Recorded music before Mass
  • I'm serving at a nearby Catholic church for a few weeks as substitute organist. When I first entered the church a couple of weeks ago I heard music playing. It's what I would describe as Christian easy listening with a country western feel to it and it is played before all of the masses. The music is not too loud.
    Has this practice become common? It's a first for me.
  • Listopad3,

    First, Welcome to the comment side of the forum.

    Now, to your question. There are people who believe that ambiance music helps prepare people for Mass. There are others who feel that silence is evil. Both groups promote recorded music any time the church isn't being used for Mass but people might be in the building.

    Yes, it's becoming more common.
  • Are there confessions going on? I have certainly heard recorded music, even before Mass, to help distort any voice audible during confession.

    Not Country & Western Christian Easy Listening, though, to be honest. It could be an aid to mortification, I suppose.
  • I’ve seen this to cover confessions before mass, but it’s typically Gregorian chant, not sacro-pop.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • I don't think the idea is to cover up confessions. More likely to set a sort of ambience. I feel like there is so much background music in public places. It doesn't feel right to me in a church. Given a choice I prefer silence.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • And rightly so.
    Thanked by 2CCooze Carol
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 533
    This is exceedingly common in the more up-to-date evangelical churches now - the sort that look like a movie theatre. Often it’s high-energy instrumental versions of popular contemporary songs, to juice up the crowd and timed to end as the host/pastor prances out for the welcome/opening monologue. It’s really the same format as The Late Show or SNL, but those guys at least have the integrity to hire really great live musicians. Sometimes it is synced with informational slides or announcement videos shown on the screens before the service, and so it really is like watching trailers in a theatre before the feature film starts. My guess would be someone stole it from there.
    Thanked by 1MNadalin
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,206
    My guess would be someone stole it from there.


    Or the elevator at Macy;s
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    My pastor would not allow recorded music. He would often say, when we had a crowd waiting, play something because it discourages them from talking.
    Thanked by 3CCooze JL Carol
  • We used recorded Gregorian chant while the priest heard confessions, but the purpose was to cover the sound of the penitent and the priest, not to set some other tone in the building.
  • I think it’s safe to say, modern man abhors silence. (I fall prey to this trap as well.)
  • The parish in the town where I grew up used to play recorded music during Mass, specifically at Communion. (They have an organist and cantor now so thankfully this custom has fallen out of practice.)
  • I know that at least in the diocese of Oklahoma City, any form of recorded music during mass is formally prohibited. I welcomed that announcement. (It did pose a challenge to some small rural parishes for weekday funerals though.)
  • Are there confessions going on? I have certainly heard recorded music, even before Mass, to help distort any voice audible during confession.

    That’s what the really loud blower thing in the wind chamber on the pipe organ is for.

  • Sponsa,

    Most people, looking at cost/benefit will say (therefore) that to get more people to go to confession, we should install a big, beautiful pipe organ in every parish Church!
  • francis
    Posts: 10,517
    Whenever we had Adventen Penance Service (which included private confessions for all) I was always there to play the organ, especially since some confessions were being heard in the open air of the church, even if they were off in a corner.
  • LarsLars
    Posts: 104
    In the cathedral where I used to play they are blasting christian pop cds for the procession, offertory, communion and the recessional, surprised they are not playing the responsorial psalm and gospel acclamation.. It's total sacrilege.
    A very nice 50 stop, 4 manual organ is gathering dust..
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • Most people, looking at cost/benefit will say (therefore) that to get more people to go to confession, we should install a big, beautiful pipe organ in every parish Church


    I completely agree! Time to start the capital campaigns now!
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    I work in a large public library system. There is talk by the administrators that there needs to be piped in background music because some people (people of color? people from a low-income background? people with mental illness?) might feel uncomfortable or intimidated by silence (along with other sensory characteristics of large civic buildings). This makes no sense to me, but it does to administrators. I hope it doesn't happen. I think some of our branches have it already.
  • Well, I know that I •••cannot••• block out background noise. It is utterly impossible for me. A cricket three doors down at 3am wakes me up. (Chalk it up to an overactive auditory cortex; I am a musician afterall.) So, I can tell you that I absolutely cannot spend time in a library reading and synthesizing information if there is useless noise for noise's sake. White noise, yes. Music? absolutely not.

    To be frank, I doubt that people who would prefer noise are much interested in frequenting the library to begin with. The lack of muzak is not what is keeping them away. If you can't take your earbuds out while you read, you probably aren't making a habit of deep reading. And if you are coming to the library, it's not for the music! Everyone and their cousin knows libraries are supposed to be places of quiet. Couple in the fact that even the poorest of the poor tend to find money for a cell phone, means that everyone has their music in their pocket to begin with. They aren't going to want to listen to what you pipe in anyway.
  • some people (people of color? people from a low-income background? people with mental illness?) might feel uncomfortable or intimidated by silence


    Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote a book about this. His conclusions might surprise your administrators, given that he's a black African.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 866
    Meanwhile other venues are providing soundproofed spaces for those more sensitive to sensory input.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    Yes, I thought that if we could ever voice an opinion, I could object on behalf of the people "on the spectrum" or who have the sensory issues.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    It must be a result from studying music, but I listen to everything. There is no background noise. Even at the dentist's office, I am listening, identifying, and critiquing all the background music. It isn't relaxing at all. I was once told that if I wanted to take the joy out of listening to music, the best way would be to study it. A study was done many years ago with college students listening to music. They relaxed. The experiment was duplicated with music majors. They tensed up.
  • A study was done many years ago with college students listening to music. They relaxed. The experiment was duplicated with music majors. They tensed up.

    Sounds like my experience when attending just about any mass where I am not the director/organist, lol. I really struggle on vacation. It's horrible.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW francis
  • KARU27
    Posts: 184
    This must explain why, after attending our Ordinary Form parish, I have to try to forget about the music and not complain about it too much to my family.

  • KARU27, Serviam,

    You could, of course, simply avoid taking vacations, you know?
  • I’ve only had three weekends off in the last 3 years, and only one of them was vacation. It’s basically weather or illness. (Covid quarantine last year.)

    I only get one weekend off per year (condition for employment) which is a mildly bitter pill to swallow, as I cannot even bookend a week of vacation. So, I think in my case, I’m hardly dotting around too much…
  • I'm proposing the absurd, not the ideal.

    Ideally, you could attend Mass without having the music critic running on overtime.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 533
    Whenever I travel, I go online to seek out the church in town with the best music, and go to high Mass there if reviews of their website and any available recordings indicate that their “choir” is truly a choir (of the sort that sings Palestrina well, and not a couple people approximating the harmony in Choral Praise or St. Basil). Then I can not only be inspired to worship, but also learn some things (new rep, interpretation, etc.) to take home and use when I get back to the office. If I don’t find such a place near my hotel, I look for the earliest Mass and hope it will be low, with no music to distract.

    A few times, though, when neither option has been available, I have been greatly moved by the singing in small parishes in remote places, when it is evident the (volunteer) musicians are giving their all, singing naturally and freely, with devotion and attention to the text, and choosing music that’s actually within their capabilities (like a straightforward hymn). That to me is much more edifying and inspiring than the spectacle that is a weekend Mass in so many rich urban churches, where a staff cantor and a pianist are paid lavishly to do the commercial dreck and try to sound like what they aren’t: Broadway material.
    Thanked by 1cmb
  • Sometimes those men and women who are in power (as opposed to authority) do what they do for no other reason than that they can. They live in an exclusively subjective world.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • Ideally, you could attend Mass without having the music critic running on overtime.

    Amen to that.

    There simply was no helping this summer, however, when we were in a well-known touristy area and, to their credit, they decided to sing Tantum Ergo during communion. Less to their credit, however, was the fact that they were doing it in some weird pseudo-praise band style, at a weird slow tempo with improvised piano and guitar, and two people in their 60's desperately trying to out-warble the other in a wannabe crooner style. It was one of the strangest things I've ever heard in my life, and I couldn't have tuned it out if Satan himself was slithering at my heel. It was equal parts horror, hilarity, and fascination.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,145
    This is similar to the reason I don't like Amazing Grace sung at Mass. Invariably, someone decides it needs to be sung in a nasal fashion at full volume. Totally ruins the beauty of the piece. This even happens at Protestant services. I was at an Episcopal Church where it was sung. True to form, someone had to give it that nasally twang!
  • Arguably New Britain, being a Sacred Harp tune (45 at the top), is traditionally sung loudly and with a bit of a twang.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • Serviam, which Tantum Ergo was it?
  • "ST. THOMAS"
  • Totally ruins the beauty of the piece


    I gather from this that you think the text or the tune or some combination of the two is beautiful? I've always loathed the piece and the text, so finding it "ruined" might be an improvement for me?
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    If you really want to drive the demons out of hell, do it with bagpipes.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,865
    A, arguably the, cornerstone hymn of English-speaking peoples:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPOo4dOuPbQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHflo6W_NFs
  • Charles,

    Bagpipes sound hauntingly beautiful in their original environment -- I've been in Edinburgh for the Military Tatoo -- but simply don't sound the same elsewhere. Hell, being hot and uncomfortable, wouldn't be ideal for bagpipes, unless the goal is to make them sound as horrid as possible.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    Chris, as I heard a Scottish Presbyterian minister say, the difference between an onion and a bagpipe is that no one cries when you slice up a bagpipe.
  • Swerving back to the topic of the thread....

    Does what's being played as recorded music matter? After all, a set of bagpipes can be made to sound either more resonant or less so through the magic of mixing, and the unique circumstances of the church's broadcast system, right?
  • Of course the content of the music matters. It is substantially less egregious to pipe in Gregorian chant than it is to play any old generic muzak or even P&W. It's a bit like asking, "does it even matter if we have sermons? if yes, does the content of the sermon really matter?" yes. yes, it does.

    I argue that just as there are "degrees of solemnity" there are also "degrees of abuse" that all rank on a different rung of the ladder that is the divine economy.
  • I like the image of "degrees of abuse"!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,299
    The bagpipe family is quite a large one, there is a great difference between Northumbrian pipes and the powerful Highland War Pipes. I would not advocate any of them for accompanying Mass.
    My only experience, was after my first encounter with the Divine Liturgy, in Finnish, and followed by coffee and cakes in which the celebrant (who was Dutch) returned playing Highland War Pipes, fortunately not for long!
  • I was once asked not to play a recessional at a wedding because there was a piper there. It was the first (and God, I hope only) time I've ever heard one indoors. And I thought pipe organs were loud... how wrong I was! lol
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,299
    There are two good reasons to make them loud - the main one is to frighten the enemy.image
  • The superior of my old community was a bagpipe player since high school. He would play sans pipes, because it was “quieter”, and the neighbors wouldn’t complain. (Others in the community told me there was no discernible difference.)
  • francis
    Posts: 10,517
    I often used to wear earplugs to Mass where I was not in service... could also work in the library I suppose. Get the ones that work for jet engine level suppression.

    When you wear these no one notices because of flesh color.

    https://www.amazon.com/Macks-Ultra-Soft-Foam-Earplugs/dp/B0051U7W32/ref=sr_1_8?keywords=ear+plugs+hi+level&qid=1639172186&sr=8-8
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,865
    Well, those work camouflage for Beige people. These work better for my complexion in vexed situations:

    https://www.amazon.com/Macks-Slim-Soft-Foam-Earplugs/dp/B005YUW7A2/
  • francis
    Posts: 10,517
    Liam

    You need to get a blood pressure test asap. (the NRR on those is only 29... may not be enough if you are blocking out a praise band with drums... or a heretical sermon) :-O