How can I get parishoners to join a schola?
  • ruthr
    Posts: 3
    I am a retired music teacher, and a Catholic convert, trying to start a chant schola in a large church in the outer suburban Chicago area. I am not the church music director. With permission from the pastor, we have a group of 4 women (we have also had men and other women but they have had to come and go) focused on Gregorian Chant and other sacred music. We sing at a holy hour once a month. Our tiny group is enthusiastic and we have done a big push to let the parishoners know that we exist. We are called the St. Gregory Choir and have lovely brochures that include quotes from church teachings and assures them that they need not read music or have a big range. The normal mass music selected by the music director is taken from the Breaking Bread missals published by OCP.

    This effort has been going on for almost 7 months, and I am feeling discouraged about the lack of interest. How can I get more singers? Should I go outside the church to the community? Or pay some teenagers? Thanks for any ideas.
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,131
    Does information about the schola and your contact information appear in the bulletin weekly? How often do you make an announcement at Mass describing the schola and inviting members to join (letting them know when and where?)
  • ruthr
    Posts: 3
    Thanks, yes those are 2 things I am pursuing. Appreciate the reminder.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 875
    I have tried many methods. Advertisement worked initially when there was no choir at all. After that, advertising for people to sing for the Christmas season only pulled in two people who ended up staying in the choir when invited. That gimmick only worked once! Beyond that, personal interaction has worked the best. I tell me choir to listen when they are in the pews and invite people or invite people they know.

    Also, pray. I've been at this position for eight years and have always struggled to get people. About two months ago, I told the choirs (there are two) we'd start praying to St. Jude to help us get more choir members. When asked why, I told them, "Patron Saint of the Impossible." One month later, we had three bites. I'm now working individually with two of them and the third is in the choir.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,239
    Not so long ago Gregorian Chant was all the rage in "spiritual but not religious" circles. Perhaps an advertising approach, - Singing is good for you emotionally, releasing endorphins, singing Chant does the equivalent spiritually -
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab ruthr
  • If your parish has a school, the boys can be trained to read and sing chant, and eventually, look to join schola.
    You could also ask your priest if he knows of any adult parishioners who might have spent at least a year at seminary.
    Also, those who were in parochial school before V II might have been trained as well - and if not to sing, might have taken a couple of years of Latin.
    Thanked by 3tomjaw ruthr richardUK
  • All good advice above.
    Does your parish have a weekly newsletter?
    Put a weekly announcement in it.
    Further, a weekly article about the music in your parish bulletin will keep their music in the minds of your congregation.
    It may be very helpful if father himself makes thankful mention of the parish music and its needs.
    Perhaps you yourself would be able to make mention of the choir's needs during the announcements?
    Do you know personally of any who have good voices?
    Approach them personally and invite them to join the choir.
    Get your choir/schola members to do the same.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,529
    A chant schola has it's primary purpose to sing the Liturgy (Mass and Divine Office). They should sing the Mass and Office, not just sing at the Mass and Office. When we sing the sung prayers of the Mass and Office we the Church militant are singing with the Church triumphant.
    So firstly you should look into singing the Divine Office regularly say Compline, if you use the ancient books you can sing Sunday compline on any day with very few changes over the year. Vespers is also accessible for a small schola. I understand that while singing the Mass should be a priority, it is far easier to arrange the singing of the Office, those that have an irrational dislike of chant don't seem to care about the Divine Office.

    Our choir meets for weekly rehearsal and we follow this with dinner. We should be a Catholic community and this means meeting up not just for prayer but socially.

    Pray to our Patrons, St Caecilia, St Gregory, and St. Dunstan (St Jude is also popular).

    Be adventurous with the music, you will attract professional musicians to your choir.

    Building a volunteer choir can take time, we spent over a decade building ours.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,345
    Bribe, cajole, pamper and beg?
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab ruthr
  • Get a time machine and a small army of music educators and somehow get children singing 50 years ago? We're pulling from a small pool of the able.
    All that's really worked for us is personal contact from present choristers. And prayer.
    Even at that, I've had to make compromises in commitment. I have people an hour away, high school girls, moms with busy husbands and kids. None are musicians, though 1 has had vocal training It's a wonder that my people sing as well as they do, but they do.
  • JonLaird
    Posts: 238
    I have always subscribed to the Field of Dreams model -- "If you build it, they will come." And prayer, and surrendering the result to Our Lord. Sometimes he has his own reasons for keeping something small for a while. In 12-step circles there is a maxim, "Don't quit five minutes before the miracle."

    Also, size is not everything. Better to have four dedicated singers than fourteen who are flaky.

    Jeffrey's opening suggestion, if not possible, is illuminating. It takes 1-2 generations to change the liturgical cultural of a parish in a lasting way.

    I keep this psalm verse near my desk at work: "They who sow in tears shall reap in gladness" (Ps 125:5). I don't know when I will reap -- it may be in this life, it may be in the next.

    And there is this:
    I have planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase. Therefore, neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth, and he that watereth, are one. And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour. For we are God's coadjutors: you are God's husbandry; you are God's building. According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus. (1 Cor 3:6-11)

    Be a wise architect, lay the foundation on Christ Jesus, and you are doing his work, regardless of the external appearance of success or failure.
  • Carol
    Posts: 805
    I chuckled when I read the post about asking Father to speak about the choir at Mass. A few pastors back, Father read the announcement concerning choir rehearsals for Christmas Eve Mass. After reading the item verbatim he added, "It seems really early to begin practing." It was mid-October in a small parish with no skilled music readers. In spite of this undermining( whether intentional or not), we still had very nice 3 part music. It was a big step up from the previous "unison choir."
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen LauraKaz ruthr
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 210
    My thought would be to have the schola actually sing at mass. The number of people who attend mass is probably vastly greater than the number of people who attend the holy hour at your parish. This would give your schola far greater exposure.

    If you do this, you would probably have to select repertoire that represents somewhat of a compromise from all-Latin, purely historical chant. You could do the ICEL chants for the mass setting with perhaps a historic chant for the Agnus Dei. You could also do the Offertory chant in Latin. You could also do one of the chants from the Simple English Propers for communion. I rather like the version of Panis quem. It is not too difficult and a congregation should be able to pick it up quickly.
    Thanked by 2ruthr DavidOLGC
  • You need to personally invite people who may be good candidates.

    All the awareness stuff is good background. But to get most people to make step needs personal connection.

    Also - consider singing at funerals: That will give you exposure to a wider range of people, and give you a niche that other choirs may have difficulty filling.
  • I have a mixed adult choir, a mixed adult and children's choir, and a children's choir. I don't have to do any inviting to the children's choir because it's part of the school requirement and they only sing at the school Masses. There's good and bad there. For my adult choirs I invite in September in preparation for Christmas and in January in preparation for Easter, these are usually accompanied with a meet & greet social 30 minutes before our first rehearsal. I make invitations in the bulletin, it's on our parish website, I announce at the end of Mass for a month citing church documents and stating the needs of the music ministry, and I personally invite people I see leaving Mass. The pattern seems to be that I usually get 1-2 new singers a year, and that of those one stays for either solemnity and the other stays for a year. Sometimes both leave, sometimes one stays for several years. The ones that leave were typically shopping for a new parish or only in the parish while they were employed locally. Really, try everything you can think of, and something will surely stick. I have not come across a single, surefire method. Good luck.

    P.S. A note from personal experience and others. Please be careful about inviting yourself to sing at the "main" Mass at your parish. Wait for your pastor to invite you to sing. If they already have an established music ministry there, with church-pop music and paid musicians, it most likely means your pastor wants it that way. "How about, just for communion, you let us come and sing some real sacred music, Father?" is another way of saying you believe they have no idea what they are doing.
    Thanked by 1ruthr
  • Set a high bar, and live up to it.

    I have just received the baton (as it were) from my predecessor, who served 30 years in the post, and is an institution.

    Years ago, however, I made a French program come back to life by setting a high standard for the students, got buy in from the parents, and forged ahead in spite of obstacles. When I taught at a small Catholic school, more recently, but still ages ago, I became known as the teacher whose study hall (after school) was where students actually got work done. I intend not to speak ill of any of my foreign language colleagues, or my Catholic-school colleagues, for whom I have great respect. Those who wanted what I was "selling", as it were, jumped on board.

    Thanked by 1ruthr
  • francis
    Posts: 10,345
    Set a high bar, and live up to it.

    This is RULE NO. 1!

    People will flock to your effort because they believe in your mission.

    People will leave your effort because they do not believe in your mission.

    One of them may send you to be crucified... and that is expected... if Judas is there, you are following in the footsteps of The Master!
  • This announcement is being made to the Men's Group, tomorrow morning. Similar announcements will be going out soon to other sub-groups within the parish:

    As the choir of the Oratory begins a new era, we are looking to expand the membership of the choir. Men with good musical ability, the desire to work hard, the ability to make rehearsals on Thursday evenings (7:30 to 9:00, presently at the Oratory) and Sunday mornings (before the High Mass) and the desire to serve God through music are encouraged to contact our Choirmaster.

    Gentlemen: if your wives and children meet these criteria, they should also find the choirmaster after Mass, or contact him during the week. His contact information is listed on this paper.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,371
    Our pastoral associate and I were catching up yesterday and he suggested encouraging people to join during lent as an alternate and special form of prayer, so I’ve put an announcement in the worship aids to that effect. It would be a good spiritual exercise, in effect. I thought this was an interesting way to sell the idea.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • "Do penance: join the choir!"
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,371
  • Carol
    Posts: 805
    The question is will it be penance for the choirmaster or the choir member?
  • Madame,

    When I was newly Catholic, in the 1990s, I got rather fed up with people in vocations departments making the priesthood sound like a social worker's position: Do you like to help people? Do you feel God is calling you to help people. Do you want to help God's people in community? Nary a word about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or sin and absolution or anything in that vein. So, when I put together this announcement, I thought I would portray reality rather than milquetoast.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • Food! The musicians must be fed. Have a group potluck to kick off rehearsals, then again from time to time.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,529
    Wine and Beer too, liquid refreshment is vital. We have dinner with wine etc. after rehearsal and the bar in the church halls is always open just after our Sunday Mass.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,889
    Ruth -
    PM me. I know a few Chicago people who might be able to help you.
  • Chris - your invitation was eloquently worded and I may steal parts of it in future if that’s ok
  • Madame,

    Theft implies reappropriation from unwilling owner. By all means borrow what is helpful.