Music Survey for the Catholic Church in America
  • If you were asked to compose a survey for the Catholic Church here in America, what would be some questions YOU would want covered or asked? Remember, survey questions are best when kept simple, brief and without an agenda. Also, considering how busy many people and pastors are, how many questions should such a survey have and should it be asked of just pastors or pastors and music employees at a church? Should choir members be asked to fill out such a survey as well? Your thoughts, advice and opinions on this would be enormously appreciated.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    One thing I really liked to know is how many churches SING RESPONSES regularly either in English or Latin. I believe that's the first degree in congregational singing for sung Masses.
  • I'd like to know how many people select a particular Mass to attend based on the kind of music presented at that Mass, e.g. traditional or contemporary; Palestrina or Haugen.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 670
    I'd like to know if the priests sing any part of the Mass, and how much, and how often.
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    I would not ask the average pew sitter, because the vast majority, owing to the paucity or really good music and thus good models in the church in the last several decades overall, combined many times with poor/abusive liturgical practice, (sometimes one in the same thing) have nothing of value to add to the conversation. It is almost like asking kids. Thinking again, probably worse. Their opinions have been warped by not just the lack of good music, but the general acceptance and promotion of its "poor" musical (hard even to call some of it music) stand-ins. Sure, there are some who do know something about what they would be asked about and thus would indeed have something of value to contribute. But far more, not so, and so would just confuse the issue. It would be just as valuable to have them say what liturgy "should be," again, with most having no real, or poorly informed grasp of the subject. It just becomes another "Burger King" i.e., "have it your way" exercise, and that is the source of most of our problems we are experiencing now.

    People of the last generation or two have been brought up to trust their feelings above everything else. This nixes the chance for a "poll driven" solution to almost anything that involves real acumen and higher levels of discernment.

    This is the very reason that while in my twenties I did not vote. I did not have the time, too busy, and maybe not the inclination as well, but certainly not the time to stay informed on the issues, and so for me to vote would have been irresponsible. Vote for -- ??? just to push forward an uninformed opinion. It is like someone once said, 'if you had a brain, you'd be dangerous." Something like that.. Uninformed opinions, like consciences, are not to be trusted. Sure everyone has one, like noses, and other things. So what??
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,713
    It would be like surveying uncatechized people for their views on the subject of Catholic doctrine. The results could only be useful as an assessment of what people haven't learned yet.
  • Assuming the target audience for such a survey is the average pew-sitter, the survey questions must not deal with subjective material like "what is the best hymn" or "what is your favorite Mass setting". Rather they should center on current liturgical praxis vis à vis the ideals that the Roman Church points to in her legislative documents — and implicitly, the ideals that the Eastern Churches to my understanding put into practice consistently.

    So questions such as the following would be most useful in gauging quality of liturgical formation, praxis, and perhaps even the scientific justifications for correctly sung liturgies. Of course to make things easier, such questions should be made multiple-choice:

    - What is a proper chant?
    - What is the Mass Ordinary?
    - What parts of the Mass ought the choir/celebrant/congregation sing?
    - What parts of the Mass are the choir/celebrant/congregation obliged not to sing?
    - Does the homilist make reference to the proper chants of the Mass during his homilies?
    - Are the intentions for the General Intercessions sung in addition to the response?
    - What side of the brain is engaged by art, music, and poetry?
    - What is the scientific justification behind St. Augustine's famous saying, "Those who sing well pray twice"?
  • I'm not sure I'd want to see the results, but I would like to include "Would you choose to sing a favorite song/hymn if you knew it replaced the words of the Mass?" Maybe too agenda-driven.
  • For better clarification, I had in mind pastors, music directors, organist, choir members, staff and other employees of a parish or cathedral that might have a direct or even an indirect connection to the musical life of a parish, cathedral or even a seminary or monastery. I think a separate music survey would be in order for the congregation. Correct?
  • Mr. Z
    Posts: 159
    I would say so many of the even "professionals" who perhaps should know really don't. I put myself in the top of any list. I am trying to learn what was not required of me as a director in a Catholic Church, as by the time I was invited to direct, the rules had pretty much gone out the window, certainly much of the patrimony of the traditional church and all that goes along with that, chant, Latin, especially. Oh sure, we girded our loins about Easter time and muddled through, but by and large, the modern Church, liturgically speaking, is indeed the blind leading the blind, and I include the priests and "so called" liturgists.

    So if the poll is to find out how much misinformation is out there, great, we should learn about that which we don't know, and just where the gaps are.

    So much of what has passed for liturgical training might be better labled "Reeducation Camps." Liturgical Conferences and similar events might as well been the offshoot of "The Full Employment Act for Gay Catholics," (not to bash but the emphasis started to skew with this development) or perhaps thought of as "Song Pluggers Conventions." (Although there is nothing, per se, wrong with plugging songs). So much poured into why the New Translations are "so relevant" (the ones thankfully being thrown out now, Praise the Lord), the value and implementation of all this publisher promoted non music "music," PC this and that, why all our hymns need to be re-written, the "full and active participation" of the assembly, why we shake hands, join hands, cross aisles (or don't shake hands, join hands, cross aisles) at Our Father/Sign of Peace and on and on. My head spins just thinking of all of this mess.

    It took a little while, but one day in my journey I realized that the "Liturgy Committee" at my then church had nothing to really give me, that the Liturgy is there, already, in our Liturgical calender, and not in need of "embellishing" or "tailoring" or "dramatizing" or inventing. They really did not know much, nor did the priest. I would just ignore the fact that there was this committee and get about doing my job. Still trying to learn. Thanks CMAA for a better opportunity to do so.
  • I echo Mr. Z's comments wholeheartedly.

    Ken, while I can understand your reasoning, I believe that if the same survey were given to everyone regardless of their role in the church, the results would be incredibly — and I expect condemnatorily — informative. And if I had anything to do with it, I'd have the survey mandate that the respondent state the extent of his or her responsibility for the liturgy (laity, volunteer, paid, ordained, outside observer, etc.).

    To take the edge off the laity and the volunteers, the survey could include some nonthreatening prefatory remarks. But the same questions should be given to all, since all are affected by the answers.

    The way I see it, this survey ought to take the form of a graded quiz for musicians. Something about a certain recent council calling for musicians to receive a "genuine liturgical training." As for seminarians, this should be first-semester material.
  • Thank you all for your imput.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    There are a lot of things that control the music that is permitted/encouraged in churches these days. I was looking at USCCB news in light of the meeting this week and somehow wandered, as one does when surfing, upon this article (from 2000) concerning alleged prejudice against Catholicism in this country. In some way these sociological issues/speculations must have had and still have an affect on the look and feel of our liturgies today. I offer no additional commentary, but found this to be interesting food for thought .