• MarkB
    Posts: 671
    I've been music director at this parish for a little over a year. I've changed the music culture from 1970s-1990s pablum and sloppy performance to something respectable, reverent and beautiful.

    Got my first complaint today, but a mild and absurd one. How do you think I handled it?

    80 year-old guy talks to me after Mass. Very respectful. He and his wife are founding parishioners. He used to play guitar at the early morning Mass years ago.

    He said the music quality is outstanding. Choir sings in tune, in harmony, and the production aspect of the music is better than it’s ever been. He said that music is such an important part of the Mass that when it’s performed poorly by untalented people it makes Mass dreary.

    Then he said that his wife doesn’t like Latin and it’s such that she will refuse to go to Mass where anything is sung in Latin. He said he understands that choosing music can be contentious because people have so many different opinions about what they prefer. He and his wife don’t like the “throwback” aspect of Latin to “pre-Vatican II”.

    I explained to him my formula for choosing music: that I try to have something to please everyone by usually having 1-3 contemporary songs, 1-3 traditional songs, the Communion antiphon chanted in English and the first Communion hymn a Gregorian chant, and at least one piece accompanied by organ. Different seasons or feasts will sometimes emphasize one genre over another, but that’s my general formula for having a variety of styles tastefully sung at every Mass.

    He said some things about contemporary music being his preference. I said that’s good, but then I added that every liturgical document, including from Vatican II, before and after, every pope, every church document about liturgy and music has stated that Gregorian chant should be given first place in the liturgy because it’s specially suited to the Roman Rite. He acknowledged that; he said that he was preparing to write something to me and in his research he found what I said was true. I explained that by having one and occasionally two pieces in Latin chant or polyphony, I’m doing what the Church teaches should be done with music at Mass: giving Gregorian chant a normal place at Mass; we’re not going to switch to all-chant, but there should be some chant at every Mass. He hemmed and hawed… what it boiled down to was that he disagreed with the documents.

    He said that he’s agreed to abide by his wife’s decision, which is that if Latin will continue to be sung at Mass they would go somewhere else for Mass.

    I thanked him for his respectful conversation and for telling me that he and his wife don’t want Latin sung at Mass, but I said I would not be changing what I do on account of his dislike of Latin.

    He understood.

    Weird that they would rather go to a parish with inferior music selections and inferior performance quality because they have an irrational aversion to Latin such that they can’t tolerate one Latin hymn for 90 seconds or less at the beginning of Communion.

    I also told him that the young Catholics who remain in the Church and attend Mass and who have joined my choir mostly prefer the traditional music, including Gregorian chant. He acknowledged that, but he doesn’t understand it.

    It’s hard for some of these old people who were fed an improper diet of bad liturgy, bad music, and poorly implemented liturgical renewal to grasp that what’s being “brought back” should never have been abandoned in the first place. They perceive a shifting ecclesiology and don’t know how to, or don’t want to, adapt, even if the shift is nothing but a reclaiming of what never should have been lost or discontinued.

    It would be like a parent saying to a priest, “My daughter is in a lesbian marriage, and if the church won’t bless her union, I’m leaving the church.” Well, okay. Then leave. I’m not going to bend to please everyone because that’s impossible. The Church has its teachings, and they aren’t going to change. And the fact that some people disregard those teachings or are ignorant of them (as in the case of liturgical music) doesn’t mean that it’s right to continue disregarding them.

    I think I handled it well.

    And then, in the narthex right after that a woman told me that she just loves when the choir sings so beautifully in Italian. I said, “Thank you, but it’s Latin, not Italian.” She laughed. Many, many more people like it than dislike it.

    We sang the Dubois “Adoramus Te Christe” today at the end of Communion. Very reverent and prayerful.

    So many Mass videos I skimmed today featured “Jesus, Remember Me” and “Were You There.” Ugh. This was my lineup:

    Hosanna to the Son of David antiphon chanted in English (ICEL setting)
    R&A psalm
    O Sacred Head, Surrounded (offertory)
    ICEL English chants for the Eucharistic acclamations
    Communion antiphon chanted in English
    Ave Verum Corpus Gregorian chant (first Communion)
    Deiss’ Keep in Mind (second Communion)
    Dubois’ Adoramus Te Christe (final Communion/meditation)
    When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (recessional)


  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 144
    I am sorry that the older female parishioner is that allergic to Latin. However, the Second Vatican Council required:

    “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

    The lady herself should be saying the responses in Latin.

    I think you handled it well.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    I think, being nearer the age of the complainer than that of the young folks, that people who have done the more "contemporary" stuff often look for affirmation. As I remember, they were told the music they were doing for the "new church" would lead the church out of decline and stagnation and into a new and glorious age. Didn't work out too well, did it? Given the muddled thinking of our leaders who encouraged that mindset, it is not surprising that some of the "folkies" feel betrayed and a bit lost. Sometimes you just have to wish them a fond farewell as they sail off into the sunset.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    Yes, I think you handled it well, because it's a no-win situation. To them, the Liturgy is THEIRS. It belongs to them lock, stock, and barrel. They were given it by their English speaking bishops in the 1960s, and they will NEVER let it go again. They don't care one bit about the Liturgy of their parents, or grandparents, or of fellow Catholics in other countries, or of Benedictine monastic life, or even their nearest Oratory. They are single-language, suburban Americans, and the Mass is THEIRS!
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,791
    I have found that there is a certain age-group with a visceral hatred of Latin or anything which they perceive to be a "throwback", which can be something as banal as "Mother Dear, Oh Pray for Me"; but Latin is a particular problem, because they "don't understand it". Ironically, these are often the same people who say that we should sing things in Swahili in order to make the new parishioners from Haiti feel welcome; which makes me not buy the "don't understand it" argument against Latin: I think it has more to do with a rejection of Western, and specifically Catholic, culture.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 508
    Sometimes there's no room in the inn, a lesson we learn from St. Joseph. The choice for the elderly couple to leave is there if they wish to do so. I like the music program you put together, very nice. I think I would have used God of Mercy and Compassion, or Jesus My God Behold at Length rather than When I Survey the Wonderous Cross, just a personal preference.
  • Good for you.
    Such people are incorrigible, and they have their successors today and they are not all old. Our seminaries are turning them out in the hundreds. I've encountered priests of all ages who will with brazen cheek tell you that 'I don't care what the council said, I want.....' And yet, as we know, all of these people think that they are Vatican II people. Regardless of age, they all think that mass should be a vehicle for entertaining music.

    It is said that most people prefer the music they listened to as teenagers, which is probably true except for quite a few of 'us'. I attended a symposium at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music (one of the nations most prominent ones) a few years ago. One of the discussions was about what music appealed to people and why. In one segment they played very short snippets of well known rock and pop groups. These segments lasted for no more than one second and every person present (except me) shot his hand up immediately and identified the precise piece and its performing group on hearing only one second of it. What is astonishing is that this sort of music is actually being studied in the finest of our university classrooms. In another segment of this symposium they actually 'compared' the formal 'similarities' of a certain rock piece to a certain Schubert quartet! These people, in and out of the Church live in a musical and cultural world which to most of us here is weird to say the least.

    A seminarian told me a few years ago that one of his priest-professors had testily said to him that 'we got rid of all this stuff fifty years ago and now you are trying to drag it back'. All these people have an irrational contempt for what their 'liberating' Vatican II actually said.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,546
    Well, okay. Then leave.
    That is what I thought from the start with the inclusion of “don’t let the door...”

    I’m not going to bend to please everyone because that’s impossible.
    Hmmm.. I think that IS what you are actually doing.... yes?
  • MarkB
    Posts: 671
    I'm trying to please as many as possible by choosing music from different genres while leading in the direction of more sacred music, but it would be impossible to reconcile "I want no Latin at all" with "I like some Latin."
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    I have known several musicians who lost their jobs because of their insistence on only chant and Latin. I found that doing a "blended" service of good music and some less good appeased most of the congregation. There has to be a level below which you will not go. However, some compromises do have to be made to survive.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw tandrews
  • CatholicZ09
    Posts: 118
    My former music director had the same sentiments about Latin, seeing it as a regression rather than a progression. I don’t understand that mentality, and I don’t think I ever will.

    I’m unsure as to why Latin poses such a threat to many people, especially to those who grew up with Latin Mass.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW CCooze tomjaw
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,698
    Those who grew up with the Latin Mass, may well have had priests and teachers who thought the the love of God could be instilled by frightening their charges, whether with hell fire or physical violence. A Monday morning beating for any pupil who had not attended Sunday Mass was routine in some places, though not, thank God, at my schools.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    Now we have discovered it is the priests who often deserve beatings.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,359
    A friend of mine who went through Vatican II thinks that there wasn't much discernment before the council. Her memory is that there was only obedience. People never learned skills of discernment.

    I'm not sure this is entirely true. But it's a helpful framework for understanding why people took the changes after Vatican II as absolute Commandments. No more Latin, that's the rule. Priest turns his face towards us, that's the rule. Etc.
  • From what I've heard or read there was no shortage of priests and even bishops in the years (even decades) before the council who couldn't wait to jettison what they had come to feel was an oppressive regime and long outdated ritual. I've even read of Italian monks and seminarians who were so overjoyed at what they mistakenly dreamed was the abolition of chant and ritual that they ripped up books and even burnt them, dancing about with glee. Of course, I am amongst those who do think that some reform, including a vernaculaar, was appropriate; but those who came home from the council full of lies and did the very opposite of the council's commands were like Robespierres who were bent on total erasure of their irrationally hated ancien regime - and they are not done yet. These people are of a class with those throughout time who don't like things and, rather than go off and 'do their own thing' prefer to stay in what they don't like and destroy it.
    ______________________________________________

    Anyway - I laud Mark's efforts and methods. Considering the cultural climate in the American Church just now, it is admirable that he is able to make compromises without feeling compromized, garner the appreciation of his people, and not lose sight of his long-term and admirable goals. This takes indeflectible vision, goal oriented patience, fortitude, and loving perseverance. I have, regrettably, had to make compromises on some occasions in the past - but these are painfully onerous to me because I have a constitutional abhorrence of anything that is not a culturally and aesthetically unified whole, and of the smallest little thing that besmirches it. Sadly, to find oneself in such a position is, for most, to be in a relatively rare pasture. To me even a pop music mass wouldn't make sense if a Tallis motet were inserted into it. Even worse would be the insertion of some awful piece into an otherwise musically impeccable and liturgically splendid mass. Unfortunately (which is to say 'lacking in good fortune'), it is a fact of life in the world in which we live that most of our colleagues haven't the joy of being ministers and preservers of an established and cherished culture, but are missionaries in a strange and often hostile land.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw ServiamScores
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,159
    priests and even bishops in the years (even decades) before the council who couldn't wait to jettison what they had come to feel was an oppressive regime and long outdated ritual.
    priests of all ages who will with brazen cheek tell you that 'I don't care what the council said, I want.....'


    And you will probably find many of their names on the petition Fr. Martin SJ is peddling.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,698
    Kathy - I developed discernment at an early age. My mother was not then a Catholic, so the proposition that all non-Catholics were automatically damned was obviously absurd. Testing teachers assertions was neccessary to me from about age seven (1945).
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 656
    "Were You There" asks a question to which Catholics can answer, "yes."

    No less a personage than Msgr Schmitt employed a Spiritual now and again.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    Actually, I wasn't there and neither was anyone else alive today. I suppose someone could make an argument that we were spiritually there but that has always seemed a bit thin to me. I suspect that spiritual appeals to sentimentality maybe akin to the popularity of "Amazing Grace." Hard to tell.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 928
    MarkB, I find it amazing that anyone would find difficulty with your programming. You are decidedly more "ecumenical" in your approach than I am. It's sad to me that people would be so threatened by a little latin/traditional music when they are still getting the other type of stuff in the same mass which is more to their liking. It seems to me you have a very well-thought and balanced (and gentle) approach to guiding your parish in the right direction. I (perhaps sadly, perhaps not) have little tolerance for politicking in the church, and I don't try very hard to appease people with poor taste.

    To be clear, I don't believe myself the be-all-end-all of æsthetic wisdom and discernment, but I also believe that beauty testifies for itself and tradition is overwhelmingly evident if you crack your eyes even the slightest in an attempt to see. That said, I AM of the view that some opinions count more than others, and my opinion as the trained, full-time music director should far outweigh the opinion of uninformed parishioners in much the same way that my MD's opinion about the best course of medical treatment should well outweigh my own since HE is the expert, not me. (The "death of experts" is an interesting topic in it's own right and cultural commentators are beginning to write books about this phenomenon driven by a culture of quick yahoogling leading people to think they know the truth about everything.)

    All that to say, considering the number of concessions you make on a regular basis to appease those to whom Latin does not appeal, I think you are right to stay the course. When I arrived at one parish, the school children had their own special little hymnals with all sorts of music I'd rather not program as it was of dubious quality and precisely the types of hymnody that would not nourish their souls. I put a stop to that right away (along with the "children's lectionary"...don't get me started!) and some of the teachers balked.

    "But these are the hymns that they like to sing!" or "they don't know the songs in the blue hymnal!!! how can you expect them to sing them at mass?!" I even had one teacher get mad when I told the kids to open up the blue hymnal and turn to page 231. "They don't know how to do that!" ....uh.... excuse me what? They knew how to open the red hymnals and turn to page 75... and they know how to read... sooo..... there was much more besides.

    My response was simple: they cannot learn true and appropriate hymnody unless it is presented for them. Kids are sponges and they will learn the traditional hymns just as easily as they learned the other "songs" they were singing at mass. I matriculated at a GIA parish so there was lots of dribble, but there was also plenty of tradition hymns peppered in. I learned those songs just as easily as all the others (many are easier to sing since every verse has the same rhythm! hooray!)

    Lo & behold, they were able to sing the "new" hymns and even sing in Latin juuuuuust fine when taught to do so. I even had one mother grab me after one Sunday mass to say, "I just wanted to tell you... it has given me such joy to hear my children come home from school singing the Marian antiphon (Regina Cæli) from memory! They will be out in the back yard and just sing in latin from memory! It's amazing. I thought you'd be happy to know. I'm so glad you're teaching this to them."

    "My Jesus rides on a big white horse" can ride off into the sunset and never be heard of again.
  • Carol
    Posts: 690
    I agree that your program seems very appropriate for a parish that has been accustomed to lesser quality music. I have seen, like Serviamscores, that children are very likely to enjoy singing Latin and will learn it easily if that is the expectation. Perhaps the woman who doesn't want any Latin would be more likely to accept it if she had a translation, (not saying that you should provide it.) Many years ago, one member of our choir who wan't accustomed to Latin, brought copies of the English translation of the "Ave Verum Corpus" for all the choir members. She wanted to know the meaning of what she was singing. I saw this as her way of coming to accept/enjoy singing the Latin when it really was a foreign language to her.

    Some people may view listening to a hymn or motet rather than singing everything as more of a Protestant style worship. I used to feel that way. I think you were very respectful in your conversation and I wouldn't be surprised if that couple went elsewhere for a few weeks and then came back to your higher quality selections.
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 101
    Weird that they would rather go to a parish with inferior music selections and inferior performance quality because they have an irrational aversion to Latin such that they can’t tolerate one Latin hymn for 90 seconds or less at the beginning of Communion.


    Crazy, indeed. And yet we are expected to tolerate the endless garbage that we have been hearing in so many churches for the past 50 years.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CCooze
  • MarkB
    Posts: 671
    Perhaps the woman who doesn't want any Latin would be more likely to accept it if she had a translation, (not saying that you should provide it.)


    Oh, but I do provide a translation because I think it's important for comprehension, which serves interior active participation. The parish uses projection screens. Here's a sample of what I provide for every Latin piece we sing that I want the congregation to learn and sing as well:
    image

    Thank you to all who have been encouraging and supportive. I'm betting the displeased couple won't really leave, or if they do their departure will be short-lived when they hear the abysmal quality of music at surrounding parishes. Perhaps beauty will overcome even their aversion to a little Latin.
    2061 x 1550 - 301K
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    I find that in dealing with such people, they have a sense of rightness and even righteousness about the positions they hold. As one guitarist told me, "I am doing this for God." I hope God likes guitars and mediocre music at liturgy.
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 656
    Actually, I wasn't there and neither was anyone else alive today. I suppose someone could make an argument that we were spiritually there but that has always seemed a bit thin to me. I suspect that spiritual appeals to sentimentality maybe akin to the popularity of "Amazing Grace." Hard to tell.


    What's sentimentalist about "Amazing Grace"? Yes, it gets used sentimentally, but it is a wonderfully rich text that translates a fairly robust theology of grace, through the lens of universalized lived experience, into poetry easily understood, remembered, accepted, and loved, more doxological than discursive.
    Thanked by 2Liam PaxMelodious
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    One of our former priests often said that "Amazing Grace" represents a Calvinist view of grace. I could see that.

    Sentimental? Yeah, it does get used sentimentally. The worst is with those bagpipes that show up at funerals. It seems often used for folks who may have some Scottish ancestry, but haven't been any closer to Scotland than a bottle of Scotch whiskey.
    Thanked by 1oldhymns
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 980
    I have let everyone that if 'Amazing Grace' is sung at my funeral, I will come back and haunt them for the rest of their lives!
  • I like those bagpipes, Charles.
    One of the most thrilling sounds in our universe is that of Scottish pipe and drum corps.
    That said, I could do without ever having heard 'Amazing Grace'.
    Whatever its actual or supposed textual merits it is grossly maudlin, and singing about what a 'wretch' I am is unwarranted and unhealthily depressing mental flagellation.
    There is no question that we are all sinners, very bad ones, for which acknowledgment and repentance are due - but 'wretch'?
    I don't think that our loving Creator looks upon us as craven 'wretches'.
    We have, after all, been redeemed - and nothing that he loves could be 'wretched'.
    And, as Charles suggests, this song is likely, on second glance, to be more Calvinist than Catholic in its thrust.

    (But, may there always be bagpipes!)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,698
    John Newton wrote books, and sermons, not just hymns.
    Messiah Vol. 1 — John Newton
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    I'm one who loves bagpipes, and my son is a professional piper. He's a Grade 1 solo competitor and plays in a Grade 1 band. We have performed bagpipe/organ since he was in grade school. That being said, I am tired of AG, and I can guarantee you that the majority of pipers are sick to death of it!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    I have let everyone that if 'Amazing Grace' is sung at my funeral, I will come back and haunt them for the rest of their lives!


    Same for "eagle's wings." I will not only haunt them, but do my best to torment them.
    Thanked by 2Carol ServiamScores
  • Carol
    Posts: 690
    Is it possible to play Amazing Grace on the bagpipes without having to vary the tune? I seem to recall flinching at a certain spot when a note is off a half step due to the vagaries of the pipes, or maybe it's the piper?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,222
    Some pipes sound better than others. It's those battle pipes that often show up at funerals and they are loud and raucous. Other pipes actually have a more pleasant tone.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    There are a variety of melodies for AG, most in 3/4, but at least one in 4/4. Joshua was scheduled to perform with another piper, and organ, AND congregation once, and it wasn't until everyone was going at it great guns that he discovered that the other piper was playing in 4/4. And I don't the other piper even realized the difference. And spare me the melodic vagaries of the Judy Collins pop version!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,159
    NB: I'm veering off topic, again:

    Steve... so, you probably weren't a fan of Lady Gaga's National Anthem performance, right? (Honestly, the number of professional musician friends saying how "for her, it worked" was scandalous, to me.)
  • The last infantry charge in history that was led by bagpipes was by the Black Watch in North Africa during WWII. Bagpipes, kilts, and all - The Germans were so terrified of them that they called them the ladies from hell.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,358
    While AG could be understood as consistent with Calvinist Anglicanism, it is far from limited to be understood that way (even orthodox Catholic texts have poetic equivocations that can be misunderstood). It's a foundational hymn of the English-speaking peoples, buttressed by its historical associations with a reformed ex-slave shipper. The *particularity* of John Newton's own wretchedness is an important consideration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2Mtsk9IMeo
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 928
    The Germans were so terrified of them that they called them the ladies from hell.

    Who? The german bishop's conference?
  • Ha! Clever, but no.
    It was Rommel's vaunted Afrika korps
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,358
    here are the kilted "ladies from hell" of our time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBYVmnMFMtA
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,358
    Since AG was raised here as a sidebar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn67q6io4hg
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Many thanks for that (the pipers), Liam.
    It brings tears to my eyes.
    We have several pipe and drum corps here in Houston.
    The one at St Thomas's Episcopal School has participated in numerous competitions in Scotland and has won frequent world championships there.

    St Thomas also has a peal of bells, and our friend Steve Collins and his sons have played them many times - and has been team captain. It is the only peal of bells in Houston, but we have three or four Petit & Fritsen carillons.

    (Thank you, Mark, for starting this kaleidoscopic thread! And may your work prosper!)
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Liam
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,358
    The Greater Boston area (Massachusetts, that is) is rich (relatively speaking, in American terms) in peals of bells.
    Thanked by 2M. Jackson Osborn JL
  • PaxMelodious
    Posts: 351
    Mark - I don't think you even received a complaint. You receive an affirmation of the quality of what you are doing, a request for information about your methods, and an explanation of the circumstances which may see one person who appreciates your music attend elsewhere. You responded graciously. Follow up up by sincerely praying for their welfare and your response is perfect.

    Also, please don't think of steering a middle ground as trying to keep people happy. You are ministering to people by enabling their participation in liturgy. It's an impossible task in many ways, possible only by the grace of God.

    I would leave a parish that only offered chanted Latin hymns - because spiritually they just leave me cold, I get no sense of a loving, redeeming God from them. Should I feel that way, according to the "mind of the church"? Probably not. But the mind of the church does not have a reputation for being caring about the well-being of lay people, so I give it far less weight than I might if it was better behaved.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,146
    But the mind of the church does not have a reputation for being caring about the well-being of lay people,


    I presume 'church' is referring to the human construction, obsessed with earthly benefits otherwise known as Chaff. Because the Church has a reputation for caring about our eternal well-being. Our personal happiness and contentment with earthly things has no interest for a Body focused on the eternal bliss in Heaven.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 370
    Never confuse the catholic church with the Catholic Church! (neither with the Catholic church nor the catholic Church for that matter... that's the nice thing about capitalization in English...)

    I agree that what Mark experienced can hardly be called a complaint; although it certainly hurts to learn that whatever the quality of your work, it turns somewone - even acknowledging that quality! - away from your church.

    It may become a real problem if such person doesn't address these thoughts to the musician directly, but goes via the pastor or the parish council.
    (Look Elmar, we do appreciate what you are doing, and you are doing really well, but there are parishioners who...)
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 656
    would leave a parish that only offered chanted Latin hymns - because spiritually they just leave me cold, I get no sense of a loving, redeeming God from them. Should I feel that way, according to the "mind of the church"? Probably not. But the mind of the church does not have a reputation for being caring about the well-being of lay people, so I give it far less weight than I might if it was better behaved.


    At one point, I got regular complaints from certain pewsitters who thought of themselves as having internalized that "mind", and who reproached me for any polyphony perceived as too distracting ("if one remembers particulars about the music, it's gone too far..." "unexpected high notes are intrinsically distracting and therefore inappropriate"
    this was the offending piece), my "trashy" organ improvisations ("if that's what they were") and other such misdemeanors. The parish was informed that the organ was only ever meant to support the singing.

    It took me a while to navigate how to respond both in word and practice to this kind of complaint. Not to mention achieving psychological distance from the complaint while also growing in compassion towards the complainer. It's so easy to get proud and indignant in a situation like that. But the Lord asks more of us. Balance the criticism with the praise, and chart the middle course. My walk-back after that round of letters actually generated a little indignation from a few singers. But I compromised on no essentials, and the charitable gesture was noted by some on the other side, which goodwill was well worth it.

    And in securing my position on the Magisterium, I discovered that the mind of the Church is consitently pastoral, solicitous, and larger than we might think.

    [Addendum: not to imply that we never sing high notes, or sing strinking selections that risk being remembered. This was our choir at Offertory on Palm Sunday this year]
  • ncicero
    Posts: 36
    Mark, I think you handled this as well as can be expected! There are many music directors I know (no matter their stylistic/musical preferences) that can tend to be a bit.....gruff.....so I'm glad that you seem to have dealt with this with nuance and grace.

    I think I run a fairly similar program to yours stylistically, and similarly when people have had complaints, I've tried to explain my repertoire choices- always drawing heavily from the propers of the Mass and a strong thematic link to the readings of the day. Even if they don't agree with my ultimate decisions, if they are a faithful Catholic, they should at least be satisfied with my process.

    I agree with some of the commenters above that I don't think this couple will *actually* leave. I respect the elder members of our congregations, but many seem to think they can have some kind of pull in decision making simply by the virtue of their longevity. In reality, if they've been attending the same parish for a long time, sense of place and "belonging" will win out over chant preferences 9/10 times.

    It seems that you are going to great lengths to form a program where everyone has something that resonates with them. Despite what others may say here, I really respect that and think it's important. But if someone's attendance is really hinging on the minimal amount of Latin that you've incorporated, I think it's time to be honest and admit that the ball is in their court. Perhaps I'd suggest reconsidering a bit if you had suddenly switched to all Latin Gregorian Chant propers from one weekend to the next, but it seems you've introduced Latin in an appropriate, pastorally sensitive way that respects the intent of the council and the sensibilities of (most of) the faithful.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 980
    Mark, remember the old adage - you can't please everyone.