Music notation in Worship Aids
  • I work in a small parish, but one that sings well. Each week we publish a separate worship leaflet that provides the music that will be sung, and its reference number in the hymnal, along with choral anthems, and their texts, and any music that we are doing that is not in the hymnal (with the necessary copyright permissions.) There is currently a discussion taking place that the music notation takes up too much room, and we should simply print the text of the hymn or antiphon, and eliminate the texts of the choir anthems. Anyone have any insights to share that would demonstrate the value of printing words and music for congregational pieces? Any comments on the printing of the texts of choral anthems?
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 354
    Are you printing just the melody line of the music? In my study of old hymnals I found that some only printed the words, so it would not be unusual to do that. Another possible solution would be to print a fragment of the melody line and the words beneath it, this would help those in the congregation who like to have some music to go by.
  • doneill
    Posts: 191
    The long-term solution to building up a strong singing congregation is to promote musical literacy, and printing the tunes is one piece of that. Regarding texts of choral pieces: sung text, even with excellent diction in a well-known language, can be difficult to comprehend, which is why many opera houses project subtitles for English-language opera. Comprehension is a big part of the V2 reforms, so you could try arguing that.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,077
    The only pieces for which providing tunes would not be strongly advisable would be those that are nearly universally known (e.g., Joy To The World) that have no irregular text changes in verses (e.g. of such: O Come All Ye Faithful (depending on text used)).

    Otherwise, it's basic hospitality* to provide if you want people to sing. Very much including the Ordinary - visitors won't necessarily be familiar with the particular settings your community uses.

    * Yes, I am aware that many Catholic parishes are astonished to imagine the idea of functional (rather than cosmetic) hospitality is a duty rather than largesse - probably because we too often operate on the running idea that Y'all *Have* To Come Here Anyway (Else You Will Deserve to Go to Hell) So We Don't Need to Actually Do Anything to Attract You.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 282
    Re printing music: 1) I go the Abraham-pleading-for-Sodom route and point out that even if there are only 50/20/10/5 people present who are reading the notation and singing well because of it, the support and leadership they give the others justify its inclusion. Everyone benefits from their good singing, even if not everyone is reading the notes. 2) The number of people who can sightread Stravinsky is small, but the number of people who can infer melodic ascent and descent and fast vs. slow has always seemed to be relatively high. Thus, the printed notation is helpful to a larger number of people than the number who would confidently proclaim “I can sightread music.”

    Re printing texts of anthems: In 1 Corinthians 14, St. Paul is discussing maintaining order in the church, and he says no one should presume to speak in an unknown tongue (Latin? Polyphonic English?) unless there is an interpreter, and that he would rather speak five words his hearers can understand, than thousands they cannot. If you can make people understand that you are choosing the choral music because of its text, and not as pretty filler, that’s a decent approach.
  • An area parish that a few times a year I attend gives their congregation a leaflet with just the hymn text printed, along with the tune name. Their people seem to know every tune and sing well, but it’s next to useless for visitors, particularly when they are doing something obscure. Beautiful liturgy otherwise, but that part of it feels inhospitable and insular.

    Might this be a case of the person who is compiling this leaflet just not wanting the hassle? If you are printing this solely for worship, what else would you need “room” for? If it is really a space issue, it would be worth it to look into other formatting options. You can set the music yourself to fit the space you have. There’s also the English practice mentioned above of printing a hymn melody line, with the text underneath. That may be a decent compromise. I would omit the anthem text first, only if it is totally necessary, before anything for the congregation. But then again, how much space would that really save?
    Thanked by 1Blaise
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,077

    What kind of parish is it? Ordinariate? FWIW in my experience, it's rare for US cradle Catholic PIPs who are not church musicians to be familiar with tune names.
    Thanked by 2Carol Blaise
  • My philosophy in regards to worship aids and having music printed in them is to give the people as much musical notation as possible. Yes there were times I would only print text, or print only text on verses 4-9 of For All the Saints and those longer hymns. Occasionally at Communion I'd just print the refrain/antiphon and not the verses to save space.
    I would often even print the choral SATB parts in our weekly worship aid, just because you never know who is visiting and may like to sing in harmony. Of course, then my in-pew spies would hear someone singing harmony and go over and invite them to join the choir. Bonus recruitment technique.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • Our (Episcopal) parish prints words and music for liturgical items like the Gloria in excelsis and any responses. A few years ago we stopped printing hymns and now print only the hymn number, first line, and tune name. So the people do have to pick up a hymnal and find that hymn number. An exception is made for hymn tunes written by our organist (which are excellent but not in any hymnal) or from out-of-print hymnals. As for choral texts, we have those in full (smaller type, though) for comprehension. Repeated text is not repeated in the leaflet, though.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JL
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    Nobody learns to read music without reading music.
  • JL
    Posts: 170
    Always, always, always print the music notation--or point out where it is. (This goes double for the Ordinary.) It's a matter of hospitality, even if not everyone uses it. If I don't know how something goes, either from memory or from printed notation, I'm not going to sing it.

    EDIT: I just realized that Liam said all this above. Consider this an enthusiastic seconding of his points, addled by lack of sleep and East Coast weather.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen chonak
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,329
    One of the twelve Apostles also argued that the expenses being devoted to worship were excessive.
  • I seem to recall that he came to a bad end....
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • In most Episcopalian or Ordinariate churches the norm is to print hymn number and tune names, ordinary numbers and composer, print the texts and music for antiphons and responsories, and the texts of anthems. If you are currently printing all music, that would seem to be going far above and beyond the call of duty. I'm not suggesting that it's bad, just that it is highly unusual. (One wonders with some trepidation what those who think that too much space is given over to music want to do with that space.)

    On the other hand, I have noticed that quite a few churches are now printing the entire text of the mass, the lectionary, the entire hymn (music and all) and the entire ordinary (music and all), plus the text of anthems in a multi-paged booklet. They do this every week.

    One of the twelve Apostles also argued that the expenses being devoted to worship were excessive.
    Yes, that was the episode of the poor woman who poured precious ointment on Jesus's feet. The apostles did indeed protest that it should have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus's response was definitive - 'the poor we will have always with us', said he, but that it was quite appropriate for the woman to do as she had done, in great respect and worship of him. This is a powerful lesson in the sanctity of treasure spent in worship of the Lord.
  • If the musical notation is in the hymnal, and people have access to it, then it doesn't make sense to duplicate it: those who can read it are likely to pick up the hymnal anyway, those who cannot don't need it.

    Anyways the dots are really just a crutch.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,015
    Anyways the dots are really just a crutch.
    You don't lug a walking stick around unless it is doing something useful, even if the use is just to give confidence. I have mentioned before that after one service our DoM remarked that the PIPs had sung the Gloria very well, earnestly gazing at the worship aid, despite the wrong tune having been printed.
  • The practice at our suburban Episcopal church is the same as ScottKChicago, except I doubt the few hymn tunes I've written are as good as his organist's.

    If I want to use a hymn that is set to an unfamiliar tune in The Hymnal 1982, and don't want to spend a few weeks teaching it to the congregation, I will set it to a familiar (and PD) tune. I used to simply give the hymn number and title in the leaflet like the other hymns, making note of the different tune name. But I received a few complaints about that. So now I engrave the text/tune pairing (melody only) for inclusion in the leaflet. (Of course, any copyrighted texts are properly licensed.)

    There has been a significant percentage of our congregation that never even picked up a hymnal. They would sit closed-mouth during hymns. The reasons for that are rooted in the history of our parish, so I doubt that printing all hymns in the leaflet would have made any difference.
  • When the Pope said mass at Candlestick, there was music notation in the worship aids. Modern and Gregorian.
  • Except that the Mass was at Candlestick Park, everything you mention was a good thing.
  • I not-infrequently print leaflets with new hymns for the congregation and always include the melody. Unless you have a really advanced congregation melody is certainly sufficient.

    (I once played for some Calvinists who sang full four part and it was amazing! The whole congregation sounded like a giant choir... it was overwhelming.)

    I also try and provide translations in the bulletin if there’s a difficult anthem but I’m inconsistent I’m sad to admit.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    From a PIP, so take it with a grain of salt, but is there anyway you can print the harmonies to the hymns, if that is what you use? That is what I would find helpful. Some of us are choral singers. Or at least have hymnals with them in it? I think with a good organist, posting hymn tunes with melody only would not really have much value, unless it is for an actual chant. At a previous parish I was a member of, the vast, vast majority of the congregation was able to sing full throttle even those hymns we use only once a year with only the lyrics posted in the bulletins and by hearing the organ play it once.

    (Granted, my regular parish as well is an ordinariate one which uses the Hymnal 1940, and the previous one above is also an ordinariate one.)

    "Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down...." (Tune: HYFRYDOL)

    (Not a good example, I know, since we use the tune multiple times per year.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • davido
    Posts: 272
    Blaise mentions another problem wth Catholic hymnody, namely, that our songbooks have no harmonies. A Presbyterian, Methodist, or Anglican hymnal are a treasure trove of musical delights to a young musician, and provide stability of harmonization and repertoire. But how is a catholic to learn the repertoire?

    “You’ll need breaking bread 2020 booklet, respond and acclaim 2020, breaking bread accompaniment in TWO binders, BB supplements for every year since we last published the accompaniment, Choral Praise for the choir to sing harmony, instrument edition in two volumes if you want a flute player... oh, and all the hymn numbers are different from last years edition... good luck”