very brief instruction prior to mass and to be very polite in thanking people for their cooperation with learning the new setting.
    Diplomacy needs to somewhat triple with every new addition (even if the new addition is seriously an old tradition.)
    Look for octave leaps or general range of notes. If it is on the high end can you transpose it down? If there is a leap (a known gloria we do that receives complaint has ONE leap of an octave in it and that's the sole reason people don't like it.) Then can you reduce the leap to a smaller interval and still fit the chord?
    Hope this helps.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,370
    Perhaps you need to look at how you introduce new mass settings to your parish.


    Yes. I agree with this.

    The trick was to have a very brief instruction prior to mass and to be very polite in thanking people for their cooperation with learning the new setting.


    I don't think my pastor would go for this. What I would probably do, though it would be a little awkward at first, is to consider introducing one or two parts of the ordinary every week or bi-weekly.

    I'm sorry it didn't work out for you.